Thursday, 11 April 2013

Playing / Played of late

I've been playing a LOT of games recently, possibly because I haven't found anything to truly hook me in, but more realistically because I've had a lot of time on my hands of late, which I've only partly been using productively!  I'll probably miss some things here but before I begin I will add that I've played even more Civ V and the news about there being a new update later this year excites me.  Civilization remains an excellent game.  I wish the multiplayer didn't always turn into a war (we played a game where we were at war from 1200 BC until 1963!) but even so it remains fantastic.

So some newer (at least to me) games:

Now I know that Magica is a few years old, so I admit that I am out of date here, but none the less it's a great deal of fun.  I am a huge fan of the way the magic interacts and the complexity of the button pushing involved to find what combinations you can.  I was very slightly dissapointed that the campaign seemed so very short.  I know that there's a LOT of DLC for it, but even so, none the less I intend to go back to it and play some more, it's a lot of fun with friends and certainly deserves a look in, it's also very cheap on steam quite often so worth picking up.

Tomb Raider (the new one)

I was looking for a game to buy and fancied a bit of a change and was debating over a few (TR, ACIII and Dishonoured) and after a review from a friend decided to pick up TR*.  I have to say I was extremely impressed.  I'm only part way through at time of writing, 38% if you believe their tracker [I'm not sure I do by the way - 100% might be if you've found all the things to find etc], and it's an extremely engaging game.  I had my worries after playing demos at Eurogamer (I wrote about them somewhere) that I didn't want to be responsible for the obvious pain I was putting Lara through, that I was worried about some of the gender implications and all sorts but I was out of place.

Visually it's stunning (even on my hamster driven PC), the exploring is intuitive) and the level design is excellent.  It makes me want to explore.  I'm not big on finding every bit of every hidden random object in obscure corners of the map but TR is encouraging me to do so.  The climbing is good, the story so far is intriguing (it's very Lost at the moment, which I also loved), the fighting is tough but not insane and the puzzles are well constructed.  The only thing I don't very much like is the Daley Thompson mechanic... for those of you who didn't experience Daley Thompson's Decathlon it involved you having to waggle your joystick (or mash you keys) left and right to simulate the effort of the sporting event you were taking part in... it was 'extreme' and I remember vividly the frustration of the experience.  It's echoed a little here with some timed buttons as well...  I am a little unconvinced of this BUT at the same time I'm not sure I can think of a better way.  How do you make the player experience some of the frantic nature of certain scenes, how can that be conveyed in what is basically a binary challenge.  Answers on an e-postcard.  I'm also still concerned that I seem to spend a lot of time looking down Lara's top or at her tight-trousered-posterior just through automatic camera work, but the game has a history of that I suppose so I should get over it.

Sim City

The much maligned Sim City is really rather good.  It is a dreadful shame that the game was plagued with such a lot of problems, it almsot put me off but I was encouraged to buy it by someone brave enough to try and it's excellent and very elegant.  Buildings spring up in a very natural way, they evolve as your city does and the things you produce are shipped away on ever increasingly congested roads.  I can see why it's come in for criticism.  It's hard.  It's tricky to get the balance right.  It's difficult to arrange your roads so as not to end up with so much congestion that your city stops working, without doubt there are problems with traffic management and worker migration, but it's still... compelling.  quite work, at least not as expected, yet.  I had a town whose factories were closing and my partner in mayoral crime had a city with loads of unemployed clamouring for jobs.  Our cities were linked up and established yet still the problem didn't go away... who knows why.  However if you can get over the hiccups and the teething pains it's terrific.  It will probably draw me back again and again with a new attempt to build a megalopolis.  It's not the same game as it was in the past (albeit it's very similar), but I think that's a good thing.  I don't want to just pay for better graphics, I want better game play, more options and so on.  Sim City gives me that and that's just great.  I don't really get the problem with needing to be online to play, that doesn't bother me incidentally.

It's much better as a multiplayer game.  Those people who have been saying it's a social game (as in Facebook social) are wrong, but I see the comparison.  You can buy services from other people (although they'll eventually run low) and workers / shoppers will migrate between towns.  It doesn't seem to

Here's my reservation about it though.  It's very expensive.  I bought it on Origin and downloaded it at the hefty price of £44 (or similar).  That's quite a lot for a game with undeniably more than a few frustrating bugs.  The dulux edition is an extra £20 on top of that.  As far as I see (from reading reviews) for that I get the option to build a super-hero mansion / evil villain tower and British / French / German cities, each of which give you a one building upgrade.  That feels like an LOT of money for some fairly minor options and a few (only a few) cosmetic upgrades.  I still might do it, but I am not yet convinced.

Sim City is tricky and it's hard to know what I'd think if it hadn't been so surrounded by the hype it has been.  I don't think it's a game I will play for weeks.  I do think it's a game I will come back to again and again over years.  That probably makes it worth it by quite some margin.


I gave Wireframe a try (FTP on Steam) and I am afraid that I couldn't get to grips with it; it's tutorial was shockingly lacking and its controls unintuitive.  It's missions, which I think are on procedurally generated maps felt bland and the options you were tied into with the FTP were poor.  Not just that but it wasn't clear when / how I could pay and when I worked it out it felt like the pricing structure was wrong.  The game wsa dark, so much so that it was difficult to see the detail they'd put in and overall I was left not wanting more.  It was rapidly erased despite a valiant effort.

The Guild 2 Rennaisance 

This is another old offering (I think it was 2010) and is a 'standalone add on' to other games.  I'm not quite sure that's a real phrase!  It's terrifically complex and there's no tutorial.  The buttons are hidden and aren't the ones you expect them to be and quite often the person you are playing dies of plague.  I have however enjoyed it immensely.

The Guild and The Guild 2 were fan favourites and this was sort of the culmination of all the games.  You play a person in 1400 building up their life and reputation.  You can build a building and operate a shop, find a spouse and have children who grow up and you play them later as part of the dynasty and so on.  It's easy to get ill, get robbed, have your house burn down and so on, the game is quite unforgiving, made all the harder by not quite knowing which buttons to press!  However when you start to 'get it' it's brilliant.  Shops are moderated by supply and demand, burn down your competitors and the prices go up.  The law will try and arrest you though so make sure you have evidence to protect you.  I am playing (at the moment) a grave digger who has learnt to make demonic pacts, which sell very well!  The game has a lot of breadth and I am enjoying the options that open up as you get better at all sorts of skills / unlock new buildings and so on.  I'm told that once you 'master' it it becomes a bit formulaic, but I'm not at that stage yet so have lots of time left on the game.  I found watching the basic tutorial on You Tube very helpful, (perhaps essential).  It can be frustrating at times (I hit a point when none of my goods were worth very much, but it turned around) but so far it feels very rewarding when I manage to 'achieve' something.

I'm pretty sure I have forgotten something significant I've been playing, but for now I can't think what it is, I am however very much looking forward to NwN when that comes out... So many games, so little time.

*It came down a bit to cost: TR is a new game and so unlikely to reduce in price for ages, where as ACIII and Dishonoured are more likely to be on sale sooner.  Happily two days later ACIII was 66% off and I bought that too, it's in the 'still to play list' of games.  Also when I bought Sim City I got Mass Effect III for free, which sweetened the whole deal immensely.  I have games to play for ages now... Poor Bioshock (which I planned to pick up) will have to wait, still I suppose by then it too will be on sale!!

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