Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Special Update: New Humble Bundle!

Greetings my loyal readers! (all.. 5 of you!)

I bring you a special update today to let you know about the latest Humble Bundle: Frozen Synapse.

Pay whatever you want and you get Frozen Synapse (a $25 value!), pay a bit more than the average purchase price (presently floating around $4), and you get Trine, Shadowgrounds: Survivor, Shadowground, Splort, and Jack Claw.

If they follow their usual pattern, they'll probably add something else to the bundle too!

As an added bonus, you can decide how much of the mone you want to go to two awesome charities (EFF and Childs Play), the developers, or the Humble Bundle people.

Act now! The bundle expires on October 12th!

(I totally did not blog this from work.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sega Genesis Classics Collection

Genre: Assorted
Developer: Assorted
Publisher: Sega
Released: 2011 (bundle on Steam, most games were early/mid '90s)

Zolgar paid: $7.49
Beaten: 40 games, what do you think?
Zolgar's rating: 9/10 (bundle. Individual games vary)
Replayability: Varies by game.

So today I'm actually breaking from my norm a little.. and I'm actually breaking one of my rules, too. I'm not so much offering a specific game review, as a review of a bundle of games. The Sega Genesis/Master System collection on Steam. This contains 40 games from the Genesis and Master System, including some great classics that I spent too many hours of my childhood playing.

Granted, the bundle is $30 regular price. However, I decided it was acceptable to break my $20 rule for this, seeing as it comes out to $0.75/game, the only thing more budget friendly than that is buying it on sale!
Peaceful and serene. What could possibly go wrong?

Much like Duke Nukem 3D, there's a lot of nostalgia in Genesis games for me, and for that matter, just console games of that era in general. When I was 9 (I think) my mom got a Sega Genesis.. they weren't brand new, but it was still the giant design and the 6 button controllers weren't out yet. I still remember being woken up in the middle of the night to see the airplane level of Sonic 2. Side note: I have an awesome mother.

The Genesis has been packed up for years though, the game cartridges collecting dust, every now and then though, I miss some of the games on it. This little bundle serves to feed my nostalgia kick quite well.

So, this bundle is 40 games packages with an emulator, now that my nostalgia tripping is done, the first thing I'll talk about is the emulator itself.

First, the controls. Genesis games were not, by any means, intended to be played on a keyboard. However, the emulation software includes support for keyboard and controllers/gamepads, complete with full customization and button mapping to replicate the 6-button Genesis controllers. I didn't do much with the keyboard, I'll admit.. I have a controller, why play it inefficiently? It does map up nicely on an Xbox Controller though.

Remember when these graphics were good? .. neither do I!
It also provides you with something that very few Genesis games of the day offered: save games! You can save your progress anywhere in any of the 40 games. Granted that progress saves your current number of lives and current health. Still better than you used to get!

Mechanically I've not found any of the problems of classic emulators.. well other than if you run it at too large of a resolution it gets more pixilated than normal. Pixels? Seriously?! These are top of the line, 8 and 16 bit graphics! (Remember when we thought 16 bit was just epic?)

For the games:
  1. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  2. Alien Soldier
  3. Alien Storm
  4. Altered Beast
  5. Bio-Hazard Battle
  6. Bonanza Bros
  7. Columns
  8. Columns III
  9. Comix Zone
  10. Crack Down
  11. Decap Attack
  12. Ecco the Dolphin
  13. Ecco: The Tides of Time
  14. Ecco Jr.
  15. ESWAT: City Under Siege
  16. Eternal Champions
  17. Fatal Labyrinth
  18. Flicky
  19. Gain Ground
  20. Galaxy Force II
  21. Golden Axe
  22. Golden Axe II
  23. Gunstar Heroes
  24. Kid Chameleon
  25. Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole
  26. Light Crusader
  27. Ristar
  28. Shadow Dancer
  29. Shining Force
  30. Shining Force II
  31. Shining in the Darkness
  32. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  33. Space Harrier II
  34. Streets of Rage
  35. Streets of Rage 2
  36. Super Thunder Blade
  37. Sword of Vermilion
  38. Vectorman
  39. Virtua Fighter 2
  40. Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

Yeah, sorry, I don't love you enough to review 40 games, and besides, I doubt you want to read that much anyways. There's a few specific ones I'll touch on in just a moment though.

