Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Choicest Games

Wishing all the readers of Choicest Games a very happy holidays!

Looking forward, 2013 is going to be the year a lot of Kickstarter projects are aiming for completion, especially from Sierra alumni - so it shall be a very exciting year for the point 'n' click adventure game fans out there!

Also the return of the venerable SimCity series will be welcome news to the Maxis fans who remember the game that made the company famous.

In the immediate future I'll endeavour to finish up my 2013 game reviews and then run a 2013 Game of the Year article so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013

Now that I've gone through all my picks for the 10 most anticipated PC games of 2013, I've decided to summarise them in this post. Be sure to comment on what you really look forward to in 2013!

  1. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption
  2. SimCity
  3. Dragon Age III
  4. Double Fine Adventure
  5. Company of Heroes 2
  6. Jane Jensen's Moebius
  7. SpaceVenture
  8. Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded
  9. Watch Dogs
  10. The Cave

Special mentions also go to Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Project GODUS, Wasteland 2, Dead State, The Banner Saga, Scrolls and Medieval Mayor.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #1 Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

Why it might be good:
  • Lori and Corey Cole developed the Quest for Glory games - my favourite games of all time. They are the designers of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.
  • The game promises to have a rich story that changes based on the way you play. The Coles have proven this with every Quest for Glory game they made.
  • Groanworthy puns! It wouldn't be a game by the Coles without them.
Why it might be bad:
  • Groanworthy puns! Hey not everyone likes them :).
  • Still a question mark on what the graphics and RPG aspects of the game will be like. Still early days.
  • Hero-U just got over the finish line with their Kickstarter campaign so they're going to be creating the game on a shoestring budget. Hopefully the game's brawsomeness (sorry, pun) won't be affected as a result.

Release Date:
October 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #2 SimCity

Why it might be good:
  • It's been almost a decade since a proper SimCity game has been made – SimCity 4 was released in 2003 (SimCity Societies was fun but it doesn't count)
  • Finite and renewable resources will be available for exploitation. There will even be a world economy for these resources.
  • Multiplayer component means you can connect your cities to your friends' cities and co-operate!
Why it might be bad:
  • You need to be online all the time in order to play the game, even in single player.
  • You'll need to run the game through Origin which some people hate.
  • This is the first SimCity to use a proper 3D engine which means it'll also be the first that requires decent graphics cards in order to play.

Release Date:
March 2013

Thursday, December 20, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #3 Dragon Age III

Why it might be good:
  • Dragon Age is my second favourite RPG series at the moment (after Mass Effect). I mean it's basically like the Mass Effect series except set in a dark fantasy world.
  • Promises to be less about repetitive finger strikes and more about party strategy which is a good sign, if they do it right.
  • Environments will no longer be re-used as was the case in Dragon Age 2.
Why it might be bad:
  • After the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco, Bioware's fans have lost faith. Lets hope they don't rush the ending on this one.
  • Oh and while I actually preferred Dragon Age 2 over Dragon Age 1, I'm in the minority. So if DA3 is similar to DA2 (which is likely) expect a lot of rage!
  • Apparently the game will have more in common with games like Skyrim. While open world games have their place I just hope it doesn't have an impact on the storytelling.

Release Date:
Q3 2013

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #4 Double Fine Adventure

Why it might be good:
  • Tim Schafer is behind some of the best adventure games ever created including Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. He also worked on the critically acclaimed Psychonauts.
  • This was the first gaming-based Kickstarter to raise a huge amount of dough, raising more than $3 million. That means they have the resources to make a great game.
  • Unlike other gaming Kickstarters, Tim Schafer has been continuously developing games since the Golden Age of point ‘n' click adventures. This has a high chance of succeeding.
Why it might be bad:
  • Tim Schafer's games are at best set in unique worlds but to some these worlds are a bit too weird for your average gamer.
  • The huge budget means there are great expectations from Double Fine to deliver an awesome game.
  • Will players find the animation style jarring or will they embrace it?

