Tuesday, December 31, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #3 Dragon Age: Inquisition


Climb every mountain....

This is another one of those games that had its release date pushed back to 2014. It will also be crucial that Bioware does well with this one considering the bad press its publisher, EA, has been receiving with respect to the launches of SimCity and more recently Battlefield 4. This isn't even including the Mass Effect 3 endings controversy or the fact that Dragon Age 2 wasn't a fan favourite (I'm in the minority in that I actually preferred the latter).

Speaking of Dragon Age 2, naysayers are deriding early information about Inquisition's gameplay saying it is more like the sequel rather than the original. To be honest, I'm not so worried with respect to gameplay. Provided the gameplay is fun and the story is exceptional, I believe we'll have a good RPG on our hands. What does concern me is that the game is running on the Frostbite 3 engine and as I've reported already with Battlefield 4, I'm having severe performance issues with that particular game. Let us hope they can iron them out for the next instalment of Dragon Age.

On a more humourous note, am I the only person that thinks of this video whenever I hear "Dragon Age: Inquisition" mentioned?



Release Date:
Q3 2014

[LINK: Official Dragon Age website]

Monday, December 30, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #4 Shroud of the Avatar


B-E-ER

This is one for the Ultima fans. Richard Garriott (aka Lord British) is working on a new RPG called The Shroud of the Avatar. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter on with almost $2 million in funding. The game received extra funding through its own website.

Early footage of the animation looks pretty rough but it seems to draw a lot of parallels with the classic Ultima Online or Skyrim with respect to the freedom your character has to live their virtual life. What particularly impressed me though was a return to an old fashioned text-based conversation system. That's right, you actually have to type the questions and the keywords in order to start or continue conversations. Most would say this is terribly cumbersome in the age of touch screens and mice - who would want to type on a keyboard? But I believe we've lost a lot of the interactivity by getting rid of the text-based parser. With a mouse-based system you'd probably only keep clicking on all the options for the sake of being a completionist while not actually concentrating on anything that was said. With a text-based parser system, you actually have to concentrate on what is being said in order to open up new conversation options. The game is in fact rewarding people who are switched on and thorough in their interrogation.

Anyway, a seemingly minor feature but a pretty bold move if you ask me. It shows that Richard Garriott is not afraid to use old-fashioned features if it indeed serves to improve gameplay.

Release Date:
October 2014

[LINK: Official Shroud of the Avatar website]

Sunday, December 29, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #5 Broken Age


A point 'n' click adventure game staple: the conversation tree

Yes we all know that the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter project, even though it raised a considerable $3.3 million in funding when it only asked for $400,000, managed to still go over-budget hence why the game has garnered a lot of vitriol from the public - I mean how could you blow that money so quick? Tim Schafer explained that it was due to the scope of the game's puzzles requiring a lot more work than he anticipated. So yeah, some of you are going to hate this game just for the fact it seems a game developer has broken their promise and is now needing even more money despite the fact they reached more than 8 times their original funding goal. Fair enough. However, I'm still looking forward to this game.

The animation style is looking fantastic and they've managed to hire some pretty famous actors to do the voices including the likes of Elijah Wood and Wil Wheaton. So there may be a reason the project has gone over-budget since they seem to be getting top art and voice acting talent and they don't come cheap (I'd be interested to know what the most expensive point 'n' click adventure game is actually, I know that Full Throttle was about $1.5 million). The first part of the game is set to be released in January so that sales generated by this could help fund the rest of development and that hopefully means a complete game by the end of the year. Definitely one to look out for considering how much anticipation there is for a quality point 'n' click adventure game from this particular Lucasarts veteran.

Release Date:
January 2014

[LINK: Official Broken Age website]

Saturday, December 28, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #6 Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption


It's LeChuck's pirate ship! But it looks like a wreck... and not in lava...

Another game that was meant to be released this year, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is now slated for release in 2014. While in my 2013 list I had a lot of other adventure games by Sierra alumni on the list which I'm still excited about (including SpaceVenture and Jane Jensen's Moebius - Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded has already been released), Quest for Glory is my favourite Sierra adventure series of all time, and as a consequence, the Coles are my favourite Sierra game designers.

Judging by the most recent video, the animation still needs some work and unfortunately there's not enough budget for voice acting in the game, however it still has the trademark Coles humour. The Coles also have a sensible vision of what they believe make good role-playing games. My thoughts on an article of theirs about how RPGs are too linear is an example of how much insight they have about the genre.