The one thing that holds true for most anyone who goes back to playing a video game from the late 80s to early 90s, is the sudden remembering of how bloody hard games were back then.. and if you're too young to remember those days? You're probably going to feel like you just suck at video games.

Sometimes the hard elements were sheer frustration factor, other times it was just being brutally unforgiving. Things like not healing between levels, scarce health items, or just AI programmed to actually kill you.

However, while being extremely hard, it also makes the game feel far more rewarding than most modern games. Modern gaming the first few levels are basically handed to you under the guise of 'teaching you to play'. Some of these, you find yourself struggling with the first fight, wondering if there's some stupid thing you're missing because you don't have the instruction books.

Good or bad? Your call.

Then the games I wanted to mention:

Comix Zone:
This one has always stood out to me, maybe because I used to be a comic book nerd and sometimes fancy myself a writer. Comix Zone is also one of the main reasons I bought this bundle.
Who knew panel walls were so solid?

You play Sketch Turner, a 'modern day' comic book artist, who gets pulled in to his own comic book by his archvillain. Your goal? Find a way to get out of the comic book and back in to the real world before your villain becomes a full-fledged human and conquers the world.

The interesting thing about Comix Zone, is that while it's a sidescrolling action platformer, it takes place on comic book pages. You move between panels, sometimes tearing through borders. There's also some 4th wall breaking going on. New foes are drawn in, and you can even tear up a piece of the page to throw as a paper airplane.

Comix Zone is also one of those that was brutally unforgiving. Attacking the environment hurts (and you have to do it), you don't heal between levels, health items are scarce, and you have one life.

Shining Force:
I didn't even know about this game until I got the bundle (I got in to RPGs late in to the SNES, and really with the PS1 and PC).

Shining Force offers me something that tends to be hard to find in modern games. A decent turn based tactical RPG. A pleasant surprise when I was expecting a meh-ish JRPG. Now, Shining Force is no Temple of Elemental Evil or Ice Wind Dale or the like, and plot/character wise it's very much a JRPG. But combat wise it's good, fairly simple and straight forward, no weird annoying controls to deal with (something many console RPGs could use). One minor complaint is that characters get XP individually as opposed to per combat, so your fighters will level up much faster than your squishies.

Also, in a rarity for games of it's age: death isn't game over, you get 'ported back to the last save point.. keeping the levels you've gained.

Hero got.. er.. is balls.
Hailing from about the same era as Comix Zone, Vectorman was a weird little platformer that seemed to have been built more as the developers playing with new technology than anything else.

It ended up a fun one though, with an odd shapeshifting hero and all manner of interesting foes to destroy. It also runs a little easier than many games of the era. Although, of course, the boss fights are classic games of timing and coordination. Run, double jump, shoot, double jump, run, double jump, shoot. And so on.

Shinobi III, Ecco the Dolphin and Galaxy Force II also all earn honorable mention as games that I wasted far too many hours on as a child. And Galaxy Force II earns the distinction of being the only game on this list that my mom was better at than me. As much as I would like to cover those, and more, I'll stop here, so as to not spend the next 20 hours writing. (especially seeing as this will be posting in ~7 hours.)

Suffice it to say that if you're looking for a nostalgia trip, or maybe just want to step back in time to when video games were hard, and you felt like you achieved something without getting a little popup saying “Congratulations, you have picked your nose 5 times!”, this collection is well worth the price.

If you don't want to spend $30, individual games are $3 each, I would say Shining Force and Comix Zone especially are worth that.

“The perfect thing to make you feel like you suck at video games.”

