Sunday, October 31, 2010

Civilization V Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Civiliation V Soundtrack
  • Label: Firaxis
  • Composer(s): Michael Curran and Geoff Knorr
  • Number of Tracks: 33

I was looking for some classic game soundtracks and they don't get as much classic as Frank Klepacki, so I managed to grab myself a copy of the C&C: Tiberian Sun soundtrack. While I didn't really like this soundtrack when it first came out, I must admit, it has grown on me.

Artistic Merit (62%)
First, let me say that all the tracks, well almost all the tracks, are of pretty high quality on this soundtrack. The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra does an excellent job in playing these tracks so there's nothing to complain about there, however the compositions themselves leaves a bit to be desired.

You see, the way that the composers have tackled the music in Civ V was to take some source material for the civilization (e.g. Ancient Roman melodies for the Roman Empire for example) and then incorporate it in such a way that a modern Western orchestra can play it. While for some tunes the combination turns out brilliant (e.g. the Americans with "America the Beautiful" and England with "I Vow to Thee My Country") with others it just sounds downright wrong. Playing sitars accompanied with Western orchestral doesn't make the music ethnically Indian. I can't say I'm a big fan of the Aztec music either. What they should have done was incorporate ethnically authentic music for each Civilization, which is what they used to do in previous Civilization games.

Value (0% - Poor)
Well you need to pay a lot of money in order to get the soundtrack since you cannot buy it separately (at least I haven't found a way that you can do it anyway). I had to pay $130 for the Collector's Edition and if you want to get the soundtrack that comes with Steam you'll need the Digital Deluxe version which is about $90USD.

Length (100% - Good)
Can't really complain about the length - it's a double CD and includes most of the leader music from the game. You can get

Total Score: 5/10
For those interested in obtaining this album you'll have to buy the Collector's Edition of the game (which I'm guessing is no longer available). You can however get the Steam Digital Deluxe version and it comes with the soundtrack which I'm assuming is the same thing, but don't quote me on that :).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

C&C: Tiberian Sun Soundtrack Review

  • Name: C&C: Tiberian Sun Soundtrack
  • Label: EA Games Soundtrack
  • Composer(s): Frank Klepacki
  • Number of Tracks: 16

I was looking for some classic game soundtracks and they don't get as much classic as Frank Klepacki, so I managed to grab myself a copy of the C&C: Tiberian Sun soundtrack. While I didn't really like this soundtrack when it first came out, I must admit, it has grown on me.

Artistic Merit (75%)
This is a pretty good soundtrack. Just about all the tracks are pretty awesome in their own right. Just like with any of the old C&C games, the Tiberian Sun soundtrack is chock-full of Frank Klepacki's trademark industrial music, whether it be industrial dance, industrial drum 'n' bass or even industrial rock.

I've got a lot of favourites, so it's hard to isolate a few to talk about but old favourites for me would definitely be Lone Trooper and Scouting. Why these tracks? If I recall correctly, these tracks were unique to the GDI side and yes I'm a GDI fan from way back (yeah, yeah, I'm a goodie-two shoes). Lone Trooper to me symbolises the heroism of the GDI forces against insurmountable odds - it's also a very catchy tune. Scouting on the other hand is one of the more upbeat, fun tracks on the Tiberian Sun soundtrack. I love the syncopated rhythms in this and it just gets me tapping my feet everytime I listen to it :) (hey there's even a remix for it)!

Other good tracks are the drum 'n' bass track Flurry, Mutants (to which you could almost imagine mutants shambling along to the track), Mad Rap (which sounds like a spiritual predecessor to Red Alert 2's "Jank"), Valves (which always reminds me of GDI's slow, metal behemoths), What Lurks (has an awesome James-Bond-like bass riff later on) and Score.

Value (50% - Average)
The price for this game was reasonable but you're missing out on some tracks. The one that definitely comes to mind is one of my favourites, NOD Crush, I mean, how could they miss this beauty?

But I digress...

Length (50% - Average)
16 Tracks is a decent amount for an ordinary album, but when you compare this soundtrack length to some of the competition, it's a bit lacking.

