My progress for this month: Fnord’s profile

Because I’m terrible with keeping things like “currently playing” and my future plans consistent and up to date, I’ll just simplify things and make a list of my progress for the month, until I can come up with a good system.

If anyone is curious about my complete backlog, it can be found here

Games beaten
DOOM
The Room Three
Horizon Chase Turbo
Borderlands 2
LEGO® Pirates of the Caribbean The Video Game
Blasphemous

Games dropped
Ruzar - The Life Stone


DOOM

11.2 hours, 18 of 54 achievements

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DOOM is a game I've heard a lot of good about. People have praised it as a return to the classic (non DOOM 3) DOOM, one of the best shooters in decades and so on.
I went in expecting DOOM, but with more melee, and my first reaction was disappointment. This was not at all what I expected, and as people had repeated the same praise over and over again, it was hard to not have that influence my expectations. But once I realized that in terms of gameplay, this is more of a successor to Quake 2/4 than DOOM, it clicked for me. My initial first impressions were also hurt by the bad interface design, particularly in the main menu.

DOOM is a fast paced FPS (though not as fast as DOOM 1 or Quake 1), where large amounts of daemons wants to rip your face off, and you need to kill them before they can do so. Rinse and repeat. And combat in DOOM feels very satisfying, particularly after you get the Super Shotgun (I'm so glad they did not mess that one up. The super shotgun from DOOM 2 is considered one of the best shotguns in gaming, if not the best).

While the combat is great in DOOM, there are some parts I thought detracted from the game. The main one being looking for upgrades. You're encouraged to look for different collectibles, and do some side quests, because those earn you permanent upgrades, which really make a huge difference. But looking for these upgrades really kills the pacing of the game, and I feel like the game would have been better without this scavenger hunt.

Overall, I quite liked DOOM, but I don't view it as a flawless masterpiece. It's a great game hindered by some major design flaws, an interface that feels worse than most AAA interfaces released since the early 90's


The Room Three

5.5 hours, 10 of 10 achievements

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The Room series is a series of first person puzzle games, a bit along the line of MYST (the later entries more so than the first). In The Room Three you need to solve a lot of different (mostly) logical puzzles in order to open up new paths and progress through the game. And unlike the previous two entries in the series, this one is not super short. In fact, it's as long as the previous two games combined (if you go for all endings)!

The Room is a simple, but very enjoyable game. I generally found the puzzles to be a bit on the easy side, compared to those in similar games, like MYST or Schizm, but they still felt satisfying and rewarding to solve, which is the hallmark of good puzzle design. Other than that, there's not much to say. Like to solve puzzles, and want a light story to contextualize things? Then this series is great!


Horizon Chase Turbo

12 hours, 22 of 37 achievements

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I never knew I needed an spiritual successor to games like Top Gear in my life, but apparently I did. Horizon chase is an outstanding arcadey racing game that borrows heavily from the Top Gear SNES series (a series I have just dipped my toes into). Racing is fast and fun, and it gets even better when you bring a friend along. They've also done something interesting with the perspective. While everything in the game world are 3D models, they seem to scale them in a way based on distance that's supposed to emulate the look of the sprite scaling that was used in games like Top Gear and Outrun, which gives Horizon Chase a very unique look to it.

Overall, Horizon Chase was a very pleasant surprise, and I really enjoyed my time with it. It's been ages since a racing game managed to sink its teeth into me like this, usually I get bored after a few hours, but I will return to this one.


Borderlands 2

80 hours, 36 of 75 achievements

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This is my third time starting a Borderlands 2 playthrough in co-op, and the first time I've seen the ending.
Borderlands 2 is at this point a relatively old looter shooter. That is an FPS that also has elements borrowed from games like Diablo (mostly randomized loot). Borderlands 2 is probably one of the better looter shooters out there, with relatively satisfying combat, and some interesting guns, and unlike the first Borderlands, it does not end up feeling repetitive after the first few hours.
That said, the game is by no means perfect. The humor often feels forced, and far too much of it is reliant on getting laughs out of you by being obnoxious. The main villain is quite entertaining, but most of the side characters are not.

This is the kind of game that I would probably not beat in SP, but in co-op it works quite well. There's enough to do here to keep it entertaining, and some enemies do feel like they were made for having a second player around, as their weak spot can otherwise be hard to hit.


LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean The Video Game

9.4 hours, no achievements

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It's a LEGO game. Really, what more can be said about it other than that? If you've played one LEGO game you've played them all. This time there are pirates in it.

