It’s Sunday, you’ve probably spent the day clearing up after a post-Halloween Halloween party (70% off all the decorations and spooky themed sweets as soon as the calender rolls over to November, smart move) and are now sitting at your desk, tea in hand, about to sink your brain into a game. If you’re stuck for ideas this is what we’ve been playing this week.
Jeremy Peel: Dungeon Siege 3
Why am I playing Dungeon Siege 3? Good question. Glad you asked.
As an RPG disciple weaned on Baldur’s Gate, I’ve always eyed its ‘action’ variant with distrust. You see, the ARPG is a doppelganger, masquerading as a beloved friend but harbouring a very different set of ideals. So I’d hoped that DS3 might pick up somewhere else. Precisely, I’d secretly hoped it’d pick up where Black Isle’s Icewind Dale series left off – linear, combat-heavy but deeply tactical.
I’m not here for Dungeon Siege, then. I’m here for the other name attached. DS3 is a cairn along my trek through Obsidian’s back catalogue – a ‘beat the bugs or bust’ pilgrimage that’ll hopefully end with the release of Project Eternity.
The game isn’t what I’d hoped. Dungeon Siege 3 forefronts concepts like DPS – new to Obsidian, who normally deal in pseudo turn-based systems – and ‘Shoes of Rage’ (actual loot example). So far, so traditional ARRRRPG. Played with a compliant sibling though, it becomes a compelling exercise in character optimisation interspersed with truncated, tightly-written chats. It becomes a game about flitting about, dodging and blocking, teasing unique combinations out of its minimalist skillset.
Weirdly, it becomes a game that I like. Huh.
Rob Zacny: Mark of the Ninja
There are so many games that have come out this year that, even as I’m playing them for the first time, I’m looking forward to playing them again. A ghost Dishonored run once my all-natural “kill without conscience” run is finished, a Classic Iron Man XCOM game once I finish normal, and now I find myself looking forward to beating all the challenges in Mark of the Ninja, once I finish this first playthrough.
With MotN, I can see just how I could have slipped through a room, unnoticed, if only I hadn’t wasted those noisemakers earlier, or if I’d approached via the ceiling vent rather than the front door. It’s not enough to make me restart (some goals aren’t even compatible with one another, anyway), but I make a mental note to come back and do this better next time.
It helps that with Mark of the Ninja, everything is right there in front of me. It’s not like Thief or Hitman, where just learning the patrol routes and the locations of all the AI characters can require a ton of scouting and trial-and-error. No, in this game I can simply peek through a keyhole or floor grating and see everything I need to know. The guards’ awareness radii, their patrol patterns, and their blind spots. Then it’s time to hold my breath as I dart through a door, duck into alcove just as a guard passes, dive behind a vase, shatter a light, and then use my grappling hook to zip over another guard’s head a split second before he turns around and sees me. That pace, alternating between patient watching and tense bursts of precise timing and perfect action, is exhilarating.
Still, sometimes I have no choice but to throw a guard from the top of a tower to his death, or cut is throat while he enjoys a cigarette. Next time I’ll be more careful, but for now, I’m just in love with all my deadly ninja toys.
Steve Hogarty: Hotline Miami
I’ve been playing Hotline Miami again, mostly. It’s made me think a lot about dogs, and different kinds of flooring, and how DeLoreans really aren’t that cool, and about why it feels a bit like cheating when I stand behind a door and bludgeon a procession of guards as they stream in, rather than giving each guard the attention they deserve, and about whether I’d have liked to have lived in the 80s, and about whether I could kill somebody with a scissors, or with a brick, and what it would be like to lose your mind, and if that would be fun, and if I might enjoy that, and about why this game was made, and about the violence, and about Geometry Wars, and Ryan Gosling and blood.
I’ve got all the masks in it.
Paul Dean: World of Tanks
For a while I actually had to remove World of Tanks from my PC because I’d developed a crushing addiction to tracks and turrets. I’m pretty sure that I’m okay now and I’m enjoying playing with the new British tanks in much smaller and healthier doses.