Total Score: 6/10
For those interested in obtaining this album, you can get it off Big Pond Music.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Civilization V - First Patch Released

The first patch for Civ V has been released.

There are quite a few fixes and changes. Ones that interest me:

- "Fix for production prompt that sometimes appears with newly created puppet states that could stop the player from being able to end the turn." - Good they fixed that one since I've personally experienced this.

- "Aircraft banner corrections - now when you rebase an aircraft, the number will move with it." - Again, same as above.

- "Added detailed trade route info to Economic Overview screen " - Definitely good news.

- "The Annex/Puppet/Raze popup now indicates how much extra Unhappiness will be assumed with each action." - Was actually asked this question by a guildie, and I didn't know the answer. Now I won't need to.

- "Economy - Fixed bug where players could disband a single unit, and not see the economic return until disbanding 1 more. " - That's a pretty bad bug.. it explains why when I disbanded units it appeared nothing occurred...

- "Economy - Increased city wealth setting to 25% " - Noticed this was less than the Science setting. Means money will be easier to make now when in dire need of cashflow.

- "Economy - Multiple fixes to the way trade-routes are tabulated and recognized." - I often encounter issues when setting up ocean trade routes so this is welcome news.

- "Economy - Can now sell Buildings in a city (to help lower maintenance for obsolete buildings later in the game). " - Just like the old Civ, you can sell buildings now, yay!

- "Workers - Priority of trading posts reduced, and rebalanced priorities on other improvements " - I noticed if you automate workers they tend to like doing this a lot... not anymore.

- "City - Make sure Puppets don't construct buildings that require Resources. " - Wow, that'd be a bummer. Guess it'll make the game easier...

"Map - Terrain caching fix that could cause problems for certain video cards (the "glowing red orbs" seen on the map are an indicator of this)." - I think I encountered these so hopefully it is fixed as they say.

Overall a lot of changes to make running an economy easier (which I had heaps of trouble in my last game) so I can say that it's a thumbs up from me for the most recent patch!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Civilization V - Flying Fortress Achievement

Just a little tip for those getting the Flying Fortress achievement: When it says you need to bomb an "enemy" city with a B-17 to get the achievement it actually means an enemy Civ's city. City-States don't count towards the achievement.

Also I found the controls to operate a bomber a bit unwieldy. In this version of Civ V you cannot bomb a city unless you have Line-of-Sight. i.e. if the city isn't revealed by the Fog of War, you can't bomb it, which means you will need a Forward Observer. Also when the bomber unit is selected it doesn't show your operational range, but when you use the Air Strike mission button, it does!

Mind you, once you've got a B-17 bombing a city, it really takes down its defenses like there's no tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Worms Reloaded Review

I'm a big fan of the original Worms series. Even though the game was a tried and true format (think Gorillas or Scorched Earth as earlier examples of artillery games) Worms brought character to the game with the cute voice sets you could pick plus it had arguably better graphics. After Worms and Worms 2, Team 17 went through a period where they developed many 3D Worms games of questionable quality. Thankfully, they've returned to their roots in their most recent instalment, Worms Reloaded.

Sound (4/5)
A lot of voicesets have been added with many of the old favourites that you remember. Audio is definitely the strong point of the Worms series and it is good to see that it is still the case. Handel's Messiah gets played when the Holy Hand Grenade is thrown, suicidal exploding sheep "baa" as the pounce around the map, and an organ playing a home run ditty as you hit an enemy worm off a ledge with a baseball bat!

The only criticism I could make is that some voicesets don't really have that much variety in what is said. As a consequence some voicesets are very annoying and will probably never get used.

Music (3/5)
The background music is alright and is typical of Worms games - however the original Worms theme is nowhere to be heard which I think is a real letdown. Most people who play Worms Reloaded are going to be fans so why not reward them? :)

Worms Theme

Worms World Party Theme

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics have been slightly improved from previous Worms games as you can now play at a higher resolution, and thankfully they've gone back to 2D in this Worms iteration. Besides that though, there's not much really to report in the graphics department!