Price and Availability:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Genre: Adventure (Hack'n'slash style)
Developers: Vigil Games
Publishers: THQ
Released: 2010

Zolgar paid: $5.00
Beaten: No
Zolgar's rating: 8/10
Replayability: Decent

I avoided this game for a while, because I never touch games like this on the PC.. their control schemes are always so wonky that the enjoyment gained from slaughtering hordes of everything in sight is lost from fumbling around on the keyboard. Darksiders though, actually makes the keyboard and mouse controls work fairly well, pretty much as best as can be expected for a game of this style.

That being said, I wandered to my local evil soul sucking big box store that sells everything and purchased a 3rd party Xbox controller (because I was not about to pay $40 for a name brand!), with quite literally no setup beyond plugging it in (not even installing drivers because Windows recognized it), it worked with Darksiders, and has a much more sensible and usable control scheme.

This is a console port, after all. It was built for controllers, so if you have a 360 and have a wired controller for it, it'll make the game that much better. Non-360 game pads will probably work too, except you'll most likely need to set up keybinding.

If you've looked around you've probably seen various odd descriptions of Darksiders. One of my favorites is “God of War meets Zelda meets Portal.” I think that's giving it a little too much credit though.

This is a God of War style hack and slash adventure game, right up there with: God of War, Dante's Inferno, Drakengard, and many many others. Like most of it's modern-day competitors, it offers a basic “RPG” element (your character improves over time by way of gathering stuff and killing things), an assortment of weapons to use, and special 'finisher' moves which drop you in to a in-game cinematic for a unique kill for the monster type. That just means Darksiders lives up to it's Adventure genre tag.

But Darksiders also brings something else to the table. A fairly decent plot, now it's no JRPG with a long, drawn out intricate plot with all manner of character ties and.. blahblahblah. If I want that I'll read a book!

That looks heavy. Let me help you.. by smashing you in the face with it
You play War, one of the Four Horsemen (of the Apocalypse, of course), tricked by the forces of evil in to re-starting the war between Heaven and Hell before the time was right, allowing them to ravage the Earth, the forces of Hell eventually winning the day. While that whole epic battle is happening, unfortunately you're being judged by The Council, your bosses (their sole purpose is keeping order and balance), for jumping the gun and unleashing the war before it was time.

While you plead your case, that you were tricked, they heed not your words and sentence you to death. That's it, game over...
Don't believe me do you? Fine.
War makes a deal with the Council to send him down to Earth (stripped of his powers), to find those responsible and punish them. If he succeeds then he's able to more or less put things right, if he fails.. well, he was sentenced to death anyways.

So begins your quest! The plot doesn't sound like much, but there are a few unexpected twists. I don't like spoilers though.

Technically, gameplay begins before all that happens. You start out on Earth pre-cataclysm, and do all kinds of epic things (like turn in to a giant winged flame demon-thing) as a teaser for what the game will be like later, face off against the Destroyer, lose your powers, get your butt whooped, and then it going in to the story intro.

Then, you come back to Earth and find out that that 2 minute cinematic? Yeah, that was a century. Human kind is dead, and the world is a demon infested ruin now. On the positive side, that means you get to destroy things willynilly, and you also get an awesome post apocalyptic world to explore. Given the right tone, the world would be down right creepy, however they gave it good lighting and didn't give it all kinds of eerie music. This makes me happy because I don't like creepy games very often.

Andariel? No, she moved to the outskirts of Tristram, sorry.
You will explore ruined office buildings, broken freeways, crumbling subways, and so much more.. including a cathedral that has long since been desecrated by a demon queen. The Sisters of the Sightless Eye will be very pleased when you kill her. .. wait wrong game!

The amount of work they put in to the game world is also rather impressive. Dead bodies and burned out husks of cars litter the roads, shards of broken glass still hang in window frames. Pieces of rebar jut out of concrete, bent and jagged. Areas with high volcanic activity are covered with thick white ash the looks almost like snow. I could go on, but if you're as much of a fan of that kind of thing as I am, you'll want to spend a lot of time just exploring the world.

To some the world might appear a drab, lifeless world, myself though, I find it impressive that they were able to capture that so well for this game, because that's what it needs.

