Game: Mira

MiraFinished Mira. All played on Linux.

Mira is not really a game but rather an interactive graphic novel. You play Mira, who is working in an orphanage sometime after World War II. One of your children is sick and there’s medicine but some stranger demands the medicine too and threatens you.

Soon you discover another world behind your own and you are drawn into the mystical world of Slavic folklore. You realize that you are the lost daughter of Mokosh (Mother Earth) and you met the stranger again who reveals his story to you.

The story is a Slavic Alice in Wonderland version but very melancholic.

The point-and-click adventure featured beautiful hand-crafted sceneries but fell short on several terms. First technical: the interface mechanics are lacking. The UI feels awkward. Second, the story does not create any emotional bindings. The characters and themes are interesting but are not really introduced or explained. There is so much potential for more but wasted. And finally the length of the game, it’s over after 60-90 minutes.

Still, it’s an interesting but short trip into Slavic mystic fairy tales.

5 out of 10

Game: The Dwarves

The DwarvesFinished “The Dwarves” on Linux.

The Dwarves is inspired by the successful novel by Markus Heitz with the same title. In that, it follows the story nearly 1:1 with a few deviations. You play Tungil Goldhand, a dwarf who has been raised at his master’s place Lot-Ionan, one of the wizards of these lands. You have been called to make an errant to a once former student of the wizard. Along the journey, you find the lands overrun by Orcs and Albe and soon a “road movie”-like trip unfolds in which you plea to become the high king of the dwarves to fight the great evil Nod’onn. You are joined by a host of different characters from which you can pick three to join you in battles. You gain experience and new skills.

King Art made here a decent game. The story has some turns, the game design is great, and the animations are smooth and these are the great pros of this game.

However, the gameplay is a bit lacking. There are 3 setups: a travel map on which you have sometimes some encounters you solve with multiple choice answers. This is where the story proceeds. Then there is some “discover” mode in which you walk around a closed area and interact with items, and finally, there is the battle mode in which you and up to three companions are fighting waves of orcs and sometimes bigger or more dangerous foes.

It is this battle map mode which the weakest, but you play the most. In essence, normal attacks do marginal damage. You have to deal with special skill attacks, which do cost several action points. These action points do regenerate over time and when you have some success on the battlefield. Basically, you just stop, issue special attacks to everyone, and wait until you have enough action points again. That’s it. And this is repeated ad nausea.

Plus a good collection of bugs. E.g. I could not get Tungil to equip any health potion. The game started I had, but when the battle started Tungil had no potion at all. I tried this several times. Tungil always missed the potion. At some times I could not convince any of my characters to move. Path finding is abysmal. My characters always tend to block each other. All no real blockers, but painting a weak image. One particular thing is: when you want to load an old save game, the button to load is placed right. However, the game asks me “Do you really… ?” and places the commit button now left! It’s not a bummer but hints that quite some issues are a bit amateurish.

7 out of 10.7 out of 10

Game: Far Cry

Far CryFinished Far Cry. Played it fully on Linux. Flawless.

You play Jack Carver who is on a boat with a girl Val. Coming nearer to an island, Val leaves you heading for the beach. And all of a sudden you get attacked. Stranded you make your way across the mercenaries infested island. You find a smartphone that lets you talk to Doyle. This guy directed through the whole landscape and helps you free Val. You uncover the plot that some mad man used mutagens to create mercenaries with superhuman powers. However, the experiment went awry and the monsters start to attack the mercs. Your job is … well … to “peace” the island.

Island, mad monsters from genetic experiments on humans, the maiden in distress and you as some sort of Rambo. I think this sums it up.

Back in 2004, when this game has been released the graphics must have been awesome! You can see miles and miles ahead. This is really nice. The weapons you get feel strong and do have some severe impact. And the AI of the enemies is astonishing!

… but the game uses checkpoint mechanics for savegame. I played at a medium difficulty level and some parts of the game are right out easy and some are frustrating! I think I made the pursuit with Val driving in the Jeep by mere luck. And while I’m at it: you can drive vehicles too, yes. But the handling of these vehicles just sucks. When you switch into 3rd person’s view to get more of the surroundings you simply cannot steer the vehicle any longer.

You can crouch and crawl, giving you more variants of cover. However, kneeling makes a twig an impossible obstacle to overcome and crawling makes a pebble into the Himalayas.

Sometimes this made me mad grinding my teeth.

Yet, the enemy AI and the graphics are really great. 6/10. 6 out of 10

Game: A Plague Tale: Innocent

A Plague Tale: InnocentFinished A Plague Tale: Innocent. Fully played on Linux.

You play Amicia De Rune in France, 1348, who is forced to flee together with her brother Hugo from the family estate. The inquisition is after both, the English army roams the lands and the plague, the black death, is everywhere. The Grand Inquisitor is on the search for Hugo, which also suffers from a mysterious illness and, like his bigger sister, you try to protect him and find help, shelter and a cure. It’s a very pity story of two young children trying to survive in those times.

At its core, the game lives from its stealth mechanics. Later on, you get very proficient with your sling and learn to not only throw stones but alchemistic slugs.