Plot (3/5)
As far as I know, there is no plot to this game. So it's easy to score!

The game has pretty much the same good ol' Worms gameplay of the 2D era. There's nothing revolutionary but man it's fun!

For those of you who don't know what Worms is about, as mentioned before, it's basically an artillery game. You have a team of four Worms which is pitted against one or more enemy teams. Each team takes turns in eliminating the other team and you can do so with a variety of weapons at your disposal, such as shotguns, bazookas and grenades. You can also get some hilariously ridiculous weapons such as exploding sheep, a falling concrete Donkey and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (the game couldn't call itself British without an obligatory Monty Python reference!)

That's what you usually do in multiplayer, which you can play over Steam either with strangers or friends. In single player, you can play a campaign which will pit you against the AI more often than not, although you do get to do some levels with puzzles which are a welcome change.

The only criticism I can think with regards to the gameplay is that some weapons/tools don't quite operate like they used to and there are no longer replays (which I miss).

Replayability (4/5)
Just like the original Worms, you can play on multiple randomised maps and you can play it multiplayer, making it a thoroughly replayable game.

Unlike the original games, you now get Steam achievements and you can also unlock hats, maps, items, etc. by completing the single player campaign. This makes the game even more replayable than before!

Worms Reloaded Gameplay

Unfortunately, the game is very poorly polished - which is really inexcusable considering how long this game has been out and how little the gameplay has changed! There are interface glitches, invisible pixels, a broken matchmaking system and the middle-mouse button causes you to jump (which is really frustrating if you use the same button for push-to-talk in TeamSpeak).

And those are only the bugs/glitches I found... there are probably heaps more yet to be discovered...

Overall - 6/10
You could almost mistake Worms Reloaded for one its 20th century ancestors, if it weren't for the myriad of bugs...

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

Friday, October 15, 2010

DeathSpank finally coming to PC

Fans of Ron Gilbert who are strictly PC gamers can finally obtain DeathSpank on PC via Steam! The game unlocks on the 27th October and you get a 10% discount for pre-ordering.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Puzzle Quest 2 Review

For those Puzzle Quest fans that didn't like the way the subsequent Puzzle Games had their gameplay drastically changed, rejoice! The sequel, Puzzle Quest 2, returns to the same style of gameplay as the original, albeit with a few minor alterations. I actually got bored of playing the first Puzzle Quest so I was curious to see if any improvements had been made to keep my attention on the sequel.

Puzzle Quest 2 Battle Video

Sound (3/5)
The game has as good sound effects and voice acting as previous games - which means they're alright, but nothing exceptional.

Music (4/5)
The music in this iteration of Puzzle Quest is of a high quality but now the music is very moody and orchestral - no doubt trying to capture the darker feel of the game. Hey if it's going to rip-off Diablo, might as well - although there's no acoustic guitar to be heard here. Oh, and you're probably wondering "why did he mention that it's a rip-off of Diablo?" - well, you shall see what other aspects of the game are similar in the following sections...

Even though the music is of high quality, it doesn't really appeal to my taste and I miss the quirky, medieval, 8-bit nature of the original tunes. The melodies really stuck in your head! Case in point, this theme...

... is always popping in my head every so often (and I suspect some Puzzle Quest fans can empathise).

Graphics (3/5)
The graphics have been improved to be higher resolution in this game and a different viewpoint. Instead of a top-down view of your characters as in the original Puzzle Quest, you now traverse the map with an isometric view ala Diablo (see I told you there'd be more similarities with Diablo). The artwork, although still in a cartoon format, adopts a more realistic style when compared to the manga style of the original.

Overall, I think the graphics have taken a turn for the better although on a high resolution, I actually get some slow framerate issues (although not sure if this is the game purposely slowing it down or not).

Plot (3/5)
And here is where it is obvious that the game is a Diablo rip-off.

You are a wanderer who comes across a village that is being plagued by a terrible evil. Your quest is to traverse deeper and deeper into the dungeons to eliminate the source of the evil.