You might remember that I talked about LEGO Jurassic World in my last post. Well, most things said there remain true here as well, but where Jurassic World had raptors, here you have pirates. Almost all mechanics are nigh identical in these two games, the only thing that's really different is that Jurassic World had big dinos that you could control at a few points, and here one of the characters has a compass that lets you find buried treasures.

This game also kind of highlighted how forgettable most of the Pirates of the Caribbean moves actually were. The game follows the story of the first 4 movies, but I found myself struggling to remember most of the scenes from movies 2 & 3, so some of the jokes were lost on me. Only the first movie seems to have left much of an impression on me (I've not seen the 4th).

Also, for some reason this game got very crash prone in the final quarter (the bits dealing with the 4th movie). And for some reason, characters had a tendency of getting stuck in places, which was really annoying, as it meant that events would not trigger properly. I sometimes had to spent up to 10 min trying to push a character out of a stuck position, so I could progress with the game

If you like LEGO games, and Pirates of the Caribbean, then this game will probably be worth it, despite the bugs. If you don't love Pirates of the Caribbean, you might as well go with any of the other LEGO games, they're all pretty much the same, only this one is a big buggier than most.


Blasphemous

9.9 hours, 15 of 45 achievements

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Blasphemous is a gorgeous Metroidvania with outstanding pixel art. Set in an alternative reality Spain that's been consumed by ideas of "Catholic sin", Blasphemous has you fight through a world where people are obsessed with being punished for their sins, and viewing the suffering they feel as a divine gift. It's really dark.

Blasphemous feels like a very post-Dark Souls metroidvania. It borrows quite a few mechanics from the DS series (although it's not a souls like), including rather punishing combat, and the need to pick up your corpse if you die. Combine it with an ever expanding game world, that opens up as you progress further into it, and you have Blasphemous.

I really enjoyed this game. It's great. It's not "Hollow Knight" great, but then again, Hollow Knight is the best game in the genre, so that might be an unfair comparison. A special mention goes to the bosses in Blasphemous, which are really creepy looking, and for the most part fun and challenging to beat.


Ruzar - The Life Stone

0.5 hours, 0 of 40 achievements
SG win

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This is my second attempt at this game, and the second time I almost instantly got a headache so bad I had to turn off my computer and dim all the lights. There's something about the icey "border" around the screen in this one that just makes my eyes not focus right, and that results in a headache so bad I can't keep on playing it. There's an option in the options menu that seems to indicate that it should remove this effect, but it does not. I simply can't play this, which is a shame, as I have a soft spot for these kinds of tile-based first person RPGs.


Two posts in a month? What is this madness!?

Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory

11 hours, no achievements

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This is another game I got to review! Sadly it did not live up to expectations :(


Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach - Legacy of the Weirdboy

13.4 hours, no achievements

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A year or so ago, I beat the base game, Sanctus reach, and I really enjoyed it. It depicted a war between the Space Marines of the Space Wolf chapter, and the savage Orks, form the side of the Space Wolves. Now you get to see it from the side of the orks. This is considerably shorter than the base game, that took me nearly 40h to beat, but it's still very good. The orks feel different to play. You're not controlling a force of elite warriors here, but rather more of a horde, with plenty of cheap, expendable units, backed up by some heavy hitters, and with most of your units being strong in close combat. So with the orks, the trick is to use your cheap units to draw fire from your units that can actually fight well.

The campaign here was great, easily on par with what the base game had. And there are still two more DLCs to look forward to! (I've not got either of them yet though).


LEGO Jurassic World

12.6 hours, 30 of 49 achievements
SG Win

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My co-op partner bailed on me, so I had to complete this on my own :(

LEGO Jurassic World is yet another LEGO world, this time it's focused on Jurassic Park, and its sequels. While it's named LEGO Jurassic world, it actually deals with the first 4 movies. If you've played any other LEGO games based on a movie, you know what to expect. You play through the events of the movies, in a slightly condensed form, and with LEGO characters and logic. And nobody ever dies. Someone might have got eaten by a raptor in the movie, but in the game, they're fine. This is a kids game after all.
And I thought it was surprisingly fun. It feels weird to say this, but the puzzles in this game are actually harder than those in most games aimed at adults. That's not to say that the puzzles are in any way shape or form hard, but you still have to think more about how to progress than you do in most other games.

The game looks nice, but the sound quality is sometimes downright terrible. A lot of the dialogue are taken from the movies. These are no studio recordings, they've just been ripped straight from the films, so you often get background noise. Sometimes they've tried to clean up the audio, and sometimes they've not. A few lines seems to have been re-recorded for the game, but not all. And it's distracting, when you suddenly hear completely different background noise when a character speaks compared to when they don't. Still, overall this is a pretty good game. Completionists beware though, there's a silly amount of things to collect.


Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory review

Wasn’t that long ago since I made my last post… And I spent a worrying amount of time over the course of 3 days playing Rome 2….

South Park: The Fractured but Whole

0 hours, no achievements
Non-steam

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I got this one a while back, when it was 92% off on Uplay, and I beat most of it last month.

South Park The Fracture But Whole is the second game in the South Park RPG series. Where in the first game, you had the kids pretend to be fantasy characters, now they're super heroes. I was never a huge fan of the South park TV series, finding it to rely a bit too much on shock grossout humor, but I did enjoy the last game. While it did have its fare share of poop jokes, I enjoyed how the game played with the idea of your characters pretending to be in a fantasy land, and how they interacted with the real world. Fractured but Whole continues this tradition, and it's often unclear where the line between the kid's imagination and reality goes. Why exactly does a made up super power work against an armed cop? The game never says.

Here we do have a case of "it should have been a bit shorter" though. For an RPG, The Fractured But Whole is relatively short, but it still manages to outstay its welcome a little bit. It's not as bad as some other games, but shaving a few hours of the game time, making it roughly as long as the first, would have been for the better. The game is also a bit buggy. It mostly works well, but there were a few moments when it displayed some weird behaviour. Most commonly this happened during combat, when it was rather easy for a character to end up just outside where it was supposed to be, which confused the game, and you could get half a minute of the a character trying to figure out how to walk one step in one direction.

It's good fun though, and at 5€ off, the price was pretty good


Total War: Rome 2

32.7 hours, 25 of 188 achievements

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Rome: Total War 2 is a game I've had in my library for ages now, and I finally actually beat a full campaign (I've played it for a bit before in the past, but got bored). It's a Total War game, and it does not deviate much from the established formula. Pick a nation, lead it to victory by conquering nearby nations, and try to keep your people happy.

The Total War series has always had issues with their AI, and sadly Rome 2 is no real exception, the AI is kind of bad. This is the reason why I got bored last time, the AI ends up being too predictable. But poor AI aside, there's still quite a lot to like about this one. The large scale battles look really good, and the different nations work (somewhat) differently, with different focuses. Don't use this game as a history lesson though, or you run the risk of learning a lot of weird things. It's representing, rather than simulating its time period. Which is still closer to historical accuracy than Rome 1 :P


Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard

1 hours, no achievements

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Did anyone say review? Link at the bottom of the post!


Shovel Knight: King of Cards

0 hours, no achievements
GOG version

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Shovel Knight got yet another campaign, and this time it's focused on King Knight. King Knight wants to be king, and luck has it that there's a card game competition that might let him take the crown! Story was never Shovel Knight's main selling point, but it's still told with a surprising degree of charm here.

What was, and still is Shovel Knight's main selling point is the excellent platforming and level design. King Knight, much like the previous knights, has his own moves, and in this case it's a shoulder dash, similar to that which Wario uses in Wario Land. All the levels are built around this move, and you often need to shoulder dash in order to get to hard to reach spots.

This is just yet another excellent addition to the Shovel Knight family. I'm so glad I bought the game back when it was just Shovel Knight, on one of its earliest sales over at GOG. Because Shovel Knight has been the game that keeps on giving!


DarkEnd

3.1 hours, 2 of 26 achievements
SG win

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This was kind of bad. The store page talks about ever changing dungeons, but what that seems to mean is that every time you progress to a new floor, the game randomly picks between a few different pre-made floor layouts of a dungeon, which can result in you playing the exact same floor several times. The rather bog standard JRPG mechanics does not do the game any favours either. It's not the worst, but none of the elements stick out in a good way.


Frog Detective review

It’s been a bit over a month since last update. Playing longer games makes it hard to reach 4 games beaten in a month…

Avernum 3: Ruined World

44.2 hours, 22 of 35 achievements

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Avernum 3 is not only the 3rd entry in the Avernum series, but the third version (or second remake) of Exile 3: Ruined World.

If you've played either of the last two Avernum games, you know how this one works, because it once again changes very little. There's of course a new story, new characters and for once you're not spending all your time underground. But being above ground is not really all that different from being in a cave, not with this game engine.

The story and writing is, as always, quite good, but somehow I felt that the exploration bit felt a bit less rewarding in this game, compared to the previous ones. I guess that might have been because the setting felt a bit less alien. It also felt a bit easier, although this might be because I've previously played 2 very very similar games.


