Insert catchy title here VitoStippkow’s profile

Hi!
I'm another gamer trying to battle his backlog. And I'm looking forward to gain additional motivation by joining this beautiful site and community. I began to work on my backlog "professionally" in February 2017 and joined the site in October 2017.

Goals for 2022
  • Reduce my never played games to 100. Start of 2022: 112.
  • Reduce my unfinished games to 50. Start of 2022: 54.
  • Some third goal which helps playing more diverse games after playing a ton of strategy games in 2021.


I have a list of games that need Multiplayer to complete all achievements. If you're interested in tackling them together with me, I'm happy to hear from you :)
I'll try to give a short little review for each game I beat or complete.

I rank games by this 5 star ranking:

I had no fun playing this.

Not completely bad, but time is better invested otherwise.

An average game. There is nothing wrong with playing it, but don't expect to be blown away.

This is a really good game, play it if you have the chance.

Reserved for the best of the best. This is an amazing experience.


Report #64

I finished two new free games and one from my backlog, so not that much overall progress…but as long as I finish new games right away, everything’s fine, isn’t it?


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2020

Tell Me Why

4/5
13.0 hours
30 of 30 achievements

Tell Me Why is a story focused adventure game, reminding me of Life is Strange in many ways. It was free during the Pride Month. I got it and started playing right away. The first scenes of the game immediately captured me. Beautiful graphics! The game is set in rural Alaska and the landscapes and scenery is just impressive. The soundtrack is well done as well, but pales in comparison to the aesthetics. The gameplay was fine as well, but nothing too special -- which isn't necessary since the game focuses on the story. And the story was interesting and captivating as well. I don't have a lot of points of contact with transsexuality in RL, so it was interesting to take a peek into this and its own set of problems. It was educating to see the insecurities but also prejudices on both sides.

In the end though, I think the game tries to be too many things at once. Is it about transsexuality and the coming out of one of the MCs? Is it a crime story? A family drama? A love story? Choosing to be all of that is a bit detrimental to the game as a whole in my opinion, at least for the medium playtime of about 13 hours.

All in all I can recommend the game, the beautiful Alaskan landscapes are reason enough.

Half-Life 2
Released 2013

Wargame: AirLand Battle

4/5
32.4 hours
no achievements

AirLand Battle is not only the name of a NATO doctrine from the 80s but also the name of a military RTS set in the same time. It is the second part of the Wargame trilogy by Eugen Systems. You command a set of armies during a fictional military culmination of the cold war, where the Soviet Union invades Scandinavia. [Disclaimer: Yeah, I thought about whether it's appropriate to play this game during Putin's invasion of the Ukraine…but after all we play games about war all the time, so I think it's hypocritical to stop now -- it's not like there were no wars before.]

It adds to the first part in several ways while remaining the same game at the core. Newly added is a strategic map, where you can move your armies and deploy strategic strikes like air reconnaissance or naval strikes, before attacking an enemy, leading to a tactical skirmish. The tactical skirmishes are largely the same as in European Escalation with the addition of fighter jets. Funnily enough that's the aspect of the game I wasn't able to really get to work for me… The game offers quite a challenge and it took me a while to get used to the gameplay again. It's incredibly hectic and it's super easy to miss a crucial development on some part on the map while you are focused elsewhere. Combined with the often steep difficulty it lead me to rage quit the game on a few occasions.

I don't think this game appeals to everyone, but I can recommend the game, if you know what you are getting into. It depicts very well how the different parts of an army have to work together to achieve victory -- at least if you try to minimize your losses. Tanks are great, but there are many situations where they are useless without infantry support and vice versa. And so on. It also offers a huge variety of different troops and enough different skirmish maps to give you a new challenge again and again. Just be prepared to rage a bit from time to time ;)

Half-Life 2
Released 2022

Ballads at Midnight

3/5
3.8 hours
14 of 14 achievements

Ballads at Midnight is a free VN. I don't have a lot of experience with the genre, so it would be interesting to hear what a VN connoisseur thinks about the game.

I enjoyed the art style of the game and I was intrigued how the story would progress. The protagonists are likeable and the (few) choices really make you think.

However, I have several complaints about the game as well. I did not enjoy the female voice actor, especially her singing. But mainly I had some problems with the writing: Good writing is not achieved just by using pompous words and injecting a descriptive adjective wherever possible. It bothered me greatly. In fact, I'm hesitant to recommend the game. I only give it an average rating because it's free. And somewhat short.

Currently playing

Yeah, no progress here for months now…but I’m not willing to concede defeat yet :D


That’s it for now…back to work for me and some backlog slaying in the evening :)

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2022 goals: 105/100 never played games – 52/50 unfinished games

Report #63

Long time no see! I have a lot going on in RL right now and don’t have a lot of time for gaming. I’m almost inactive on BLAEO as well, I mainly use it for bookkeeping atm, it’s just so damn handy :)

After months I finally managed to finish a couple of games again. I’m only going to give some quick impressions this time. So here we go:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2011

Might & Magic: Heroes VI

2/5
155.6 hours
no achievements

I very much enjoyed the previous HoMM V. Especially the Dwarves expansion was really enjoyable. But there were a couple of gameplay factors that I did not like, e.g. the way you recruit your troops from everywhere and the enemy constantly conquers your mines. Together with some other improvements these two points were vastly improved in the 6th Heroes. Overall, a lot of gameplay improvements were noticeable, some smaller, some bigger.

However, there were some downsides as well. It takes forever and some people don't have that much time. The difficulty varies too much between campaign scenarios for my taste. Some were incredibly hard, some were super easy. The biggest disappointment were the expansions though: I could not run them on my PC because I got an unsupported graphics card! Imagine that! You can run the main game (thankfully!) but not the expansions? The reason being that some specific graphics cards are not supported? A problem that's been known for years afaik but not remedied by Ubisoft?? I feel scammed!!