However, nothing is as blatant a copy as the Deckard Cain reference as shown in the video below:

A fitting and hilarious tribute, but need I say more? :)

There are also a lot of plot holes between cutscenes. Often a cutscene would say "I decided to search for so-and-so." and you'll often be going "Who? Where? What?" in confusion.

For those of you who haven't played Puzzle Quest, the game combines the addictive (at least to some) match-3 gameplay of Bejeweled (where you match three or more rows of gems in order to clear them off a board) with role-playing elements. The match-3 gameplay is used in everything from fighting battles, picking locks or searching for traps.

In Puzzle Quest 2 this mostly remains the same except now there is an extra gem introduced: Fists. Matching fists allows you to power up weapons you have equipped which deal raw damage when used against the enemy. This is a boon for those who find the match-3 gameplay tedious as you can now just focus on matching fists and using the weapons to kill instead of skulls or spells/abilities. Ultimately though, Puzzle Quest is still very much a game for those who like match-3 games or are casual/puzzle gamers so if you find matching gems rather tedious at times (like myself) the game can become quite a chore going from one major battle to the next.

Puzzle Quest 2 Search and Disarm Trap Gameplay Video

Replayability (5/5)
There is quite a lot done in the realm of replayability.

Firstly multiplayer is back and allows you to either play on LAN or on the Internet (thanks to Steamworks). However, I noticed that sometimes the multiplayer functionality doesn't quite work as it is intended, although I don't know if this has something to do with Steam or Puzzle Quest.

Also multiple classes are back, allowing you to play as a Paladin, Barbarian, Assassin or Sorceror, each with slightly different spells and weapons at their disposal (you can also play as a male or female although this only affects appearance).

A new tournament mode has been added which allows you to duke your team of monsters versus an AI team of monsters and what would a Steam game be without Steam achievements? There are quite a few available here and most are quite easy to get (as I guess you'd expect for a casual game). There are also persistent stats available on your Steam profile, such as your favourite class, what was the highest amount of damage you inflicted, your win/loss ratio, etc.

The game is rather well polished which is a welcome relief, however one minor issue that irks me is the time it takes to traverse from one screen or point to another. Since you can quite easily click the wrong foe/direction by accident you'll undoubtedly waste a few seconds here and there - the original suffered from this problem too.

Puzzle Quest 2 General Gameplay Video

Overall - 6/10
It's Puzzle Quest: Diablo with more match-3 goodness, but hardcore gamers still run the risk of getting bored quickly in this series.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

Also check out this blog where I got the video of the Deckard Cain reference from - it's pretty choice!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Civilization V Humour

Apparently these were posted on The Escapist (I can't find the original link so the main page will have to suffice). Enjoy! :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm On A Boat... and its relevance to Civ V

If you've been living under a rock like myself when it comes to pop culture (namely Saturday Night Live skits), you may have been wondering, what the hell is this achievement referring to?

Turns out it's based off this music video - a parody of rap songs where a guy, his mate, and T-Pain sail on a boat.

Learn something new everyday hey?

Buying EA Games Soundtracks in Australia

Having trouble finding a place to purchase EA Games Soundtracks, DRM-free?

With the closure of AmieStreet I had to look for another place that Australian fans could legitimately buy as Amazon has only limited sales to U.S. users. Fortunately I discovered 7digital and it appears that they allow Australians to purchase music from their site - provided you're using Paypal (as if you pay by credit card, it defaults to the UK for your country).

So this is good news indeed for those Australians wanting to legitimately buy game soundtracks!

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #1 JC Denton (Deus Ex)

Here we go, #1 PC Gaming Hero on my list is noneother than JC Denton of Deus Ex fame. Deus Ex turns out to be one of the only games I know where it has received universal acclaim amongst my friends - and that's hard to do since I have an eclectic mix of friends, some only liking particular genres.

Considering the entire game of Deus Ex is just one big conspiracy theory on top of another, this is a nerd's dream game - and your character, JC Denton, is like the world's greatest detective - yet augmented with nanites and a cool stash of weapons to boot!

