It’s been a little while since my last roundup post. This has not been the most productive backlog-tackling month… Still, I beat two decently-sized games. Well, one game, and one DLC.
The final DLC for Age of Empires 2, Rise of the Rajas deals with east Asia. 4 new civilizations (Malay, Burmese, Khmer & Vietnamese), and 4 new campaigns, all of which are quite good. Malay as a civilization is up there among my favourite AoE 2 civs in terms of just how fun they are to play.
In my last post, I talked about the African Kingdoms expansion, and a lot of what I said there still holds true here, the campaigns are better than those in the base game, and more inventive in general. And unlike African Kingdoms, the campaigns seem to have been better tested and polished in general. Units did not get stuck, and I did not find any leftovers from early versions of the levels. So thumbs up for this expansion, it's great!
This is yet another time management game in the vein of 12 Labours of Hercules. In fact, this is pretty much just a reskin. Yes, there are a few details that are different between them, but they are still really similar. I thought this one felt slightly worse than the Hercules games though, the levels felt like they were a little bit more haphazardly made.
At first when I noticed that the bad guys were basically Nazis without swastika (look at the obvious villain on the store page for this game) I could not help but sigh. Making the bad guys Nazis and just leaving it like that is generally just a sign of someone having no imagination. but then it dawned upon me that the main character is more or less a female Indiana Jones, and then it made sense. So I'll give them a pass on that one.
It's been ages since I played the original BG, apart from a false start I had a few years back. And this was the first time I really got to experience both the Enhanced Edition content and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion (which I did not have back when I played through the game for the first time).
BG still holds up surprisingly well. It has a few design issues, the balance is really poor and so on, but it's still fun. The main issue with Baldur's Gate is just that Baldur's Gate 2 does pretty much everything better, which makes this game look a bit worse in retrospect. Pillars of Eternity & Tyranny also both dodged some of the issues that this game has.
The main story is actually not all that good. You've lived your life in a secluded keep where the inhabitants were more keen on studying books and discussing things with each other than to go out into the outside world. One day your foster-father tells you that you need to leave, and so you do. Just outside you get attacked by an armoured man who kills your foster-father, and you now need to find out what's going on. And like any good RPG you quickly get distracted and start exploring random dungeons and tombs, and help farmers who have lost their cows. In terms of gameplay, the game is at least solid. Combat is tactical, you've got a wide range of options and the enemy mostly follows the same rules as you.
I did have a lot of fun with BG, despite knowing the story, and the Enhanced Edition content was mostly quite good (even though one of the new characters was super weak through most of the game. Monks in AD&D are among the weakest characters at low levels, and only get decent at around the max level that BG allows). And as for Tales of the Sword coast, the new areas were generally very good (apart from an over-reliance on traps, which is one of the things I never found to be very well implemented in the games that use this engine), but they were not really integrated into the main game in a way that made much sense. For an example you end up taking a long journey out at sea for some reason, even though your mission on the mainland is (supposedly) quite urgent.
Do you like Adventure Island or the older Wonder Boy games? Then this game is for you! It's very similar to those old games. You need to constantly be moving forward, and picking up food, or otherwise your character will die. There's a meter on screen that tells you how close to starvation you are and every time you pick up something to eat it fills up a bit. The main difference between this and those old games is really the controls. Where in Adventure Island, the controls were overly slippery, here they are a bit too stiff. The levels are also a bit more complex. But the fundamentals are still the same.
This game is quite alright, but I feel that the price is too high for what you get. 10€ for a short, rather simplistic 2D platformer is too much to ask these days, even if the game does have a bit of replay value due to branching paths. This is the kind of game that's worth playing if you get it in a bundle, but it's not worth buying even for 5€.
Dream Tale is a simple 2D platformer about a child with a big head that's dealing with loss. I think. It fits the mold for those at least.
The gimmick in this game is that different types of stars give you different abilities. Some lets you jump in the air, others let you hover, and each have a limited amount of uses, but you can refill them by touching another star of the same type. It works alright, not really to complain about, even if the hit detection felt a bit sloppy.
The biggest gripe I have with this game is that you're expected to scour each level for keys, and you need to find them to progress. You can beat a level without finding the key needed, and in fact many levels have multiple different paths, which are mutually exclusive, and only one will have the key, so you'll have to replay levels several times. Had the keys unlocked optional stuff I would have been fine with it, but to be frank, I don't think this game is good enough to warrant replaying levels several times just to get those keys.