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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Cleaning’

As noted last time, I had a secondary backlog to deal with in this Operation: Backlog project; my collection of Humble Bundles that I’ve gathered over the years.  It turns out that there were about 60 games I had tucked away in their system that hadn’t been added to my Steam list.  So, I went through and bulked up my library.  There are a few that were part of these bundles that were included, but that I’ll never play, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra Overture (I very strongly dislike horror games, but hey, if that’s your thing, they do show up in bundles here and there), but there are still more than a few that will get the 15-minute treatment as I’ve done before.

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I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.

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Since I’m dealing with a new influx of games, I’ve gone back to pick up the ones I skipped over in the alphabetical list.  First up is Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers.

I’m just not a flight sim fan.  I’d rather play something like Privateer or Freelancer, out in space with a bit of whimsy.  Air Conflicts is a historical combat flight simulator built around carriers in the Pacific theater, specifically in the second World War.  You can fly for Japan or the U.S., piloting planes that look decent over terrain and ships that look decent.  I have little idea whether or not they are meticulously accurate to real history, but the visuals look good overall.

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The play is what I’d consider to be an “arcadey” combat flight sim.  It’s not a cartoony flight game like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (we’ll get to that later) or Pilotwings (those were the days), but it’s not really trying to be a hardcore simulation of flying these planes.  I’m OK with that, since flying real planes can be a very complex procedure sometimes, from what I understand.

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Just speaking to how fun the game is on its own, though, flying around is fun enough, though I’m just not very good at the combat portion.  Controls are decent if a bit “floaty” and imprecise.  Stuff blows up nicely.  The sounds serve their purpose well.  There are different options to play, from a campaign to Instant Battle, which was nice to just jump into.

I don’t have any big complaints other than just the simple fact that this isn’t my sort of game.  It’s not a bad game, it’s just one that I have no interest in playing again.  I’d be the sort that just flies around the arena, looking for screenshot opportunities.  I just don’t follow orders well, and I’d get tired of being shot at.

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I’d say I Regret this game, but really, it’s not something I paid much for, since it was part of a bundle.  I had a bit of fun with it, but it’s not one I’ll play again.  If arcadey flight sim WW2 games are your thing, it should be good.

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Then, in a significant shift, I tried And Yet It Moves.  I used my XBox 360 controller for this one.  It’s a quirky platformer which lets you rotate the world.  This relatively simple concept changes a lot of how you move through the world, and I find that I’m rather fond of the twist.  The controller makes it easier to sort the controls intuitively, which is important.

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The visuals are unique and consistent, though it’s not quite the sort of style I’m really fond of.  Still, I give them credit for staying true to their vision and really embracing their design.

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Controls are decent (though the character feels a little floaty and doesn’t jump all that high), platforming around is good fun, and learning how to handle the world (and your character’s motion) is a nice change from something like Braid, which, for all its time-bending gameplay, is still relatively static.

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I give this one a Revisit rating because I probably won’t play much of it, since Dust fills my platformer impulse at the moment, but AYIM is a solid little game.  If you’re into platformers with some thoughtful design, it’s a good one to check out.

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Anomaly 2 is the next game I tried.  I have the first one around here somewhere, probably from a non-Humble bundle, but now I can’t find it.  I’ll just pretend that the two are more or less designed similarly, and hope that’s right.  “More of the same, but better” isn’t a bad thing, and Anomaly 2 should offer at least some idea of what both titles have to offer.  They are “tower offense” games, where you’re not controlling the towers to defend against enemies as in tower defense games (GemCraft, Defense Grid, etc.), you’re assaulting the bad guy towers with your squad and commander.

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That’s enough to Recommend the game if you’re a fan of tower defense games.  If you’re just looking into the game with no particular interest in the genre, know that it looks really good, controls are excellent, and the core design is solid.  Your commander usually has to stick with your squad, escorting them through hot zones and making the most of their abilities to finish missions, though you can wander off if you consider the reward to be worth the risk.

