Friday, September 19, 2014

Where to buy Wasteland 2 in Australia


They ain't no Brotherhood of Steel but damn they look badass

Wasteland 2 was released yesterday on Steam but it's apparently still going to be another week before Australians are able to buy the game off the shelves at your usual "bricks and mortar" stores like EB Games and JB Hi-Fi. So those of you wanting to have a go at Brian Fargo's highly anticipated post-apocalyptic RPG sequel, lets see where the good deals are at shall we?

Wasteland 2 - Classic/Standard Edition
Available on:
  • JB Hi-Fi ($39.00)
  • EB Games ($39.95)
  • Steam ($39.99USD)

Wasteland 2 Ranger Edition
Available on:
  • ozgameshop ($52.99)
Includes:
  • Collectors Box
  • Official Soundtrack
  • Field Manual
  • 5 Collector Cards
  • Double sided poster
  • Wasteland 1

Wasteland 2 Digital Deluxe Edition
Available on:
  • Steam ($59.99USD)
  • GOG ($68.99 + $3.70 Store Credit)
Includes:
  • Digital Manual
  • Official Soundtrack (MP3)
  • 3 Wallpapers (GOG only)
  • 3 Digital Wasteland Novellas
  • Chris Avellone Wasteland Novel (GOG only)
  • Map (GOG only)
  • Reference Card (GOG only)
  • Official Soundtrack (FLAC)
  • Concept Artbook
  • Wasteland 1
  • The Bard's Tale

Verdict:
If you're wanting to get the base game as cheap as possible it looks like JB Hi-Fi is the cheapest, even slightly cheaper than Steam - although realistically the price difference is negligible between JB, EB and Steam. So it really boils down to whether you want a physical copy or a digital only one.

If you're interested in getting the soundtrack, ozgameshop's Ranger Edition provides a good middle ground price since it's slightly cheaper than the Digital Deluxe Edition although for only a few dollars more you're able to get more stuff such as the game The Bard's Tale and some novellas (not to mention the Digital Deluxe version is obviously digital, whereas the Ranger Edition is physical).

As I already have the games Wasteland 1 and The Bard's Tale I'm not really attracted at getting anything more than a standard edition, well except for maybe the soundtrack - but to me it's basically paying $13 or more for the privilege of a soundtrack which seems a bit steep to me. I'll probably end up buying the Steam Classic version whenever it goes on sale :).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

First Impressions - Always Sometimes Monsters

Yes, you read it right.

Always Sometimes Monsters has been on my radar as soon as it was released. The game is clearly an RPG Maker game yet it happens to look different simply because it's not your typical fantasy role-playing game and is instead set during modern times. While I was intrigued by the game I decided to wait until it was discounted at 50% or more. Fast forward to now and the game, along with RPG Maker and several other RPG Maker-developed titles, are on sale. Consequently, I thought that $5 USD wasn't a bad price so I promptly purchased the game.

The game advertises itself as one where you "have to endure the hardship of making story-defining choices that affect your life and the lives of those around you". So the game changes depending on the choices you make and I've always liked those sort of games, ones where your choices mattered. It goes one step further though and the game will also change depending on your sex, race and sexual orientation; there's very few games that I've experienced where that is the case so I'm pleasantly surprised to see it at least advertised for this game (I've yet to experience it in a second playthrough though).

So is this just another RPG Maker game to deride (not that I normally deride RPG Maker games, but you know the sort of people I'm talking about) or is this game as good as some of the so-called professional critics make it out to be?

What I like

  • Music: As soon as the game boots up you're treated to some pretty funky 80s-style music and most of the soundtrack is synthpop (I wonder what's the deal with Devolver Digital and games with 80s soundtracks? Hotline Miami anyone?). I liked the soundtrack so much I made sure to purchase it since it was on special too. Be warned though that the soundtrack available off Steam is only a partial soundtrack. There's actually another two compilations available off Laser Destroyer Team's Bandcamp site.
  • Awesome character selection sequence: This is the best character selection sequence I've experienced in a long time, maybe ever. Basically, you tailor part of the story right from the start by deciding which character you are and that of your partner, and this all fits in seamlessly with the story as well, forming the game's prologue. Now that's how you start off a game!
  • Plot: The game is all about ethical and moral dilemmas and while the game seems to be dark, gritty, mature and cynical, its underlying story still has some melancholic sweetness to it, similar to another RPG Maker game, To The Moon. You really get attached to your character and the other characters in the game, wanting to find out what has happened to all of them one year since the party in the game's prologue. It's kind of like wanting to be a stickybeak at a high school reunion.

