Game: The Dark Eye – Chains of Satinav

The Dark Eye - Chains of SatinavFinished The Dark Eye – Chains of Satinav – second time (review here). I like the universe, the setting. Maybe because I’m German speaking and I’m touched and culturally biased to it.

This adventure is really a love story full of melancholy. An impossible love between a human and a fairy, relentless gods, revenge and journey to the different wonders of Aventuria, the continent of the Dark Eye.

The graphics are nice painted, the sound supports the overall mood of the game and the interface stays out of the way.

The riddles range from easy to quite tough (like in the fairy realm).

I love it.

8/10: 8 out of 10

Game: Warhammer Quest

Warhammer QuestFinished Warhammer Quest. Completely played on Linux via Steam.

Warhammer Quest is the PC version of the famous Warhammer Quest Tabletop game. You have a party of up to four warriors including a warrior, a dwarf, an elf and a mage. You delve into dungeons of various sort to either kill a special mean boss enemy or grab a precious item from the very depth of the labyrinth. All these “quests” are embedded into cleansing three rural regions of the Warhammer universe realm of Goblins, Orcs and Skaven. On some quests you come along some Vampires and Undead which provide a some more challenging task since Vampire Lords are very powerful and while wielding some magic spells they can also deal a very serious amount of damage in melee. Between the dungeons you travel from village to village where you can sell your loot, buy new equipment and visit the training grounds to achieve new levels and therefore skills for your character. As such Warhammer Quest presents itself as a typical Hack & Slay Dungeon crawler viewed from atop when navigating your party through the dungeons.

It is fun. It is entertaining.

But huge epic quests are not found in this game. The dungeon runner part of the game is good looking and plays well. Tactics is seldom an obstacle: leave your mage and the archer (elf) behind and rush in with a berserk and the dwarf. Usually this is solves any problem. On higher levels micromanagement of potions and spell points (healing) of your staff is a bit demanding but this game is not a real hard problem to get around. Graphics and sound are nice done and appropriate.

In a village the menu dealing with inventory and merchants goods could be solved a bit better. Buying and equip you fighters could have been done less awkward, though the way it is done may be better suitable for Tablets and/or XBox or Playstation. Not a real nuisance, but leaves you easily with an idea that it could be done slightly better than it has been done.

The real fun stops, when you characters reached the level limit. And that’s quite too early in the game. After this the game gets highly repetitive. You get the best equipment fast, learned all spells and even the toughest opponent does not bear any really real threat to your party. So about 1/3 of the game you simply do the same over and over again.

But as stated above: it still provides you with fun sweeping through a dungeon.

I never played the original tabletop but I assume that this game strictly obeys to the rules found there and serves as a nice game for up to 4 players each one controlling his own character. This is different to a single PC player game. Here you lack the (unknown) decisions of your co-players but have full control. E.g. swapping one heal potion from one character to the next is not a matter of discussion and arguing among the players but rather a sole act within one, two mouse-clicks. Attacking the mean boss behind with the archer or the nearly dead minion in front of the archer so that the heavy berserk can right walk up to the dangerous mage nearby is not a group act, it’s one single player choice. So this is a different environment and targeted audience to entertain. This is fun on a tabletop where social group interaction of the players contribute to the fun. On a single player PC game this is inherently lost.

So, Warhammer Quest succeeds in bringing the original tabletop game to the PC and creates fun. Could it have been done better? Yes, of course. But only if you bend the core rules of the original and this would then render another game, not entitled to “Warhammer Quest”.

Despite some claims I read elsewhere I never had a crash or some technical difficulties encountered. The game runs smoothly.

Fun. With obvious missed potential.

Final verdict: 6/10 6 out of 10

Game: Darksiders

DarksidersFinished Darksiders on Saturday.

This game is fun. You play War, one of the four horsemen … to bring devastation on the world. And, oh my, you do. Hell is loose, the angels and daemons are fighting each other and in the middle is mankind. Well, mankind: not long.