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Different units and layouts mean finding ways to stay on your toes and keep on top of the tactical situation.  It can get a little twitchy at times, but it rewards fast thinking and situational awareness rather than just reflex tests, and I appreciate that.  I find that I don’t mind needing to execute fast controls at times if I have enough time to anticipate them well, and Anomaly 2 works well for that.

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One quirk is that each unit can “morph” between two different forms.  They have different abilities, like the first unit which changes from a tank with a killer cannon into a two-armed flamethrower “urban warfare” unit that can target multiple foes.  Juggling the morph states gives your six-unit squad more flexibility and keeps things from getting too repetitive.

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It’s a game that is great for fans of the tower defense genre, and I think it would be good even if you’re new to the genre.  I really like the time I spent with it, about 25 minutes, and would someday like to play more.  The game eases you into its design and has multiple difficulty settings for a variety of players.  It’s easily one of the better games I’ve played in this project.

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Aquaria was up next.  I’m pretty sure I have this at least three times from different bundles.  It’s a pretty game with a good sense of style, good voice work, good music and decent controls.

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It’s really nice to be able to just swim in any direction, though Naija doesn’t turn as quickly as I’d like.  She feels a little… floaty… which is odd, perhaps, for a mermaid, but still, moving her around is nicely freeform, just a bit imprecise and sluggish feeling.  She has the ability to sing songs that help her in what I assume are various ways.  The only one she starts with is Shield, which didn’t actually seem to shield all that much.

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The reviews I’ve read of this bill it as a Metroidvania game, and it does feel a bit like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (another such game, and a good one).  It’s really, really slow to start off, though.  It’s rather fond of its narration, but I just wanted to get on with the game.  Metroid Prime spoiled me on that, I guess.  There’s a good Reddit thread on it over here.

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Perhaps it gets better and more interesting down the line, and a slow start does fit the ambient lackadaisical sort of mood they seem to want to evoke, it’s just… it doesn’t show all that well in the first 15 minutes.  If that was all I played, I’d have to give it a Regret rating.  As it is, I played for about 25 minutes, and eventually found a sort of “combat flashforward preview” thing which hinted that the game might get more interesting, so I’ll Remember it and move on.

This game, more than others I’ve played in this project so far, seems to suffer the most from a slow start.  It was easier to get away with this in days long past, but in today’s more saturated market with more ADHD customers (and/or just time-starved like me), your game has to make an accurate and good impression as soon as possible.  It’s just not as likely that customers are going to play for 3 hours before your game gets good.  We don’t have time for that.  Get to the point, developers!  Even if it’s a tease like Metroid Prime, where you’re given lots of toys to play with up front, but then you lose them and have to find them again, players will know in short order what the game has to offer later, all within a few minutes.  Even the super-dense Endless Legend makes a quick good impression, and they have more depth and play options to get through.

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Atom Zombie Smasher isn’t a game I’d buy on its own, but since it came with a bundle, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s… not a typical zombie game.  It’s more of a Real Time Strategy game with minimalistic visuals.  That’s not a bad thing in itself, and it certainly cuts down on the cliche gore that zombies usually show off.  You try to protect little yellow dots (humans) from little pink dots (zombies) in a city, using a variety of weapons from your “eye in the sky” tactical view.

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It could really be about any two groups of things where one tries to escape the other.  The theme isn’t strong, but that’s OK.  The gameplay is solid, and that’s more important to me anyway.  The art style, simple as it is, is consistent and clear.

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That yellow dot on the right is not going to come to a good end.

 

Send in a chopper to save yellow dots, protect them with green dots (soldiers who fire on pink dots within range/sight), maybe use some land mines or artillery (remember that explosives can open new avenues for pink dots), and maybe even some pink-proof barriers.

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Those land mines leveled buildings that could have kept the pink dots controlled a bit.

 

It’s a solid game, one I’ll Remember.  If you’re into RTS or zombie games, it’s worth picking up and playing for a while.

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aaaaand that’s it for this time.  I’m still not through the secondary backlog, but should get through it next time.

Thanks again for stopping by, and here’s hoping you have time to dig through your list.  There are a LOT of great games out there, and tons of good ones.  It’s a good time to be a gamer.

