Costume Quest

27 06 2012

Costume Quest is a great example of how middling games can be lifted by great writing. The premise, fighting off candy-nabbing aliens during Halloween, is wonderful, and the visuals have just the right amount of cutesy. With no recorded dialogue the superb script stands on it’s own merits, with no danger of it being spoiled by voice actors who don’t quite get the right tone. The quips rarely fall flat, and walking around the town hubs bothering NPCs is great fun, with each character having a joke or two.

But the more gamey bits are disappointing. Wearing different costumes to do different things is a wonderful idea, but focussing on the simplistic turn-based combat seems like a mistake. When they’re used in exploration you get a feel of what the game could have been. When early on you use a lightsaber to make your way through a dark corridor and a bin-lid shield to get closer to a tree occupied by an angry squirrel you can’t help but feel excited by the potential for exploring cordoned off areas with new costumes, but it just never happens. The further you get through the game, the more of a slog it becomes. By the end you rarely go 3 minutes without fighting some goblin or another, and the limited number of enemies only highlights this.  You start to view the fights as an annoying obstacle that needs to be passed before you get to the next joke, or new character.

It’s hard to dislike a game this charming, but it’s hard to love one that puts so little effort into keeping itself fresh throughout the ~5 hours it’ll take you to play through it. When the greatest feeling I have is one of wasted potential I can’t recommend paying the £11.50 asking price on Steam, but if (when) it’s put on sale, it’s worth checking out. The PC version comes with some free DLC, but I can’t quite bring myself to play that yet.

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Another Fresh Start

24 08 2011

I certainly expected too much of my foray into blogging, it was never likely that I’d pick up writing for the first time in my life and be both good and prolific, but I’m throwing in the towel on writing solely about games. Might do it occasionally, might not.

I’ve not even managed to even keep updating my lazy Civ series, let alone think of anything interesting. So I’m changing this blog, drastically. Rather than being Words About Games, it shall now be Words About Things! When I work out how to change the title, that is.

The main reason I’m doing this is in hope that if I expand my criteria to literally everything I might actually write something. So to start with I asked for ideas on twitter, and I’m currently writing about rhinos and the dull minutiae of life, commissioned by @drugcrazed and @dandouglas, respectively. Fresh ideas still continue to elude me, but I don’t feel that elaborating on other people’s is out of my grasp.

So I’m going to make a serious effort to turn this site into a place for stupid jokes and uneducated opinions. The world can never have enough of those. Unlike barren blogs, clogging up the interpipes like blank pages in a plughole.





Last Night a Mountain Saved my Life

24 06 2011

In an all too predictable manner, I failed completely at writing something every week. But much like the fabled phoenix, I am not only commonly associated with incredibly nerdy things, but I shall rise from the ashes! The last time I made the effort to write something, it was spectacularly unimaginative and ended on on a stupid cliffhanger. But as that got me more compliments than anything else I’ve ever done (one), I shall carry on regardless. After you’ve read this, whether you liked or not, please say something. It doesn’t even have to be constructive criticism, just spew expletives at me if you want. For the forseeable future, I will be judging feedback on quantity before I even think of questioning the quality of it. I feel that writing more would be good for me, in many ways, but doing so without anybody commenting on it is a bit like pissing on a wall. I’ll keep on doing it, but if nobody tells me off for it eventually I’ll just keep my thoughts to the toilet which is my brain. Now, watch me rise!

As I pick up from where I was last time,  dangerously close to barbarians but temptingly close to treasure, I realise that any efforts to create tension in this require a higher aptitude with words than I possess. So naturally, I just thought I’d give up with excitement and just make a bunch of bad jokes about what I’m doing in the game. It turned out that the barbarians didn’t bother to leave their camp, so I just Montezuma’d (Geddit?) past them into the ancient ruins. I found a map of my surroundings, which revealed one land tile and five sea tiles. This map was particularly pointless as it turns out I was at the bottom of my continent, so I quickly sent my scouts back up north to try and find something useful.

Turn 24. By now I’d earned enough culture to select a new policy. Culture is generated by cultural buildings, such as my monument, and once enough is gathered you get to choose a policy to adopt. Policies provide various stat boosts, and while your initial selection is quite limited as time goes on more and more become available to you. As I’m planning to be a violent dictator, I chose to begin the Tradition branch of policies. Tradition is most useful to small empires, and gets less useful as the years go past. But I’m an aggressive egomaniac, I’m not thinking about the future.

Turn 25. This turn I finished researching Animal Husbandry, and then I made a bestiality joke to myself. I shan’t sully your eyes with it, but I assure you, it wasn’t very good. I now started to learn the arts of Trapping, as if I’m surrounded by elephants I may as well enslave them. Or eat them, I don’t really know. Whatever happens, I win, and biodiversity loses. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not playing the long game here.