Conclusion: The basic gameplay is very enjoyable, but due to unacceptable technical problems I'm going to give this game a bad rating.

Half-Life 2
Released 2012

Pole Position 2012

1/5
1.5 hours
no achievements

This game had the worst Steam ratings of all the unplayed games in my library, so naturally I was curious. And wow, those were deserved! It crashed about every 20 minutes (no autosave feature ofc), the UI was beyond terrible and the gameplay was boring as hell. Never ever get this game!

Half-Life 2
Released 2011

Total War: SHOGUN 2

3/5
122 hours
87 of 106 achievements

Shogun 2 features all the typical Total War gameplay elements, which makes it an overall enjoyable experience to me. I enjoy the mix of strategic and tactical gameplay. Shogun 2 is set in Japan and features several different phases of turmoil in the japanese history, ranging from the first matchlock guns to mid-19-century warfare.

The main drawback is that the factions feel almost identical due to the nature of the setting. I miss trying different playstyles depending on the unit roster of a faction. In my opinion this seriously hampers the replay value.

Another drawback are the achievements. Achievement hunters and completionists: Stay out of this one. The Singleplayer achievements are a bit grindy but fine. The MP however is awful. It's almost dead and the achievements are not only super grindy for the main part, but some are borderline impossible. One requires you to get the #1 spot in the MP ladder worldwide…which is…well… I've marked the game as beaten because I got all SP achievements by now. Any MP I can still get is a bonus and completion is more or less out of question.

All in all a decent game, but it has some flaws and I think it's my least favourite Total War game so far.

Currently playing

I’m still grinding for the MP Achievement in DiRT Showdown, but made no real progress. In addition I’ll try to get some MP achievements in Shogun 2, which will take forever as well unfortunately.


Sorry for not reading most of your posts and commenting on barely anything. Maybe it gets better again, maybe not. Anyhow, I hope all of you are doing well. See you some time in the future :)

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2022 goals: 107/100 never played games – 52/50 unfinished games

Report #62

I hope all of you are doing well in this unfun times. I don’t want to dwell on this subject though, I guess we all do that enough already. Let’s have a look at my latest assassinations instead. My main project is finishing HoMM VI. It’s a decent game but awfully long. I squeezed in some shorter games in between whenever I got bored from playing HoMM VI:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2017

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

3/5
3.2 hours
10 of 10 achievements

Dear Esther is a Half Life mod which turned into the mother of all walking simulators. In 2012 it was released as a stand-alone game, the Landmark Edition is a improved 2017 re-release. It was free on Steam for a short while and I took that chance to play this "historically" important game.

I'm not getting into the confusing story, you have to experience this on your own. The game is visually and aurally pleasing. The gameplay is very simple: You walk and listen to voiceovers, which trigger at certain points. The level design is linear, there is a lot to discover in each level though if you take the time to explore. Or, well, use a guide.

The atmosperic impression of the game was great, but did I really enjoy playing it? No, not really. I can appreciate the game on some levels, but I would not call this a great game, where it not for its significance in forming an entire genre. Overall I like a clear story and some more gameplay too much to find Dear Esther appealing on a gameplay level.

Half-Life 2
Released 2019

Gothic Playable Teaser

3/5
3.2 hours
25 of 25 achievements

A funny sidenote: This is the 4th recently released game in my library despite being from 2019…shows how few games I activated in recent years :D

I played Gothic only recently for the first time, so nostalgia is not a factor when looking at the Gothic series. So fanboys can disregard my review if they want. I still have mixed feelings about this game. I think it offers some potentially interesting concepts, gameplay elements and lore. On the other hand I wasn't a fan of the fighting mechanics (well, that would fit perfectly though!) and I wasn't really invested in the game after the 3.5 hours it took for me to get through it. In addition the audio wasn't working properly for me, but hey, it's just a teaser.

However, seeing how this is a teaser for a game that won't happen in this form anyway, I think it's a moot point to discuss the details any further. The reason I played the game was for the achievements. They removed 4 broken ones at the end of last year, so I took the chance to complete a quick game as a break from grinding missions in HoMM VI :)

Half-Life 2
Released 2022

Shadow Burglar

4/5
0.9 hours
13 of 13 achievements

Shadow Burglar is a noir themed stealth game. It is a student project and free on Steam. Considering this, I think it's an excellent game! The visuals are pleasing, the game mechanics seem interesting and the musical score is very fitting, immediately transporting me in the 1920s.

Sure, it's quite short and the voiceover is subpar. But to criticize that on a free student project? They know themselves for sure.

Oh, and it's a quick perfect game, although the achievements are a bit wonky and some may trigger a bit prematurely.


Currently playing

  • DiRT Showdown

    40.9 hours playtime

    48 of 49 achievements

  • Might & Magic: Heroes VI

    98.2 hours playtime

    no achievements

I’m still grinding for the MP Achievement in DiRT Showdown, albeit only small sessions. As already mentioned I’m currently working on HoMM VI – which takes forever and feels like a grind as well by now…


Only a small progress for my yearly goals was made, but I tried out a few different genres overall, so that’s a win. More variety in my gaming is sort of an unofficial goal for 2022. Apart from that, I think I’ll be glad once HoMM VI is finished.

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2022 goals: 109/100 never played games – 53/50 unfinished games

Report #61

Welcome to my first post of 2022. I hope you all had a decent start to the year. Mine was pretty okay, I can’t complain.

Initially I wasn’t sure what goals I have for 2022 in terms of gaming, but after some deliberation I noticed that I’m in striking distance of reaching some nice round numbers in my backlog. My two goals for the year are therefore:

  • Reduce my never played games to 100. Start of 2022: 112.
  • Reduce my unfinished games to 50. Start of 2022: 54.

Pretty straightforward. They may seem not very ambitious, but most of the titles in my backlog are on the longer side – also there might be some new additions! In addition I would like to revisit some older games (which I’ve already done, see below).