Soon you find yourself tricked and are “accused” to have been showed up at the wrong time, since noone actually has called for you. You are brought before the cosmic council and you are given a second chance to remedy your “failure”. You are sent back to earth to only find out that centuries have passed since you have been trapped. You are weak and lost all your powers (and your horse). Further more, the council decided to attach an enervating spirit to you which watches every step you take. Step by step – level by level – you regain your powers and abilities back (and finally your horse too). You figure out who is behind your imprisonment and manage to take revenge. It’s a road movie in a post-apocalyptic world roamed by daemons and angels alike fighting each other … and you.

The action is pretty cool. You jump, swim, run, crawl, climb, etc. Fighting has some nice moves and as the game goes on you learn new skills and weapons. It really is smooth. The graphics are comic style nice and pretty to watch. The riddles range from easy to pretty awesome. And after learning new skills and abilities you tend to go back to levels you already cleared since you might now discover new places and spots you haven’t been before lacking the ability to fly to these places or even teleport (!). This game has looting features you get hooked on.

War is a cool character. … who is lost in a cool though confusing world.

The setting has some real nice touch. The world is filled with angels and daemons of all kind fighting each other and you’re fighting all of them. Some boss monsters are huge and some are pretty tough. Still one question remains: why I’m doing all this? What’s the point? The “mighty” council is a bundle of idiots easily fooled by a child or they deliberately sent War to prison … for what? Daemons and angels are fighting because … they don’t know what else to do? Yes, the overall action in the game is very addictive but the story could use some improvements. It seemed that some boy child fantasy has gone wild and just stopped at the point when one starts to justify all the action and reaction the characters in the game perform. “It’s there because … it’s just damn cool, isn’t it?”

Finally the controls: I played with my XBox controller on PC. First it starts all nice and easy. Pretty simple and clear. But as you learn new skills, abilities and weapons you find your controller overloaded with zillions of different moves and actions you can do. At the end I felt having about ~40 different key combinations to choose from. And as such I sometimes ended up jumping and flying around before I got the right keystroke to actually hit my foe. This is simply too much.

Still, a very pretty entertaining game.

7/10: 7 out of 10

Game: Borderlands

BorderlandsFinished Borderlands at Saturday.

In Borderlands all is about shooting. Diplomacy, talking, solving problems by getting to a common conclusion, a consensus, humility, compassion, logic and all other ideals of humanity are wasted. This game is about killing. Shoot or be shot. If you have a gun, you have a solution for any problem. “Riddles” are not present. The whole gameplay comes down to where to shoot which enemy with which weapon best. This is totally brainless. This is how a good American Republican will do it. Get weaponized, fire any bullet you can squeeze into your rifle, and *then* ask whose left of what the real problem is about.

Boy, this game is fun! =)

The setting is on planet Pandora (ring a bell?). This is a SciFi-version of Texas of the Wild West. The landscape is totally dumped with waste of all sort. Garbage all around. You are searching The Vault: a place with mysterious treasures somewhere on the planet. On this quest you get jobs assigned via local citizens or a bounty board. This results in money and other loot to improve weapon stack.

And it is this where the real fun sets in. Borderlands is a RPS – a Role Playing Shooter. There are zillions of weapons to find and loot. Rifles, shotguns, pistols, grenade launchers, etc. All with different qualities in damage dealt, accuracy, rate of fire, etc. Plus: your stats in accuracy, speed, etc. Yes: once you reach level 10 you basically have seen it all.

… but this did not hinder me to get my hunter get level 37(!).

Borderlands is like playing Diablo, but with guns, but from first person perspective, but in the Wild West, but on Planet Pandora in the Future Science Fiction, but with coolness instead of drama, but with laughter (the ever appearing Claptraps are hilarious).

Also the game does level opponents. So it always stays challenging. I have to confess, I had my good share of trouble defeating the main villain at the end. This is great.