Castle Crashers

9.0 hours, 5 of 12 achievements
SG Win

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I won this game on Steamgifts ages ago, played it for a bit, and then got bored. It really felt like a game built for co-op first and foremost, and I did not know anyone who had it and wanted to play it. Now with the Remote Play Together feature, the barrier to entry for a co-op match was a lot lower.

In co-op, Castle Crashers is pretty nice. It's a 2D brawler, similar to the likes of Golden Axe, Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but with a light RPG element (your character levels up and gets stronger). There's also the humor element, which was very hit or miss, leaning more on "miss" for me, particularly early on where there was a lot of poop jokes. But the gameplay was still very solid it least.


Armored Brigade

9.0 hours, no achievements

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I wrote a review for this! This was actually a surprisingly hard game to review, because there's very little story (it's a basic cold war gone hot game), and most of what makes this game special lies in its game mechanics, which are great!


STAR WARS Galactic Battlegrounds Saga

30.7 hours, no achievements

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Star Wars Galactic battlegrounds is basically Age of Empires 2, but with a Star Wars skin. It really is incredibly similar, down to how most mechanics work. All the resources have direct equivalents, most of the buildings are the same, you've even got trebuchet counterparts that seems to work exactly the same.

The differences between Galactic Battlegrounds and AoE 2 are minor. You've got buildings that powers nearby buildings and make them work a bit faster, you've got flying units (which fly at very low altitude, can ignore terrain, and can only be hit with special anti-flyer weapons and there are shields, which adds a self-regenerating HP bar to buildings. And units are also shuffled around a bit, with more of a focus on ranged units than melee units. The other differences are really just details, like you can't put units in rams, and monks can actually fight in close combat (because they're Jedi) and so on.

One big issue is that the pathfinding seems to have taken a serious blow to the head. I don't know if they made the pathfinding better in the HD version, and that this one shares the same pathfinding AI with the original, or if they actually made it worse, but it can be really wonky. Units can also seemingly forget about orders, or do weird things, like I might tell 3 trebuchets to attack a castle, and then two will do that, and the third will unpack in some other weird place. That bit is kind of frustrating.

The campaigns are okay. Just okay. I would say that they're still marginally better than the ones in the base game for AoE 2, but worse than any of the expansions, but on the whole Galactic Battlegrounds just feels like a slightly worse AoE 2 with a Star Wars skin. It's still AoE 2 though, and AoE 2 is a good game.


Armored brigade review

Plenty of red this time around :(

Heroes Chronicles Chapter 7-8

18.7 hours, no achievements
GOG version

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So, done with the Heroes Chronicles series.

For you who missed, or don't remember my old post on the topic, Heroes Chronicles was a series of standalone episodes released between Heroes of Might and Magic 3 & 4, and which used the Heroes 3 engine, and assets. It's basically a bunch more campaigns, with no skirmish mode, meant both as an introduction to this kind of strategy games for new players (as each episode was relatively cheap), and as a way to bridge the gap between Heroes 3 and 4. The Heroes Chronicles series follows the immortal hero Tarnam, as he does different things, with each chapter detailing a specific series of events. And the final two chapters are more of the same. Chapter 8 is actually the only time you get to play an evil faction, so despite there being 8 chapters in total, and 9 factions, there are repeats between the chapters in regards to which faction you play.

Overall, if you like Heroes of Might and Magic 3, you'll like these, it's more of the same. There's a lot of nice flavourful text in this game, which adds a lot to the experience. But sadly there's no skirmish mode, so the main mode that people tend to enjoy for the Heroes series is not here.


Roombo: First Blood

0.8 hours, 12 of 16 achievements

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Roombo: First Blood is a short, and very simple game where you play a robot vacuum cleaner who needs to stop burglars who try to break into your home. This is done by activating different "traps" in the house, like making electric outlets zap enemies, or making doors slam in on them. According to the store page, this is a stealth game, but I found the most efficient way to play it was not to try and stealth things, but rather just run in, attract the attention of the burglars and then run in circles while activating traps and trying to hit as many burglars at once. Short, cute, and probably not worth the price. There's only one map, and the difference between the levels is that one extra burglar appears with each new level.


Aveyond 3-1: Lord of Twilight

7.7 hours, 1 of 1 achievements

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I was giving up hope on ever finding another good RPG maker game, but this one was actually pretty good. You can tell that this was not made by a professional team of game developers, as the writing is a bit spotty, but the game was fun enough. My main gripe with it is that this game does not have a proper ending, it's just the first part of the story, and I guess I need to play through the other parts to actually see the end, and I only have one more part in the series! But if they're cheap enough, I'll probably get them, because there is enough to like here to make it worth playing.


