Thanks to Ysharros for “foofery”, which I’m using here as a generic term roughly equivalent to “puttering around doing frivolous stuff”. I’m home sick today, coughing and sniffling way more than I want to. I’m better than yesterday, though, when I also stayed home from work. Bleh. I complain about the game industry on occasion, but I do miss my job. It stinks to be stuck at home like an invalid. I’m going to bust open our DVD player later to see if I can figure out why it’s not working, just so I can do something productive.
That said, I’ve taken the time to catch up on some game demos that I’ve wanted to tinker with for a while now. It’s sort of productive, since I look at them as research projects, but at the same time… I just want to create sometimes. I take that as a sign I’m healing, since when I’m really sick, I just want to vegetate.
Anyway, as the headline suggests, the core of my latest game demo binge is the little gem Fate by WildTangent.
I like it. A lot. It’s the only one of the bunch that I’ve seriously considered buying.
At its heart, it’s a Diablo clone. If you enjoyed those games, you would probably have fun with Fate. Yes, it’s endless monster loot pinata popping, but sometimes, that’s OK. I do complain about wanting more from my MMOs, but even so, it really is OK to have that sort of mindless Zen gaming as one of several options.
Fate shines in the little things; the non-M-rated setting, the pet that is not only a good combat companion but also a fantastic little loot ferry (you can send it to town to sell off vendor trash), the “build your own character” approach (no classes; you just build as you go… but I didn’t see a respec option, which would have been really nice), fishing (a nice sedate activity amidst all the critter bashing, and the source of some interesting loot… my most valuable treasure, a huge hammer, came from a fish gullet), Fame (another metric of success, and a gate to higher level loot) and generational mechanics (you can pass loot on to descendants once you hit the end game… only one piece of treasure, but it gets a permanent 25% boost to stats). The core game isn’t anything revolutionary, but it’s a fun little dungeon crawler, and in my experience, more enjoyable than Diablo. (I’ve not tried D2.)
It’s not all butterflies and roses, though, since it does come with a SecuROM footprint, which I’m going to have to keep an eye on. Also, the “trial” mechanism is interesting; you get “tokens” to spend in WildTangent’s odd little Steam-like front end. Each play session costs a token, and you only have so many before you have to upgrade. In and of itself, it’s nothing terrible, but it’s another layer of cruft on top of what really should be a simple demo, and I can do without the silly interface (purple coin tokens? Huh?) and ads for other games, as well as another little resource hogging program. (That’s one danger of everyone going with digital distribution; all of those stupid little system tray TSR programs that try to upgrade behind your back and sell you stuff, all the while sucking up your PC performance.)
Ultimately, though, I got sucked into Fate, finding it eating away my hours until I noticed it was almost 3 AM, and I had barely noticed the last three hours. Yes, that’s partially a function of my diminished mental capacity due to illness, and no, it’s not the best game in the world, but for a game that you can get for $10 and play for a long time, it’s good stuff.
Oh, right… there were other games too.
Mr Robot is a great little game. It’s part platformer/puzzler with a RPG-like subgame. The game’s sort of an isometric multielevation thing that reminds me a bit of Super Mario RPG back on the SNES, just with more platform/puzzling, and less RPG. It has a good sense of humor and a fun setting, pretty graphics and animation, and the game mechanics are nicely constructed. It’s nothing really all that innovative, but it scratches my console retro gaming itch very nicely, and is just fun to play. That it’s a product of a British indie dev is icing on the cake.