I have faith that the Coles will be able to deliver some innovative and refreshing gameplay and that's why this Kickstarter rises above other projects by Sierra alumni - despite the others being very good in their own right. They are also exceptional at creating worlds based on various ancient and medieval cultures which means there's bound to be tons of lore lurking in the background.

Release Date:
June 2014

[LINK: Official Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption website]

Friday, December 27, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #7 The Banner Saga


Behold! The City of Whiterun! Oops wrong game...

This game has actually already been released at least its multiplayer component has anyway known as The Banner Saga: Factions. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have been received favourably by Metacritic only garnering an aggregate score of 67.

Hopefully this will be tempered by a enthralling plot as this game is made by ex-Bioware developers - you know, the company behind exceptional RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. The setting which seems to be inspired by Norse mythology and the fact there's a Don Bluth animation style are two other things that are in the game's favour, at least for me. Not only that but critically acclaimed video game composer, Austin Wintory will be scoring the soundtrack.

So The Banner Saga looks promising. Let us hope it fares better than its multiplayer-only Factions.

Release Date:
14 January 2014

[LINK: Official Banner Saga website]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #8 Wasteland 2


Walker, Texas Ranger. No wait... and doesn't that guy with the balaclava look like a soldier from the Battlefield series?

Admittedly I never played the original Wasteland. It was a game that was a bit before my time as it was released in 1988, however GOG happens to be selling it for cheap in its current sale if you have $3 USD to spare). I did play the original Fallout though which is considered a spiritual successor to Wasteland and loved it. Both are post-apocalyptic RPGs and Wasteland 2 promises to be the same.

Why does this game excite me? Well besides having that post-apocalyptic setting like Fallout and having one of the key people behind both Wasteland and Fallout involved (i.e. Brian Fargo) the game also looks interesting as you can create your own squad of Desert Rangers, a bit like the Wizardry games or Icewind Dale (yes fantasy games but I can't think of any other better examples of customisable party RPGs at the moment). Also Mark Morgan, the composer for classic RPGs Planescape: Torment and Fallout (yes I mentioned "Fallout" again) will be scoring the music to this game, Fallout having a very memorable and atmospheric soundtrack. Finally, there will be lots of choices to be made and you will see the consequences of your actions. Hopefully something similar to Fallout, where you can see the what impact of your actions on each community in the epilogue.

Yes my post probably sounds a lot like "Blah, blah, blah, Fallout, blah, blah, blah, Fallout..." but Fallout was that good a game. Good enough for Bethesda Softworks to have resurrected the franchise with Fallout 3 and Fallout wouldn't have been a reality if it weren't for trailblazers like Wasteland.

Apparently, Wasteland 2 is available as "Early Access" on Steam although it appears to cost $60 USD. If you buy it though one of the things you get is a free copy of Wasteland 1 (so another way of acquiring the original besides the GOG sale).

Release Date:
2014

[LINK: Official Wasteland 2 website]

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #9 Watch Dogs


ZOMG! WALLH4X0R!

At #9 we have our first offender in terms of games claiming to be released this year but had their release dates pushed back to 2014. While at first glance this looks like another GTA clone (and it remains to be seen if it ultimately plays that way) the fact that you're able to take an indirect approach to solving problems, i.e. hacking smart devices, means it's already piqued my interest, and no doubt several other nerds out there :).

I also love the setting: a modern Chicago where every smart device is linked to a city-wide network. Also, the similarities in name when it comes to the fictional dedsec and the real life lulzsec can't be a coincidence and probably means the game will be inspired by recent events over the past decade with respect to hacking attempts by organisations such as Anonymous (or one could only hope :)).

Release Date:
Q2 2014

[LINK: Watch Dogs official site]

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014 - #10 Thief


GERONIMO!

While I was never a huge fan of the original Thief series I can appreciate the niche they filled: the hardcore among us that are patient enough to memorise all guard patrol routes and execute thefts with such precision that you would manage to get Garrett through the mission undetected. My shortcoming was that I always lacked the patience but maybe the reboot might be more forgiving (or at least tone down the difficult on the easiest setting)

From what we can see in the trailer it does look like some lock picking mini-games are involved, which is always a plus to me and a lot of stealthy sequences. However, there also seems to be a lot of scripted action sequences which seems to be at odds with the little I've seen of the original games.

There are also already reservations from some camps about the fact this reboot dishonours the original (e.g. the voice actor for Garrett not returning [Eurogamer]). There's also been comparisons made with Dishonored which can be a double-edged sword depending on whether players liked it or not (although I think there's been more praise for Dishonored than criticism).

Overall though, I'm optimistic as Eidos Montreal did a good job in resurrecting the Deus Ex franchise so if they employ the same modus operandi, then Thief should be a guaranteed hit.