One can argue that the story is poor and once you have gained level 10 you basically have seen it all. And actually the game concept “solving your problems by killing them with guns” is definitively *not* pedagogic.

Yes. Be it so.

It remains a massive share of fun.

Yee-ha!

8/10: 8 out of 10

Game: Penumbra Overture

Penumbra: OvertureFinished Penumbra: Overture 2 days ago.

Played fully on Linux with Steam (native, no Windows Emulation).

You are at the search for the mysterious death of your father. He worked at some mining complex at Greenland and that is the place the game starts right with the entrance to the pit at the game’s cover. In the next 4 chapters you delve deeper and deeper to reveal the strange and frightening secrets of this place. Along your journey you find various items to use and even some weapons which you desperately need: this place is haunted by zombie-like dogs, gigantic worms and spiders the size of racoons. Eventually you discover excavations from alien origin and make contact to the sole survivor of this place: “Red” which apparently has gone mad.

As the game was created by Frictional Games the mechanics are very, very similar to Amnesia. This game is older and when playing you can see the polish the developers did to Amnesia.

Compared to Amnesia this game let’s you actually kill your enemies, though it is a though job. Which is sorta strange, since the game changes dramatically once you know how to kill all these dogs in the corridors. Then the dominant opponent turns into a “piece of cake” and what’s left are the riddles to solve. However getting a grip on these Zombie-Dogs is not an easy task and it takes you several (!) attempts to figure out how to get rid of them.

I can imagine why they dropped the possibility to kill enemies in Amnesia: here the game stops been frightening at this point.

The riddles in the game are of different qualities. Some are stupidly easy and for some you simply get false hints, which is bad. I remember myself in chapter 4 been chased by a big worm. The game tells you to ” … to seal that door”. Right then you find a crate on the right side. When I jumped up the crate I couldn’t reach the door mechanics, but the worm didn’t appear. So I thought I’m on the right place and tried over and over and over and over to get somewhere from that position. Wrong! I needed to simply push a button on the left side of the door! And sealing the door didn’t help either …

Such quirks appear occasionally in the game: game mechanics great, story telling nice, riddles range from childish to misleading.

Still, walking the strange mine renders some nice and creepy impressions, 7/10: 7 out of 10

Game: Half Life 2

Half Life 2Yesterday I finished Half Life 2 (again).

Played fully on Linux with Steam native (no Windows Emulation)!

This time I tried the Linux version and again as before: this game is flawless. Even in 2014 the Source Engine is breathtaking, the physics in the game represent a landmark in gaming history, and it even has a great story too.

Half Life 2 is challenging from start to end (at normal difficult level). Also all the time you are up to experience new fascinating effects involving physics and the gravity gun.

Half Life 2 is a MUST HAVE in every game collection.

For the record: I managed to unlock all achievements but 2: “Keep off the sands” is just unnerving and I’m not into finding all secret places of the “Lambda Locations”.

10/10: 10 out of 10

Game: Shadowrun Returns

Shadowrun ReturnsFinished Shadowrun returns last Monday.

Played fully on Linux with Steam (native, no Windows Emulation).

You play a character in the Shadowrun universe which is on the hunt to bring down a friend’s murderer. Time is around 2057 but due to the Awakening, the world is filled with science fiction high tech and fantasy elements alike. You have genetic modification, cyberplants and hacking warfare along with elves, orcs, dwarfes and trolls hurling magic bolts. A rich and fascinating universe.

… you have to work trough yourself. The game can be summed up by the phrase “too less”. At first there is too less background for the setting, the story. You just start off creating a character, like an orc, with cybernetic implants. Yep, no explanation to this. If you want to find out more about the Shadowrun world you have to look elsewhere but not the game.

Then there is too less RPG. Seldom you find something useful to pick up and equip. Also stats and skills are presented in a very sober way in a plain matrix. No introduction, no nothing. All at once, on page. Also you likely will spend points on attributes and skills you don’t need in future. Sorry, there is no turning back.