Let’s see what I have played so far this year:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2003

STAR WARS™: Knights of the Old Republic™

5/5
45.6 hours
no achievements

Knights of the Old Republic (Kotor) is a classical BioWare RPG. I finished the game already once about a decade ago, but not on Steam. For my christmas vacation I wanted to play something nice as a treat, so I decided to replay the game on Steam. It was funny how some parts of the game were still quite present in my mind and I recognized them at once (e.g. Korriban or Rakata Prime) while I had absolutely no recollection of some other parts of the game (e.g. Manaan). Which was a good mix: I was able to enjoy the nostalgia, but still experience "new" things.

You can clearly see that this is an early BioWare game. Everything that made BioWare great (a long, long time ago 🙃) is already there. The writing is just superb. There were so many great lines of dialogue, which really resonated with me -- of course I've forgotten all of them by now. The companions were varied and mostly very interesting, each in their own way. As last time I was a big fan of Jolee. And I enjoyed the development some of them made during the game, Carth for example.

As it is an earlier work, some things are not working as well as in the later BioWare games. Inventory Management or controling your companions during fights was a bit too tedious. The game also has dated graphics by now, but as usual this did not bother me personally.

All in all it was a good decision to take this game up again. It really sweetened my christmas vacation. Personally I like Dragon Age or Mass Effect still a bit more (sorry MsKotor), but it is definitely a superb game, one of the best RPGs I have played over the years. Definitely a 5/5 rating.

Half-Life 2
Released 2016

Brigador: Up-Armored Edition

3/5
24.8 hours
65 of 65 achievements

Brigador is a top-down shooter riding on the retro-wave and quite successfully so. You play a variety of different mechs, tanks or antigrav vehicles which can be equipped with a plethora of different weapons. The game is a top-down shooter focusing on gameplay with a little bit of story and a bit of lore. I don't remember when I last touched such a game, but I did enjoy this one.

Trying out new vehicles or new weapons is fun, slaughtering countless enemies as well. I enjoyed the art style and I was blown away by the soundtrack. It was so good, I even bought it. It's also noteworthy, that the game received constant improvement and free updates from the devs over the years since its release.

However, there are also quite a few aspects I did not like. While it is fun to gun down enemies, it gets a bit boring over time -- at least for me. I would have wished for more story. Also I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of different vehicles and weapons to choose from. Yes, a lot of them were great fun, but in the end they all blended together and only very few of them stood out (the König for example, awesome soundeffects with this one). I realize that a lot of these points are probably intentional and "correct" for this genre, but this is about my personal experience. As I said, I enjoyed trying out something new, but I don't seek to repeat it soon.

The achievements are mostly easy to get, but often a bit stupid. They require you to do very specific things, so that you end up cheesing a lot of them.

Half-Life 2
Released 2008

Mount & Blade

4/5
17.2 hours
no achievements

Similar to Knight of the Old Republic I don't think Mount&Blade needs a lot of introduction. It is a well known sandbox open-world action RPG. You play as a mercenary forming their own company and helping different kingdoms to overcome their foes in a medieval (non-fantasy!) world, with hopes of earning your own title and land one day. I have played Warband and With Fire and Sword, but never the original game. So I thought I would dip into it for a few hours.

A lot of this game is great. Managing your companions, the regular troops, the inventory, riding around on the strategic map looking for opportunities to strike at your enemies and last but not least the battles themself. All of it forms a unique and really fun experience.

I had a bit of an issue with the progression though. The beginning is interesting, depending on your settings even challenging. Then comes a middle part, where you level up your character and develop your troops, also very fun. But after a couple of hours you hit a point where progression is almost coming to a stop and here is, where I lost a bit of the fun. And I remember it was similar in the other Mount & Blade games. You are strong enough to beat most single enemies without a problem, but you are still way to weak to really achieve something, e.g. conquer something on your own. Once I reached this point in my playthrough, I stopped with the game. Still, it's a great game.

Now, 17 hours is not much for such an extensive game. But why spend time on this when you can play Warband?


Achievement Cleanup

These games were previously beaten. I cleaned the remaining achiements – mostly grindy ones – to move them to completed. It was okay, I watched some Twitch streams while doing so. All three games have their strengths when playing them normally, but I’m not reviewing them again here.


Currently playing

No big progress on DiRT 3. The remaining achievements require you to actually drive decent, not my strong suit 😄. In Showdown there is a super grindy MP achievement left…man, those game are really not worth starting if you’re looking for completions.


Wow, this post got long! I had something else concerning RPGs in mind, but I think it’s enough for this time!

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2022 goals: 110/100 never played games – 53/50 unfinished games

Report #60

This is my last post for this year. I’m not ready to reflect on my gaming year in detail yet, but let’s have a look at my goals for 2021! I did manage to miss every goal for this year :D Despite a last ditch effort I only finished 8 games with achievements instead of 10. I was only 1 game short of my second goal, finishing 9 out of 10 long games (35h+). I’m working on Dirt 3 at the moment, a long game with achievements, but I don’t think I’ll manage to complete it in the remainder of the year. While not reaching these goals I came close at least. The last goal, getting my unfinished games down to 49, was missed by a larger margin though. I still have 53 unfinished games left. Well, it is what it is.
I’m not sure what goals to pick for the next year, but there is some time left to decide. Did you already make some (gaming) resolutions for 2022?


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2012

Bang Bang Racing

2/5
1.9 hours
0 of 12 achievements

Bang Bang Racing is a top down racing game, akin to older titles like Micro Machines. It's an okay game, very short, but nothing I would really recommend. The tracks and cars are okay, nothing major in terms of replay value though. After 2 hours I had beaten every track and the credits rolled.

There are achievements in the game, but none of those unlocked during my initial playthrough. I did not have the nerve to invest about a dozen hours into the game to get the achievements, so I decided to put this game in the beaten category.