There's also a lot of destructible scenery (such as cars and light posts), much of which can be picked up and used as a weapon, as well as environmental pieces which can be destroyed by certain actions, though sometimes there's minor immersion breaking quirks in that. Like a place you push a statue down and it punches a hole in the ground for you.. there's no ground debris or remnant of the statue when you jump in the hole.

That's enough rambling about the world, I think.

So far as I've played, the puzzle element of the game remains fairly simple, and more about being aware of your surroundings, and how you can affect the environment. It does serve to keep your mind more active than killing a bajillion and a half demons.

Aside from world exploration and puzzle solving.. there's also a bit of combat. Really! I mean, you're playing War.. who would expect a guy like him to fight!?

Combat is standard fare. One button attacks, one button jumps etc. If you're on a keyboard, your mouse button is attack, mouse movement is camera look, WASD is move, and all your other commands needed are convenient to the mouse or the WASD keys. Sometimes there are just things that do not work well on the keyboard though (such as if you want to cast a spell while moving it requires holding down 2 keys and hitting a 3rd, not always easy.)
Whether keyboard or gamepad, you do run in to minor camera issues, but I've dealt with a lot worse, and I'm probably one of the pickiest people when it comes to cameras (I have actually walked away from a game just because of it's camera before).

L DL D DR R Punch. Aww, no Hadoken.
You also get an assortment of special moves, which also work as is expected. block+attack, double tap attack, jump+attack, jump+hold attack, jump up and down three times, turn in a circle while clucking like a chicken block and attack... you get the idea. As much as I love games like these, and I love the special moves, I personally always find it hard to remember how to do the really awesome ones in the thick of combat. Darksiders seems a little better than most for that though.

In addition, you also get a few spells, or sorry 'wrath abilities', which have an assortment of effects. I always forget about them, personally, though they're a lot easier to access with the controller, it just requires holding another button and popping up a menu and stuff. Clearly too much work when I could just be all slicey choppy with my giant sword.

Yuffie called... yeah, she wants her star back.
Throughout the game you will also find or earn special abilities and equipment, like a war-horn, a 'shuriken' and, shadow wings. These are often required to solve puzzles and progress, but sometimes they're also used in finding secret areas.

And of course, no game would be complete without a slew of items you really need to hunt down. These include, but are not limited to, health increase items, Wrath ('mana') increase items, armor sets, and trophies to sell to the vendor.

Yep, despite the fact that you're wanted by heaven and hell, and running around a world where everything is a denizen of one or the other.. there's still someone you can buy stuff from. In this instance it's a demon who fell out of favor with the Destroyer, and trades in souls. Thankfully everything you kill drops souls, so you can buy new spells, new moves, new weapons, etc.

Souls, in fact, come in three yummy flavors: Lime, Lemon and, Frost (you know that soft blue flavor that no one really knows what it is).
Green souls are health, collect them and be healed!
Yellow souls are Wrath, you use Wrath to cast spells!
Blue souls are money.. or apparently actually demon food, since the vendor seems to eat them. Oh well, who cares what he does with them as long as you get your new shiny! (Don't want to think about him buying artifacts...)

So far, the only thing I have really disliked about Darksiders, is the requisite flying level. I hope beyond hope that there is only one (I know there will be more though), because I suck at flying levels, hate them, and at least the first one in Darksiders sucks. There's not even an evasive dodge move. Had I been using keyboard and mouse when that came up, I would have flipped the game off and walked away from it.

Over all, it's a really fun game that actually does a good job of getting you hooked on more than just '20,000 more kills to the next achievement!'. So much so, in fact, that I got distracted playing it when I was gathering screenshots, thus contributing to a late upload. Would I pay $50 for it? No way, but I hate spending more than $30 for a game. Would I pay $20? Maybe. $10? Definitely! $5? A steal!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Genre: RPG (Action)
Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: 2000

Zolgar paid: $5.99
Beaten: Yes, been a while though
Zolgar's rating: 7/10
Replayability: Moderate.

Nox is a game I actually had on disk ages ago, and one that I occasionally lamented the fact that I no longer had the disks, as it was a game I wasted many hours of my 'youth' on. I was never sure though if it was really that good of a game, or if I just had fond memories of it.