Aveyond is an indie JRPG (Japanese RPG in the mold of Final Fantasy) that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now. I’m a fan of the FF series and the Chrono series, so I figured it was worth a look. (Which is also why I’m excited for Black Sigil that Shamus worked on, tangentially.) The demo lets you play for an hour, then unceremoniously shuts itself off. (If you’ve not saved, and intend to buy the full game, that’s annoying.) As such, the relatively slow, expository pacing of the start of the game is a bit annoying. Demos really should give you a taste of what the full game will be like, even if it means dumping you in the middle of the game with powered up characters, if even for a little bit. The FFXII demo did just that, and was much more effective at stoking interest. That aside, Aveyond seems like a decent indie stab at a JRPG. It’s nothing all that spectacular, fitting many of the RPG tropes, but it has a likeable protagonist and an interesting setting. Combat is in the mold of the older FF games, so it’s another fun little bit of retro gaming. I did play the full demo time, and wanted to play more, so I’d call it pretty successful. I’m not going to shell out $20 for it, though, so maybe not all that successful. *shrug*
Dofus is a curious French anime-flavored tactical MMO. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I’ve been interested in it for a while now (a couple of years), but the overbusty/skanky character art and promo materials put me off. Still, it’s one of the few MMOs taking a stab at tactical combat, and it’s Flash based with a perpetual free zone, so there are enough points of interest there that I figured I’d take a stab at it. I prowled their class descriptions for a while, settling on playing an Iop and a Xelor, to try the melee and magic, respectively. (Since the Xelor have time manipulation power, I hoped that they would also help me see the tactical aspects of the combat engine.) I really wanted to like this game. It has great potential… but the early game is slow, a bit confusing, and there’s no in-game Help or tutorial to walk you through the mechanics. I was able to train as a Farmer, but never did find the tools necessary to actually Farm stuff. I even got a quest or two related to it, but since I couldn’t find a scythe (or whatever the tool is, I never did find out), I gave up on it. Combat itself has the most potential, with some interesting tactical applications… but early on, it’s pretty bland. I can only hope that it opens up a bit later on, with more abilities, but the early game wasn’t terribly inspiring. Also, I’ve probably been spoiled by the FF Tactics games and Band of Bugs, but why doesn’t Dofus incorporate facing and tactical bonuses for taking advantage of flanking and the like? It feels like Tactics Very Light, which is disappointing.
The Flash engine that powers the visuals is half decent, and the client download is just over 100 MB, a far cry smaller than WoW or WAR. Being Flash, you can zoom in and out without losing resolution (the great part of vector graphics), but you also sacrifice detail. It’s also strictly isometric 2D assets, for better or worse. It’s a stylistic choice that winds up working for the most part, even though it’s naturally going to be underwhelming compared to Age of Conan or EVE. The art direction is fairly competent, though some interface designs are a bit clumsy. It’s nothing all that impressive, banking more on busts than polish, but it does have a distinct, consistent style, which speaks of a solid Art Direction function on the dev side. That’s a good thing.
Dofus is decent, but I wound up unsatisfied, and uninstalled it after an hour and a half or so. I suspect that I’d also be a bit annoyed with the need to upgrade to “full subscriber” status if I got hooked on the game, but as it is, that’s not really an issue. I still think the game has potential, and I’ll check out the sequel, Wakfu, to see what they are doing there, but I’m crossing Dofus off the list.
Braid has made its way to the PC, and I thought I should play the demo. In short… I didn’t care to upgrade to the whole game, but I did like the demo. It’s a gorgeous game, and I really like the art style. Would that more games put this much effort in looking good and consistent rather than edgy or “cool”. The “painterly” style really takes advantage of the 2D nature of the game, again illustrating smart Art Direction.
I really liked some of the game mechanics, like the ability to rewind time and the elements that don’t respond to that rewind (which made for some great puzzling). There were some mechanics that were annoying, but overall, I liked what the game brought to the table. I’m not buying the whole “it’s deep and meaningful” bit, though. It reads like an overdramatized self-indulgent soap opera about a guy with serious relationship issues. It does make a few interesting points, but it’s so hamfisted that it just doesn’t go down well. So, great gaming, bleh “story”. Maybe there’s more “meaning” to be derived later, but I wasn’t interested in finding out. Maybe that means I’m a shallow gamer, but I tend to think it just means I’m not interested in emo navel gazing. To be clear, I’m not sure how much of that is Mr. Blow (the one man band behind Braid), and how much is “Tim” the protagonist, so I’m not issuing a personal attack. It’s the game story that I was unsatisfied with, and I think Mr. Blow has done well with the game overall, especially for a one man project.