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Operation: Backlog is still proceeding, I just don’t have tons of time to do any of it, from the playing to the documenting.  Still, it’s good for the very fractured gaming schedule I have.  As usual:

I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.

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First up is one of the drive-by games:  Batman: Arkham Asylum

This is an excellent game.  I played it to completion and then some on the XBox 360, not on PC, but it’s one I highly Recommend.  It’s not perfect, but it’s great fun, and really nails the feeling of Batman, at least, as I have come to expect it as a fan of the character since the mid-90s.  It has fantastic combat, excellent worldbuilding, really, really good graphics, fun mobility, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and, well, it’s tons of fun to play.

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Second, we have the sequel, Batman: Arkham City.  I’ve only played this one for about 45 minutes, so I don’t know how well the open world nature of the game actually works in the long run.  Catwoman is a bit too skanky and the political setup seems contrived, but it still seems like the core of what made Arkham Asylum works is still present.  It’s a game that I’m leaving installed, and Recommend, though with the usual caveat that I haven’t played all that much of it.

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Third, I did try to play Birth of America, but it flat out refused to work.  So, dump that in the Regret pile.  I don’t have time to wrangle dysfunctional games.

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Fourth, the Blackwell Deception almost ran into the same fate, with some weird tech issues popping up thanks to my dual monitor setup, but the second time I fired it up it behaved.  This one’s a bit tricky, as it’s an adventure game in the vein of the LucasArts classics.

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I did love that era of gaming, for all its quirks, and this game would have fit well in those days.  I consider that to be praise, though it does mean that I just don’t have time to give it a proper playthrough.  I’d like to someday, along with the rest of the Blackwell Bundle that I picked up at GoG.com, but for now, I’m lumping them all together with a Remember rating, noting that I do like adventure games, I just don’t have a lot of time.

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I love that Wadjet Eye Games is making games that feel like classic adventure games.  The voiceover work is adequate, if not stellar, the art and animation is solid, and the writing that I saw was pretty good.  The game plops you into an investigation with little fanfare, effectively dropping you into the deep end, but it’s designed well enough that there’s not much trouble getting up and running.  It’s a well designed first 15 minutes, I think, and it does leave me wanting to play more someday.

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Fifth, Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition.  I picked this one up on deep discount due to my passing interest in the WarHammer tabletop wargame.  I have some of the sourcebooks, but no models and nobody to play with.  I just study the books and dissect the game design.  Blood Bowl isn’t really the same thing, but I’ve heard enough good about the board game incarnation of the title that I figured I’d check out the digital version.  (I still wish there was a digital version of the WarHammer tabletop game so I could play with someone online.  Not a RTS, not a card game, not a shooter, just a literal translation of the tabletop game.  This is one reason why I backed WarMachine Tactics for its Kickstarter campaign, but we’ll dig into that later.)

Without a history with the board game, I hit the learning curve hard in Blood Bowl.  It seems to be well designed and the visual design is solid, if a bit too skanky and “grimdark” for me.  (I have very little interest in any WarHammer 40K titles for the same reason.)  I puttered around a bit with setting up a team, fired up a match and promptly lost horribly.  There are a LOT of options and rules to the game that I’m just not up to speed on.

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That’s not a bad thing, really, so long as the game can be mastered with some honest effort, but I just don’t have the time to make that effort.  This is a failing in my schedule, not the game, though it would be nice to have a bit more guidance for those early learning moments.  Being tossed in the deep end is OK so long as there’s a good learning feedback cycle.  That seems to be a bit obscured in this title, though it is clear that it builds on the board game.  I should see if I can find the rulebook somewhere in a used bookstore, perhaps.

As such, I’m giving it a Remember rating, and maybe I’ll pick it up later.  I don’t dislike the game, I just have to move on and it didn’t really grab me.  There does seem to be a lot of meat to chew on and a fun, snarky sense of humor, though, and that’s promising.