When I was younger, I used to have a tremendous time playing first-person shooters online, but they gradually fell of my radar and nothing really replaced them. World of Tanks drove straight through the hole that they’d left in my life and I’ve had a much better time trundling my way around the internet than I ever did on those countless rage-filled, frustration-fuelled Counter-Strike servers. There are scores of tanks for me to choose from, yet I’m only half-interested in climbing my way up the tech tree because the metagame was never really the draw anyway.
I don’t feel the desire to grind, the need to get to the next tier, because I simply like driving a big fat tank around a forest or ruined city and shooting other tanks up the bum. Plus, I really, really like the updates to the game engine that brought in real physics and much improved graphics, because my smaller and faster tanks can now leap off cliffs or use momentum to smash their way over obstacles. Just yesterday I careened down a hill at over 70kph and slammed into the side of an enemy tank, tanking it out in just one ram. Shooting people is a pleasure, driving is a pleasure, outmaneuvering people is a pleasure, hiding in bushes is a pleasure, World of Tanks is a pleasure.
Tim Edwards: Adera
Don’t laugh. Please.
I’ve been digging around the Windows 8 store, trying to find good games and apps that we could recommend. The news is not good: there’s bugger all on the Windows 8 store worth talking about. Mostly the games on the store are rehashes of games that work on the iPad (Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride) or Xboxed versions of the Windows classics (Minesweeper, Solitaire). I’m still a bit weirded out that Minesweeper now has achievements.
Then, there’s Adera.
It’s an official Microsoft production, part hidden object game, part Myst style adventure game that’s exclusive to Windows 8. It’s about a spunky red-haired explorer cum archeologist puzzling her way around ancient ruins, solving mysteries in a light-hearted and entirely unthreatening way.
It’s not very good.
But it is kind of good.
I’m not kidding about the unthreatening thing. Adera doesn’t offer any challenge. It doesn’t escalate. There’s essentially no drama. It’s a straight line adventure in which you are given a group of items… say five cogs, and spindles to put them on. Puzzles are completed in just a few minutes, and if you get stuck for even a second, the game is ready to offer hints and solutions. It’s Myst, but with about a tenth of the challenge.
You probably shouldn’t play it. But I did, I quite enjoyed it.
The first episode is free. The rest almost certainly won’t be. You can find it under games on the Windows 8 store.
Julian Benson: Darksiders
I bounced off Darksiders when I first played it a year ago. It struck me as simple. Too bombastic. Too much like the powertrip fantasy of an angsty teenager. It’s still all those things but it’s satisfying also.
The problem with my first jab at a playthrough was issues with the PC port on laptops, I was just short of reaching the point where the introduction gives way to a branching unlock system. You begin Darksiders with a very limited move list, X on the gamepad swings your obscenely big sword and right trigger button blocks. Though as you begin to earn souls (currency rewarded from every kill) and buy new moves the game’s combat starts to become more fluid; you can connect single enemy hitting jabs with sweeping arc cuts that affect whole crowds of foes, then swing your sword upwards throwing your taget into the air, then jump arfter them continuing your combo while airborne only to slam them down to the ground and end the whole thing with a gory execution animation.
Darksiders won’t make you think but it will massage the same part of your brain as Peggle. Just replace the repeated popping of pegs with the mantra of decapitating ghouls.
Nick Wilson: Dota 2
I don’t want to think about how much I have spent on Dota 2.I’mnot talking about time here, even though that has broken the 500th hour barrier.I’mtalking about cold hard cash. I start to fidget ifI’mnot playing with a battle bonus active. I have an insatiable urge to open any and all locked chests. IfI’min a particularly good mood and some players really show some sportsmanship I’ll happily splash some cash on some gifts which give random players in the game a prize.
So when Valve decide to add a new game mode, items and chests all in the name of Halloween, I go a bit mental. Normally in a match you have a very small chance to receive an item at the end for your efforts. In Diretide however you have a chance to receive TWO items, one of which is pretty much guaranteed when you finish the game. They also added an egg which you must love and care for by feeding it essences, resulting in a cool pet whose colour reflects the combination you chose. Did I mention chests? Diretide chests are full of spooky goodness, and Valve the big tease gave me a Baby Roshan courier from my first one.
Now would be a good time to read my guide on everything Diretide. In fact drop everything and go play some. Seriously you only have till November 12th!