Half-Life 2
Released 2018

FRAMED Collection

4/5
2.4 hours
18 of 18 achievements

The FRAMED Collection contains two small puzzle games. You are playing as crooks who stole a suitcase and now have to flee not only the police but also some kind of competitor. Each section is represented by pages out of a cartoon. In order to complete a section, the individual panels have to put in the right order, so that the story can unfold. If you mess up, you get caught or die in some way.

The puzzles are rather easy, I could figure out most puzzles quickly. One single solution eluded me though. Maybe the game is not for someone looking for a challenge, but I was happy with it. I liked the art style and the music. I don't think the concept has enough stamina to last for several hours, but it was good fun to play for 2.5 hours. I can recommend the game if you're looking for something easy and relaxing to do.

Half-Life 2
Released 2018

11-11 Memories Retold

4/5
11.2 hours
50 of 50 achievements

11-11 Memories Retold is a very interesting and unique adventure game/walking simulator. It is set during the World War One and follows the story of a canadian war photographer and a german engineer. It focuses on the every day life of not only the soldiers but also the civilians during this time. It's main goal seems to be to show the horrors of war, without glorification or choosing sides. I even learned some things I did not know before, for example how massive the tunnel systems on the western front were.

The most striking feature of the game is the artsy style. Everything is rendered in paintstrokes, similar to impressionism. It's really unique and in my opinion fits the game very well. The musical score for the game is overwhelming. It manages to perfectly add to the scenery and paint (sorry) an impressive (sorry again) picture of the mood in the different parts of the game. The voice acting was good and depending on which side of the front you are the NPCs spoken language changed accordingly. I really appreciated that they chose native speakers for the different languages.

While the game does not offer too much in terms of gameplay, the story is captivating. I was anxious to know how the life of Harry and Kurt, the two soldiers we're following, will unfold and if they manage to survive the hardships of war. I won't go into the details, I have point of criticism though (spoilers!): I disliked the last part of the story, where Kurt decides to avenge his son. I think it destroyed the perfect setup of the protagonists as passive characters which are helpless victims of the horrors of war. Without this turn of events I would have given the game a 5/5 rating, but this somehow lessened my enjoyment, because I felt it did not fit the overall theme of the game.

Overall the game is an amazing piece of work and art. I think it is a refreshing perspective on World War One and it educates its players about the disastrous effects of war. I can only recommend the game if you don't mind slow paced gameplay and taking your time.

A caveat for achievement hunters: 2-3 collectibles are bugged and may force you to replay certain chapters. While there is a chapter selection it can get a bit on your nerves.


Currently playing

I managed to get the last MP achievement for Dirt 3 and I’m currently mopping up the SP achievements. I don’t think I’ll manage to complete it this year, but who knows, maybe I get lucky…


With that being said, I concluce my year on BLAEO. Thank you for all the interesting discussions and reviews this year, I enjoyed being here as always. Keep up your spirits in this pandemic and I wish you happy holidays and a good start to 2022. I’m looking forward to my first post next year and laying out my plans for 2022.

Until then: Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 8/10 achievement games – 9/10 long games – 53/49 unfinished games

Report #59

Something rare occured since the last report: I completed a previously beaten game, 112 Operator. Because there were several DLCs and fixes added since my initial review I think this warrants a re-review. I’ll put that into another category than the normal reviews, to highlight the difference. Apart from that I’ve beaten AoE II in the HD edition from 2013. While AoE II itself is easily a 5/5 game, this version has some serious annoyances, which lead to the lower rating. However, I’m pretty happy to have completed this behemoth of a game with achievements. I’m slowly making progress on my yearly goals, maybe I’ll still reach them in time.


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2011

Disciples III: Resurrection

1/5
35 hours
no achievements

Disciples III: Resurrection is a turn based strategy game, very much alike the Heroes of Might & Magic games. It is the middle part of a trilogy of Disciple III games.

There is basically only one important thing to know about the game: It is virtually broken on Win 10. Visual bugs make it unplayable. My recommendation therefore: Stay away from this game!

I played this on an older machine with Windows 7 running, whenever I had access to it. But even without the Win10 bugs, there are still several other unforgivable bugs in the game, some of them even forced me to replay some campaign missions. And even without this second set of bugs, the game is not great, neither in gameplay nor in technical execution (the UI is terrible in many regards). There is one thing that I really enjoyed though: Every piece of 2 dimensional art, like the loading screens or the unit portraits. They had their own style to it and were well drawn. Everything else (unit models etc) wasn't of the same quality though.

Disciples III: Resurrection has a horrendous 33% positive ratings on Steam…and I think that is still too much ;)

Half-Life 2
Released 1999/2013

Age of Empires II

Aoe II: 5/5; this version: 3/5
147.7 hours
294 of 294 achievements

Age of Empires II is one of the most iconic RTS games made to date. It is still being played by a small but dedicated community, despite the game being more than 20 years old by now. The version I played is a remastered version from 2013; there is a newer remaster available by now. I'm not going to review AoE II itself here. I guess most people know about it. The game is easily worth a 5/5 rating. It's unarguably one of the best RTS games ever made.

I have some serious issues with this particular remaster though. The first being the game's achievements: They are stupidly grindy and really idiotic. Yes, they can be cheesed, but they still take forever. This is arguably my own fault for caring about achievements, after all noone is forcing me to get them. But since I do care about achievements, I deduct one rating star for this. Secondly, the game introduces bugs into some of the campaign missions. A handful of missions cannot be won without the use of cheat codes. Like, seriously? A remaster breaks them? That should not happen. That's just enough for another deduction and therefore a rating of 3/5 stars.


Re-Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2020

112 Operator

3/5
43.5 hours
45 of 45 achievements

I originally reviewed the game in Report #49.

