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.

7/10.
7 out of 10

Game: Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of EternityFinished Pillars of Eternity. All played on Kubuntu Linux.

Pillars of Eternity is are a very nice remembrance of one of the golden ages of RPG: it’s a Baldur’s Gate arrived in the modern days.

You play a “Watcher”: someone who is capable to look into one soul and see memories of this particular person. This knack let you know if someone is telling the truth or lies to you. On a new world called Eora, you strife the landscape of Drywood. Here chances are, that babies are “Halloborn”, without a soul. The locals are desperate and taken quite fanatic actions, e.g. killing advocates of the so-called animancer. You are to investigate this phenomenon and as it turns out will confront the history of this place, the gods, and a lot of opponents in the path.

The whole story is narrated textual. There is a ton to read and shows how much the developers of the game lay their heart in it. The landscape is a beautiful design and the combat is fun and one major plus-point of the game.

Though the story got confusing from time to time and characters are seldom rememberable. Also, I can’t help to repeat “less is often more”. There are tons of buffs and spells with little variance as it seems to me. There are three things, which annoyed me most: the artificial restriction to only camp a limited number of times by having a maximum of 4 “campfire supplies” (for whatever this is) is stupid (if I consumed more, I have to return to some settlement to buy new one. What a waste of time!), the loading takes “ages”, and the difficulties of dragons. For the last, I got my party up to level 16 and still could not face the Adra dragon or the alpine dragon. Everyone else was a piece of cake. So I let all dragons (but the Skydragon).

And beside some bugs (once I had a full crash) the game runs smoothly on my Kubuntu Linux.

A feast for friends of old RPG with some minor quirks.

8/10.
8 out of 10

Game: Outlast & Outlast: Whistleblower

OutlastFinished Outlast and its DLC Whistleblower. Phuuu! Played fully on Linux.

Outlast is a nice first-person survival horror game. You are an investigator researching the rumors about the Mount Massive Asylum. You arrive with your car, park the car just at the gate and from this point on you are on your feet, walking around the manor. No one is seen, doors shut tight. Then you find an opened window and you crawl into the building… starting the horror.

Pretty soon you find remnants of brutal massacres. Entrails, heads, limbs, and blood – gallons of blood – everywhere. This is the “good” old school of American horror: gore, gore, GORE! There is no time for a subtle inkling of some ‘thing’ which causes you goosebumps. Mhm, nope. It’s pretty expressive, direct. Brutal. And as if it isn’t enough, the DLC masters to even add to this already very high level of gore. Whistleblower introduces yet two other lunatics with a very unhealthy sense of body fixation. Along with several pretty hefty cutscenes.

And, oh – btw – the graphics are excellent. Light, shadow, smoke, all are very good placed. Some light bulbs are blinking, some lights are shaking. More than once you need your camera with some night vision capabilities to view your path in more or less absolute darkness. These all add to the atmosphere.

From time to time you find documents revealing what has happened to the asylum. The story which started off been rather some sort of cliche turns out to be quite interesting.

Then the gameplay: rather soon you discover to be not the only survivor in this pretty large building. Some inmates are afraid of you, some ignore you, and some … try to kill you. Namely, one big super strong guy, Chris Walker, is very keen and eager to get a “grip” on you. Pretty explicit when he succeeds…

Sadly you are not able to interact with the environment in any other manner than open doors, pick up batteries, jump over obstacles or crouch under them, pressing some buttons, moving some boards and pickup up keys to unlock doors. There is no inventory. You may not combine anything on your way through the manor. No nothing you can use as a weapon to defend yourself. Oh, and no health bar too: run for your life! … or hide under beds or in lockers and pray not to be discovered.

This is also the critic on the game: as a player, you have virtually no agency. There is always exactly one single way the developer wanted you to go. Sometimes faster under stress as been chased to death, sometimes with some leisure. However, you do not have any real choice. As such, Outlast is likely more a horror “movie” than a horror “game”. There is nothing for the player to do as to exactly do what the developers wanted to. Point. No (or at least a very, very limited) interaction with the environment. You can’t even turn the lights on (or off, if you really wanted to be it even darker than in the first place).

If you are interested in good stories, riddles, interesting places look elsewhere. If you are into the most extreme American teenager horror money can get you: welcome.

Still, the enacting, the presentation of the game is really engaging.

7/10 7 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

Bioshock under Linux/Wine: better than Windows! OMG!

Yesterday I found myself in the mood to play a game again. So I turned up my Windows 7 partition and tried to play Bioshock. But: there was no in-game sound. After the very first cut-scenes (the airplane crash) you float in the middle of burning water but mute. No sound, no beep.

So I googled around to fix that issue and discovered there is a ton of people suffering from the same problem. I followed several recommendations but nothing changed. There is even a YouTube video for the very dumb with several tips, but none (none!) enabled the sound. It took me about 1 hour along with several reboots and changing Windows 7 core components. Finally I gave up, frustrated. And I’m not alone with that. It seems that Bioshock under Windows 7 (or Vista) is a No-Go.

Today I tried the same game under Linux and within 5 minutes going for the mouse fix I had it up and running! With full sound enabled!

OMG!

I can’t believe that applications made for Windows do not run under Windows but under a Windows Emulation on Linux. This is crazy. One should expect that applications should run better or at least with equal performance on both operating systems. But having Linux being superior to Windows on Windows own playground … is this yet another sign of dying M$ technology?

So, everyone wanting to play Bioshock but is suffering from the sound problem: get yourself a Linux installment! I guess any will do. Bioshock does run on your machine – but not under this operating system.

Copy 20GB to a remote server: no luck.

On my laptop my harddisk has started to fail. =(

So I wanted to backup my crypt file holding all my valuable files. This crypt file has 20GB. I tried to copy this file at once on our server. No luck.

Tried within KDE (4.9.0), no luck.
Tried in bash with

$ cp crypt-file smb/server/home

(I use to mount Samba shares in ~/smb/SERVER/SHARE)
No luck.

Tried with scp: no luck.

The effect: at a certain point of time the transmission starts to either abort or – in the case of scp – is stalled. That is when I got around 11GB on the server. So scp got stalled and I tried it with the -l option:

$ scp -l 8192 crypt-file user@server:

But this takes an eternity for 20GB! And there is no guarantee of success either.
No luck.

Next, I dropped the TCP SACK ability, which occasionally causes scp to get stalled:

# echo 0 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_sack
$ scp crypt-file user@server:

No luck.

*sigh*

Finally I mounted the crypt and went for rsync

$ rsync -avuz crypt/ user@server:backup

and encrypted there by using gpg the tarball of credentials holding passwords.

*sigh*

So rsync is the salvation. But then it is put there in plain on the server. I admit: this *has* some advantages but the drawback is: that you have to go and find all your precious files which ought to be protected and find yet another way to encrypt them. With the help of $ gpg -e FILE this is ok but cumbersome.