achtungexplosiv: (Default)
I've been giving Sanctum a proper playabout over the course of the last week, after an initial evening back in July chasing after the Steam Summer Camp award related to the game. It's a first person tower defence game made by indie developers Coffee Stain Studios, and it's main schtick is that when the building phase is over, your character (Skye) leaps into the fray with a choice of firearms and helps with the defence. The multiplayer function is co-operative and good fun to boot.

Sanctum Screen

You are placed on a map that has a mixture of fixed components like ramps and walls, with entrances on one end where aliens will swarm from and a big glowing core on the other end which is what the aliens are trying to destroy. The open space is mostly given over to sites where you can choose to construct blocks to house towers or place something on the floor. The strategy comes from how you choose to herd the aliens through block placement and kill them through strategic tower use, bolstered by your own FPS skills. The FPS aspect isn't hardcore - you don't have HP and the aliens don't care about you though if you get in their way you will get bounced about. Each wave of aliens you successfully destroy (before they destroy your core) gives you a money reward. Towers, floor items and weapon upgrades all cost money. You have to choose whether you want to spend your earnings on upping your own personal combat capabilities, for example upgrading your sniper rifle, or on upgrading your existing tower/floor structures, or in placing new basic ones. Towers act on their own initiative, either going for the closest target or else choosing targets randomly. Flooring acts on aliens that run directly over them. You can run and jump about to shoot and the placement of Televators (teleporters combined with elevators to move up to the top of the block layer) gets to be critical to avoid getting yourself stuck out of the way with a long run back to the action.

Building Screenie
Chargin' mah lazorz...

Examples of the sorts of towers and flooring you get:-
  • Gatling Guns which are cheap, high rate of fire, low damage and target the nearest ground units
  • Scatter Lasers which are more expensive, have higher damage and lower rate of fire and randomly targets both ground and air units
  • Slow Fields that snare enemies passing over that square
  • Amp Fields that decrease the armour of the aliens passing over the square
Alien types are specialised and swarm in numbers without much in the way of AI. Some examples:-
  • Bobble Heads that are immune to all damage except to their tiny, fragile, waving bobble-heads
  • Chargers that move very fast in straight lines but slow down considerably at corners
  • Dodgers that fly and move in random jerks
  • Spore Pods that don't do much of anything beyond fly slowly and die easily, except that they come in large numbers

I became quite the sniper rifle and assault cannon fan. Sniping the bigger and tougher aliens to thin the ranks before they come into tower range, then switching over to the assault cannon to spray the smaller, faster things. At the lower difficulty ranges, you can easily out-DPS your towers and go all rambo. At harder levels you are the emergency backup.

Combat Screenie
Getting up close and personal in multiplayer


The three bits I don't like are as follows:
  1. The difficulties are shagged. That is to say; the difference between difficulty levels follows abstract mathematics as yet unknown to modern science.
  2. Occasional bugged (or possibly just ludicrously unbalanced) mobs. An example of this is sometimes found in the Big Walker waves. Usually when found in a wave, these aliens have got a wodge of HP that means they take a good pounding before keeling over. Once in a while, there will be a bugged one (or perhaps it's some sort of special invulnerable one) that will take the combined firepower of all my turrets and myself sniping for 4-digit damage in the weakspot for the duration of the entire pathway to the core, and STILL doesn't fall over. It's taking damage, as the mass of orange and red numbers can attest to, it's just not dying. Exceedingly frustrating.
  3. Occasional bugged Achivements, though that's hardly unique to this game to be fair. Still irritating when you've got to that last awkward strawberry fish and shot it in the head at point blank range and it squeals in its death throes and... no record of it.

It's a really well presented game, in my opinion. I love the aesthetics (even if the 'futuristic' UI style has been done to death) and the soundtrack is great too. There's been some free updates and also some cheap DLCs (a couple of dollars for the lot in a recent Steam sale) consisting of new maps and tower/flooring types. If you Steam it, there's a ton of achievements as well ranging from the usual 'kill X of Y using Z' to uncovering hidden easter eggs. And boy, that's a lotta easter eggs...


The icing on the cake

There's a veritable ton of hidden bits to find, from random items tucked away in obscure corners of the map you didn't even know had pathing to whole other areas and layers to explore. Hardly any of these have to do with building towers and pewing aliens but the amount of work that's gone into some of these secret parts is quite mind-boggling. 'Voyage au centre de la Terre' is one such example with a whole other section of labyrinthine tunnels, unique script dialogue and such. Masses of guides on how to access everything can be found all over YouTube. The various additional levels haven't skimped on the hidden bits either. All in all it adds plenty of extra goals to pursue and extends the longevity of the game. For once, in a break with recent gaming tradition, there are no cake references either.
It's been a long time since I've played a game with so many random extras that have nothing whatsoever to do with the gameplay, the genre, the setting and so on.

