Video Game Roundup; Mar 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed video games in depth, and I’ve worked my way through most of my current collection, so I figured it was a good time to discuss what I’ve been playing lately and what I’m looking forward to.

In my previous video game article , I was alternating between DestinyTitanfall, and Diablo III, while looking forward to Civilization: Beyond Earth. Destiny and Titanfall simply got old for me, it takes a lot for a FPS title to hold my attention for long. Diablo III was a blast, but I could never seem to catch all of my co-op partners online and not playing a different game, so it’s become a “single player, get to it whenever” sort of title for me.

Beyond Earth… well… that one was a bit of a bust. I didn’t find a lot of fun in the game at the default difficulty, and while I trust the judgement of a friend who said it gets really good when you crank it up to the highest levels, I don’t agree. It isn’t the lack of challenge that bothered me, it was the lack of depth. So of course, in true “his games were great when I was young” fashion, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Sid Meier’s Starships. To keep myself from expecting too much, I’ve purposefully avoided the previews thus far, but anything with a half decent concept and Sid Meier’s name on it is still an auto-buy for me, because I still owe him a few of my paychecks for all the fun that Railroad Tycoon and Colonization brought me in years gone by.

As far as what I’ve actually been able to get my hands on, I made out like a bandit over the Christmas holidays, and added several new games to my library. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I went for 100% completion on Assassin’s Creed III, and I was able to accomplish that goal. Of the things that I had the most trouble with, not hitting any obstacles in a dream sequence was legitimately difficult, while saving a particular set of bodyguards, finishing the encyclopedia, and completing the hunting map were all made very frustrating by the randomness that seemed to be involved in them. I really enjoyed the story, but doing everything over and over until I got it perfect took some of the enjoyment away. So with that being said, I’ve got Assassin’s Creed IV in my queue and ready to play soon, but I doubt I’ll be approaching it as a completionist this time. I did reach a point where the naval battles were my favorite part of III, so I’m definitely interested in what a game that has a greater focus on them will be like.

Following my romp through the American revolutionary war, I took a venture to Middle Earth, specifically Shadow of Mordor. Having a combat style very similar to Assassin’s creed, I was afraid that I would get bored with it quickly, but the nemesis system was a great hook to challenge me and draw me into the game. Essentially, mini-bosses are randomly generated in the enemy army, each with their own set of strengths, weaknesses, and combat traits. Killing these bosses unlocks new runes that can be used to upgrade your weapons. Being killed by those bosses, on the other hand, only serves to make them more powerful for your next encounter. And when you find yourself slain by a rank & file minion… that’s a ticket to his promotion to the ranks of the mini-bosses. I will say that there were a few key upgrades that made the game combat insanely easy, and I’m glad that the game ended when it did, because I wasn’t being challenged anymore. But the story is original and deep, and it shines a light that I was previously unaware of into the world and works of Tolkien.

Next up, I’m finally getting started on Dragon Age: Inquisition, and so far I’m really liking it. I played through most of Dragon Age: Origins upon its’ release years ago, and watched my roommate play pieces of Dragon Age 2, but I couldn’t stick with it, something didn’t click for me. I remember very little of the story, and got bored with the gameplay. Inquisition seems to have a LOT of depth to it, and I’m impressed with the non-linearity of the story; You can find objective items that are “kept for later” before you’re asked to take on a quest, and I probably explored the Hinterlands for about three hours last night before remembering “Oh yeah, I actually have a quest objective I’m supposed to be rushing towards”. And I absolutely love the concept of a limited but refillable supply of potions, I’m no longer hesitant to use them, yet forced to use them to stay alive (Or mostly, the first boss did smash my face in a couple times since I’m playing on “Hard”). The game isn’t without its’ flaws though… When I first received a skill point to be spent leveling up, I couldn’t, due to a glitch (fixed by saving and reloading the game). The skill trees don’t seem to have a lot of depth to them. And the idea that I can only carry 8 healing potions at a time is odd when I can carry an unlimited number of the items needed to make more of said potions. Still, I played into the wee hours last night, and was tempted to take the day off from work today in order to keep playing, if that tells you anything.

Otherwise, o PC side of things, I’ve mostly been in a holding pattern, waiting for something worth jumping in to. Scrolling through my Steam library and trying not to add to it (Steamleft.com says I have 1555 left to “finish” my current collection), I did drag Sequence out of semi-retirement and give it a full playthrough. Sequence is an interesting hybrid, drawing on rhythm games such as Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, and tweaking the gameplay to make a simple combat RPG. In each “battle”, you have a scrolling field of arrows akin to DDR, but there’s two other fields beside it that you can scroll between. One field is used to block enemy attacks, one is used to charge your mana, and the last is used to cast spells to damage your opponent or heal yourself. It’s a neat setup, if a bit repetitive. There’s only around 15-20 songs in the game, and you’ll have to repeat fights a LOT to get all the items you need to continue your quest. Still, there’s worse ways to spend $5.

Sticking in the Steam library, I keep coming back to Blood Bowl for a day or two at a time. I really hope the forthcoming sequel fixes a lot of the little glitches and minor UI issues, and refreshes the voice-overs, because I really do enjoy the core game. A video game adaptation of an old Games Workshop game, Blood Bowl is essentially what British gaming nerds think American football would be like if played by goblins, dwarves, ogres, vampires, and demons. Players die, frequently, occasionally to be brought back to life as zombie players by their opponents. With sufficient free cash, you can hire a mage to hurl a fireball or lightning bolt into your opponents’ ranks. There are rules for what it does to your ability to trip other players if your player mutates to have a tail. It’s often more beneficial not to score quickly, giving yourself more time to injure opponents for experience points. Chainsaws get players tossed out of the game (at the next stoppage of play, no referee would dare interrupt while it was in use), throwing your teammates at the enemy is a valid strategy, and some of the deadliest things in or around the field are the fans (perhaps second only to the dice). It’s football, it’s turn-based strategy, it’s fantasy combat, it’s an RPG, and it’s pure chaos, all rolled into one. Can’t go wrong.

Looking ahead:

Assassin’s Creed IV
Sid Meier’s Starships
Blood Bowl 2
Battlefield: Hardline

What else should be on my radar for the near future? Leave a comment and let me know!

– The Tabletop General