The game is visually stunning and right out beautiful to watch. The scenery has soo much detail and has been built with love. Though, the game is rather explicit in rendering France in late 1348. The body count is very, very high.

The cons include some severe frame drops in hectic situations, which made the game nearly unplayable. Also, the controls are a bit quirky.

And, why is Dodge and Jump at the very same key and the hotspots for actions are somehow sometimes off? More often than not, I sprinted away from the rats and wanted to jump on a wall to escape. Yet, jumping and dodging are at the same key and instead of jumping on the wall I “dodged” back, right into the middle of the rats. And died.

Throughout the chapters, the game gets slightly repetitive and your options are rather low. This is not an Open World game. You follow a very narrow storyline about the children. That’s it.

Yet beautifully told.

8/108 out of 10

Game: Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3It is done. I’m done. I finished Dark Souls 3. With all DLCs. Beating all opponents in the game with at least 4 different builds: Pyromancer, Knight (from Deprived), Mage and Cleric. Played for more than 400 hours. Mostly on Linux (flawless!).

What to say? Well, I recommended Dark Souls 1 as a masterpiece in the past. And Dark Souls 3? It’s all Dark Souls 1, *but even better*! Dark Souls 3 is simply awesome. The only thing to note is that again, From Software stories are hard to follow and do not unfold. Another point is, that some ways are simply too long. E.g. why do I have to walk back into firelink shrine to the smith to adjust my Estus flask distribution?

Yet, the environment, the look & feel, the mechanics are simply some of the best.

Sure, it’s hard. Yes, it sometimes makes you cry. But then again, it never really is full unfair. You always have the idea, that you could manage it.

A masterpiece.

10/10 10 out of 10

Game: Blackguards

Blackguards(Not quite) Finished Blackguards. Played all on Linux.

Blackguards is the battle mechanics of The Dark Eye. You are commanding a party of up to 5 different heroes and engage in various figths throughout the story which itself lets you visit various places in southern Aventuria.

Granted, the game has some nice ideas and the battles themselves are quite entertaining. But the game suffers from many drawbacks:

* First, the difficulty level in “easy” is very high. That’s why I quit the game at the end boss, Urias. Since at this stage it’s more a matter of luck than tactics.
* You can easily skill your heroes in a very wrong. You have no chance to re-skill.
* The story is somehow confusing and not very intriguing.
* The graphics in some places are quite good, which makes the bad rendering in the cut-scene even more obvious.

To sum up: a nice idea with potential, sadly wasted: 5/10 5 out of 10

Game: Metro Last Light

Metro Last NightFinished Metro Last Light. Played on Linux.

Metro Last Light is an FPS in the (very close) tradition of Half-Life 2. You play Artyom in Moscow after a nuclear war. The public government is broken, nonexistent and anarchy prevails. People fleed into the Metro (hence the name) to survive and escape the radioactive fallout. Mutants roam the streets and in the tunnels, adding up to the danger. Your character is a Ranger of The Order and finds himself in between the different factions like The Red (communists), Reich (Nazis), Bandits, … Though the game is very linear, the storyline is quite intriguing and in the course of actions you find friendship, are betrayed and discover a plot of mass destruction which – of course – you have to prevent.

And it is this story alongside the graphics the game shines. These two things are the strong points of Metro Last Light. Ok, the story abates to the end.

Next is your weapon arsenal: you have a good choice of the usual FPS weapons. There’s also some limited weapon crafting in the game.

… but then there is the gameplay itself. Looking closely, Metro Last Light is no match for Half-Life 2. Yes, the graphics are better and Metro has some nice immersive stuff, like wiping your mask. Yet, the game is thrifty when it comes to actual numbers and player orientation, guidance. You do not know your health stat in numbers or the quality of your guns. You have to judge the effectiveness of a weapon by the looks of it or how it feels to handle it. You also have no map of any area.

The game is very dim light in many, many places and interactive objects do not light up. Well, at least too weak for me to be noticed. I’m sure, I missed a ton on my playthrough. On the other hand, the game shows a lock symbol in your face when you cannot interact with a locker. But not on the thousand other objects, why?

On some maps, I got lost very easily. It’s not that the maps are big, but sometimes just confusing, e.g. in the Swamp I circled for ages until I found finally the gas. More often then not, I did not know where to go and stumbled to the next level rather by accident than by plan.

And finally, the save game mechanics: you have one single save and it’s checkpoint based. WTF?! This is just plain righteous stupid. When you got the next level, this is it. You can’t go back and try different things, different paths. For me, as a completionist, this is unacceptable. More than once I just stumbled to the next level by opening a door (e.g. Venice) and all my plans in doing different, new things in the level just before vaporized. That nagged on me more than once.

… or the hidden in-game moral level deciding which of the endings you will be offered. You do not get any feedback for some “good” and “right” actions, though I read online, that you get bad points for killing a lot while you get good points for various good deeds. Among these is … wait for it .. squeezing a teddy bear(?!). There’s no feedback on this right within the game for the player. So this is hard to verify.