About a year later, the game is finished in development and DLCs. The DLCs add new equipment, like waterbased emergency services, and a lot of scenarios highlighting those additions. Each scenario let's you play a few duties with a given overarching emergency (e.g. wildfire, plane crash or virus outbreak) and is supposed to work like a mini campaign. The important part here being "supposed to", because unfortunately those scenarios feel pretty much alike. And they highlight one balancing issue of the game: A lot of basic unupgraded emergency units always beat a set of fewer, but better upgraded units. Every scenario can be beaten by selling your high-tech stuff and buying a lot of cheap units instead. But what's the motivation to upgrade your units then and invest in more expensive stuff, like helicopters or protective gear for your police officers?

The basic gameplay and concepts are still fun and interesting, but for the lack of balancing and variety I leave my initial rating of 3/5 unchanged. Sadly. I was hoping for some improvement and I'd argue that there is a lot more to make out of the groundwork the game layed.


Currently playing

Little progress was made in DiRT 3, still grinding for the last MP achievement.


I realize that my 3/5 rating of AoE II (2013) is quite harsh. After all the remaster introduces a bunch of improvements and new stuff and surely was instrumental in revitalizing the fanbase. Maybe take my rating with a grain of salt. After all it’s still a really great game. What’s your favourite RTS?

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 6/10 achievement games – 9/10 long games – 53/49 unfinished games

Report #58

Huh, two posts in one month, can’t remember when that was the case last. Having 3 weeks of vacation and playing some shorter games surely helped. Compared to the last report the games were pretty bad apart from one, but hey, those need to be played as well ;) Airline Tycoon 2 has (rightfully) one of the worst Steam ratings of any of my owned games, so that was expected. But I was a bit disappointed in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare after playing the excellent Alan Wake. See my reviews for more details:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2011

Airline Tycoon 2

1/5
10.2 hours
no achievements

In Airline Tycoon 2 you're managing an airline: From hiring personell and buying your own airplanes to designing flight plans for those airplanes. The concept sounds interesting and it made me want to play a proper simulation game at some point again, but unfortunately the implementation is severly lacking. The controls are very basic, the user interface and menu structure cumbersome. Furthermore it is quite intransparent why some of your airplanes run a greater profit than others while this should be the most important part of an economical simulator. I could go on or into more details, but seriously, just don't buy this game.

Half-Life 2
Released 2010 (Xbox)

Alan Wake

4/5
25.8 hours
67 of 67 achievements

Alan Wake is a horror action adventure where you play Alan Wake, a famous writer suffering from a blockade. He and his wife Alice are visiting a picturesque rural village named Bright Falls to take a break from their hectic New York lifestyle and maybe for Alan to find his inspiration again. However, soon after arriving, strange things start to happen. Some ancient evil has been awakend by their arrival and Alan has to battle the darkness to save his wife.

I don't like horror movies or games, but this one was rather spooky than really frightening. The gameplay is interesting, the fights are innovative and the gunplay mostly satisfying -- albeit some people complain about the repetitive nature of the fights, which is not unfounded criticism. The story is told well and is definitely a strong plus of the game. It drives the game and I wanted to go on to see how everything turns out. It also helps to hold the game together, something the sequel American Nightmare lacks. Overall the balance between story- and action-driven parts is well made, so that playing the game does not get boring.

While going through the game you can definitely see Remedy's fingerprint. The voiceover reminded me a lot of Max Payne and the reallife sequences (e.g. the movie collectibles) foreshadow Quantum Break. In addition there are some nice nods to Twin Peaks ("Damn fine coffee!"), which I want to rewatch now. (It may sound a bit strange, but I also got some Life is Strange vibes from the game, maybe I should play a good story-driven adventure or walking simulator soon again.)

All in all I was really impressed by the game. I had no real expectations going into it and was thoroughly surprised how much I ended up liking the game. I don't rate it perfect for two small reasons though: The graphics are really dated and unfortunately it bothered me a bit. Secondly, the two additional smaller DLC episodes were disappointing. Solid, yes, but miles away from the main game. Still, definitively a recommendation! The only one from this report.

Half-Life 2
Released 2012

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

2/5
10.4 hours
12 of 12 achievements

This is the sequel to Alan Wake. However, it's an entirely different game. Instead of a linear horror adventure AN is a semi-open world action game, which changes the focus from the story to fighting. Unfortunately this ruins the game almost completely for me. The appeal of Alan Wake is missing from this sequel.

Although the graphics improved, the overall visual style is bland and uninspired. The same is true for almost everything else. There are some more weapons and more varied enemies, but this cannot outbalance the negative developments. The only positive thing were some tidbits of brilliant dialogue (esp. with Dr. Meadows), but even those drown in the insignificant rest of the conversations with the NPCs.

While the story lasts about 4-5 hours, the achievements need you to play the additional arcade mode, were you need to kill as many enemies as possible in 10 minutes on different maps. Some of the achievements are rather difficult, but thankfully the maps can be abused and seriously take the challenge out of those achievements. What remains is a bit of grind. All in all this was really disappointing and no recommendation from me for this game.


Currently playing

  • DiRT 3 Complete Edition

    26.9 hours playtime

    40 of 60 achievements

  • Disciples III: Resurrection

    25.4 hours playtime

    no achievements

I joined some people going for DiRT 3 MP achievements. We’re not finished yet, but so far it was a blast. I should do this more often. Disciples III on the other hand wasn’t a blast. This abomination is virtually unplayable on Win 10, so I only make progress when playing on an older PC of mine. As Airline Tycoon 2 it is one of the few games in my backlog with less than mixed Steam ratings, completely deserving of it.


All in all this might look like a mediocre report with two games with less than average ratings. However I’m deeply satisfied with my gaming. I enjoyed playing this crappy Airline game because it was fun seeing how one of the worst rated games of my backlog turns out. And despite everything I could see some good in it and it made me want to play a proper simulation game, so that’s a win. Alan Wake was so much better than expected and in addition I finally managed to complete a game with achievements again. American Nightmare was disappointing, but at least it was short. And it was satisfying to complete, since some of the achievements required a few tries to get them and I managed to not immediately give up but stayed with it until I got them. On top of that I was “brave” enough to meet up with some random internet people and hunt some achievements, something I usually don’t do, because of, well … random internet people.