Sanctum is not too expensive on Steam at the best of times but when it comes up in the sale rotation, it definitely gets a recommendation from me.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
... on my PC and on my Android.

First of all, it goes without saying that I hop onto Champions Online now and then, usually to faff about with the character creator. Cryptic recently had a birthday event to celebrate 2 years of the game, and there were presents and suchlike which I had a blast pewpewing for.

Champions Online logo


Pity the costume items were random from presents but so it goes.


For the Commute

Recently I have discovered the nifty little Android Game called Alchemy (see prior entry). My first real foray into Mobile gaming and it's not even a Gamer's Game: no flashy graphics, no kill count, no online play etc. It's simple, fun, quite the battery hog and keeps me entertained when I'm not busy.

In summary: start with Fire, Water, Earth & Air. Combine them up into new items such as Metal, Sand, Sea and Life. Continue on until you invent Locomotive, Werewolf, The Beatles and Borscht. There's a current total of 380 of them to uncover and there's a free version of the app that works well enough.

Alchemy/Android image

For a detailed look at the game, read my previous journal entry.


For the Horde Telara!

On the PC, I have recently got back into the Trion Worlds MMO Rift in a big way. I was out of the game on anything like a regular or serious basis for some time, keeping only a vague ear to the ground on what was developing. With pretty much everyone I played with having moved on for a variety of reasons, it got dull and difficult to keep my characters in good equipment on my own (and one thing I can't stand is allowing my characters to become gimped and a burden).

Rift logo

The recent months have seen a fair number of updates to the game; redesigned graphics for some models, lots of new NPCs and quests, some very nifty UI tweaks (my favourite of which is the new Quest Item bag that saves on your very limited inventory space in a massive way), new encounters and dungeons, redesigned encounters and dungeons and a lot of tweaking of the various souls. All of this comes as part of the world event-driven storyline expansions that are released every month or two. Version 1.4 was released recently and in honour of the game's 6 month anniversary (half-birthday they call it, cheesy but there we are) there was a round of free game time and various ingame freebies available including the obligatory references to the cake not being a lie, which coincided with Champions Online's 2nd birthday, as mentioned above, that also proved the cake was real.

Whilst there is always argument and debate about the changes that are made, and they're not always for the best, overall I think Trion Worlds is getting it right in terms of the optimisation, bugsquashing and playability. Best of all, there still isn't a sodding cash shop for power items: it's still a sub-based game that isn't pay-to-win. To me, this is a HUGE point in its favour.

A couple of current niggles include throwing so much XP at the characters over the recent half-birthday celebrations that everyone overlevels much too fast and you end up fighting grey mobs in sub-par gear with the zone quests only half finished (yeah, I make a lousy powerleveler). The other is the removal of the soul quests because apparently newbies found it too confusing to have to quest for other souls or something. Now you just buy them from a trainer and in the process lose a chunk of the darker side of the characters' stories: where do you think those souls stuffed inside of you came from in the first place? They could have left both options in IMO.

Rift Bahmi on a Tartagon
Do not mock the turtle.

I'm currently splitting my playtime primarily between lowbie Defiants on Argent and highbie Guardians on Icewatch. Still not hit 50 yet for the raiding but I'm keeping my main characters in Artisan Mark-made blues and Zone-Puzzle Purples as much as possible so as to be solo/duo capable and not a gimp.


If anyone is interested in giving the game a free trial, let me know. I can Ascend a Friend, which is a cheesy way of saying I can get you a free copy of the game + 7 day trial. For that I can get a hat and you get to put up with me popping up at random intervals.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
So what am I playing?

Mostly, I've been playing lots of games for a short while each: grazing, one could say. A mixture of being busy with other things, low attention span at present and drifting from game to game.


On the PC

Aside from the various contents of the Humble Indie Bundle, my PC gaming focus has been scattered with the usual Minecraft making an appearance here and there, particularly when I'm semi-distracted and thinking about/watching other things (mostly I'm invading others' servers to poke around their creations).

For a bit of destressing and distraction, I was playing a bit of Zen Bound 2. It's an indie 'puzzler' game that's meant to be something calm and relaxing to play. I say puzzle game in the loosest sense: you have a wood carving of something that has beads of paint on nails sticking out at various points. Attached to it is a rope which you wind around it (by spinning and rotating the carving with your mouse) that splashes paint where it touches the surfaces, and also triggers the paint blobs. You complete a level by covering a carving in at least 95% paint. It's a weird little game that doesn't hold my attention for too long but for a change of pace it's very nifty. Out now on Steam.