Alone in the Dark

0.0 hours, 1 of 1 achievements

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Well, this game just crashes when I try to start it. It's notoriously bad though, so I guess my computer wants to protect me from it


DOOM 3

0.8 hours, 0 of 65 achievements

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I thought I knew what to expect here. Instead of a fast paced shooter, like DOOM 1 & 2, this would be a more slow and methodical game, that attempts some light horror. And having heard a lot of people more recently saying that DOOM 3 is not so bad, people just did not like it because it was not what they expected.

Well, now I can say that it's actually a pretty bad game. The tech is still quite impressive, the lighting effects look good and there's a fare bit to like about it form this point of view, but good grief, the enemy placement. You open a door, and suddenly an enemy with a hitscan weapon spawns in a positions where it could impossibly have got to in any other way than appearing out of thin air behind you, and shoots you in the back. Rinse and repeat. When I voiced my complaints about the game in another place, I was told that the right way to play this game, at least on higher difficulties, is to always go through doors with your back turned towards it, so you can shoot the enemy that's supposed to spawn behind you before it can shoot you. Yeah, I don't agree with this design, at all. I played on medium difficulty, and on this difficulty level, that hitscanner that appears behind you is not actually a threat, you're really tanky, and health refills are plentiful, it's just annoying.


Goosebumps: The Game

1.3 hours, 9 of 40 achievements

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I've never read a Goosebumps novel, nor seen the TV series, but I found this game to be quite alright when I played it, right up until the point where I put myself into a "walking dead" state, that is I managed to lose an item I had to use for another thing, and could not progress with the game anymore. There was of course no notification of this, but after running in circles for a while I looked up several guides, and all made references to me using an item that I no longer had.


Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics of War

17 hours, 33 of 69 achievements

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Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics of War is a rather streamlined 4X game. 4 races from 40k fight over a planet, and as this is the 40k universe there is only war. The goal is simply to wipe the other people off the planet.

As a war-focused 4X game, Gladius is really fun. It does a good job representing its source material, and it's a generally quite enjoyable experience. but it is a bit lacking in content. With so much less to do than in Civ, or even the developer's previous game, Pandora, having only 4 races does not quite feel enough. But still, fans of 4X games should check this out. Maybe wait for a sale though?

(Also, orks are the best)


Heroes Chronicles Chapter 4-6

21 hours, no achievements

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I've previously reviewed earlier parts of Heroes Chronicles. Everything said there is still true, these are just more Heroes of Might and Magic 3. If you decide to play these, beware of the second level of Chapter 5, it's really tough.


Her Majesty's SPIFFING

1.6 hours, 14 of 25 achievements

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I was, truth to be told, a bit disappointed with this one. The idea is charming. You've got a very British crew of two on board of a space ship, who have been sent out to spread the British empire. Expect a fare few jokes about British people, and their habits. Sadly I thought the game had a real over-reliance on breaking the 3rd wall. A really large portion of the jokes in here were 3rd wall breaking, and it did get old. The game also has very few locations, and while the locations are detailed with a fare few things to interact with, it really could have used at least double the locations. I get that they were making this one a shoe-string budget, but calling attention to the fact, repeatedly, does not make it any less of a problem.


Close Combat: The Bloody First

9 hours, no achievements

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This is another game I wrote a review for, so link at the bottom of the post! Finally Close Combat has entered the 3rd dimension!


Millennium - A New Hope

3 hours, 11 of 52 achievements

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So the girl wants to change the world because squirrels are nice to each other. Yep, that's the story.

Millennium actually started out well enough, even if it was a bit cliche. Your father has been hurt, and you need to run an errand for him. And this results in adventure!
The first few areas of the game are actually rather good. They don't overstay their welcome, and while the game errs on the side of easy, it's actually a pleasant little JPRG. And then the girl sees some squirrels, who are nice to each other, and decides that tyranny needs to be overthrown by removing democracy and invoking martial law. Yep, not making that up. Martial law according to this game is when a few skilled fighters step up and challenge each other for the throne, which makes everyone think that voting is a bad idea because fighting is cool. And that is how you beat tyranny!

And directly following this idea to overthrow tyranny by getting rid of democracy you have to cross a mountain, and here the level design goes from passable to awful. I checked a guide to see if it's just this area that's designed in such a way, and nope, the quality of the game just takes a nose dive and never recovers, so I'll not force myself to play any further, and thus I've not just marked this game as "won't play", but also the rest of the series. That's -5 games for my backlog for the price of one!