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 4/10 achievement games – 7/10 long games – 55/49 unfinished games

Report #57

My reports seem to get more and more sporadic. My progress in fighting the backlog is quite slow, due to me playing several longer games. On the one hand it’s quite satisfying to cross some long games off the list, on the other hand it’s a bit sad to see my backlog shrink ever so slowly. Let’s see the reviews of the last few months:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released: 2001

Gothic

3/5
about 30 hours
no achievements

Gothic, I don't think I need to introduce this game to you. It's an alltime classic RPG, much beloved by almost everyone I heard talking about it. I never played it when I was younger (almost all my friends did though) and just now came around to giving it a try. I modded it, but only the most basic mods, nothing that's altering the gameplay too much.

Let's get one thing out of the way right in the beginning: This game is old! There is no denying that the age shows in almost every aspect of the game. The controls as well as the UI are terrible, the same goes for the fighting and most of the interaction with your environment. There is no other way to put it. You get used to it to a certain degree, but it's definitely an issue. Strangely enough I did not mind the more than outdated graphics. Yes, they are clunky and the textures are no beauty…but somehow it was good enough for me. I'm playing a ton of older games lately (see my last posts) so maybe I'm just used to outdated graphics by now.

Let's move on: The open world holds a lot of things and places to discover. It's all embedded in a (mostly linear) story, which I won't go into much detail here. Both the open world and the story are plus points in the game, the world feels more alive than in some recent games. While it's not Mass Effect or Kotor levels of story telling, I still enjoyed it for the most part. The game does not give you a lot of help in the form of quest markers or minimap or questmarkers, but there is a handy logbook which helps you remember the quests you've been given. Overall I'd say, that I enjoy that modern games give you more help and hints, but I can live with the amount of help I got.

Now, would I recommend that game? I had a look at games I played with similar release date. And I would say it falls right in the middle. There are definitely games I enjoyed way more (the aforementioned Kotor or the Jedi Knight series for example), but it fares much better than some other classics from around that time that I've played. I'm reluctant to really recommend it to play for amusement alone, but if you want to get a whiff of what's considered one of the best games at its time, I'd say: go for it!

Half-Life 2
Released: 1999

Age of Wonders

4/5
40.8 hours
no achievements

Age of Wonders it a lovely turn-based strategy game from 1999. The Valley of Wonders, once home to the noble elves has been conquered and plundered by human parvenus. Of course this can't be tolerated and so you set out to reclaim the elven homeland. On the way there you can decide between different allies and ultimately choose between restoring the Valley of Wonders or plunge it into even darker chaos.

AoW is even older than Gothic, but the age is less of an factor here. Due to its pixel graphics it could as well be a more modern game in retro fashion. Actually I greatly enjoyed the simple but lovingly detailed graphics. Due to it's low number of pixels the unit models are really basic, yet somehow still very memorable and unique. The UI is quite basic but suffices for the game. I had several crashes with the game though, so I advise regular saving. The age becomes obvious in the gameplay as well, e.g. the partition of the world in a surface world and an underground world --- something you don't see in more modern games anymore.

Remember that I said you can choose between good and evil? Well actually you have some more choices, so that you end up with 6 different endings. In a strategy game! I don't think I've ever seen such a variety of outcomes in this genre before. I applaud this decision, I think it's brave but well worth it. Generally the game deviates from your usual genre and fantasy tropes in several regards. While I don't dislike the canon version of fantasy factions, I always appreciate a game interpreting them differently. It's small details, like the orcs not being green in AoW (in the later parts they are though) or introducing "silly" units like the dire penguins, which give the game a distinct touch. Apart from that, the gameplay is quite standard. Think of Heroes of Might & Magic, there are many similarities between those two games -- yet there are also some basic differences.

Half-Life 2
Released: 2002

Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne

4/5
62.3 hours
no achievements

AoW 2: The Wizard's Throne opens a new chapter in the history of the world of Age of Wonders, which will continue in AoW: Shadow Magic. While not directly a continuation of the first game, there are many connections to it. Some people make reappearances, some events will be referenced. You play as Merlin, a young mage, who it trying to save his dwindling people from extinction. He is contacted by the mighty Gabriel, who reveals his calling: Conquering the Wizard's Throne.

In contrast to the first game, the campaign in Wizard's Throne is strictly linear and there are no decision to make. In order to conquer the Throne you have to master each magic sphere (the usual: fire, water, earth and so on) in 3 scenarios. On the plus side you get to experience every sphere with its corresponding faction and magic spells, but on the downside you start from scratch each time you start a new sphere, which is somewhat annoying. The game is rather hard in my opinion, I found it the hardest of the three. You are basically forced to build up mighty defenses before venturing out on the map, which makes games take forever and ever.

The graphics and the UI are improved upon the first game, however it sometimes makes things a bit harder to see and click on. Additionaly I really really liked the art from the first game, so personally I don't count it as a real improvement. Overall they decided to streamline gameplay a bit, which makes the game more generic than the first part. While I still think, that it's a good game, these changes in combination with the high difficulty and somewhat boring campaign make this my least favourite game of the three.

Half-Life 2
Released: 2003

Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic

4/5
56.6 hours
no achievements

Shadow Magic centers around Merlin again: A new kind of demons invaded the world and captured Merlin. You play as a variety of NPCs from The Wizard's Throne and try to save Merlin. To be honest: I wasn't a fan of this turn of events, I think the new demon faction and the corresponding gameplay elements are stupid.

Shadow Magic is not a new game, but builds upon the second game. Think of it more as a big expansion. It refines several things of the second game in terms of gameplay, menus and balance. While this alone is already good, the main improvement however is the campaign. Not only is it more diverse, each scenario is designed with so much love for little details. There is so much stuff to explore and small side-stories to unveil...Yeah, this is the main improvement upon the older parts of AoW.