Then there is too less adventure. The story is nice, but you got not real decisions to make. The storyline is very linear. There are some side-quests, but guess: too less.

Then there is too less of a challenge. At the first two thirds of the game. I pimped my elf with quickness and assault rifles and the game was no real match at “normal” level. Strategic fighting is nice and … easy. Yeah, the games picks up some pace in the last third and starts to get harder. This is were the fun really sets in. But up to then it is playing a nice story …

And someone always has the idea of something missing. Something’s missing at the RPG, at the adventure, at the combat game, at the grafics, animations.

E.g. Harlequin is one of the coolest elves I’ve come along in playing games, but when he wields his sword he is animated as if someone had stiffed a broomstick right along his “back”. The in-game representation is missing the charisma and style this elf has in dialogues.

Finally the save game mechanics are just bonkers. Actually you just can save at the start of a level, better: the game (hopefully) autosaves at this stage. Making a wrong decision at the end of a level requires to replay to whole level again.

The pro: once you’ve delved into the universe the plot is great to play and the dialogs are really nice written, the combat is fun after all. It remains a nice game. Hopefully they fix this bad savegame mechanics and give more universe background information in the DLCs and patches to come.

7/10: 7 out of 10

Game: Amnesia the Dark Descent

Amnesia the Dark Descent3 days ago I finished Amnesia, the Dark Descent.

Played fully on Linux with Steam in native (no Windows Emulation)!

The previous review of Game of Thrones serves as an example how a bad graphics engine nearly ruins a game, this game is a very fine example, that you do not need AAA-graphics to create a unique gaming experience.

This game is immense. And does not have all the whistles and bells of a ultra-modern cost-intensive graphics to shine.

The tension is always at a very high level. This game really *is* scary. And in a good sense! This has nothing to do with splatter effects like in Dead Space. This here is the Art of Horror game genre and places itself among the #1 references along with Silent Hill II.

The game is about sneaking in the dark, been chased by unspeakable horrors, and winding deeper and deeper into Castle Brennenburg of Baron Alexander. You unroll the story of why you are here and who the Baron is bit by bit by reading notes and memos, most of them audible.

With each hour the game gets more and more creepy and eerie. Monsters start to hunt you and you do not have any weapon for defense at hand. When you are caught, it’s over. Dead. Gone. Point. Either you run or you hide or do both. You do not get any weapon. Ever. You have about 1 hit point. This make you very vulnerable and pretty nervous when walking the dark dungeons.

And you know it all! Hearing the groaning voices of some enemy leaves you be paralyzed in panic; scaring the shit out of you.

Large part of the game is in your head: where could the monster be? What has happened here? What could happen if I act wrongly? Over there: was this a movement of some evil or simply wobbling fog? …

Some riddles are a bit hard to solve, especially in the last chapters. I remember myself at the bridges, at which one of the bridges “needed a push” to come down. I tried to get up with the other bridge part and jumping down at the “need-a-push” bridge. Over and over. T’was the wrong way doing this.

Nevertheless: 9 stars.

9/10: 9 out of 10

Game: Game of Thrones

Game_of_Thrones Finished Game of Thrones last Thursday. Even though the game has a decent story it bursts and get shattered on the shortcomings of the graphics engine.

You play two characters: Mors, “the butcher”, Westford, a loyal warrior of the Night’s Watch and Alester Sedwick struggling to regain his heritage as Lord of Riverspring after been away for 15 years.

The story is really great and contains all the ingredients the famous Game of Thrones series features: honor, love, fights, betrayal, debauchery, violence, mystic and magic, deception, heroism, and cruelty. It’s all in there. This is a true Game of Thrones story.

Also if you watched the TV series you’ll recognize some characters: Cersei Lannister plays the plotting bitch and you simply can’t get behind Lord Varys motives and schemes. As a goodie: you have a Cameo-appereance of Mr. “Game-of-Thrones” himself: George R. R. Martin is the Maester of Bergholz. Running a little Q&A with him is quite hilarious.