Well, as I was pondering what to review this week, GOG released Nox. Instabuy. Installed it and started playing.. yep, it was really a good game! It's not without it's flaws of course, but all things considered it has actually aged extremely well when compared to other like games of it's era.

When I did my Sacred review, I closed it by saying that Sacred is Diablo for 'real' RPG players. Nox is the reverse, it's a 'real' RPG for Diablo players.

The story of Nox is a fairly simple one; you play Jack Mower, a 20th century redneck who lives in a singlewide with his wife, who just happens to own this weird orb that the necromancer queen Hecubah needs to conquer the world of Nox. When Hecubah opens a trans-dimensional portal to recover the orb, it also happens to suck Jack through, too.

In a moment of deus ex machina, Jack just happens to land on the deck of an airship, piloted by a slightly crazy old codger who decides he has need of Jack. From there, the gameplay begins, and the story will change depending on your class of choice.

Each of the three classes starts out with a completely different and unique introduction, before being put on to 'more or less' the same storyline (but for perhaps different reasons) as the other two. Your final goal? Stop Hecubah from taking over Nox.

Normally this storyline would be two strikes for me. I don't usually like the 'modern day dude sucked in to a portal' cliché, and I outright despise the 'you are the chosen one' cliché. Nox somehow makes it work though, partly because the game does not take itself seriously at all. It's not a 'comedy' game by any means, but there's a lot of humor to it.

As I said, Nox has 3 classes, Warrior, Wizard and Conjurer, not many by today's standards but this is an almost 12 year old game. The classes are pretty self explanatory, but I'll go ahead and give a brief rundown.
  • Warrior: Pretty obvious, melee master. Swords, maces, thrown weapons, special skills like charging foes. The closest to magic you'll get is enchanted weapons and armor, and bows are for pussies. Unlike Wizards and Conjurers, you will gain your special abilities as you level up.
  • Wizard: Also pretty obvious. No armor, only able to use staffs as weapons.. but also able to produce all manner of spells. Wizards will find spell books throughout the game, or buy them from NPCs, and use those spells to produce basic utility effects, defensive measures, or pure raw damage. Wizards also gain the ability to make spell traps, which they can drop and have up to 3 spells go off when a foe triggers them.
  • Conjurer: Kinda like a cross between a ranger and a wizard, conjurers summon animals, charm animals, and have a mix of offensive and defensive spells. They're also the only class that can use a bow and can wear light, but not heavy, armor. Like wizards they learn their spells from books they find, as well. Conjurers also have the ability to summon 'bombers' little units that will charge at the nearest enemy and explode, setting off up to 3 spells.

Gameplay wise, there's a few things that will throw off ARPG veterans. Right click moves, left click attacks or interacts. If there's no interaction, you attack.. this sometimes leads to wasted arrows on a conjurer.

Special abilities/spells are activated using the ASDFG keys, while ZXC will activate recovery items. For Wizards and Conjurers the mouse wheel will scroll through the spell trays.

The game is hitbox based, as opposed to accuracy. So at times, aiming a ranged weapon can be very awkward, and the projectiles will often go right past your target until you get used to what you're doing. It seems hitboxes are very small. However it also means if you keep moving ranged foes are less likely to hit you. Warriors can also use their shields to block incoming attacks (so can opponents though), but blocking only works at attacks from the front.

In addition to potions to restore mana, there are also 'mana crystals' throughout the world, which provide extremely fast mana recovery. While this is really nice in some ways, it leads to a lot of backtracking, and forcing fights to happen in certain areas, especially on a Wizard you will find that you spend, in my opinion, too much of your time running back to the nearest mana crystals, because you never know where the next one will be.

The main detractors to the game, for me, are:
No character customization. A warrior is a warrior, the only real customization you get is choosing what weapons and armor to use. Wizards and conjurers get to 'customize' their spells, sorta.

Arrows are not plentiful, and vendors do not restock.

Massively linear gameplay. Highly restricted on where you can go, how much you can explore.. and backtrack? Yeah, right.