Release Date:
Q2 2013

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #5 Company of Heroes 2

Why it might be good:
  • The original Company of Heroes is the highest rated strategy game ever.
  • Relic says there's a significant focus on co-op vs AI since that was popular with the original
  • T-34 tanks!
Why it might be bad:
  • Some fans are concerned about paid upgrades that smell of "pay to win"
  • Apparently gameplay hasn't changed much. Some may not like the fact it's just a re-skinned COH1.
  • Graphics and physics are quite advanced in this iteration but will that mean players with modest systems will be locked out?

Release Date:
Early 2013

Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #6 Jane Jensen’s Moebius

Why it might be good:
  • Jane Jensen is the producer of the classic Gabriel Knight Sierra adventure game series. Paranormal mysteries are her forte.
  • A traditional 2D point 'n' click adventure which means it won’t be fiddly like a lot of 3D adventure games (e.g. recent Telltale games)
  • Two modes, a casual and "true adventure" mode, have been promised which should give adventure game newbies the opportunity to still enjoy the game.
Why it might be bad:
  • There’s been no preview of what the game engine looks like yet and no real trailers (hence the fan trailer I've used instead for a video).
  • Apparently there are rumours that the developer has been switched meaning there could either be delays or worse a rush job to complete it.
  • There are multiple games coming out of Pinkerton Road Studio - will Moebius get the attention it deserves? Or will its quality suffer as a result?

Release Date:
March 2013

Sunday, December 16, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #7 SpaceVenture

Why it might be good:
  • Another Kickstarter by ex-Sierra developers: the Guys from Andromeda who were famous for the Space Quest series
  • Not enough humourous sci-fi games in the market - hopefully there'll be more parodies of sci-fi pop culture!
  • Great voice actors: John Patrick Lowrie, Ellen McLain, Robert Clotworthy, Rob Paulsen and Gary Owens
Why it might be bad:
  • I don't believe the game has the iconic Roger Wilco in it - will the fans warm to a new protagonist?
  • Is parodying the sci-fi genre popular anymore? A whole generation hasn't been brought up by the likes of Star Trek or Star Wars.
  • Will the gameplay be able to convince a new generation of fans or will it only be old fogies (like me) buying into the nostalgia?

Release Date:
February 2013

Saturday, December 15, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #8 Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded

Why it might be good:
  • First of the ex-Sierra adventure game developer Kickstarters to be released
  • First Leisure Suit Larry game for a long time that actually has Al Lowe involved in it
  • Guaranteed to be a barrel of laughs with Al Lowe aboard.
Why it might be bad:
  • It's just a re-hash of the first Leisure Suit Larry 1 – so is it really worth buying a second time (or third even if you bought both the EGA and VGA versions?)
  • Will the animations be up to scratch?
  • Will the gameplay be able to convince a new generation of fans or will it only be old fogies (like me) buying into the nostalgia?

Release Date:
January 2013

Friday, December 14, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #9 Watch Dogs

Why it might be good:
  • A GTA clone but with being an 1337 h4x0|2 as it’s main premise!
  • The developer, Ubisoft Montreal, are the brains behind the highly successful Assassin’s Creed series
  • Apparently will have co-op play
Why it might be bad:
  • It’s a GTA clone so remains to be seen if the side quests in the game will provide much replay value or not.
  • Will the plot keep pace with the innovative gameplay?
  • Character seems awfully competent at killing for a hacker.

Release Date:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 - #10 The Cave

Why it might be good:
  • Ron Gilbert has a reputation of making humourous and fun games like Monkey Island and Deathspank
  • Increased replay by implementing a similar mechanic to Maniac Mansion where you pick three people out of seven to join the party
  • Each character has a deep desire or dark secret that can only be revealed if you have them in the party
Why it might be bad:
  • Ron Gilbert is mixing simple game mechanics (e.g. platformer) with the adventure genre, again (e.g. hack 'n' slash RPG with Deathspank). This might scare off some purist point 'n' click adventure gamers
  • Unlike traditional adventure games there’s no inventory system
  • Game is intended to not be as difficult as oldschool adventure games. The question remains will it be too casual/easy?