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Sixth, Braid.  I’ve written about this before, I think, having played it years ago, but in a nutshell, it’s a decent little platformer with great art design and solid game design.  The story is pretentious, dreary, and takes itself way too seriously, but the game is fun.  I give it a Recommend rating, if only to see the visuals and design in action, just with the caveat that it’s not really the revolutionary masterpiece that it often gets credit for.  It’s fun, it’s solid, it’s full of itself.  I’m done with it, but I do think it’s worth playing if you haven’t.

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Seventh, Cargo Commander.  I got this one in a bundle, one of those games that just sort of tags along with other games I actually cared about.  (I don’t remember what it was bundled with at the moment, though.  Oops.)  It’s not that Cargo Commander looked bad, just that it seemed a bit too twitchy for me.

It’s a platformer with variable gravity and a ticking clock.  The design is actually pretty solid, I’m just not all that interested in this sort of game any more.  Maybe as a teenager I’d have loved it, but I prefer more thoughtful, careful, tactical games these days.  That’s not a failing of the game, since it does what it sets out to do well.

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You play as a corporate lackey, stuck on a space station in some far off garbage zone, tasked with dragging cargo containers in to crash into your habitat, and then go invade them and grab any valuable salvage before the timer runs out and everything falls apart but your base.  You have to scramble into these other containers, platform through them fighting baddies and the structure, and grab what you can.  It’s fast, frantic and not very forgiving.

The controls are tight, platforming with the keyboard and aiming with the mouse, a bit like A.R.E.S., but much more fluid and fun.  There’s an upgrade system and a “completion” rating, with the ability to replay levels to try to do better.  The visuals are adequate, nothing amazing, but not bad.

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All in all, I give this a Remember rating for myself, but it’s really something that might be worth picking up if you’re into variable gravity direction, crazy quick-on-your-feet action.  It’s a slightly silly premise, but it winds up being pretty fun to play, so long as you’re up for fast paced gaming.

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Eighth, Chains.  This is a light puzzler, very clicky like AVSEQ was, but not quite as fast and much more interesting given its physics and variable levels.  It’s a decent little game, one I give a Remember rating since I remember it in a positive light.  It’s not even close to my favorite puzzle game, but for all its apparent simplicity (the visual style really isn’t all that great), there’s a bit more going on under the hood than screenshots might suggest.

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Ninth, Chime.  This is one I’ve mentioned in passing before.  I really like Chime.  I do wish that I could flip pieces like I can in Puzzle Pirates’ Carpentry puzzle, as that would make it a more complete puzzle game, but for what it is, Chime works well.  It could use more music options, too, but what it has is good in my book.  I give it a Revisit rating, since it’s not as great as others I’d put in the same mental “music/puzzle” game niche, but it really is a good game.

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Tenth, Cogs.  I’m a fan of steampunk design.  Hence the Tinker products I’ve been working with for almost two years now.  (Go visit the shop, please, and spread the word!)  I love old, beat up, lived in machinery, and I love puzzle games.  Cogs scratches all the right places for me.  It has smart puzzle design, great visuals, simple play rules (at heart, it’s just a bunch of sliding tile puzzles with some nice 3D aspects), and it really embraces its own steampunk design ethos.  It’s not arrogant, it’s not silly or trying to be ironic, it’s just a well-themed tinkerer’s box full of puzzles.

Some are easy, some are really tough, and most are somewhere in the middle.  They always feel fair, though, and there are some great uses of the 3D aspects that introduce nice quirks with sliding tile puzzles.  Sadly, when my computer crashed last year, I lost my screenshot collection, but there are some puzzles that I played again and again, just for how fun it was to see the mechanism come together as I solved the puzzle.  I wish I had some of them as real, physical devices.  (These puzzles are later in the list, and I didn’t have time to get to them for this project.)

Cogs earns a hearty Recommend rating from me, as it’s one of my favorite light puzzle games.  It’s available for Android devices, too, which is nice.

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That’s all for this post.  There are plenty more where these came from, the most notable for next time being Dear Esther, Defense Grid and The Dig, one of LucasArts’ finest adventure games.  Until next time, then!

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Operation: Backlog rumbles on, and I’ve run into a point or two I forgot earlier.  I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.