Not so much a detractor as something of an annoyance to someone who's grown used to modern action RPGs: Death means game over, so you really have to remember to hit F2 and often.

A note one multiplayer:
The multiplayer of Nox threw out the norm for Action RPGs and went closer to FPS of the day. Offering such things as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, later they introduced a PvE multiplayer mode as well. The servers have long since been shut down though, meaning the only option these days is LAN.

Short review I know. Nox is an easy game to cover it seems.

Screenshots shamelessly stolen from here.

Can you take me home? My wife made bacon...”
Bacon bound we go Imp, but first....”

Price and availability:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ground Control

Genre: RTS (squad based)
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Publisher: Rebellion/Sierra
Released: 2000

Zolgar paid: Gifted on GOG.
Beaten: No, lost interest about 1/4th the way in.
Zolgar's rating: 6/10
Replayability: Moderate.

I wanted to like this game, I really did. It looks pretty awesome. Unfortunately it just failed to keep my interest. Mechanically it's a very sound game, with controls that are only slightly unintuitive, but customizable, and it seems to have a good story too.

So why couldn't I keep playing it? Simple, it stagnated so quickly for me that I felt like I was playing the same damn mission over and over. I am sure it gets better later, but I don't have a lot of free time, and have a backlog of nearly 100 games to play and review.

The game itself is fairly standard squad based RTS fare. I'm not typically a fan of squad based games (I prefer to build massive bases and crush my foes under a swarm of bodies >.>), but Ground Control does it very well. The squads feel more like the forces you get in a typical 'build your base' RTS, and it controls much the same way, too. It adds some nice things like squads having special abilities, and your command unit providing repairs/healing.

As well, the AI is good enough that you don't find yourself spending as much time micromanaging, more like just setting your preferences, and occasionally directing to specific targets.

The story makes me want to keep playing, too. Much akin to Star Craft, and other RTS of the era, you play a 'field commander', who gets orders from high-ranking douchebags who've never seen real combat, and in proper RTS fashion you switch sides partway through and start playing the “bad guys”.

It opens up with you playing Major Sarah Parker of the Crayven Corporation, in charge of a fairly small contingent of men, and expected to somehow pull miracles out of your backside on a hostile world, when you're not given the man power to do your job right.. why? Simple, it's just not a 'financially sound option' to give you the proper manpower.
Does a good job making you hate the Crayven Corporation right off the bat, heh.

You are facing off against the Order of the New Dawn (“Dawnies”), an organization that gets presented to you as religious zealots trying to gain the power to have their own 'little' Crusade. By 'little', of course, I mean galaxy-spanning.

Early on, you learn that the planet Crayven and the Dawnies are fighting over houses alien technology.. and by the sounds of things really bad alien technology which the Dawnies are trying to harness.

But, this is an RTS, it's not so simple as 'good guys' and 'bad guys'..
After the Crayven Corporation takes over the planet, and manages to push the Dawnies in to hiding, you switch over to controlling Deacon Jarred Stone, of the Order of the New Dawn, trying to take back the planet from Crayven, and stop THEM from harnessing the bad alien tech. Just gets more interesting from there, but I've said too much.

The way the story is told, it makes me really want to continue playing it and see the story progress.. unfortunately, the game itself.. just drags for me.

Another thing the game does really well, is it lets you customize your squads. You're not just given 'soldiers' and 'tanks', well.. OK, you kinda are, but you can first pick their over-all loadout, like whether you want your soldiers to be Marines, or Navy SEALS (not exactly, but you get the point), from there you can pick the focus of that squad, such as their special abilities, and if they want to be specced for speed, armor or damage (or a good balance). The same goes for the vehicles, too.

Eventually you get 'jets' too, but because "Crayven controls the sky." you're not able to requisition air support until further in to the game than I got. Doesn't make sense to me, seems that if Crayven controls the sky, then Air-to-Ground attacks would be in their best interest.

As well, your squads gain 'experience' based off the number of battles they go in to. I'm not overly sure how much this changes them, but it's a nice touch.