Release Date:
January 2013

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review

  • Developer: Valve
  • Publisher: Valve
  • Release Date: 21 August 2012

When I originally read up about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) I knew it was going to be not much more than a re-hash of the Counter-Strike formula: the initial screenshots didn't look too different from Counter-Strike: Source and the game wasn't going to be full price. The game was affordable and since I was curious to see what actually was different between this latest iteration of CS and its predecessors I decided to buy it.

Gameplay (3/5)
CS:GO has pretty much the same gameplay from previous Counter-Strikes. You can either play as a terrorist or counter-terrorist and your goal is to either wipe out all opposition or successfully plant a bomb or rescue hostages (depending on which side you are on). There are a couple of new modes added to the game called Arms Race and Demolition: they are both quite similar in that they disable buying and the player gets a predetermined set of guns to use, except Arms Race is purely Team Deathmatch.

"[CS:GO] will be a welcome breath of fresh air for those who are drowning in a sea of unwanted and unnecessary weapon and perk unlocks."

It'll definitely be a shock to Battlefield or Call of Duty players transferring to CS:GO. There are no vehicles, no prone, no weapon unlocks and it's very easy to be killed. This is a back-to-basics FPS which may seem limiting and irk those who have only played contemporary FPSs but it will be a welcome breath of fresh air for those who are drowning in a sea of unwanted and unnecessary weapon and perk unlocks.

To one who has some experience with CS but not a fanboy of the series, it doesn't seem like there's much difference on the surface although there appears to be easier to spray if not controlling your fire at least compared to earlier versions of CS. There are however some new weapons such as the PP-Bizon, Negev machine gun and Tec-9 pistol except and new grenades such as Molotov Cocktails. It's also nice to see they've finally licensed the name of the guns so just like CS beta days, the guns have real names again.

Sound (3/5)
There's not much change here with respect to sound effects, just a lot of re-use of the same old samples from Counter-Strike: Source – not that's a bad thing...

Music (4/5)
I believe this is the first CS game to incorporate music into the gameplay, and they do a pretty good job of it.

While the music is generic action movie music it actually changes depending on what is happening in the game. For example, when a bomb is planted an added degree of urgency and suspense is present in the music.

Graphics (3/5)
When compared to contemporary FPSs like Battlefield 3, the graphics aren't terrific only being a slight improvement on CS: Source (and that was released 8 years ago). However, I suspect this was done on purpose to ensure the game ran smoothly on consoles.

Replay (4/5)
There's always been good replay value with Counter-Strike as there's always a decent selection of maps and many players frequenting its servers. It's now been enhanced with the addition of Steam achievements and two new game modes (as mentioned earlier) so technically there's even more reason to play.

"Only thing that's discouraged me from going back to play? The community."

Only thing that's discouraged me from going back to play? The community. I actually used to be quite a big fan of Counter-Strike back in its original format but one episode turned me away from the game as my FPS staple forever: on one particular map I was playing as the terrorists, so I was guarding the hostages – ensuring that the counter-terrorists didn't get their hands on them. There was a lot of heckling from those already dead accusing me of "camping". How could I be "camping" if the whole point was to hold on to the hostages? This wasn't Team Deathmatch (or at least so I thought). Anyway, I ignored the comments as I normally do but what I didn't realise was that one of the hecklers was actually the admin of the server. Turns out he didn't like what I was doing either and banned me for playing the game in what I believed was the correct way.

My point is you'll find that most players in CS thinks it's all about your Kill/Death ratio and that the game is not meant to be played in a tactical manner. If you disagree, prepare to be banned as a result. Yes this tends to be the case to some degree in many FPSs but I find it more so in CS since the game isn't that far removed from team deathmatch anyway. So be warned!