Apart from the last mission. I hated the last mission. It's stupidly hard and takes unnecessarily long


Currently playing

Nothing decided yet.


After playing the first AoW for the June theme (I own the soundtrack to it) and loving it, I decided to play the other two parts of the “old” trilogy right afterwards. It wasn’t really a conscious decision, it just kinda happened. I’m a bit torn if this was really the right decision. I grew a bit tired of the game in the end. The problem is, that gameplay is really slow: After you’ve reached the point, where it is clear that you’re gonna win, it still takes forever to wrestle the enemy down. In the first part this wasn’t such a problem, but in the other two it really dragged out some scenarios more than necessary. I did not want to make the same mistake with my reviews, therefore they are a bit on the shorter end. Feel free to ask if there is anything you want to know!

I’d rank the three games the following way: AoW II < Shadow Magic < AoW. Although objectively Shadow Magic is probably the best game, the first part inspires with its unique multi-ended campaign and the charme of the basic pixelated graphics is simply unmatched. I have no desire to acquire AoW III or Planetfall in the near future, so for the moment I’m done with this franchise.

Now I’m a bit tired. And while I played several long games by now, my other yearly goals are still quite far away :/

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 2/10 achievement games – 7/10 long games – 54/49 unfinished games

Report #56

The last few weeks I worked on my goal of reducing my unfinished games list. All three games I played were on there forever and I finally gave them another try. It worked out better than I anticipated.


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released: 2009

Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition

4/5
21.3 hours
no achievements

One of the two oldest unfinished games in my library, Blood Bowl is a turn-based strategic sports game. Set in the fantasy Warhammer universe, about two dozen different teams compete to become Blood Bowl champion. Blood Bowl is like American Football just more violent. From Orcs to Chaos to Elves, every faction of the Warhammer universe fields its own team with a unique roster of players.

I suspect that the game already was a bit old-school when it was released, and it definitely shows it's age nowadays. However, since its gameplay does not rely on flashy graphics, it really doesn't matter too much. I last played the game in 2012 and was really stumped. I did not understand a thing. So when picking it up again, I first read a bit about it and with some of the advice taken from guides I was quickly able to learn the basics of the game this time. The amount of different teams to choose from is overwhelming at first, but there are basically two ways to play the game: fast passing-games (think Elves) or slow tackling-oriented tactics (think Orcs). I choose the latter and after losing a couple of games I slowly got the hang of it and had moderate success with the Orcs in the remaining games I played.

I had a surprising amout of fun with it judging by my less ideal first impression I got in 2012 and my overall lack of interest in sports. I wouldn't really recommend the game though, because there's already Blood Bowl 2 out (and BB 3 coming).

Half-Life 2
Released: 2004

Evil Genius

2/5
22.1 hours
no achievements

Evil Genius is a base building management game, where you try to take over the whole world as an evil genius. The game does not take itself too serious and is rather funny. If you want an impression of the atmosphere of the game, think of the Austin Powers movies and imagine you're playing as Dr. Evil.

I was gifted the game in 2013, but really didn't get into it back then. Unfortunately (other than with Blood Bowl and Fable) I didn't really enjoy it this time either. The basic concept however sounds good. Building up a base from where you start your operations to subjugate the world. You have to train new and different types of minions, research better equipment and defend your base against intruding agents of good. This part is not perfect but decent fun.

In a second part of the game you control your minions on a world map, where they can fulfill mission, steal money to finance your operations or recruit additional minions. In my opinion this part is horrible. Your minions take forever to travel from your base to their missions, in which almost always most of the minions die, so that you have to retrain them. Which can take a long time with the more advanced minion types. And you cannot let your minions simply stay on the world map because they will quickly be rooted out by the agents of the different "good" world powers. Which leads to micromanaging two different aspects of the game in parallel and in realtime. And a lot of stupid waiting in between to retrain minions.

In conclusion: Great concept with good ideas and many funny details. But the execution lacks. I wouldn't want to replay it.

Half-Life 2
Released: 2005

Fable - The Lost Chapters

4/5
26.6 hours (+30 hours previously)
no achievements

Fable is a third-person action RPG. It's an absolute classic and I guess most of you have at least heard of it.

I spent a ton of time on this game already, but have never gotten really far into it. I don't exactly know why this is the case. This time I was finally able to push through and finish it. And I really enjoyed my playthrough. Although Fable isn't the longest game it features a suprising amount of very modern ingredients: There are collectibles, ingame games, romance, you can buy houses (and even rent them out), align yourself with evil or good, get a new haircut or even some tatoos. Leveling up, quick travel, quests…every "meta" aspect of the game is handled very well too. And the best part: It still looks quite fine for its age, which I attribute to it's cartoonish art style.

Fable may not have invented each of the aforementioned things (a game historian might be able to tell you more about that than I do), but I think it has to be one of the first games that integrated everything so well into it's gameplay. Everything is there, but in moderation. Everything can be done, but you mostly don't have to use e.g. romance or renting out stuff. You are very free to play the game the way you want, the story is almost linear though.


Currently playing

  • Gothic

    1.6 hours playtime

    no achievements

Since I’m already playing through a lot of unfinished old games, I might as well continue with it and finally give Gothic a try. I have only played it for about an hour previously, so I’m going into it without any nostalgia. Let’s see what awaits me.


All three were games I wasn’t really keen on playing, but I gave myself a push and started them up regardless. I ended up being really positively surprised in the end. Yes, Evil Genius wasn’t to my liking, but Blood Bowl and Fable were really much better than anticipated. I’m happy to finally complete some games that have been left unfinished in my backlog for ages. And I was also able to make some great progress with my third goal for 2021. Let’s hope I’ll enjoy Gothic as well.

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 2/10 achievement games – 4/10 long games – 55/49 unfinished games

Report #55

I spent almost 3 months finishing Heroes of Might & Magic V (HoMM V) and its expansion hence the late post. I could’ve posted in between after I finished 3 games as usual, but thought it better to post once I’m done with HoMM V to give a better picture of those games.