So now I'm sure you're thinking “You like the story, you like the units, and you say the gameplay is good.. so why did you give up on it?” or something like that. Well, this is a good point in time for me to go in to the detractors of the game.

First and foremost, it's slow, I mean like “start your units moving across the map and walk away to get a soda” type slow. Granted, I tended to run heavy armor tanks, but still. Combat is also slow, realism is great and all, but even on easy fights just drag on and on.

It's also slow to progress your unit options. By the time I gave up on it, I had just gotten my 2nd soldier type opened, and my 5th squad. I had 3 types of tanks, and 2 types of soldiers to choose from, that was it, and I'd been going with tanks and soldiers for every frelling mission so far.

The missions also just kind of blend together as 'more of the same'. “Defend this location from the Dawnies.” or “Take this location from the Dawnies.”

Without starting to get in to irritating levels of micromanagement, it's hard to get your squads in to good tactical positions. Sometimes it's hard to get them to go where you want when you go in to micromanagement mode.

If you're not playing it on easy, you deal with friendly fire. Which is a pain in the ass, because of how the units sometimes decide to go where ever they darn well please, but they lack the AI to adjust their position so they're not getting shot in the back by their allies, or not shooting their allies.

Oh yes, and it has the most titanic strike against it possible for me with a strategy game:
No skirmish mode. Sometimes I jut want to kill things without worrying about the storyline.

For me, those factors make the game honestly rather boring mechanically, despite all it's great potential. I'm not going to sit through a bunch of boring, repetitive and, predictable missions in order to watch the story progress, and hope that it decides to get better somewhere along the way.

I wish I could provide you with a run down of the difference, if any, between the Dawnies and Crayven. What I saw of the Dawnies playing against them though, it seems there isn't any.. but honestly? I couldn't stand to play the game long enough to find out, I tried. I was sitting there thinking “Maybe the game gets better with the Dawnies.. maybe it gets better..” ultimately though, like I said, I've got a backlog of nearly 100 games, I can only afford to give one game so much time in hopes of it getting better.

I would, however, really recommend picking it up if you find it for a good price, and giving it a try. Especially if you're more patient than I am, and enjoy squad-based strategy games.. and it might help if you don't have a titanic backlog of games you impulse purchased because “Oooh, it's on sale!”

Screemshots shamelessly stolen from various internet sources. If you see yours and would like it taken down, or like attribution, let me know.

Epic potential, flawed implementation. An astoundingly boring masterpiece.”

Availability and price:
FilePlanet: Free (no expansion, requires personal information)
GOG:$5.99 (includes Dark Conspiracies expansion)
GamersGate: $5.99 (includes Dark Conspiracies expansion)
Amazon(physical): ~$13.50 (Expansion costs ~$45.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Freebie Friday: Puzzle Pirates

Genre: Puzzle, MMO
Developer: Three Rings Designs
Publisher: Three Rings Designs/Ubisoft
Release year: 2003

Freebie type: MMO
Paid option: Real-Money currency to actually play the game.

Zolgar paid: Nothing! (and it was still too much!)
Beaten: my head against a wall, maybe. It'd be more fun.
Zolgar's rating: 2/10
Replayability: MMO

OK, so I wasn't even going to review this steaming pile of guano, because.. well, it's a steaming pile of guano that I don't enjoy playing... however, there's that whole deadline thing, and I decided I'd rather review guano, than be late.. again.

Initially, I saw Puzzle Pirates was freshly released on Steam, decided it looked like a nice easy one to do cheap and dirty *insert 'your mom' joke* review of. Well, right off the bat, I run in to problems. Namely the Steam version (as of writing this) doesn't bloody work. Honestly, some stupid frelling java glitch.

So I go first to the Steam forums, no help there, other than a lot of people griping about the same problem, so I meander over to Puzzle Pirate's website and downloaded and installed the game. That's a minute 30 seconds of my life wasted.. 'thankfully' this time it worked.

So I make a character, the customization and graphics are crap.. but hey, it's a free to play, so what do I expect? As long as the gameplay is fun that's all that matters.

