Updates every Thursday!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Game of Dwarves

Genre: Strategy, Casual

Developer: Zeal Game Studio

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

System: Windows

 Holy awesome crap, guys. This game is pretty friggin’ neat! I’m going to come right out and say that if you like games in which you spend a whole lot of time digging through cubes of dirt (Minecraft) then this is a game for you. And it’s practically a steal!

I should probably preface this with a quick explanation, however, that this game is clearly a direct descendant of Dwarf Fortress.

For those of you who’ve not played DF it’s a game about digging out a home for your dwarves and trying to survive as long as possible, though you will, inevitably, lose. Probably the biggest problem with Dwarf Fortress is the almost entire lack of a user interface and, for some, the use of ASCII characters for graphical representation.

Enter the draGame of Dwarves. In this thrilling homage to DF you have a slightly simpler game with amazing, eye-popping 3D graphics and a user interface that is actually quite easy to use. I’ll admit that the game must sacrifice a lot of options for the sake of looking good. You do not have the monster variety, the weapon variety, or pretty much any of the actual variety from the true Dwarf Fortress. There also aren’t any female dwarves, which is a little confusing. Instead, dwarves are summoned through a spawning pool from their main home, I think.

Anyway, enough comparing A Game of Dwarves to Dwarf Fortress. Though you can get achievements in A Game of Dwarves and the first one you get is called “Strike the Earth,” which is a blatant reference to DF. Don’t believe me? Then go play it. It’s free.

On to the actual review for A Game of Dwarves…well, actually, that’s pretty much it. It’s Dwarf Fortress with legitimate graphics. There really isn’t much else to say.

I guess I can mention that A Game of Dwarves has some actual dialogue, some of which is pretty funny. The voice acting isn’t amazing though. The plot has something to do with the Dwarves being forced out of their homeland by wizards and they’re trying to restore their former glory. The main character is trying to impress his father. All in all, it’s a pretty OK game.

Ah, who am I kidding? This review is based on the first ten minutes of the game, sure, but since I bought the game about a week ago I have spent fourteen hours playing it. I am not even joking. Steam likes to taunt me with that fact regularly. I probably would have played longer, but I have other video games to play, a girlfriend, and a job. There just isn’t enough time!

Happy Thoughts: A Dwarf Fortress for those of us that don’t want to read a guide on how to play Dwarf Fortress.

Sad Thoughts: It really just isn’t Dwarf Fortress, which I, for one, still think is the superior game.

The Bottom Line: I picked this up on Steam for about $5.00. It was on sale for 50% off or something like that. You do the math.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Where to start?

I have never been more confused in my life. Antichamber is a puzzle game – I think – that is set in a very simple first-person shooter setting. I say simple in that it is literally just a series of hallways and doors, some are brightly colored, but many are just plain white. And I mean really white. Like blindingly white. I now know why mental institutions tend to go for more of a tan color these days. The walls are so white, in fact, that even though I played the game fully two days ago, I still can’t see anything. I’m just typing on feel alone. Thank God for those classes in middle school.

Speaking of insane asylums, Antichamber has this sort of crazy feel about it. And, for clarification, I mean insane crazy, not whacky crazy – just in case you didn’t pick up on that. Antichamber likes to start you in the middle and then proceed to send you to the beginning end. This is a new place that was made up for the purposes of the game and cannot exist in the real world. I spent probably a full three minutes walking up a flight of blue stairs to find a white hallway that wandered around a few corners to the same set of blue stairs, which also happened to be located next to a set of descending red stairs that did very much the same thing. Eventually I turned around to attempt to backtrack only to find a green hallway that led me somewhere else and that is when I sat down in a corner and began to rock back and forth while crying and sucking my thumb.

Antichamber is not a safe game to play while under the influence of mind-altering drugs. This should be a disclaimer when you purchase or begin playing the game, but it isn’t. I was not on mind-altering drugs while playing, but it felt like I might as well be.

Eventually I got to a point where I wasn’t really sure where to go anymore, because everything kept bringing me back to the previous room that I hadn’t been to. By that point I didn’t want to play anymore. This wasn’t because I didn’t like the game. I’m all for a good mind-fuck. But I have this problem with motion sickness and I’ve come to realize over the years that if I get bored playing a game (particularly first-person games) or can’t figure out what to do for an extended period of time, I start to get loopy and eventually have to quit. I will probably go back to it at some point, but I have a feeling this will be a game that takes me a long time to complete simply because of my condition.