Not much happening besides that, so let’s get right into the reviews:


Reviews

Half-Life 2
Released 2010

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga

2/5
50.9 hours
no achievements

Divinity II is an action RPG. Other than their predecessor Beyond Divinity it has now complete 3D graphcis and is played with over the shoulder camera.

To be frank, I did not really enjoy playing this game. I wasn't able to get myself immersed into the game world. Everything starts out really nice, the first few missions are funny, diverse and with lovely NPCs. But the game quickly becomes much less engaging and apart from the first few locations the world felt quite empty to me. In addition, compared to the first two games of the Divinity series, there are a few new additions in lore, which are never really explained (mainly goblins and zeppelins). That was weird. The world therefore felt not only a bit empty but also alien, which should not be the case for the third game in a series…especially since I played the first few games only a few months prior.

The gameplay did not convince me either: Fighting was quite boring, I kept spamming left clicks and that was it most of the time. The skills systems was changed once more, but most of the skills you get as a fighter (which I played) are not that spectacular. Spoiler: Flying around as a dragon was much lamer than anticipated as well.

I know that the game has its fans, I however won't be one of them.

Half-Life 2
Released 2017

Bomber Crew

4/5
20.6 hours
30 of 30 achievements

Bomber Crew is a crew management game set in WW II. You play the crew of an Avro Lancaster of the RAF flying a variety of missions over the course of the war.

I got the game for free and I did not expect to be blown away by it, just to have some fun. And it precisely delievered that. I had a lot of fun playing through the campaign. The concept of the game is simple yet interesting. I enjoyed outfitting my plane and crew, though the options are a bit limited -- don't expect an actual simulation going into this game. The mission design is good for the short campaign, I was on the edge of my seat on a few occasions where I barely made it back home! Oh, and the achievements aren't hard either, that's a plus for me as well.

As initially stated, don't expect too much of the game. Flying the same bomber over and over again gets a bit boring after a while. The customisation options are limited, the mission variety after some time as well. However, I don't mind that, because it's enough to get you through the campaign missions.

There are some DLCs which I did not play and am not interested in doing so either. This game was fun but I have no desire to coming back to it. In some ways that makes it the perfect game for backlog assassins :D

Half-Life 2
Released 2006

Heroes of Might & Magic V

4/5
74.3 hours
no achievements

Most strategy fans will be familiar with the Heroes of Might & Magic games. It is a turn-based strategy game based in a fantasy world. There is a strategic map in which you move your armies, gather resources and capture special buildings which help you on your missions. Fights are played on a separate tactical map.

HoMM V is the first game of the series I played thoroughly. Judging from the internets, it is the second best game of the series. Personally I can't compare it to HoMM III, which is said to be the best, because I never played it. But just speaking from my own experience, I can clearly see why people enjoy this game. It it really fun to play!

Despite being quite old, I think the graphics still look decent (the game does not offer native widescreen support though). Both aspects of the game, moving on the strategic map and building up your army/economy vs. fighting battles, are enjoyable and offer a large variety of strategies. All of the six factions in the game are unique and fun to play (though personally I did not like Academy as much as the other factions). Not only that, even almost every single unit in the game is unique and offers interesting ways to play and facilitate it (some exceptions are to be expected with more than 40 different units).

I exclusively played the SP campaign, which is quite enjoyable. I was really keen to know how the story goes on after the game and couldn't wait to start the expansion.

Of course some minor complaints are there: I wish there was a bit more strategic and tactical depth to the game. For example, your units have no zone of control, enemies can simply walk by your units, which is annoying. At the end of the fifth campaign fatigue was a thing as well. The missions are quite similar after a while. And then there is one other thing: I found the game to be quite challenging. There were even a few missions I couldn't finish on 'normal' and replayed on 'easy'. Sometimes I was really frustrated by the difficulty, which felt unfair rather than challenging. And it made me a bit sad. I play video games almost all my life and still suck at gaming :( :(

Half-Life 2
Released 2006

Heroes of Might & Magic V: Hammers of Fate

5/5
23.8 hours
no achievements

Hammers of Fate is the first expansion to HoMM V. It features a new campaign and a new faction, the dwarves. They also added a new kind of "biome" to the strategic and tactical maps, dwarven halls, which looked beautiful and was accompanied by an even better soundtrack. The faction itself is fun to play as well.

The campaign missions offer more variety than the original game and are shorter overall. Which is exactly what I would have liked to be improved. I was really happy with all the changes made, so this is for me one of the rare occasions where I feel a game deserves the rare 5/5 rating.

Caveat: I don't think the game would work as well without playing the main game beforehand though.

Half-Life 2
Released 2007

Heroes of Might & Magic V: Tribes of the East

3/5
39 hours
no achievements

Judging solely from a technical point of view, this is the best version of the game by far. Minor bugs have been fixed, it finally offers proper widescreen support, it has the most factions and introduces a ton of new units. And, last but not least, the cutscenes and little commentaries of your hero during the campaign mission improved as well.

Units, however, which you don't really get to know the same way you know the units from the previous games, because there are just so many new units. A faction (the orcs) which I sadly did not enjoy as much. Also the walking animations of some of their units looked really weird to me. And the mission were dragging on too long again, so that all in all, sadly, I did not enjoy this as much as the previous games. It's still playworthy though, no doubt about it.


Currently playing

  • Shadow Empire

    49.3 hours playtime

    no achievements

Shadow Empire is a fascinating strategy game. It’s definitely a niche product, quite hard to get into and not the best UI. I enjoyed it immensely, although I feel it has not reached its full potential yet.


HoMM V took up almost 3 months to finish. Which is exactly my plan for 2021: Finishing long games! Wow, I’m a bit exhausted from typing all that stuff, so that’s it for this post.

Stay healthy and happy backlog-clearing to everyone,
Vito

2021 goals: 2/10 achievement games – 4/10 long games – 58/49 unfinished games