Also when played against veterans, the game can be quite difficult and not very newbie friendly; more so than other games. If someone has perfect aim with a rifle in Counter-Strike and knows the maps like the back of their hands, you're almost invincible. So if you want to be even competent in CS you have to practise like crazy (or find some n00bs to pick on :))!

Polish (5/5)
No bugs as far as I know. Not as if they're making big changes to the formula though.

Score – 7/10

For those wanting a back-to-basics multiplayer shooter or a more polished version of Counter-Strike: Source, CS:GO might be right up your alley. If you're looking for drastic changes over the previous Counter-Strikes or you enjoy unlocking weapon and perk unlocks, then don't bother.

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

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Friday, December 7, 2012

How do I add a non-Steam game onto Steam?

Some of you may think it's not actually possible, but it's actually quite easy to add a non-Steam game or even an application to Steam as the functionality is already there!

Please note that these instructions won't magically convert your game into a Steam version of a game (i.e. you'll be unable to access Steam achievements or purchase Steam DLC for the game) but it will allow your friends to see what non-Steam game you're playing and allow them to communicate to you through the Friends interface.

Step 1
Navigate to your Steam LIBRARY page and then click on the link in the lower-left corner "ADD A GAME..."

Step 2
Select the "Add a Non-Steam Game..." option.

Step 3
Select which game or application you want to add by ticking the box next to the name of the game or application and then clicking on "ADD SELECTED PROGRAMS". In this example, I've picked Resonance.

Step 4
Your non-Steam game or application should now appear in your Steam Library. Double-clicking it will treat it as if it's a Steam game in that you're free to access the Steam interface in-game.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Resonance Review

  • Developer: xii Games
  • Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
  • Release Date: 19 June 2012

I already purchased the previous Wadjet Eye Games adventure, Gemini Rue during a Steam sale, however I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't actually played it yet! I've heard good things about the game but what was most interesting to me was the fact it was an indie game made using Adventure Game Studio (AGS), a program I've used before in making adventure games several years ago (unfortunately, I never had the motivation to finish them).

Anyway, having won in the GOGgame Story competition recently with my Quest for Glory entry, I received five $10 game vouchers from GOG (thanks guys)! One of the games being sold for $10 on GOG was Resonance and since I heard it was similar to Gemini Rue (in that it's another indie adventure game built on AGS) I just had to check it out. The fact it was developed this year also helped since I now have another 2012 game to review ;).

Plot (5/5)
The game takes place in the present day in a fictional American city called Aventine City. In the introduction, several giant explosions have occurred in major cities around the globe and the game itself starts off 60 hours before any of this eventuates. Four people are brought together after the death of a physicist (Doctor Morales) who is performing research on a new method of generating immense energy which he names "Resonance". The four characters are Ed (Doctor Morales's research assistant), Anna (a doctor at the Aventine hospital and niece of Doctor Morales), Bennett (an Aventine City Police Department detective) and Ray (a blogger that unveils conspiracy theories) and all of them have different motives in discovering what this entire "Resonance" hubbub is about.

"The plot is refreshingly a mature and intelligent one."

The plot is refreshingly a mature and intelligent one. While some of the physics behind the Resonance effect is made up it doesn't matter since it works as a plot device. There are several plot twists as you play through this game so it will always keep you second-guessing what is going to happen next.

Gameplay (4/5)
Resonance is your typical point-n-click adventure. You use the mouse to move around, talk to people and interact with objects. You also have an inventory where you can pick up items, combine them and use them on the environment.