Zen Bound 2


On the other end of the spectrum is the action-packed and fast-paced Diablo-clone dungeon crawler RPG known as Torchlight: it has a cutesy graphics scheme, game play and music almost entirely ripped off from Diablo II but overall is quite polished if somewhat easy. There's a mod to allow multiplayer but it's quite buggy, sadly. Where Diablo II is hardcore, Torchlight is much more casual gamer friendly. Where Diablo II has 7 classes, Torchlight has 3. Where Diablo II has hired mercenaries, Torchlight has pet wolves/lynxes that can nip off to sell your junk whilst you continue to bash through a dungeon. It's a nifty little game but it's nothing groundbreaking. A native multiplayer option would increase its interest and longevity enormously.


Torchlight Logo



Finally, I seemed to have acquired a copy of Breath of Death VII through Steam and after ignoring it for a while decided to fire it up on a whim, not having read anything about it. Immediately I was entertained at it's faux-8bit (with bits of up to 16bit!) graphics, the tropes and stereotypes that are at once both gleefully hammed up and spun on their heads and the incongruously modern music. The gameplay is classic RPG with convenience added, like being able to run without having to collect a magic item, being able to pick a fight whenever instead of running round in circles on the world map waiting for a random encounter, MP regain being a function of how few turns it takes to kill stuff and leveling up giving you an option to pick one of two extra sets of stat bonuses. The dialogue is brilliant and every moment (so far) has been a giant tongue-in-cheek parody of every 8 and 16bit RPG I've ever played. Absolute gold and well well worth the price on Steam.
 
Breath of Death VII



On the 3DS

I have to admit that in my 'ooh shiny new toy!' phase of Droid ownership, my poor 3DS has taken a back seat. Aside from regular maintenance of my Streetpass Plaza and Pokedex, I've had a bit of a play with Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, one of the first Dragon Quest games released outside of Japan. As I got past the pompously orchestral opening theme it brought back that warm 'n' fuzzy retrogame feeling as it harked back to the 16bit RPGs of yore. None of this was a surprise, however, given it was originally released for the SNES back in 1995 and re-released for the (regular) DS in May 2011. It's a classic Japanese RPG and so far has been quite fun to play.


Dragon Quest VI



On the Android

My Snes9x EX revival continues almost unabated, hampered only by the slight awkwardness of the sensitive touch controls. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but it's taking time as I'm used to lightly resting my thumbs on the controllers as default with button pressing being the application of a bit of force. I'm avoiding twitcher games for the moment for this reason.


To the future!

I'm eying up the potential expansion of Minecraft for the 'Droid. Currently it's only for the Sony Xperia Play phones which is a huge shame as there's plenty of Android phones out there that have the power to pull it off and it's all because of this exclusivity deal that the rest of us have to wait. No word on an iOS version as yet.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
Another weekend, another round of games being played with.

3DS gaming

On the 3DS, I've completed Ghost Recon as far as I can without doing the Multiplayer maps, mostly because I don't know anyone else who has the game. I quite enjoyed it, because I do like turn-based tactical squad games. For some reason it made me miss playing Vandal Hearts on my PSX. I might have to dig it out again and see if I can persuade the now-ailing and cantankerous console + TV combo to work in order to play it. Either that or figure out why my PS emulators don't work.

Cover of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

Overall, I enjoyed Ghost Recon a lot, though it did take me a little while to get into. The very beginning throws you in at the end of the game (literally) which was confusing and irritating because I didn't have a clue what was going on, what the two characters I had could do etc and as I was about to get my arse handed to me, it faded to black and the game proper began. The game proper is the complete opposite, slowly introducing you to the various gameplay concepts and abilities of the team, who are also slowly introduced. It's an excellent game for stop-start play because of its turn-based nature and the 3D isn't absolutely critical to the game, so in a bumpy tube train scenario there's no issues judging any distances. Some of the scenarios are utter sods, with random surprise spawns that will turn a convincing win to a crushing defeat if you happen to have the wrong unit in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's also a couple of maps where the instructions are surprisingly poor and I had no clue wtf was meant until I'd stumbled through by trial and error. Still, if everything had been completely obvious it would have been a bit dull...


Onwards and upwards into the next game. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was a bit of a no-brainer, given it's the first killer game for the system (and hopefully one that will spark more interest, with sales having slowed considerably). This one was a bit of an effort to get hold of. Two hours going from place to place in the Square Mile only to find no copies left anywhere until the HMV at Moorgate made for a frustrating afternoon...
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D cover

So far, so good. I played the original on my N64 but after I completed it once I didn't go back to it, and that was more years ago than I care to remember so I'm pretty rusty about the whole thing. It's got plenty of rave reviews and I can see why: the graphics are very nifty indeed, the 3D aspect makes negotiating jumping and distances much easier without having to wiggle the camera, the 3DS gyro being used to move the camera is a smart move and they've toned down Navi's interruptions (thank the gods, she was a PITA). I'm also told that the dungeons are the revamped Master Quest versions rather than the original. Given I recall next to nothing about the original, I doubt this will bother me much. Master Quest version dungeons are supposed to be less annoying and more challenging anyway. Unlike Ghost Recon, it is not a stop-start and bumpy-transport friendly game, so progress is very slow. I do like it, although I have to be heretical and admit my preferred Zelda game is A Link to the Past (Zelda 3 on the SNES).