Happy Thoughts: This game is weird.

Sad Thoughts: Barf.

The Bottom Line: I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out you were in a mental institution at the end of the game. I think that if you don’t have my motion sickness problem and you don’t mind wandering ever-changing hallways you will probably enjoy this game. Go forth and get lost.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ico – Shadow of the Colossus

Today you are getting a two-fer. This is a pair of older, PS2 games, one of which I have played, the other I have not. Considering their rerelease for the PS3, I have decided to review them. These games have been lauded in the past, gaining a Steve Factor of 12 (two points higher than the highest possible score). This scale was invented by my friend Steve Burger (possibly without him knowing), in whom I have a lot of faith when it comes to rating things and correcting my poor grammar. Let’s see how these games have held up over time.


 (All images were taken from the internet,
 because I played this on my PS3 and have no way of capturing them otherwise)

Considering it was made by a Japanese company and is rather artistically structured (especially in using silence to great effect), I have decided to review the first of these two games, Ico, entirely in haiku.

Genre: Puzzle? Art?
Masked men bear boy with tabard
Birds chirp in the trees

Horses wind through woods
Developer: Team Ico
Insert spring image
(Hence the reason images like this messed everything up!)

Publisher: Sony
Vast cliffs rise out of the sea
System: PS3

Stop at destroyed bridge
Temple-castle in cliff face
Young boy is horny

Boat crossing water
Water collides with cliff face
People walk funny

Man wields temple key
Statues jump from lightning sword
“Ow, man. That hurt me”

A child sacrificed
Placed in ancient coffin thing
Needs of the many

Coffin falls over
I get to explore a bit
Ten minutes run out

Shadow of the Colossus
Genre, Developer, Publisher, and System are all the same as Ico

I have played through Shadow of the Colossus before and I have watched people play through it multiple times, but it has been a while and this is the newly refurbished PS3 version, complete with bonus content. Who knows what to expect? So I felt it was in our best interest to play this game from the beginning and give you the usual review thing.

So upon replaying this game I have determined that the entire game is about horse-riding and landscapes. Now, I could have sworn there was more to this game – something about killing massive creatures with a magic sword? Well, the sword was present and it frightened some shadowy figures, but that is about it.

There was a cool temple thing and a massive bridge (not necessarily in that order). There was a talking mask that ranted about the forbidden land. In general, I think these guys really need a lesson in story-telling, because, frankly, I was completely lost.

The music is beautiful. I don’t think anyone can argue that and if you do, you’re a jerkface.

Oh, and the main character who is doing all this horse-riding and sight-seeing also has his dead girlfriend. Talk about not being able to let go.
“Oh look, honey,” he says, “there’s this huge alter for dead corpses. Why don’t I get a picture of you on it?”

 (That thing he's carrying? Dead girlfriend. Not groceries)

It’s the world’s most depressing vacation.

Happy Thoughts: Considering that in Ico you get sacrificed by your village and left in an ancient castle to die and in Shadow of the Colossus you’re riding around with your dead lady-friend, I really don’t think there are many happy thoughts to be had. I’m going to go cry in my pillow.

Sad Thoughts: All of the above. Plus, there weren’t any major graphical overhauls for these games so textures that would have worked on a lower resolution don’t look as good. However, considering these were PS2 games originally, the artwork is still rather impressive. Another note on the dead girlfriend: when she’s lying on the alter, how does the main character rip off her cloak without flipping her body onto the floor? That’s just some food for thought.

The Bottom Line: I don’t know what I was expecting from Ico. It’s beautiful and all, but the game could go practically anywhere. My guess is he seeks revenge on his village for being a bunch of jerkfaces (they didn’t like the music in Shadow of the Colossus). And Shadow of the Colossus had a lot of shadows, but very little Colossus. I was very disappointed.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Folk Tale

Genre: Strategy, RPG, Indie, Simulation

Developer: Games Foundry

Publisher: Games Foundry

System: Windows, Mac


I have returned!

And with my return I bring you news from a far away land, where mist rises like steam, shrouding the treacherous peaks of volcanic isles.

I was recently browsing Steam’s strategy games and came across a little golden nugget that snagged my attention with its name alone

‘Folk Tale’ ::wave hands mystically::

Folk Tale on Steam Early Access
 This was literally the best image I could get.