What I don't like

  • Interface: I do realise that RPG Maker has its limitations and while Vagabond Dog have done their best to work around it there's some gameplay elements where the use of menus becomes frustrating, especially during some of the mini-games. The use of hotkeys would've been a better solution although I'm not sure if this is even possible to implement in RPG Maker or not.
  • Pacing: While on the topic of mini-games, there are a couple of times in the game where you'll have to save up enough money by doing repetitive, mind-numbing tasks. Okay, that's not entirely true since as this is a game about choice, the amount of work you have to do will depend on your morals. The more morals you have, the harder the game becomes and the more actual work you'll have to do. While I can appreciate that the game is teaching us a lesson (i.e. taking the high road isn't easy) it would've been nice if it didn't take almost an hour or two of real time in order to grind the cash required to progress to the next chapter of the story.

Verdict

Always Sometimes Monsters does have its minor faults with respect to gameplay and it's fiddly RPG Maker interface, but the excellent music, memorable characters and mature, almost philosophical plot elevates this game into To the Moon territory - i.e. another example of how good a game can be despite it being developed using game creation software (such as RPG Maker). I can't wait to finish the game and maybe even try it a couple of more times to see how different the experience can be.

[ LINK: Official Always Sometimes Monsters website ]


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where are they now? - Damon Slye

Damon Syle - Creator of flight sim Red Baron

For today's "Where are they now?" we have a man who was instrumental in developing well loved flight sims for the games industry as well as founding a major development house in the 80s. The man I'm talking about is Damon Slye and before we take a look at where he is now, let's take a look at how he got involved in the gaming industry.

Damon Slye first started creating computer games back in 1977 but it wouldn't be until 1981 that he would start on what he calls his "first game project" called Stellar 7. Stellar 7 was a 3D tank game that looks very primitive by today's standards with its four colours and wireframe 3D models, but it was quite revolutionary for its day when it was released on the Apple II in 1983 (not to mention he programmed the game in assembler!).

It was in 1983 when Damon would co-found game development studio Dynamix with Jeff Tunnell. The company started small but grew to 150 employees at its peak. It was also sold to Sierra On-Line in 1989 before it was officially disbanded in 2001.

After Stellar 7, Damon led the development of another tank game for release on the Amiga and it would be Electronic Arts's first original game for that platform. The game was called Arcticfox and was released in 1986.

[Red Baron was] probably Damon's most famous game and 4th best computer game of all time according to Computer Gaming World.

Damon and his colleagues at Dynamix would go on to develop several more simulation-style games such as Abrams Battle Tank (1988), A-10 Tank Killer (1989) (the only of his games I've actually played but important as it introduced me to the world of modern warfare), the remake of Stellar 7 (1990), Red Baron (1990) (probably Damon's most famous game and 4th best computer game of all time according to Computer Gaming World), Aces of the Pacific (1992) and Aces over Europe (1993).

Damon left Dynamix in 1994 and after a 12 year hiatus eventually got back into game development after co-founding a new development studio in 2007 with ex-Dynamix employees. The new studio was called Mad Otter Games and Damon led the development of Ace of Aces (2008) and a free-to-play MMORPG called Villagers and Heroes (2011).

Damon and Mad Otter Games attempted to raise $250,000 through Kickstarter in late 2013 for a new Red Baron game but it failed abysmally (which is actually a big surprise to me considering how popular it was).

In terms of recent projects it seems that Damon and Mad Otter Games are still updating the game Villagers and Heroes with it being released on Steam only a few months ago. While this is a far cry from the kind of games Damon used to work on there are some neat features in Villagers and Heroes, the most enticing being the ability to grow your own town with friends but I suspect games like Minecraft and its clones might provide quite a bit of competition in that regard though.

I wish Damon all the best with any future projects - it's good to know that developers of his calibre are still in the business.

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Damon Slye ]
[ MobyGames: Damon Slye ]
[ Mad Otter Games: About Damon Slye ]
[ Kickstarter: Red Baron ]