Where Resonance differs though is through the use of "memory". At pivotal moments in the game you will gather Long-Term Memories (LTM) which you can replay at any time. You can also drag-and-drop objects in your room and save them as Short-Term Memories (STM). Both types of memories can be used as conversation topics if you drag-and-drop them into a box above the conversation options window. In the end, the memories are very similar to another inventory system however it's quite clever since it means you can only talk about certain topics if you consciously make an effort to think about it, rather than just showing the conversation option as soon as you initiate a conversation. It also gets around the issue of carrying ridiculous items in your inventory to solve puzzles later as you can just use your memory as a pseudo-inventory item to help you through conversations. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's nothing truly revolutionary here as it just involved a re-think of how to treat extra conversation topics. In Resonance, they are treated as inventory items.

"[Resonance] gets around the issue of carrying ridiculous items in your inventory to solve puzzles later as you can just use your memory as a pseudo-inventory item..."

Puzzles in the game make sense and most of them are challenging but not impossible. You can also talk to the other player characters for hints. The only puzzle I didn't like was one I managed to solve completely by chance. Apparently I was required to look at some icon in the background that actually changed depending on where I was but I always assumed it was just that – part of the background and not actually affected by events in the game! The hints didn't really help me in that case at all.

Sound (4/5)
Voice acting in the game is really good. There aren't any A-grade Hollywood actors involved but it's very high quality considering it's an indie game.

Music (4/5)
The music in the game is mostly ambient but like the voice acting, is also high quality for an indie game. One of my favourite tracks is the one played while the characters are navigating the interior of a particle accelerator.

Graphics (3/5)
For those who love the latest in cutting-edge graphics, I can guarantee you're going to be disappointed. The game has a 640x480 resolution meaning the game is really pixellated and looks like an early 90s Lucasarts or Sierra adventure game. However, for adventure gaming veterans such as myself, this isn't really an issue and in fact amplifies its retro feel.

Having said that though, even though the game is rather pixellated, the introduction to the game is probably one of the most convincing I've seen in a game for a long time – you could almost mistake it for a real news report.

Replay (4/5)
At first glance, you would think the replay value would be low for this game, right? I mean it's a point-n-click adventure which usually equates to a perfectly linear plot. However, Resonance actually allows the player some choice especially in the latter parts of the game meaning you can actually have a different ending.

Also, just like adventure games of yesteryear, you have a points tally and you are awarded bonus points if you manage to find secrets or do extra things in the game. Plus there are achievements for solving certain puzzles or performing actions efficiently. So there are actually a couple of reasons to replay the game besides experiencing the story again.

Polish (4/5)
The game is reasonably well polished – I didn't find any dead-ends in the game which was an issue with a lot of older Sierra adventure games (i.e. you come to a point in the game where you've missed something and can't go back). The game conveniently rewinds back to an earlier autosave if you happen to cause an action that results in a premature ending.

"The game conveniently rewinds back to an earlier autosave if you happen to cause an action that results in a premature ending."

The only thing that may be annoying to casual gamers is the AGS settings screen that pops up every time when the game starts. It's a very busy and potentially confusing screen but so long as you just click "Save and Run" you should be fine.

Score – 8/10

While some gamers may be put off by the pixellated 640x480 resolution, if you can get past the graphics you'll find an entertaining adventure game that manages to recycle all the best puzzles from the genre, and wrap it all up in an intriguing and mature plot.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Good Old Games.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Sleeping Dogs Review

  • Developer: United Front Games
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Release Date: 16 Aug 2012

Plot (4/5)
In Sleeping Dogs, you play the role of a Chinese American cop called Wei Shen who was originally based in San Francisco but returns to his home town of Hong Kong. He is recruited by the Hong Kong Police force to infiltrate the Triads as he happens to have a childhood friend who is a junior member of one of them. Most of the game focuses on two particular triads: the Sun On Yee and 18K which are thinly veiled references to real-life Triad groups: Sun Yee On and 14K.