Review for Close Combat: The Bloody First

What an interesting month. I got approached by a review site to write some actual reviews for them. It’s a small site, so I’m mostly just getting paid in games, but hey, I don’t mind! I get free games, that are still rather expensive, and in exchange I must write 2-4 pages, which is not a problem, as I’m a fast typer.

Slay the Spire

30.2 hours, 19 of 44 achievements

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Slay the Spire is a rogue-lite deckbuilding game. Yep, you can make anything rogue-lite these days! Actually, this is a pretty good fit as deckbuilding games tend to be at their best when you don't have to live with your bad choices for too long.

Slay the Spire is amazingly addictive. Really, it nails that "just one more try" feel, and it's just a blast to play. Encounters are varied, and you've got a good selection of cards and relics to build around. It can be rather random though, early on you might get a few cards that works well for a specific strategy, so you'll get them, but then you never find what's needed to complete it. But the rounds are short, and it's easy to just jump back into the game after a failed run.


Heroes Chronicles Chapter 3: Master of the Elements

10 hours, 19 of 44 achievements

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So another Heroes Chronicles down. You can scroll down to my previous post and read what I had to say about that chapter, because this is just more of the same. That's not a terrible thing, but I would just repeat myself at this point


Battlestar Galactica Deadlock

13 hours, 21 of 26 achievements

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I wrote a more serious review for this game here:
https://saveorquit.com/2019/09/22/review-battlestar-galactica-deadlock/

It got a bit rambly, but it has pretty pictures, so please check it out!


Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Resurrection

8 hours, no achievements

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And for this one as well, it's a bit shorter than the previous one, on account of this being a DLC:

https://saveorquit.com/2019/09/22/review-battlestar-galactica-deadlock-resurrection/


Dishonored - The Knife Of Dunwall

3.4 hours, no achievements

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It was 3 years ago that I played Dishonored, and now I finally got around to playing the DLC.

Good level design really carries this one. You've got several ways to approach every situation, predictable yet not simplistic enemy patterns and the locations feel like places where people could live and work. If you liked the original Dishonored, then this is a must play, it's very good!


Dishonored - The Brigmore Witches

3.4 hours, no achievements

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Slightly shorter, and frankly, slightly worse than the previous one, but still not bad. The locations feel a bit more linear this time around, and don't offer you quite as much in the way of interesting choices. If you have Dishonored, this one is still well worth getting, but something tells me this one was a bit more rushed than the previous DLC.


Hm, for some reason the links don’t seem to be working. Going to try to post them outside:
Review for Battlestar Galactica Deadlock
Review for Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Resurrection

Bit of an eclectic mix of games this time around. Licensed action game, really outdated FMV game and a weird and mostly forgotten spinoff chapter to one of the most famous turnbased strategy games of all time.

Transformers: War for Cybertron

7.6 hours, no achievements
SG win

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Finally got around to completing this old SG win!

Transfromers: War for Cybertron is a 3rd person action game set in the Transformers universe. It takes place in the earlier stages of the war, before the robots reached earth, and functions as a bit of an origin story for Optimus Prime, and the Ark (the ship that they flew to earth)

This game is fun, but a bit of a missed opportunity. You've got big stompy robots who can transform into vehicles, but this particular bit was a bit under-developed. The vehicle mode felt like, for the most part, something you used to traverse longer stretches, while the robot mode was for fighting, and very rarely did it feel worth it to use the vehicle mode in fights. I wish they would have integrated this defining feature of Transformers more heavily into the gameplay (that said, in the old comics and cartoon, apart from the ones who could transform into tanks or fighter planes,most transformers stayed in their robot form during fights, but still, it would have been fun if they found some uses for the vehicle mode).

Another gripe I have with the game are the weapons. Why go with projectile weapons in a setting that so heavily favours energy weapons? And the weapons themselves are really what you would expect from any generic 3rd person military action game. You've got your shotgun (comes in 2 flavours), your assault rifle, your rocket launcher, grenade launcher, sniper rifle and so on.

The game also has a serious lack of enemy variety. There are two campaigns, one for the decepticons (evil) and one for the autobots (good), but the enemies you face are pretty much the same through the entire game. Small grunts, shielded guys you need to shoot in the back, big heavy guys with miniguns, annoying cloaked enemies, snipers and flying grunts. It really could use more enemy types.

That said, the gameplay is solid. While the level design might not win any awards, the different arenas you end up fighting in feel varied enough, and the gunplay is fun, if a bit generic.

So overall, it's a good game, just one that should have been so much more!


