Over the last few months I’ve found my interest drifting away from Video games and moving towards Pen and Paper Role-playing. There is a great surge of activity in the hobby online especially helped by the Google Plus Hangout.
It’s pretty damn easy now days to find a game on Google Plus and be playing tabletop games with people around the globe. It seems over the last few years things have got really exciting and fresh with Pen and Paper online due to how easy it is to get involved with a game. Where it used to be I could play a Pen and Paper game once a week, now I can find 3-4 games a week if I want.
Another exciting aspect of Pen and Paper is a little thing called the OSR. Short for Old School Renaissance (or Revival). Basically it involves not only playing older editions of various roleplaying games (from the 70’s and 80’s and even 90’s) but adopting the D.I.Y attitude the hobby had before there was a supplement for every single minute detail of a game.
There’s a lot of creative, fun stuff happening and it’s really diverting my interest from Videogames (which is a scene I am finding myself increasingly frustrated and bored with).
As such, here’s my new Blog, which will be various ramblings on pen and paper topics. Mostly it will deal with Labyrinth Lord, which is a retroclone of the Basic version of D&D (The boxed one that came out around 84). Also from there you can add me on Google Plus and easily get involved with a Hangout game with me.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a walking around simulator. A cute, sometimes pleasant, sometimes touching, walking around simulator. You control two brothers on a quest to get some medicine for their father. Along the way you encounter nothing even slightly resembling a challenge. In fact you barely encounter anything resembling a game. The brothers move along a predetermined path of, admittedly beautiful, scenery. Sometimes the brothers have to climb a wall or pull a switch. Climbing or pulling a switch is about as challenging as the game ever gets though and it’s the most the game ever asks of the player in terms of input. I’m quite sure Brothers would have been just as happy to forgo that player input altogether and be a series of animated scenes. In fact I’m certain of this after having to endure many of the game’s self-indulgent, long-winded cut-scenes. The worst of these (in the game’s closing moments) intersperses cut scenes with brief moments of player control. When you finally wrest control of the character from the cut-scenes, you find the brother you control is now plodding around at a glacial pace. There is nothing worse than having to endure cut-scene atop cut-scene of what, presumably someone thought to be, heart wrenching moments and then having control of an artificially slowed character. There was an assumption by the game that I should be forced to slow down and take in the gravity of the drama in front of me. If I’m playing a game I not only want to have control of the action at all times, I never want arbitrarily enforced breaks in game play because the game thinks I need things pointed out to me. Nothing screams “PADDING and FILLER” like a character being forced to move slowly because they are sad. If I find something moving, touching, or upsetting I will decide how to react in my own time. I don’t need a game telling me when to apply the correct amount of grief to a virtual scene of drama
Toki Tori 2 has one of the most physically underwhelming video game heroes of all time. You’re in control of a rare breed of bird that doesn’t seem to mature past the excessively cute, fuzz-ball chick stage of the chicken life cycle. The sum total of your abilities are; stamping your cute little chicken feet and tweeting your cute little chicken beak. That’s not a whole lot of options for a bird in charge of saving his chicken village from destruction by some creepy and destructive smoke/gems. I can only think of one other video game hero with the odds stacked this badly against them, Abe from Abe’s Oddyssey. Toki Tori 2 has more than just a diminutive hero in common with Abe’s Oddyssey though. Toki Tori 2 is a welcome addition to the shamefully under represented Puzzle Platformer genre, and for fans of the genre it’s well worth chick’ing out.
Just when I thought I’ve played enough rogue-likes to well and truly scratch that itch for the rest of eternity, Dungeonmans comes along and blows away the prospect of me ever stopping playing the genre. It’s a title cut from the fully graphical rogue-like cloth but fashioned with enough new features and ideas to make a veteran of RL’s like myself excited. Dungeonmans is planned for release March next year and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign (hopefully a successful campaign will bring that date forward). It comes from Jim Shepard whose been a developer in the AAA realm the last few years and has since moved over to the light-side of indie game development. A summer preview was recently made available, and for fans of the rouge-like it’s well worth checking out. I’ve spent a number hours loot gathering and dying in Dungeonmans already and have some thoughts on it after the jump.
I can sum up Rogue Legacy in a single statement: “it’s Dark Souls for the SNES”. For those that get what I mean, you’re free to go now. I’m quite sure you can base your potential purchase of Rogue Legacy on that statement alone. For those who aren’t as clue-y about 90′s home entertainment consoles and unforgiving Japanese action RPG’s, stick around and I’ll go into some more detail. Rogue Legacy combines the aesthetics of the golden age of platformers (as well as the twitchy gameplay from some of the harder titles of the time) with the modern Dark Soulsian philosophy of failure as a form of progression. Each death, while being permanent for the character you are playing as and resetting your progress through the game’s castle, ultimately moves you closer to game’s final boss. Unless of course you’re just really bad at the game
I’m sure purists will hate me for saying it, but I much prefer playing Rogue-likes with graphics. There’s something about piloting an ASCII character over a wasteland of punctuation and mathematical symbols that doesn’t quite do it for me. I do love the idea of the crazy, randomized world that those symbols represent and the interesting tales of untimely demise that they conjure. I just need a little window dressing to get me going. There has been an increasing amount of graphical based Rogue-likes spawning recently but Rogue’s Tale is the first I’ve played that really feels like a classic, good old-fashioned, get to the bottom of a randomized D&D dungeon Rogue-like. And it sure is addicting.