First up this time is AVSEQ

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This is a weird little game.  It’s a puzzler of a sort, but more of a reflex clicky thing.  It doesn’t seem to have much depth, but maybe it opens up later.  The 15 minutes I had with it were, well… clicky.  As in, I clicked on a lot of stuff, but didn’t feel like I was making many decisions or planning strategies.  It was more reactive than anything.  That’s not a terrible thing, but when I’m in the mood for a puzzle-ish music-based game, I’ll play AudioSurf (Recommend), Chime (Revisit), Lumines (Revisit) or Symphony (Recommend), all really great games.  AVSEQ is just sort of there.  I’m giving it a Regret rating, but it’s really more of a “forget” than a regret.

***

Then there’s Back To The Future: The Game

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This game really scratches the nostalgia itch, with voice actors, music and incidental sounds that just nail the feeling of the movies.  Sure, it’s sort of a weird cartoon version, but this is Christopher Lloyd we’re talking about, and he’s something of a living cartoon, so it works.  It starts off with some serious callbacks to the first movie and its era, gives a sense of the conversation mechanics, and sets up some weirdness that ol’ Doc Brown has become mired in again.

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Biff gets a little more depth (he’s still a peon in George’s presence, but a punk to Marty), you get to explore Doc Brown’s house a bit, and a new mystery fires up with Einstein arriving suddenly, alone in the deLorean, with a mysterious message from the Doc.

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The characters are appealingly stylized, the voices are great, the visuals capture the time of the movie… all in all, it certainly seems like a love letter to the movies.  I didn’t see a lot of the story, so maybe it falls apart, but the first 15 minutes of the game really got their hooks in me, and I want to play through all 5 chapters at some point.  This gets a Revisit rating as a result.  I’m not itching to get back into it right now, but I like it.  A lot.

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Speaking of a game I do want to play more right now, though, we have The Banner Saga.

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Oi, I was right.  15 minutes isn’t nearly enough for this game.  In that time, you barely get through the worldbuilding intro and the first tutorial fight, then a conversation movie or two.  It proceeds at a stately pace, weaving together some interesting fantasy lore and Norse flavored Eyvind Earle vikings.  Oh, and a stationary sun that throws everyone off, and has for months.  Yeah, it’s a bit weirder than I expected, but that’s a nice twist.

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It really, really wants to be, well, a saga, a big story, presented in a beautiful old Disney Sleeping Beauty style.  It’s packed with lore and characters, many of which are quickly appealing.  For crying out loud, your main character is an old, vaguely grumpy scribe-tax collector, one of the “Varl”, the horned giants.  That alone gets bonus points in my book, since it’s not just “plucky band of teens save the world”.  I do love my Final Fantasy games, but The Banner Saga aims for something different and more resonant.  I like that.  A lot.

It throws a lot of worldbuilding stuff at you and expects you to keep up or shrug and expect that it will all make sense later.  Sometimes that doesn’t work, but I liked it here, as I appreciate worldbuilding.  I can see that it might throw some people off, but I like it.

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The tactical game play is pretty solid, though I’m still getting a handle on the best approach.  There’s enough there that I want to do more, though, and that’s a good sign.  There are some subtleties afoot, which is really good.  The interface is a little… tiny.  That’s not terrible, but the designer in me would have liked to do things a little differently.  The art style is great and consistent, I just think the UI could use a little more usability work.  I do give bonus points for a really nice world map.

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I give this game a Recommend, though, like other games with significant depth, that’s qualified somewhat because I haven’t played through the whole thing.  What I have played, though, that’s great stuff, and I want to play more.

So, in passing, this episode goes by AudioSurf, noted above as a Recommended game, and the other 4 chapters of the Back to the Future game.  All in all, this was a pleasant week, with two of three games being ones I really like.  Would that I had more time to play, but the Operation moves on.

Next time, I’ll dig into Birth of America (no longer on Steam, perhaps, or maybe changed to this one that the site’s search engine gives me?), Blackwell Deception (whee, an adventure game!) and Cargo Commander, with more than that mentioned as drive-by “played already” games.  See you then!

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