MegaRace

0.8 hours, no achievements
GOG version

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Now this is a type of game that could only have been made during a very brief period of time! MegaRace is an FMV racing game, and if you've never played one of those before, let me introduce you to the concept!

CDs were just getting popular among the general public, and suddenly game developers found themselves with a lot more space than they had ever had before. A floppy fits 1,44mb, an early CD 650mb! So what do you do with all that extra space you suddenly have? You fill it with videos of course! Filming actors (or people on the dev team, the boss's neighbour's gardener and so on) and making games out of these movies was easy enough, and so a lot of companies did.
And at roughly the same time, someone got the bright idea that you could just play games on top of these movies. And that's a good fit for racing games, after all you're only going forward, right? So what they did was that they just made a short movie for each track and then they defined where at any given point in the movie the player's car could be. Anything you can interact directly with and changed in any way is just added on top of the movie, and the movie itself plays at different speeds depending on how fast you're going. This of course resulted in a lot of limitations, as you can't turn around or in any way go off course. But on the other hand, these pre-rendered movies could look far better than anything the hardware of the time could normally produce.

And MegaRace did just that, you're racing on top of a pre-rendered movie, showing futuristic race tracks, while trying to shoot enemy cars. And between these races you get a wonderfully hammy performance by an actor, who's really giving it his all to ham it up (in a good way!)

MegaRace is a fun game. It's not spectacular, and had it been a longer game it would have overstayed its welcome, but it was a fun and very quick playthrough.


Heroes Chronicles Chapter 2: Conquest of the Underworld

14.7 hours, no achievements
GOG version (not actually HoMM 3 HD, but close enough!)

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The Heroes Chronicles series is a weird one. Back in 2000 & 2001 New World Computing released a series of standalone campaigns. The idea was that these would be sold for a lower price than the normal game, and thus would get more people to try the game. They worked as a bit of an introduction to the HoMM series. And they also filled in the gaps of what happened between Heroes 3 & 4. At launch these cost about 20€ each, but they were later sold in packs of 3 campaigns. Now to make matters even more confusing, not all campaigns were sold, if you bought a certain amount of them you could then download additional campaigns from their website (a website that obviously is no longer around). And because they messed up the release, chapter 5 (which as one of the free ones) could not be downloaded if you had any other version than the North American ones.

You can buy the complete set on GOG now, so the bit above is just some history. A further oddity about these is what they removed. These games just offer the campaigns, and nothing else, no skirmish or multiplayer. So these are just for those who have a hankering for more HoMM 3-style campaigns. And that at least they deliver. I've just beaten the first two (and I beat the first one a while back), but while the first one was really easy, the second one was a bit more challenging. Something that I think they do quite well with these, better than the base game ever did, was injecting more story during the levels. You frequently get text boxes giving more information about what's going on, often representing talk between important characters or observations from the main character.
Where I do feel that this campaign falters a bit is with making it clear what the mission objectives actually are. You're often supposed to find certain objects, and these are very easy to miss when you just move around the map. And the campaign makes heavy use of gates that require certain conditions to be met, one might require you to have visited a specific location, another might need a specific character to open it, and then a third one might need you to bring a few creatures of a specific type, and you don't know what these want until you visit them, and they do go overboard with them. Level 5 in particular is tedious due to this. But still, this game offered 8 above average quality HoMM 3 levels, so I can't really complain. Now I just need to beat the remaining 6…


Dang it, forgot to select the option that makes it clear that these are clicky! All of these are clicky, so if you want to see a mini-review, just click on them.

Heroes of Hammerwatch

42.4 hours, 26 of 92 achievements

Heroes of Hammerwatch is yet another rogue-lite, with randomly generated levels, persistent upgrades and all that jazz. There are loads of them on steam, I've lost track of how many I have in my steam library at this point, and I only have a fraction of all the ones on steam.

Heroes of Hammerwatch is also very good. It gives a nice sense of progression, and each region feels really distinct from each other, so there's a good amount of variety in the game, which really helps when you're going to end up replaying the same areas more than a few times. The game also does a really good job with the different characters. They feel distinct from each other and have their own playstyles, which gives the game a lot of replay value. This game is also not overly punishing. While it's not a cake walk, just getting through to the end is realistic, and it does offer you several crutches, in case you get stuck. Grinding for permanent upgrades is of course one thing you can do, but passing certain milestones with each class gives you a permanent buff to all classes, depending on the class you played (so for an example, beating a few bosses with the Paladin will give you a permanent armour boost to everyone).