That Dwarf Quest’s name bears resemblance to the famous early 90’s board game Hero Quest is no coincidence. I was reminded of playing a board game many times while descending this simplified dungeon crawler’s halls. Dwarf Quest is like playing a solitaire version of an entry-level table top dungeon crawler, from its basic presentation to its card based inventory system. Although it’s a simple game, that doesn’t expand much upon its opening gameplay mechanics, Dwarf Quest firmly held my attention for its short duration. Oh, and that wasn’t a dwarf-height-pun, the game is literally 3 hours long. But as any dwarf lover will tell you; short can be sweet.
Let’s start by saying the newly rebooted Tomb Raider is a fantastically fluid, beautiful looking action game. It’s as close as I’ve ever got to playing a big box-office action movie on my PC, with all the eye-candy and quickened heart beat inducing scenes that Hollywood provides. But how would you feel if you were watching a movie and the same set pieces repeated themselves identically five times? What about if a movie told you the main character was a victim, an oppressed downtrodden weakling, but then showed that character slaughtering hundreds of innocent people. Would you have the Orwellian fortitude to doublethink at such an intense level? Would you have the patience to watch a six-hour long movie showing a person sliding down a cliff over and over and over again?
After a brief hiatus me and Matt have started doing the Halfbeard’s HUDcast PODcast again. Find the most recent episode here if you want to hear me mumble about games while Matt talks very enthusiastically and eloquently.
Whenever I start playing a FPS I always find myself doing a little calculation to see if I’m losing bullets when I replace a half empty clip with a full one. The majority of the time it seems the unused bullets are automatically ejected from the clip I’ve thrown onto the ground and magically transported into my invisible, and infinitely large, ammunition sack. The majority of the time there’s no wastage whatsoever and I can gleefully reload to my heart’s content. The majority of the time the brisk reload animation is a short cut scene to which I’m nothing more than a passive observer. The majority of the time my only real interaction with a gun is pressing the trigger or the reload button. Receiver isn’t like the majority of First Person Shooters. As well as being unique it’s also shown me a simple and undeniable truth; if a real gun was put in my hands I would awkwardly fumble with its various components before it slipped loose, clattering to the ground as I turned and ran away from whatever threat I was meant to shoot.
99 Levels to Hell does exactly what it says on the packet; 99 randomly generated levels ever descending downwards to the deepest recesses of hell. It’s a permadeath platformer that happily wears its influences on its sleeves. It’s Binding of Isaac, meets Bubble Bobble meets Diablo with a dash of Bomberman thrown in for good measure. While it may not be the slickest or stylish game around it’s an addicting little mix that, although a little goofy, kept me coming back for more after each soul crushing defeat.
The majority of the time playing Antichamber you will feel one of two things. Either an elated feeling of supreme intelligence as the solution to one the games many lateral thinking based puzzles slowly dawns on you. Or, a feeling of severe bewilderment as you aimlessly wander the game’s hyper colored halls without any idea whatsoever the direction you should be heading in or the puzzle you should be trying to solve next. I’m quite certain that during my time playing Antichamber I experienced more of the latter rather than the former but the overall experience was positive, albeit confusing.
Teleglitch is a game that has bested me. I stand here broken and ashamed, but man enough to admit I’ve found a game that has completely ruined me. Normally I’m able to use my conniving human intellect to outsmart the computer. For example; abusing the quicksave and load feature of a game or working out a way to exploit dodgy AI. Shit, if that doesn’t work out plain old perseverance will get me through and I can simply keep restarting a level until I bludgeon my way through. Not so with Teleglitch, the top-down, rouge-like, permadeath, collector of buzzwords shooter that shares the same color palette as the original Quake. Yep, no such fucking luck with this game.
Eador: Genesis is a turn based strategy game that looks a lot older than it actually it is. Admittedly it came out in Russia in 2009, only recently translated into English, but it resembles something released in the 90′s. And that’s one of the many reasons why it’s awesome. As pointed out in my Conquest of Elysium 3 review I have something of a boner for old school fantasy pixel art, and Eador certainly sates my desire. This isn’t hip and trendy pixel art but ornate and slightly dorky, just the way I like it. Eador’s 90′s fantasy throwback art style is fortunately contained in a modern, sensible and relatively intuitive UI and the game provides a classic fantasy TBS experience with an interesting focus on forcing the player make tough decisions.