Over the Weekend – June 7, 2010

Given my schedule, I only have a few nights a week to focus on gaming, but tend to get a lot of gaming in on the weekends, particularly on Sunday, which is ‘my day’.  I don’t focus on games for hours at a time — usually — so typically drift from game to game over the course of the weekend, building up impressions of the games.  These are those impressions.  And a bit of a log of what I’m doing lately.

Royal Envoy

I do play a variety of games, beyond the big-budget AAA games, and Royal Envoy is one of those side, casual games.  I played through the 80-minute demo from Reflexive Arcade (which goes away at the end of the month).  Royal Envoy is a building/time management puzzle game, where you meet certain building goals on each level, getting more difficult as the levels progress.  The primary difficulty here is in getting the time bonus on levels, as that requires some thought and planning; otherwise my 7-year old GoddessDaughter has no problem with the game.

I thought it was fun, and think that’s a good way to gateway difficulty, allowing you to decide a level is too hard to meet the speed goal. The voice acting and story appeal more to my 7-year old than to me, but that’s not surprising.

Blur

I picked up Blur, and the next two games at Blockbuster, which means I have five days to decide whether to bump these games from my Gamefly queue (or to bump them up).  I tend to rent games several different ways, and rarely buy them.  I’ll hang onto them from Gamefly if they deserve serious play.  Blur is more for Tam and for me, as she loves racing games, and still plays Burnout: Paradise on occasion.

Blur was criticized for it’s “making fun of casual games” ad that came out, mocking Mario Kart, but given the presentation and style of the game, the marketing of it makes sense. Blur is basically Burnout style graphics and aesthetic, but it’s Mario Kart-style game play.  Yes, the cars handle like real cars (at least ones in racing games), but there are power-ups that mimic those in Mario Kart.  There’s a shield, mines, a weapon that attacks the next player in front of you, etc.

Given the other games I wanted to try out, I didn’t play this much longer than enough to get an impression for Tam. If she likes it, we’ll Gamefly it and, I’ll have a chance to get competent at it, at which point I think it will be fun.  If I can’t manage that, it wasn’t for me anyway.

Red Dead Remption

I’m not sure why I keep trying Rockstar games.  The last one that I liked at all was GTA:Chinatown Wars, and before that, just GTA III. I didn’t like the expansions, and couldn’t get into San Andreas. GTA IV never really interested me, and Bully recently left me cold.  And that’s about the right answer for these games, I’m given a world to explore and do things in, but nothing that I want to do or explore.

I spent some time riding around in RDR, and I like the mechanic that keeps me with the people I’m riding with, but it just made me miss Agro.  I don’t think any in-game horse will ever touch my heart the way she did, though.  I did enjoy the riding, what gets me though, is that it was mostly aimless.  I never got invested in the story, and then I got killed, and when I went to load my game, I thought, “Why?” and watched some Doctor Who instead.

There’s more to say about this, and Rockstar, and open world games, but that’s a blog post, not an impression.  RDR is definitely beautiful, and I suspect I’d like it more if I were competent at it (much like Blur in this respect), I don’t feel any pressing need to become competent.  I loved Westerns as a teenager, so I get some of what they are doing (but surely not all of it), but I’m just not invested in what is going on enough to continue.

Nier

When I rent games from Blockbuster or the G-Box, I tend to pick up games that I’m less likely to love. Something I can play for a couple of days, realize I was right about not liking them, give them back, and cross them off my Gamefly queue.  Why play a game that I don’t think I’ll like? Well, I want to make my own determinations, and even bad games do some things well. Also, it’s sometimes instructive about why games fail, which can inform other things and game designs.

This time, Nier was my game like this.  And of the three I got, I like playing it the most.  It’s brawler style combat is something that I’m generally competent at already, and that’s part of it.  It’s environments (and some of it’s characters, particularly the daughter) evoke Ico in a positive way.  This game isn’t graphically brilliant.  My character is kind of ugly, actually.  I’m not sure the story is complicated, and it’s filled with fetch quests.

I probably have a lot more to talk about with this, and want to play it more. I definitely had an interesting moment with those fetch quests, though, that’s worth some more writing. But first, more playing.

Hello Worlds

Hello Worlds is a pure platformer and flash game (this is a link to it on Kongregate) that has some interesting platforming ideas, notably that your character exists in multiple worlds, and is affected by the floors, walls, and other environmental features.  I played through it a week or two ago when it first showed up on Kongregate, but they’ve added achievements, so I went back and played it a bit more. They’ve cleaned up and added some levels, and it’s worth a look.

The ever-present Dungeons & Dragons Online

Girl and I play DDO at least once over a typical weekend, and this was no exception.  We spent a lot of time over the past week playing, actually, as it was a loot-bonus week (they’d upped the level of chest loots by two levels, allowing us to get some nice drops — or at least stuff that sold well).  Friday we did a bit more, but had gotten tired of the Dave Arneson area, realizing it was as hard and annoying as the Gary Gygax area (Imagine!).

We took our level 10’s and tried to do some level 6 quests we’d never done, and got wiped doing them, until it was at a point where we weren’t succeeding just because we were in a fail mode.  Our characters (a Wizard and a Rogue + henchmen) don’t seem to do well with elementals.  Give us humanoids and we waltz through a level, but elementals always kill us.

We switched to our level 3/4 chracters (my Wizard/Rogue and her Fighter/Cleric) and tried a mission which we somehow failed at the end. We just quit and decided to table DDO for the weekend. I did a couple of solo quests on Sunday with my level 3 Wizard/Rogue, and nearly leveled, but tried another dungeon and died, again, and decided I was done.  Maybe my fascination with Nier is that it was the only game I didn’t fail in all weekend.

Non-Video Games

Girl and I also played the next module of Descent, which we got through by changing one rule that I don’t understand why exists. (Or how the players would ever win with that rule in place).  We also worked pretty hard Sunday morning creating characters for my Dresden Files RPG game that I’m running at Origins. I have a feeling I’m going to crash and burn.  I really need to run combat before I’m doing it for people who paid for the privilege.

And finally, I finished The Toughest Developer Puzzle Ever 2 last week.  Talk about feeling competent (and failing a lot)!

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