I'll do a review of it once I'm near the end. Currently I'm pottering around getting into all sorts of places I'm probably not meant to until later. Haven't even done Death Mountain yet...


PC gaming

With the Steam Summer Camp on I've been looking over the activities and games now and then, although this year I've been extremely slack compared to last year because my attention has been elsewhere. One game I was given in the Summer camp sale is Sanctum, an excellent little indie Tower Defence game with bold graphics and a nifty soundtrack. I've not mucked about with it too much yet (a multiplayer game with a friend for the Summer Camp Achivement that evolved into a full-on go at the Mine level) but it's definitely something I'll be going back to when I have some time.

Sanctum Game cover

I've played a bit of Minecraft and Left 4 Dead 2 here and there, and next up is giving Terraria a go, a game several of my friends have been sucked into, though I'm not sure how into it I'll get given I've gone off the 2D platform genre over the years, even if it is a 2D minecraft-meets-mario.


MMO Gaming

It's the 10th aniversary of the launch of Anarchy Online at the moment and as I was given a 14 day free account reup on my main paid account, I've been checking it out and catching up with friends and orgmates who'd also got the free reactivation for a bit of a reunion. I have to confess that I miss the game and the people I played with. I hope the project to rework all the professions and the new player experience picks up the pace so that it can all be released with the new graphics engine and breathe some new life into it. I know Game Director Means has only a small development team so its taking a long time but the game desperately needs the rebirth and population boost. Sadly it's FUncom and they don't want to market it which is such a shame because it offers a variety of experiences that no other MMO out there does. There's a reason it's lasted 10 years when other newer games have folded after 2. The population dropped below critical mass for me some time ago once virtually all of my friends and orgmates had migrated to other games or other hobbies entirely, one by one over time. It's even quieter now (aside from all the temporary reactivations for the birthday shennanigeans). At some point I'll do a full write up of the game.

Anarchy Online cover

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Desert Nomads to kill...
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
At the moment, I'm not hardcore into any one thing. My general game usage is based around my 3DS while I'm out and about, which keeps me sane on my commutes and when I have a quiet lunch, and my home PC. On the 3DS I'm usually playing Ghost Recon; at home I'm often bouncing about on Minecraft. It's one of those lull periods I get where I'm not intensely focused on somthing in particular, and end up casually playing a few different games depending on the people I game with and their availability. Until recently I was up to my eyeballs in MMOs and I suppose could describe myself as 'between games' at the moment.


General MMO-flavoured notes

I've become an MMO gamer over the years, after initially being highly critical of a genre of game which, as I saw it, you had to re-buy the damn thing every month. The reasons for my change of tune are twofold:

Firstly, MMOs tend to be huge games with a lot of variety in scope, long character progression, plenty to see and do, a lot of freedom to explore, experiment and generally mess around with a wide variety of ways to play such as player vs game content, player vs player, combat, crafting, social activities etc. As living worlds that in theory are updated by their creators with new content and changes, this mitigated the 'subscription fee' niggle I had had.

Secondly, MMOs have communities; the people you play with in groupings of varying size and arrangement in order to accomplish things, so it's a social affair in which friendships can develop. It goes beyond in-game activities into forum participation, websites resource creation and the development of third-party tools that give rise to smartphone apps, wikis, theorycrafting with equipment listings and so on. The entire process can be very rewarding.

Both of those aspects appeal very strongly to me and I've had many years of good times with the genre. A quick overview of my time:

I started out with Eve Online in 2004 some time before the first big expansion, Exodus, was released. That's one hell of a baptism of fire, believe me. Internet spaceships appealed to my interests because I'm a sci-fi fan and I had a few friends that were playing it at the time. After some years and many adventures both good and bad, I burned out and decided to give it a break. I have returned to Eve off and on over the years and am currently subbed (just about) despite the CCP debacles of late.

After some time experimenting with other games, I found myself really getting into Anarchy Online which I had first come accross in 2006 shortly before the release of the Lost Eden expansion. I realise that this way round of playing those two games was arse-backwards to most others, but hey. Several more years of good and bad were spent here doing it all until I suffered a similar burnout and developed an extremely jaded view of FUncom (putting the FU in fun).

Some more random games later (most recently Rift, which I am still technically subbed to but no one I played with still plays and I'm bored on my own) I find myself adrift once more.

At a later point I'll do a more detailed write up of each game, including the various other games I played and didn't stick with for one reason or another.

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achtungexplosiv

May 2012

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