I jump in to the world, where I've given a worthless tutorial, and then told to go on missions. Now, I knew going in to this, that it'd be what they like to call puzzle games.

So let me say this again:
Puzzles require logic to solve. Using what is known, and the abilities at your disposal to solve a certain problem.

Is not puzzles, it's luck and or skill.

The 'puzzles' in Puzzle Pirates, are mix of luck and skill games, with a side order of puzzle elements, occasionally. They are still far more about quick thinking, adapting to changes in the game board, and using what you have available at this exact moment.. oh and did I mention luck? Lots and lots of luck.

And the problem is, most of them are not even very well done.

The puzzles used are:
Anyone remember Snood? Or maybe Bubble Bobble (or some such?) Yeah, it's that kind, shoot a randomly determined colored ball at an ever encroaching wave of balls, match 3 or more colors balls and clear them, dropping any.
This one is a PvP version, where as you drop balls, you attack your foe with them. Also there's an option with 2 turrets, controlled by the left and right mouse buttons (OK, I'll grant that that's pretty cool).

Bejeweled. Yep, Bejeweled, except you can plan out moves and make moves without matches. Otherwise it's not even 20% as entertaining as Bejeweled.

Something that's almost like Tetris, but.. not. Essentially stacking up blocks and then, when you get lucky enough to get the right piece you destroy the ones of a certain color touching each other, and attack your foes.. Generally just boring.

Another 'falling blocks' puzzle, this one your objective is to fill certain colored squares with certain colors blocks. Not a competitive games, and frankly, boring.

Then there's “Carpentry” a “fill in the hole with the provided blocks” puzzle.. except you can overlap, and, in fact you have to overlap due to how the game works, only providing you with 3 randomly determined blocks at a time.

Oh, and if you happen to actually start enjoying the puzzles, every like.. 2 minutes a stupid board pops up for 30 seconds, locking you out of your puzzle, which lets you know the progress of everyone on the ship. Maybe we'd progress more if you bloody well stopped interrupting us, eh?

I could keep going, but suffice it to say there's a better version of almost every single one of these “puzzle” games available on most Flash Game dumps.

Now, I'll admit, that Flash game dumps don't have the nice fun MMO element...

Well, Puzzle Pirates has a user controlled economy. What does that mean? Unless you have a lot of money, you're frelled. Totally utterly frelled. Most things you can buy cost several hundred, if not several thousand, Pieces of Eight (main currency) and some Dubloons (Real Money currency) too. And Dubloons, they CAN be obtained with PoE, at an insane rate, or purchased at the low price of $20 for 90.

The only positive thing I can say is that it seems, at present, there's no uber items that can only be obtained with Dubloons. That's a small saving grace.

On the flipside of that though, you pretty much have to get Dubloons in order to unlock certain minigames. I covered almost all of those available at the start, there's about that many more you need Badges for Badges cost Dubloons. Anything beyond the ultra, most basic (boring) element of the game, you need Dubloons.

This, boys and girls, is an example of how not to do a Free-To-Play MMO supported by a Real Money Currency house. It amazes me it's been around for 8 years now. Better games have closed up shop in that time. (Dungeon Runners, how I miss thee.. *siiiigh*)

In closing. If you're a Steam player, and they get the frelling game working, you can pursue.. wait for... Brace yourself..
Two Hundred and Twenty achievements.
WTF? Are they on crack? Scrolling through the list, most of them look like the every so classic “Hey, you're playing the game!” crap.. Well, I guess they needed some way to keep people playing this pile of guano.

Since I suppose it should be asked “What would make you give it a better score?”
Get rid of the damned progress board. It's annoying as hell.
Make the minigames not all slow paced and suck.
Make it so we didn't have to pay real money, or play for many hours just to access the rest of the minigames.

Screenshots stole shamelessly from Steam, mostly because I couldn't find where this pile of guano hid the ones I took.

“Two Hundred and Twenty achievements? I think I'll have more fun reading the list than I did playing the game.”

Please, for the love of the FSM, don't go looking for this game, save yourself!