Ok, there are some irrational items in there: e.g. it takes you 3 months game time to travel from Castle Black at the Wall down to the Riverlands, but after chapter 8 you are free to simply click anywhere on the map and are there within a blink of an eye.

Or: at some point Alester murmurs to himself: “pillagers will be executed” during a riot … which does not keep you away to grab and loot anything which is not nailed down. =)

But then there is the story. And what a story it is! I can remember the events in chapter 11 leaving me with my jaws wide open: WTF! The game overdoes this theme and attitude of the core Game of Thrones nature in the end like in the final events in chapter 14, but all-in-all it is a great story to experience. Westeros is here.

This is the very strong part of this game.

Then the combat techniques is quite interesting and has some charm: like in a Dragon Age 2 manner you slow down time – it actually never stops – and issue some actions. This interface is not that easy to get your hold on but after some encounters you’ll learn this new experience. And it is fun. As time does not stop you feel pressure to get to your decisions rather fast. I finished the game on normal level and every now and then I lost some combats and this is a real good experience. Be demanding so that success is sweeter.

This is the interesting part of the game.

… and then there is the game engine. They say it does not take good graphics for a great game to tell a thrilling and fascinating story. True. But the engine should at least bare some minimums. This game is an example to stress this principle.

As the audio and speakers are ranging from ok (average peasant) to excellent (Lord Varys) the Graphics are weak. All in all the textures are squishy, some motions clumsy. You find a lot of people sharing the very same faces and if I don’t know it better I would say I’ve been witness to the impossibility of the framerate dropping below 0! Seriously, you have to be very capable of suffering and be very high pain tolerant accepting this. Walking around the great hall in Castle Black is … well … demanding. Even though some places are nicely rendered like the Gift at the Wall.

If the developers had more time to improve the graphics engine this game would have been rated much higher in the critic’s world.

This is the very poor, ugly part of the game.

For the record, I needed about 36 hours at normal difficulty level and finished the story with Mors taking care of the baby outside of Westeros.

I award this game 5 out of 10 stars, thanks to the pretty cool Game of Thrones story line … nearly ruined by the half-baked graphics textures and graphics engine. It could have been better. Much better.

5/10: 5 out of 10

Game: Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsFinished Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons last weekend.

Nice. It’s actually a platformer. You jump and run. You move your character around a very nice drawn world which *is* an eye catcher. This is really beautiful and a must see. Also you have one action button to click, whenever you feel your character might interact with something. That’s not a challenge, is it?

… but you control two characters: the brothers. Concurrently. In parallel. On one screen. Simultaneously. Both moving independently. And it is here you should get an idea about this game. Rather sooner than later you find yourself moving the character on the left with the controls on your right and the character on the right which you control with your left hand. Yey!

This makes your brain jump like driving backwards with a trailer only by looking into the rear mirrors left and right. And it is this the game draws its major points from, since this gameplay surely sets it apart.

For the story: what starts of as a day-to-day fairy tale suitable for children of the age of 6 turns slowly into a very adult dark fantasy. Well, without too much spoiler: you succeed in the quest (there is just 1 to solve; no sidequests). Somehow. But this ending does not suit all players. For the record: me. I got sort of angry and annoyed by the game designers since they tried to build an emotional connection with the main characters and failed at that in the end. Maybe I’m coldhearted but the final minutes in the game did not bother me. Instead I got angry on such story telling. It’s only for the graphics I would go for a second run, but than … nahhh … there is this save point system and when you want to replay some older chapters of the game you lose your previous saves.

On the plus: there are some nice ideas in the chapters of the story telling, e.g. the invisible opponent in the city and the battle field of the giants. But all in all it does not live up to the rather irritating resolution of the story’s main line.

I award this game 6 out of 10 stars, thanks to the very nice graphics, (some) story ideas and the unique gameplay experience.

6/10: 6 out of 10