Release Date:
27 February 2014

[LINK: Thief Official website]

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2014



As we come closer to Christmas and indeed the end of the year 2013, it's a time to consider what are the most anticipated PC games of 2014. Four on the list return from the 10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2013 post, thanks to their release dates being pushed back, so hopefully they won't be pushed back again to 2015! :)

You'll also notice that a good chunk of these games (7 out of 10 in fact) are Kickstarter projects which may reflect on the fact that major publishers are either not caring that much about the PC market anymore or they're simply not offering the kind of games that PC players want to play - that's my theory anyhow. There's also heaps of competition from the indie scene so maybe they're of the opinion: "why bother?"

Anyway, enough speculation. Here is my top 10 list for most anticipated PC games of 2014 (which will be revealed over the coming days):

  1. Elite Dangerous
  2. Pillars of Eternity (Project Eternity)
  3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
  4. Shroud of the Avatar
  5. Broken Age (Double Fine Adventure)
  6. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption
  7. The Banner Saga
  8. Wasteland 2
  9. Watch Dogs
  10. Thief

Special mentions go to: Dead State, Massive Chalice and Jagged Alliance: Flashback (all Kickstarter projects!)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Choicest VGM - VGM #102 - The Secret of Monkey Island - The Journey




Original Soundtrack composed by: Michael Land, Barney Jones, Andy Newell and Patric Mundy

This is probably one of my favourite tracks on the soundtrack since it's got a relaxed beat to it which to me means it's suitable Caribbean cruising music :). The track plays when Guybrush is out at sea on the Sea Monkey but has to find a way to get to Monkey Island. Unfortunately, his crew are of no help as they take to holding a mutiny so they can work on their tans...

Choicest VGM - VGM #101 - The Secret of Monkey Island - The Fettucini Brothers




Original Soundtrack composed by: Michael Land, Barney Jones, Andy Newell and Patric Mundy

Yes it's everybody's favourite circus troupe, the Fettucini Brothers! Not to be confused with the pasta, these two brothers are found on Mêlée Island throwing insults at each other over who is to test their cannon when Guybrush comes to the rescue and tests it for them. It is also another place I know of (besides the SCUMM Bar) that references Brian Moriarty's adventure game, LOOM: after being shot out of the aforementioned cannon you're able to respond to one of the brothers with the phrase "I'm Bobbin. Are you my mother?"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GOG starts Winter (or Summer if you're in Australia) sale

Maaaaaybe, you'll think of me, when you see Fallout free...

GOG has started a Winter sale (or Summer sale if like me you live in Australia) and they've started it off with a bang. If you're quick, you can get copies of Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics for FREE. That's right, absolutely free. Awesome deal if you haven't already played these games. I already have, but it doesn't hurt to have a DRM-free backup online :).

It seems they once again want to beat Steam to the punch and have started their sale earlier - similar to what they did with the last sale.

You also get the opportunity to vote for what the next offer will be, whether it's a discount on actual old games, newer ones or a totally random deal.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

6 Reasons to support The Slaughter Kickstarter Project

Somehow every time I see a horse and carriage scene like this in a point 'n' click adventure I think of Shadow of the Comet...

There's just over a week to go before the Kickstarter campaign for Alexander Francois's 2D point 'n' click adventure game, The Slaughter, ends. Currently the project has just over 60% of its 8000 GBP goal (which is about $15,000 AUD) so there's still a bit more to go.

I like lists so I've compiled a list of reasons why I've backed the project and I believe you should to:

1. A conventional 2D point 'n' click adventure
Not in terms of the plot mind you, but in terms of how you move around. Thankfully it appears that the mouse rules supreme! It's not a crappy console or mobile port like so many PC games are nowadays. However this doesn't preclude the game from eventually being released to non-PC platforms which is still choice - so long as PC is first! ;)

2. Not your typical murder mystery
On the surface (and ashamedly, my first opinion of this game) was that it was a typical murder mystery. And that would've been fine for me if it was just that (I love Sherlock Holmes-style games). However, there's even more to the plot than meets the eye as there are some surreal dream sequences involved like the scene below with a talking fish:

Yes - you should be at the Kickstarter page, pledging your hard-earned moolah ;)

3. An eclectic selection of music is used as inspiration for the game's soundtrack
That means quite a bit of thought has been put into the game's soundtrack and it'll be different to what you'd expect in a Victorian murder mystery game.

4. The developer is a published author who happens to make games
This means we should expect the storyline to be rock solid which is pretty important in the adventure game genre.