In terms of character, well that depends on how you play the game I guess - a bit like Mass Effect, you can take a paragon approach (limiting casualties) or a renegade approach (guns blazing, killing everything you see). Regardless of how you approach the challenges in the game though, JC Denton is out there to stop the evil Bob Page who wants nothing less but to take over the world. JC Denton turns out to be a beacon of hope in a dystopian, cyberpunk future where megacorps have total control of world governments.

Most of all though, unlike many PC gaming characters of the Duke Nukem variety, JC Denton is intelligent. How many PC Gaming characters do you know can on a whim walk up to a bartender and debate the political systems of the West vs the East (and yes, the bartender's voice acting is terrible)? JC is an ultimate nerd, but one that can back up his ideals with action (whether it's with stealth or bullets, is up to you). This I think is why JC Denton is so appealing to PC gamers and is why he completes my Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes list at #1.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #2 Ser Lev Arris (Privateer 2: The Darkening)

Okay this isn't quite a picture from a game, it's a picture of Clive Owen, but did you know before he became a famous Hollywood actor he featured in a game known as Privateer 2: The Darkening? From the creators of the Wing Commander Series and Privateer (Origin), this space trading game plays out like an adventure, like its predecessor. You play the role of Ser Lev Arris, a man who suffers amnesia after an accident and is trying to figure out more about his past - on the way there however, you make ends meet by being a trader, smuggler, pirate or bounty hunter.

After adding Revan to my list of top 10 PC Gaming Heroes, it got me thinking that Lev Arris's character is very similar in some respects. Just like Revan he cannot recollect his past and just like Revan he is an example of a person who redeems himself - one who gets a second chance of turning from evil to good.

Clive Owen also acts as a foil to the crazy characters he comes across throughout his travels. Just like the player, he's quite foreign to the world he explores and this helps the player to empathise with him that bit more.

But of course the coolest part for us nerds is that they managed to get a budding British actor to play the main character and the nerds got to experience Clive Owen before he starred in the blockbusters. It's because of this and the reasons before it that place Ser Lev Arris at #2 on my list of PC Gaming Heroes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Game On 2.0 Video

Before I get involved in actually typing up an actual summary of the event, here's a sneak peek at what was actually there. Check out the montage! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Deus Ex Remixes that are choice

Just found some choice Deus Ex remixes on YouTube (most based on the UNATCO music :)). Enjoy!

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #3 Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series)

For a modern PC gaming sci-fi hero, look no further than Commander Shepard of the Mass Effect series. This guy (or gal) is so tough not even death itself can put him/her down.

I know that Commander Shepard can be played as a bad-ass, but in Mass Effect he/she will still end up being as a hero regardless (except he/she will either be a twisted, sadistic psycho or a no-nonsense cowboy if playing a Renegade character).

Whether you play as a Paragon or a Renegade, what I guess is best about Commander Shepard is that he/she represents humanity and you are the one that role-plays his/her character. So in effect, your set of ideals will end up representing the entire human race, whether it is surprising the aliens by showing humans can be honourable, compassionate, and moral, or demonstrating that even though we're ruthless, our strength lies in getting the job done, no matter the cost (judging by the default start for Mass Effect 2, it would suggest the latter).

The fact that Shepard can demonstrate to us Humanity's strengths and weaknesses would be the reason he/she makes it to #3 in my list of PC Gaming Heroes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #4 Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island Series)

Now for an unlikely hero that's been around for ages. Introducing Guybrush Threepwood (mighty pirate). A kid who starts off wanting to be a pirate, and still never quite instills fear into the heart of his enemies.

The reason Guybrush is a hero to me is that he's the nerd's hero. He often acts as a foil to the other randomness occurring in the Carribean and pointing out the folly in many typical pirate customs. Also throughout all the shenanigans he goes through, he always manages to find a way to defeat the evil zombie pirate LeChuck and stay loyal to his sweetheart, Elaine (even if he seems to ruin her plans and almost kill her). This places him at #4 in my PC Gaming Heroes list.