I’m borrowing Contra 4 for the DS from a friend, and it’s beating me upside the head. It’s stupidly hard with dumb one-shot kills and trial and error gameplay… which means it’s very much like the original. It’s still fun, but it’s a different sort of fun. It’s definitely a game that caters to the hardcore arcade nuts. Too bad I outgrew that phase over a decade ago. Still, if you’re into retro gaming and Contra in particular, C4 is a very well done Contra game. (I do prefer the SNES Super Contra, though, looking back at my Contra history.)
I looked a bit at EQ2 since it’s been coming with high recommendations from fellow bloggers lately, but I’m just not feeling the spark. I didn’t even get past looking at the races on the site. I didn’t download it, I just looked around. (The extreme tourist, eh?) Then I moved on. I’m just burned out on MMOs at the moment, I guess, and the Dofus experiment used up what I had left for now. I’m still planning on trying it out one of these days, though. I’ll definitely play a Froglok. That’s my Chrono Trigger roots showing.
Speaking of MMOs, though, I did pop into Puzzle Pirates to try out the new Rigging puzzle. It’s pretty fun, and has a nice hex-based grid. I didn’t play it for long, since I’m so flighty and weary, but I really like that they keep coming up with new and interesting things. If Gatheryn can manage to be half as creative as Puzzle Pirates, it might just stand a chance. If all it has to offer is Bejeweled clones, well… meh.
I downloaded the Mech Commander 2 source code directly from Microsoft again, and have been having a bit of fun with that. I bought it retail years ago, and enjoyed it then, so it’s good to see that it’s aged pretty well. It’s just deepened my thirst for a Battletech/Steampunk hybrid, though.
I almost reinstalled Tron 2.0, just for kicks. I thoroughly enjoyed playing that game a couple of years ago. It’s far and away my favorite first person shooter game, and I wish there were a sequel for it.
World of Goo is still awesome. I’m glad I got that one for $5 via Steam.
Wizard 101’s respec option makes me happy, and I’m looking forward to housing. I finally caught up with Capn’ John online (thanks!), so once I purchase more Access Passes, I might just follow him around to Moo Shu and maybe even Dragonspyre. Now, if only my tax return check would come in…
My wife and I played Alpha Hex a bit, and my fears were confirmed a bit. It looks like there is a balance issue that I’ll need to address, but I’d like to hear from some other players to see if it’s just self-sampling data bias, or something fundamentally out of whack.
And last but not least, I’ve got the Guild Wars itch again, so I’ll probably check in there again soonish. My wife has all but lost interest, sadly, but my friend and brother in law are still playing. (So is my three year old nephew, interestingly enough.)
In other buffet news…
The Battleforge Beta that I tried a couple of weeks ago was somewhat underwhelming, but I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with it. It certainly has potential, and I hope that they can iron out any bugs that inevitably come with live testing and release.
Have any of you tried Rogue Planet? That one’s been on my list for a while now, but I still haven’t tried it. I wish there were trials for console games. Yes, there are for XBox Live games, and some manage to get on gaming magazine CDs, but not nearly as many as I’d like.
I’ve downloaded the demo for Spectromancer, and I’ll try that later. It’s probably not going to scratch my MTG itch, but I can always go get Apprentice if I really need to fix that, and try a few drafts at ccgdecks.com. I also have the demo file for Snapshot Adventures, which I’m looking forward to. I enjoyed Pokemon Snap, and think my little one will as well. The Mount & Blade demo is burning a hole in its folder, too, so that’s one I’ll have to try soonish.
I still wish WoW had a single player offline mode. I’d probably get sucked into that as easily as I did Fate. It’s still a fairly mindless game, but when I feel lousy, all I want to do is veg out in front of something entertaining. It would fit the bill very nicely.