And finally, this is a really nice co-op game. While it does not have a whole lot of unique co-op mechanics & interactions, the way the game is structured makes it work well in co-op. Working as a team really speeds things up.


Pyre

8 hours, no achievements

I was worried that Pyre would end up being boring when I first heard about it. It's a VN mixed with basketball, and I don't like basketball games, and I don't tend to care much for VNs either. But Pyre was good. Really good actually. You're playing the manager of a team of outcasts, who were exiled from their homes due to some crimes they had committed, and only by doing the "trials" can they escape. And so you go from match to match, face off against an opposing team, and between the matches you have somewhat lengthy dialogue sections where you get to know the characters. And the characters are compelling, they all feel fleshed out and interesting in their own ways.

I don't want to spoil the story here, but one thing that does harm it a bit is the games lack of difficulty. Losing a match does not mean game over, the game seems to want you to persist, even when the goings get tough. There's just one problem, I was never close to losing a match, not even once. And that harms the game because that aspect of the story does not work with the gameplay. And before anyone asks, yes, I did have several of those "challenges" that you can activate later going at once.


Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear

20 hours, 39 of 68 achievements

An expansion for a game from 1998? Sure!

Siege of Dragonspear is an expansion to the classic CRPG Baldur's Gate, and it takes place almost directly after BG1 ends (so before BG2). So this story has no real impact on the overall BG plot.

Siege of Dragonspear is weird. You can tell that it was not made by the original team, as the style of writing is different, and the encounter design is very different from the original game. The encounter design actually reminds me more of Icewind Dale than Baldur's Gate (that's not a bad thing, I think IWD has superior encounter design). As for the writing, it's a bit hit or miss. I was never a big fan of Jaheira's 4th wall breaking comments, and they play this up a bit more. Only instead of being a direct 4th wall breaking comment, they make weird and unnecessary references, like one character might randomly quote the Beatles as her "idle" chatter.

4th wall breaking stuff aside, it's still pretty good. The conflict feels interesting, and fits in pretty well with the setting. And most of the side quests are given more backstory here than they did in the base game, it's not just random person needs you to do minor tasks, many of the side quests are given a fare bit of backstory, so in this regard it's more like BG2.

I think that's how I would sum this up. This does not feel like Baldur's Gate 1, it feels like a mix between BG2 and IWD, with some minor unnecessary things thrown in.

Oh, and if you're worried about the rumored "pushing a political agenda" thing…. there's one trans person in the game, they tell you about it in like 8 lines of dialogue, and that's only if you ask them about the significance of one of their possessions that you help them retrieve. People are just looking for an excuse to complain, it seems… Trans people exists in the real world, they existed back in the middle ages as well, I don't see how including one is in itself pushing a political agenda.


Age of Wonders 3

63.5 hours, 36 of 74 achievements

This is a game I started all the way back in 2014, and I beat the first campaign (both endings) in 2018. And now I beat the second campaign (both endings)!

I don't know why it ended up taking me so long, it's a great game. I guess the fact that these are some beefy campaigns might have been the issue. But I had no issues with playing the odd random map from time to time.

AoW 3 is a turnbased strategy game, in the same general vein as Heroes of Might and Magic or Masters of Magic. And it's a darn good one at that. While the main story is nothing to really write home about, the gameplay is great. Unlike HoMM (well, I guess apart from 4) your heroes are units on the battlefield, who level up and get stronger, and this gives a nice sense of progression to the game. You've also got a very nice amount of variety between different "classes". And that's one of the things that sets AoW 3 apart, you've got race and class here. Race are things like goblin, elf, orc and so on, and class gives you a set of different units and spells. All the races play the same and have the same set of units apart from one unique unit, but the units have slightly different stats and abilities (an orc will hit harder in melee but have lower magic resistance, a dwarf can cross mountains and so on), and then you've got the class which is the main thing that decides how you'll play, and the exact stats of the class specific units are also modified by race (an engineer has a blunderbuss (ranged weapon) and repairs mechanical units, but an orc engineer also hits a bit harder in melee, and a dwarf engineer can still cross mountains). All of this adds up to quite a bit of replay value for the skirmish maps.

I would say that AoW 3 is one of the best games of its kind. Well worth playing, and if you were one of the people who grabbed it when it was free, then give it a shot!


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.

Age of Empires 2: Rise of the Rajas

16.1 hours, no achievements

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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!


Alicia Quatermain: Secrets Of The Lost Treasures

4.4 hours, 20 of 20 achievements

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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.


Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced edition

35 hours, 36 of 129 achievements

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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.


Dinocide

1.3 hours, no achievements

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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

0.8 hours, no achievements

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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.