I am all about the folk thing. Peter, Paul and Mary? Yeah, I like those guys.

Anyway, I decided to dig further down this shaft in hopes that I might unearth some greater treasure. I clicked the Folk Tale link.

“Hmm,” I said aloud to no one, “it would seem this game can run on both Mac and Windows*. And it seems to cover every genre except FPS. I am most intrigued.”

It would appear I had stumbled onto something. Reflecting the beam of my helmet lamp it glowed faintly in the warm, damp dirt and streaked like lightning across the face of the limestone wall. But I wasn’t about to invest $20.00 in an operation that would yield no profit so I watched the trailers and read the descriptions that were available.
“Hmm,” I said to the broken wall clock that lay on my desk, “it would seem this game was recently Greenlit on Steam and is only in its alpha test stage.” Plans of future updates made me think of one thing, Minecraft.

I staked my claim. Within a few minutes I had downloaded it onto my laptop and was ready to go, but I had been too hasty in my greed. My laptop didn’t quite meet the needs of the game. For one small moment the shining vein was before me and then suddenly darkness.
But I had not given up hope. I had my desktop and that would surely be able to run such a puny game. Unfortunately, as a result of having recently moved, I did not yet have internet (this would not be resolved until a week of waiting and three phone calls to the cable company). Much like the Klondike, I would not be able to bring the heavy machinery over the mountains until a later date. I had to press on with what I had.

I booted up the game for the second time and my laptop chugged like a steam engine to haul this cart to the surface and I have been reading a lot of mining articles on Wikipedia. And it strikes me just now that the whole mining metaphor doesn’t really work for this game. Though you do technically do some mining, it isn’t really a central theme. However, I am too lazy to go back and change this so I’ll just move on with the review from here.

Folk Tale ::wave hands mystically:: is at its heart a Real Time Strategy game. That’s how it’s built anyway. It has the classic “god” view and you are in charge of building a settlement and telling your townsfolk what to do. I mentioned earlier that it’s only in its alpha stage so currently there is only the tutorial and you cannot save, but from what I’ve viewed it seems like the tutorial may be rather extensive. Hurray!

The thing that really sets Folk Tale ::wave hands mystically:: apart from other RTS games is that it’s also part roleplaying/adventure game, I guess? What I mean by this is that every soldier you have can be given items to make them more powerful: magic rings, swords, armor, etc. You can also loot your fallen enemies for gear and other useful items. On top of that, each of your soldiers has several abilities that he can use. This is something that I have never seen in an RTS before, which is good, but I see the need for a ton of micromanaging, which is bad. Regardless, if seems like you are able to sort of make your own heroes and that’s pretty neat.

But I do have my complaints about Folk Tale ::wave hands mystically::.

“Gee,” I said to the empty Pepsi can in my hand, “why are all the female characters in this game essentially useless?” My boss gave me an odd look as he walked by. But I felt I had made a rather astute observation. There are an awful lot of women-folk in this cutting edge game, but they don’t seem to do a whole lot. Sure, they’ll help build things, they can fight, and if something catches fire they are solely responsible for fetching water to put them out. Brave and strong is great and all, but they are not capable of holding down any of the other assignments in the game. You literally cannot make a female character a farmer, a metal smith, a stone worker, a monk, or a warrior (even though as previously mentioned they can fight). This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and furthermore, in my opinion, comes off as kind of sexist. Just sayin’.

And the game tries very hard to have a sense of humor. While some of this works, a fair amount of it is rather weak. I love that the basic story is your people are fleeing from an oppressive government that won’t let them eat toast, but the joke about the main character caring more about saving the farmer than his wife from the goblins doesn’t really pan out as well as they probably hoped. Some of this could be a voice acting issue, which is an issue, because some of the characters have English accents and some are southern American accents as though they couldn’t make up their minds, but the jokes themselves could be stronger.

Happy Thoughts: This game has a lot of potential for those of us that like to play god.
Sad Thoughts: Sexism and weak jokes could be a potential problem. It hasn’t been so bad that I can’t play the game, but it could be a slippery slope.

The Bottom Line: I have a love/hate relationship with this game right now. I mean there are things I love about it and there are things I hate about it. I don’t think I can make that any clearer.

*I hate the term PC, because isn’t every computer that you own personally a personal computer? I just don’t think the term “PC” is particularly PC. And yes, I did just make the PC/PC joke. Deal with it.