5. The developer is doing everything at the moment
That's right. Mr. Alexander Francois is currently doing all programming, animation, music and writing. While this means there is a heavy burden on his shoulders, it also means he will have more creative freedom when developing the game and a greater sense of responsibility in shipping it out the door. Funds raised by the Kickstarter project may potentially fund for some freelance artists though.

6. Spend 120 pounds to be included in the game!
If you spend 120 pounds you get the META tier which includes the following:

Suddenly in the mood for KFC for some reason...

So have you backed The Slaughter? What do you think of the project?

[ LINK: Slaughter Kickstarter Page ]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thirty Flights of Loving Review


Congratulations! You're probably 1/10th through the game at this point.

  • Developer: Blendo Games
  • Publisher: Blendo Games
  • Release Date: 18 July 2012
  • Time played: 1 hour

I've heard about Thirty Flights of Loving before but never took the plunge as I was put off by the game's graphics. Yes, I'm not normally a graphics snob but when you've got twenty games to pick from, I admit that sometimes I choose a book by its cover. Anyway, along came a Steam sale and the game was selling for only a couple of bucks. Considering it's been well received by critics, with a whopping score of 88 according to Metacritic I thought hell why not give it a shot. Not to mention I was curious to see how a story-driven indie game based on the Quake 2 engine would work.

Plot (3/5)
A controversial score considering all the acclaim the game received for its plot?

Perhaps.

But I can only be honest in my review here.

Considering how short the game is (15 minutes), I can't really give you an intro to the plot like I normally do without giving too much away. The plot is basically one of a surreal, artsy short film. So it's going to divide opinion from the get-go.

Some of you may get it. Good for you. Others will pretend to get it just so they can feel culturally superior. "Well, obviously you're not intelligent enough if you haven't figured this game out – go back and play COD with your 8-year old mates" they would probably say.

Suffice to say, I didn't get it and I suspect there are many others that won't. Yes I can get the general gist of what is going on in each scene yet I don't feel any emotional attachment to the characters which apparently I'm supposed to.

"Well, obviously you're not intelligent enough if you haven't figured this game out – go back and play COD with your 8-year old mates"

Gameplay (1/5)
I'm starting to see a trend in games over the past couple years towards these "non-games" – i.e. a linear game where you get little to no interaction besides exploring your surroundings. Dear Esther was probably my first experience in recent years and Thirty Flights of Loving is another one of these kind of games. Thirty Flights of Loving, however, manages to be even shorter than Dear Esther and it doesn't look as pretty – so it's already got a lot going against it.

The limited gameplay in Thirty Flights of Loving is slightly better than Dear Esther though – especially if you take into account the free game you get with it called Gravity Bone (which was released in 2008). However, you're still very limited to what you can do besides walking around, pressing a few buttons, grabbing a few things and that's about it. Gravity Bone at least had some jumping puzzles and mission objectives although the art critics would probably condemn the suggestion of adding the same to Thirty Flights of Loving as you couldn't call it a work of art anymore, hmmmm?

At least Gravity Bone is closer to an actual game. Still way too short though.

Sound (3/5)
Not much in the way of sound effects but the ones that are used are functional and serve the game's purpose. No voice acting in this game except for some low-fi audio samples you can hear when interacting with particular items.

Music (4/5)
Chris Remo does a good job with the soundtrack evoking a retro 60s feel which suits the setting perfectly.

Graphics (2/5)
The game isn't intended to win in the graphics department considering it uses crudely drawn cubes and prisms for characters, all built on the Quake 2 engine. They're fine for what they are – especially considering it's a one-man show, so it just boils down to whether you like the basic art direction or not.

Replay (2/5)
I ended up playing the game twice except with the developer commentary on for the second playthrough, to see if there was anything I missed in my interpretation of the game. Unfortunately, it was mostly just technical details, which was insightful but didn't help me figure out what actually happened in the plot. I also played Gravity Bone which brought my total playtime for two playthroughs of Thirty Flights of Loving and one playthrough of Gravity Bone to just one hour. Pretty short – I was expecting more.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs while playing which is refreshing to see nowadays.

Score – 5/10

If you like surreal, artsy short films – you'll probably love Thirty Flights of Loving. It challenges what we perceive to be a game but unfortunately I cannot consider this as one. I want a game to be something that is thought-provoking and fun to play – and if it can't be thought-provoking, a game that's simply fun would suffice. I didn't have much fun playing Thirty Flights of Loving and it was all over in a matter of minutes so I can't say I was too impressed.

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

If you like this game, you might like...

Videos: