Archive for the ‘Operation: GBTD’ Category

Namco Bandai’s The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings may not be coming out till May, but it’s already making some waves. The screens I’ve seen look absolutely stunning, and The Witcher is apparently known for its very in-depth RPG play style, as well the lack of black-or-white morality inherent in its choices system. So, picking up the first game cheap on steam, I figured I’d give it a go to see what all the fuss is about.

 

NB: This version of Weekend Tryouts has me writing down my initial thoughts and impressions as the game unfolded, as well as some narration, except not in real time. Its divided into loose sections so you (hopefully) know what part of the game I’m at. Let me know what you think, if you don’t like it, I can switch to Ver. 2

Opening Cutscene

Atari logo – haven’t seen that on a game this side of the Atlantic in a while. Powered by the Bioware Aurora engine, nice. His name was Geralt of Rivia. Professional Witcher -Monster Hunter, has cat eyes and is an all round bad ass. Drinks liquid that seems to have the same effect as vodka has on me -spasm zombie face.

Ok, so the this cinematic basically sets the scene for how awesome this guy is. A lot of hand to hand with the monster he’s fighting (a cursed princess, no less). Lots of punches to the face. Graphics are amazing, by the way. Really good, even though it was only 2007. Man, that monster just won’t go down. More punches to the face…. ok, I think our Geralt is just toying now, get on with. Throws a chain at her to keep her pinned, but, oh noes! She broke free! Charges at Geralt and he… does the Kame-Hame-Ha? When did this turn into Dragon Ball Z?

Climbs to the battlements, Princess tearyourfaceoff follows. BOOM. In the face again and she falls all the way down. Now she’s scared. Geralt gets his sword out, does an angry face and some air slicing… princess craps her pants and hides. Geralt, smirking triumphantly…. goes for a nap in a stone coffin? Ok. Next morning, finds the princess backs to normal, takes his glove off to gently caress her cheek but he gets slashed in the face! Ouch.

Whilst gravely wounded, Geralt lifted the curse and gained fame. A great war came that changed the world. Geralt disappeared but that’s another story… wait, what? So what was the point of all that? Main Menu.

Game Start

New game. I can play as Geralt himself or do some one-off adventures. I’ll stick with the main campaign for the time being. Normal difficulty, Mouse or Mouse and Keyboard? Eh, Mouse and Keyboard, why not…

It’s been five years since the great war. Monsters are everywhere, Witchers aren’t around to stop them. Geralt is running through the forest looking like crap. Gets found, but hey, it’s ok, he’s among friends now… apparently. He remembers nothing – ah, Amnesia, classic.

Gets taken to a decaying castle… two days past and he’s all better now… oh, really? Just going to skip over that? Still remembers nothing. Hot chick with red hair blatantly wants him. Geralt remembers they had a special bond (i.e. made lesbians) and remembers how to fight. Well, today is your lucky day because we’ve just been attacked by bandits who hate us for some reason. Grab your stabby stabby stick and let’s get to work!

Gameplay. Beginning Sequence.

Ok, grab sword, run over to guy… can’t tell if I’m hitting him. How does combat work? Click. Click… was that me? Did I kill him? Oh, they’ll dead anyway. Hurry, we must run upstairs. Oh look, a big mofoing monster just tore down our gate, and some weird dudes have sneaked behind us and gone into our castle. Geralt, I know you remember nothing, and may or may not still be weak from whatever the fuck happened in that forest, but we need to wade through a hoard of bandits and re-open that gate for us. Chop chop. kthnxbai.

Ah. Some proper tutorials now… ok, so clicks need to be timed for attacks. Certain ‘styles’ work on different enemies. Click. Pause. Click. Pause… you can chain attacks with good timing. I can see this getting tedious. Ok, bandits dead, gate opened. Geralt! You’re alive! It’s a miracle. Thanks. Ok, go into the castle and see what Mr. T. and four-eyes want.

More bandits. Tutorial slowly reveals stuff as I go along. We get downstairs and dudes be stealing our stuff. Mother Truckers! Oh, but he erects a force field and the way back is blocked. I get me some magic so I can clear the force field and go get the red-haired mage who clearly knows what she’s doing. Ah, first choice. Do I stay outside with the monster or do I go with the woman. Hormones take over – woman. Have fun with the oversized mantis, old person.

Triss, the red-head, goes on ahead whilst I deal with the mage. Takes longer than it should, but I get it done, only to find Triss got owned. Lovely. Go downstairs again. Mr. T. runs off with a box and four-eyes kills the young and in-experienced guy who was blatantly just a red-shirt waiting to happen.

Hallow victory. Now we must lick our wounds and move on. End of Sequence.

Thoughts so far: Looks luscious, but unless the gameplay gets better, I can see this getting tedious. I hear good things about the story though.

So, many a week ago, I unveiled Operation: Get Behind The Darkies**. In short, it was my plan to try and better myself as a games writer by playing through some of the older, more iconic games that everyone’s expected to have played. The only unifying trait that lumped games into this auspicious category was the unilateral cry of “What. The Fuck.” I got from pretty much everyone when it was revealed I hadn’t played game X or Y.

So, several weeks down the line – how am I doing? Not great… well, I’m on the right track I’d argue, but yeah… progress is slow. Basically, whilst I’ve managed to acquire several classics, I’ve yet to actually get around to playing them. Bioshock, is a classic example – despite picking it up dirt cheap on Steam around the same time I launched Operation: GBTD, I’ve yet to actually start it up. I’ll get around to it, swears.

Other games I’ve picked up recently: Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 were going cheap on Good Old Games, and I also picked up the first Fallout game as well. I’m sure you’ve all noticed the mega Steam sales on-going at the moment too, and I’ve picked up a few other games to help expand my repertoire:

Just Cause 2 – Hearing about it, this game reminded me of Mercenaries 2, which I actually liked despite it’s obvious unfinished-ness. Apparently the story in JC2 is bollocks, but it’s worth playing for the sheer open-world scale alone.

The Witcher – Well, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Witcher 2, and this was going cheap so I thought why not. It’ll be good to try other RPG’s.

The Polynomial – This looked like a really funky and interesting little indie title, like Geometry Wars but with sound instead of maths.

Day of the Defeat: Source -You can never have enough World War 2 shooters. I didn’t really want to get into Counter Strike: Source, so the thinking was that it’s WW2 cousin would be just as good.

The Orange BoxTF2, Half-Life 2… I’m surprised I haven’t been hunted down and killed for not playing these yet. Although I have played and completed the XBLA version of Portal, so hah.

Patrician IV -This got mixed reviews, but it’s yet another type of game I haven’t really delved into much, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – Yeah, I bought it. Picked up Vietnam as well… I know I have it on 360 but I wanted to see what PC FPSing was like. I suck at it.

Apart from the last one however, I haven’t actually played any of these… I should probably get on that. I have been playing some games though… Civilization V, The Sims 3, Men of War: Assault Squad Beta, Assassin’s Creed 2… had Tron: Evolution for review… Played a little bit of Diablo II as well.

What can I say, they’re all on my ‘to do’ list. Well, not that list (Look left)… I should probably update that.

Until next time.

** It occurs to me that I may be indulging too much into the casual racism that South Park is so very fond of – Not everyone likes their brand of humour. If you’re offended by my use of that particular line from the film, I apologise.

Well, it seems I have some of my own words to eat. Where’s my fork?

Previously, on Digital Eccentric, I said this:

I still wonder at the replayability of this game – once my original sim has lived his life, I wonder whether I’ll want to carry on, or whether starting again will still be interesting… When creating a sim, there’s lots of different ways you can customise their personality and behaviour, which will intern affect gameplay. There’s also several ‘life-time goal’ achievements to choose from, as well as several careers, so there’s content there… but we’ll see. There’s also all the expansions as well. Thinking about it, I’ll definitely want to pick up one of the content expansions at some point, but I’m almost saddened to see that the item expansions are little more than that – items. That element at least seems a little bit like cashing in on ultimately superfluous DLC.

What have I just gone and done? Bought one of those ‘superfluous’ DLC content packs from Amazon… what? It was £7! I also picked up the World Adventures add-on pack as well. Free Super-saver delivery, of course. I know what it is: I had a good payday this month and last month (I do a lot of commission-based work) and so I’ve been treating myself, especially in the DLC department. Still, the fact that I did such a U-turn on my rather principled stand so quickly can only signify that my spiralling decent into Sims 3 obsession is picking up pace. Lovely.

Generally speaking though, I wonder what EA’s plan is for future Sims 3 DLC. Talking to a fellow obsessive, I get the impression that they’re dangerously close to repeating themselves in certain areas. Holly informs that some of the more subtle features included in some of the Sims 2 expansion packs have transferred over and been retained in Sims 3 – for example the ‘young adult’ life stage, groups, hobbies, certain careers etc…  however there also seems to be a lot of content that also hasn’t been carried over. Pets for example, which were introduced in a Sims 2 expansion of the same name, are not in the Sims 3, and there’s other stuff like University and the odd feature that just by comparing lists I can see haven’t been included.

You have to wonder then what’s going to happen – Will EA be re-releasing these missing features in expansions of their own? Is a Pets expansion for Sims 3 on the horizon? Holly tells me she’s not that interested in Late Night, as it just seems to be a combination of the Sims 2 expansions Nightlife and Apartment Life. It’s a sentiment I can get behind in principle, although looking at it, I suspect there may be more unique elements than you might realise. Hopefully a relative will get it for me for Christmas or something so I can find out.

But then of course you have World Expansions, which really is a unique experience, and if my suspicions are correct (I’ll know more when I play it), then it may be one of the direct influences of The Sims: Medieval. In WA you get to visit exotic locations, and some of these, like Egypt, have puzzles and tasks for you to complete. It seems like a decidedly more focused experience, and it reminds me of the Quest-system that I previewed in Medieval.

I think it can’t be denied that there is an essence of trying to make some money in this plan that EA and the Black Box studio has. As cynical as it is, it fits in with the current DLC trends at the moment. To give them credit, their expansions so far (apart from WA as discussed) have been a mixture of old content brought forward, but also new/unique content, which is a good balance to have. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds – perhaps Pets were dropped all together because they just weren’t that good… who knows.

For now, I have an obsession to deal with.

Until next time.

You know that feeling you get where you’re really enjoying a game, really getting into it, and then suddenly you look over and OH JESUS IT’S 5 AM. Yeah – I had one of those. Again. To be fair, I’m the kind of person who really does get wrapped up in what I’m doing, especially when it comes to reading or gaming… but usually I try and pace myself, or at least not let thing get to the point where I’ve wasted most of my sleep-time. I am prone to the odd all-nighter though, and those happen more often than they should.

My latest time-sink came in the form of The Sims 3. Having been to a Winter Showcase for EA recently, I had a demonstration for The Sims: Medieval. It looked quite interesting and I was looking forward to writing the preview on it, but then I realised that I didn’t actually know anything about The Sims. Usually, in cases like these, I try and do some research, but before I even got that far I had a conversation with a friend of mine which kind of made me think that research alone wasn’t going to cut it. So I got on the horn to EA, and they airlifted in a copy of The Sims 3 for me. Ok, ok, they didn’t airlift it in…

So there I was, it was Friday evening and I was finished for the day. The Sims 3 had just arrived earlier that day, so I thought I would give it a whirl. Did some tutorials, created a sim who could have been me if I was actually good-looking, charismatic and living in a digital world (although he was also a workaholic and a geek), and I went about managing his life.

Oh my effing god… I see now why this series is so popular. I don’t know what inspired Will Wright to go from managing cities to managing… well, people, but it was a genius move. I don’t know what it is, but you really do end up caring about these little digital guys, and all the little facets of their lives that you can influence can keep you engrossed for hours on end. You get him started in his chosen career (Journalism, naturally) you get him a house, you make friends, get a girlfriend, improve your skills… there’s so much to do, and oddly enough it sometimes seems like there’s not enough time to do it.

I still wonder at the replayability of this game – once my original sim has lived his life, I wonder whether I’ll want to carry on, or whether starting again will still be interesting… When creating a sim, there’s lots of different ways you can customise their personality and behaviour, which will intern affect gameplay. There’s also several ‘life-time goal’ achievements to choose from, as well as several careers, so there’s content there… but we’ll see. There’s also all the expansions as well. Thinking about it, I’ll definitely want to pick up one of the content expansions at some point, but I’m almost saddened to see that the item expansions are little more than that – items. That element at least seems a little bit like cashing in on ultimately superfluous DLC.

It’s interesting, because on one level The Sims is not really considered to be a ‘hardcore’ game at all, and yet it possess a level of micro-management that could rival even Supreme Commander in some cases. It’s been an interesting experience so far, and I’m going to enjoy play this more. I just hope I remember that I still have a real life to live while I spend so much time managing a digital one.

Until next time.

It’s funny how that games list keeps growing and yet I’ve still got to actually play any of these games. I’ve not even touched Bioshock since I bought it, even though I keep meaning to. I bought and installed Diablo II: Lord of Destruction as well so that I could play online with Sassy McSassypants over there, and perhaps be inspired to actually complete the game after ten years of owning it.

Diablo II was a bit of an strange one, as far as the ‘gaps’ in my experiences go. I loved the first Diablo, played it, completed it, got the T-shirt and even bought one or two of the novels. But when I first got Diablo II when it came out… I didn’t actually have a computer that could run it. Which sucked. I had to rely on the odd visit to certain relatives who did have  a decent computer so that I could play it, and said relatives would then get annoyed that I’d spent all my time playing computer games and not talking to them. I mean, really…

As if that wasn’t enough, when I finally convinced mother-dear that getting a fairly decent rig was actually quite a good idea, it still wouldn’t work! Even though the computer was technically capable of running the game. Long story short, I never completed Diablo II. I didn’t even get Lord of Destruction when it first came out because I still hadn’t gotten the original to work properly by that point.

I also have Cities XL 2011 to review at some point. I should probably get on that. Cities XL was an odd game… I reviewed the 2010 edition as well, and it was a perfectly adequate city-simulator. It lacked any form of charm or personality, but in terms of functionality and even graphics is was a pretty decent title. It even had an online mode, which was kind of a neat concept but a bit limited, really – it went the way of APB and Tabula Rasa in the end and shut down about five months after launch, although the single-player component remained. Will be interesting to see how the 2011 fairs.

So many games, so little time. The Men of War: Assault Squad online beta has just started as well. I can’t accurately describe how supremely effing awesome that game is. Think Company of Heroes, just without base-building, not made by Relic, and chock-a-block of WIN. The voice acting was terrible, but it’s one of the few WW2 RTS games that I’ve felt has really captured some of the atmosphere of the conflict. For a relatively small PC developer hailing out of Germany (although the engine is developed by an old school Ukrainian company called Best Way), it’s pretty darn good. The multiplayer is what really sells it though, and since Assault Squad is a MP-focused expansion… well, if my excitement isn’t oozing out of your screens by now, it will soon.

But it’s been a bit of a busy week here at Strategy Informer HQ… not that we have a HQ, being a truly ‘Cloud’ organisation that lacks an office… but yeah. Busy. Between going to the EA Winter Showcase, Managing out content, and opening a savings account… not had a lot of time for gaming this week. And they just keep piling up… I need to go invent a time machine or something.

Until next time.

So, this is the post where I was going to detail my history as a gamer and how it related to my work. I had a vague idea in my head about how this was going to pan out, and what my arguments for my situation would be.

You see before I entered this line of work, even though gaming was a significant part of my life I don’t think I would have ever considered myself a truly ‘hardcore’ gamer.

I never really identified strongly with the hobby, it was just something to do. I used to read as well, watch films… I had a range of hobbies, and gaming was one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I do have gaming memories growing up, and I could probably identify certain things that defined me as a gamer – Blizzard games such as Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo. Goldeneye and the Nintendo 64. Going round my friends house every weekend to play Timesplitters or Tekken. Until I got my Xbox 360 in the winter of 2007, the only consoles I had truly owned were the N64, the Gamecube, and then the Wii, but I was the only one of my friends who had these for a long while, so they were mainly solo experiences.

But I never was prolific gamer. In fact I wasn’t a prolific anything – What little money I had and the free passes you get at Christmas and Birthdays (although my birthday is January 6th, so they were kind of lumped in together), were spread out amongst all my hobbies, and were reserved for things I already liked or followed. You could say I was the kind of consumer that gave Marketing & PR people a purpose in life – If something didn’t grab me at the point of sale, I simply decided to save my money (or my parents) for something that would.

This basically meant that, come my shift from general Journalism to Videogames Journalism, I had what other’s have called ‘severe’ gaps in my gaming repertoire. I’d say my favourite genre is Strategy, yet I’ve never played Total Annihilation. I have a healthy respect for Bioware RPG’s, but I’ve never played Baldur’s Gate. I played one of the Duke Nukem games for like an hour before my Mum realised what age rating it had and summarily ordered me to return it to the rental store, and I never tried going back to it when I was older. Even more recent classics – like Bioshock or Team Fortress 2 just didn’t take my fancy at the time so I never bothered getting them.

Depending on who you talk to, this could mean anything from me having no right to do what I do, to probably shouldn’t comment on certain titles or genres, to merely lacking a certain perspective others have. Up till now I’ve defended my situation, mainly because I take pride in my work and take it all very seriously, but also because there was little I could do about it. I’m still not exactly rolling in money, so why should I spend it on games that I never really felt like playing in the first place? Whilst I’ve always acknowledged that my writing could be better if I did indeed try and get some of these classics under my belt, I’ve always tried to maintain my writing is good enough as it is.

Then everything changed last night when, whilst trying to write a preview for a sequel to a series I’d never played before, I suddenly lost some confidence in myself in a writer. I’ve had several conversations with people on this subject before, especially with two people whose opinions I’ve quickly learned to respect. Holly is a particular inspiration because she actively goes out of her way to play as many games as she possibly can. Sitting there, hands hovering over the keyboard, I couldn’t help but think to myself “Can I really go on defending this?” “Am I really a good writer as is?” and was struck by such a heavy wave of self-doubt that I had to give up for the night.

Operation: Get Behind the Darkies

That’s actually a rather humorous line from South Park: The Movie, and has little relevance on the actual plan, but I’ve decided to man up and take some action. Starting from now, I will try and play all of these games that I’ve missed. I bought Bioshock cheap on Steam over the weekend, so I’ll start there and maybe blog about how I’m getting on with it.

Other than that… well, not sure what I should be playing really. Any suggestions? I’m going to make a list and go through them whenever I have the time. But again, my policy on not spending too much money stands, so I’ll have to find cheap deals, and I also still have to do my job as a games journalist, experience or not.

Wish me luck.