Credit should be given to the development team for creating a plot that is not your typical GTA-clone where you’re well and truly part of the mob. Like the Infernal Affairs movies or the Departed (basically the Hollywood version of Infernal Affairs) the game explores the challenges and the conflicting loyalties that undercover cops have when infiltrating organised crime groups (in this case, the Triads). Sometimes it starts to sound like a broken record, especially every time your character Wei Shen meets with a chap named Raymond the conversation always ends up along the lines of:

Raymond: "You’re meant to be a cop, start acting like one."
Shen: "You don’t understand what it’s like!"
Raymond: "You’re getting too close. We need to call off the operation."
Shen: "No I’ve got them where I want them, you can’t pull me out now! Just give me more time!"

And so on.

Later on it becomes a bit confusing as to who are the bad guys and who are the good guys – and how does one return to normal life with so much blood on their hands, although maybe that’s the point. As a result, the plot in Sleeping Dogs is probably one of the more mature ones out there, even if its execution is clumsy at parts.

Gameplay (3/5)
Sleeping Dogs is what you call a "GTA-clone". i.e. like the Grand Theft Auto series, you are given free reign to cause as much mayhem in the city as you see fit. You can assault civilians, criminals and police, and hijack cars all in an open world environment (in this case, Hong Kong Island). Unlike many GTA clones however, you’re not just simply the bad guy – you have to help the police out every so often too.

Combat is definitely the most fun aspect of the game: pulling off well-timed counters and using special Kung Fu moves is a highlight. In fact, I even noticed some Wing Chun moves as part of Wei Shen’s repertoire – which means some of the moves are authentic. However, sometimes the combat can be frustrating too usually in the more difficult battles where certain opponents are immune to grapples or conventional attacks. You really have to remember the key combinations to perform the right attack at the right time for harder opponents.

"In fact, I even noticed some Wing Chun moves as part of Wei Shen’s repertoire – which means some of the moves are authentic."

Besides the combat though, the rest of the game just mimics staples of any other GTA clone – except for the karaoke (which is a humourous but yet again, authentic addition for Hong Kong). There are several kinds of mini-games to play and clothes/vehicles/personal items to acquire (although you can’t seem to steal cars in this for your personal collection which is annoying) so it’ll definitely keep you busy if you enjoy the mini-games.

Sound (5/5)
No complaints about the audio and there are some quality voice actors involved including: Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Edison Chen, James Hong, Emma Stone, Robin Shou, Lucy Liu and Kelly Hu,. Best of all is the use of actual Cantonese speakers for many of the voice actors; doing so gives the game a more authentic feel, much better than the voice acting in this classic game (coincidentally also set in Hong Kong):

Music (4/5)
Generally good – and once again authentic (or seemingly authentic) Chinese pop music along with some Western pop music – but usually lesser known songs from big bands such as Pale Shelter by Tears for Fears and Dragon Attack by Queen (for example).

Graphics (4/5)
Apparently with the HD texture pack the graphics look awesome and there’s a lot of detail in the game. The island definitely looks and feels like Hong Kong – or at least like other Asian cities I’ve visited before (since I haven’t actually been to Hong Kong yet :( ). Unfortunately, graphics can become a bit choppy at times with FPS hovering below the 30 mark, even on medium settings.

"The island definitely looks and feels like Hong Kong – or at least like other Asian cities I’ve visited before..."

Replay (3/5)
The main storyline is rather linear so once you’ve finished it there’s not really that much incentive to go back. There are a lot of side missions you can do in the game and the "completionists" out there will have plenty to do, however the rest of us will probably get bored quickly – there’s only so many illegal street races or chase sequences you can do before it becomes monotonous.

Polish (3/5)
Game isn’t too buggy although there is a showstopper bug right at the beginning of the game! You’re meant to follow someone at the beginning of the game but he ends up just stopping somewhere and if you wait around too long it’s game over even before you had a chance to delve into the story proper.

Score – 7/10

Sleeping Dogs has a stronger and more mature plot when compared to the many GTA clones out there and even pulls off a combat system that hits more than it misses. However, it ultimately suffers from the same pitfalls as its genre stablemates which means your enjoyment of the game depends on whether you find the mini-games and side quests fun.

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

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