Another, somehow irritating element: the game has a lot of spoken parts. Now, the voicing is in English with a heavy Russian dialect. This supports the idea, that the game takes place in the Moscow Metro. Without this, only the occasional signs in Cyrillic would give you this idea, since the game world could be likely anywhere else: Paris, New York. However, the people also talk with Russian English among themselves and the longer you think about this, the more awkward this appears. I mean, this dialect is very hard to blend out. It is omnipresent when you listening to the game. And as such it always stresses the fact, that the speaker is not speaking his mother tongue. As a result, it feels like no-one in the game speaks his mother tongue but turns to some clumsy Russian English when they speak among themselves, especially when you are around. Once I got this idea, it festered and then it’s just been super wired walking around people and listening to them. As if I have a big cap phrasing “Foreigner: at least try to speak English” on my head. That became quite silly in the end.

And, yes: it crashed about every half hour.

Summary: Metro Last Light has excellent storytelling, high-quality graphics, and some little nice immersive but fails badly on the details on game mechanics and overall gameplay. For me, the dumb choice on game saves has cost the game 2 points. An additional big minus for the obvious deliberate withhold of game information and playing stats for the player. The rest are minor quirks.

6/10 6 out of 10

Game: Total War: Warhammer

Total War: WarhammerFinished Total War: Warhammer. Played on Linux. Well, “finished” may not be the precise term. I’ve mastered the Grand Campaign with The Empire, The Dwarfs, Bretonnia, Greenskin, Wood Elves, and the Vampire Counts… and this game is awesome! It is the sort of game that gets you hooked on playing “just the next turn”.

The graphics and the sound is nice and captures the Warhammer look & feel known and expected from the tabletop game. Apart from some minor glitches (e.g. having some crashes) and some wired idiosyncrasies (e.g. navigating armies across the sea is not calculated by the pathfinding algorithm, need to “exchange” troops to be sure the same army is in the attack range of the other, …) the game plays very smoothly. Each faction has their unique playing style, and some are harder than others. However, each has its own pros and cons.

Ok: micro-management of cities and overall gameplay could be more complex in the campaign part. Yet it does not stand in your way. One will also find some optimization here in there in the player navigation on the menus when one really wants to find something, e.g. more than once I found myself typing escape to abort a hero’s action, only to be confronted with the “Exit Game” dialog, huh?

Ah, yes and the stupid implementation of probabilities! The game tells you that your hero has a success chance of X%. Well, the game did already role the dice on that one and only shows you this number it had before(!). It took me a while to figure that out. I read that this is to prevent Quick-Save – Quick-Load series until your hero succeeds. … which turned out in a Quick-Save – Quick-Load if the hero fails to save the money spent. Errm, this is not how math works, does it?

But still: a must-have for strategy fans, a feast on tactics.

9/10 9 out of 10 (for the glitches).

Game: Darkest Dungeon

Darkest DungeonFinished Darkest Dungeon. All played on Linux.

Darkest Dungeon is a Grinding Galore. Heros are sprawling into your little hamlet, which you should improve over time. With these heroes, you try to overcome the evil which is housing in five different areas. Little by little your heroes improve and level up.

What sets Darkest Dungeon apart is, that although your heroes are leveling up, your heroes are sure to die and you must never get emotionally related to them. They are exchangeable.

Additionally, your heroes do not only have a life bar representing the life of each hero, but also a stress counter. Certain actions in the game provide stress for your characters and when this bar hits 100 points, your heroes get an affliction. At 200 they die of a heart attack. Yet, if they survive they sure are getting some quirks which debuff (or positive quirks also buff) your hero. Luckily in the hamlet, you can relax your heroes and cure them of negative quirks.

But also on the highest character level, the bosses are too powerful and will party wipe. This after hours of training these characters in several dungeons.

If you want to really finish the game, you likely need 100 hours or more grinding and leveling up your characters. And this is, quite frankly, not my type of game then anymore. It would be nicer if they would have introduced more levels and difficulties for extra hardcore grinding players. But though three difficulty levels are given, they do not vary much.

Graphics is comic-like nice and the programming is pretty flawless.

7/10, 7 out of 10, because of the unnerving grinding focus.

Game: Chaos on Deponia

Borderlands 2Finished “Chaos on Deponia”. Played on Linux.

This is the second instance in the Deponia series. It brings back the “Deponia” experience playing Rufus again, the notorious, infantile boaster. And you meet the characters of the first episode again, like Goal.

Though, I have to admit, that this game feels like the developers wanted to spin the story further of Rufus been in love with Goal, fighting his rival Cletus, getting to Elysium and saving the planet… but run out of ideas. The riddles are abstruse (e.g. the music in the dark alley) and sometimes just weird (e.g. the baby dolphins). Quite often you (at least me) have to resort to trial and error. Hints are super subtle.

The main character, Rufus, is a charm, and the humor is there. But, uhm, I think the one word which sums it all up is “awkward”.

A big minus for the riddles but still a big plus for the setting and the protagonist: Rufus at Deponia.

7 out of 10