Turn 27. Oh dear. It seems the barbarians from early just circled around the mountain, to let my scouts run into them. Now I’ve just parked my scouts right next them, which is the warring equivalent of dropping the soap. They attacked, and they hurt. My scouts fought bravely and killed many simple savages. As a British man this made me feel a pang of nostalgia, but that soon passed when the barbarians dealt double the damage I did. Fortunately they couldn’t finish me off, but neither could I run past them and avoid another scuffle due them cleverly standing in between two large hills. So I did what any moderately sane leader would do, and ordered my scouts to hide behind the mountain and lick their wounds. It would take them a while, but they’d fully recover and I could have another go at running home. In more successful news, my warriors spotted some more ruins up north. Hopefully I’ll be able to get these without having my celebrations cut short by some extremely angry, extremely hairy men.

Turn 28. Thankfully, my warriors had an uneventful journey to those ancient ruins. Inside they found some cultural artefacts, and the resulting culture boost gave me enough to pick another policy. I decided to plump for another policy in the Tradition branch, Aristocracy. Aristocracy lets me build Wonders 20% faster, which is a significant speed increase. And as wonders are the largest buildings in game, giving stat bonuses to the entire empire, it’s also a very useful speed increase. Showing a surprising amount of foresight, this wasn’t immediatly useful, but it won’t be too long before I want to build something massive. Preferably something massive with my face on it. As my scouts were busy piecing themselves back together and my only city was recruiting some workers, my warriors had my full focus for a few turns. Surely I couldn’t lose them?

Turn 32. My warriors saw a barbarian encampment, predictably occupied by a group of barbarians. I was going to walk past as I usually do and carry on exploring, but then I stopped and thought about it. If I really want to be the very best, like no one ever was, then to beat warriors is my real test, to train them is my cause. So I decided, that I shall fight them like men. So I attacked, and the fighting was vicious. We were better armed but they had the advantage of their fortifications, simple as they may be, they proved vital in protecting themselves. The first skirmish was a total stalemate, with both our forces losing half their troops. But still, I threw caution to the wind and attacked again. The result was a sound bollocking, from a group of men who find shaving requires more intelligence than they possess. If I were a nice leader I would give their orphaned children a day off school. But as I’m a bit of a bastard, I told them that their parents were a disgrace to their country and that they deserved both death, and whatever punishment the gods bestowed upon them in the afterlife for losing so pathetically (Do Aztecs have an afterlife? I don’t even know.)

Turn 35. After a short wait, my scouts are scout fit and ready to go. I had them peak round the mountain, and to my delight, all I saw was fields and elephants. Sweet, ubiquitous elephants. Now all they had to do was wonder through the open fields, gaily skipping towards home, dreaming of lustful nights with their sweethearts, and not thinking about what the future holds. Just hoping, praying, that their erratic leader wouldn’t march them right through barbarian territory to make new maps.





A Civilized Solution

23 05 2011

The main thing that’s stopped me from writing here is a crippling lack of ideas. So when trying to think of something to write, I did what all socially-inept nerds do; I played Civ (that’s short for Sid Meier’s Civilization, for those of you who have girlfriends) and tried to ignore all my problems. Civ V in particular.  Civ V is the latest version, and fairly unpopular by the series’ extremely high standards. But it’s the only one I’ve ever really enjoyed, mostly because its so much simpler than the other games. It manages to make conquering the world feel like a joy,  rather than a chore. So while I was revisiting my old save games an idea struck me, and I looked around in panic due to the sensation being so unfamiliar. After confirming that it wasn’t my cat jumping on me, I realised that I’d thought of something, and that something was not a bad pun.

“I could write a Civ diary!” I yelled, before reprimanding myself for proposing something that involves both commitment and effort. While it is hardly an original idea, it seems a good place to start if I intend to write on a weekly basis. Writing about something I enjoy doing, and being able to do it every week without feeling bad for not thinking of anything new? Deal. So I sat at my computer, put on my gaming uniform (pants) and undertook what is in all actuality quite a meagre task, but try telling that to my misplaced sense of pride.

To try and imbue this diary with a sense of the unexpected, I started a game with a random leader and a random map type. Playing on a replica of Earth is all well and good, but as soon as you work out that you’re on the south-coast of Africa the game loses its exploratory charm. The map would be huge though, no matter the type of terrain, as if you have an option for playing on a really big map then you’d be stupid not to do so. The difficulty was set on normal, to compensate for my limited skill and intelligence,  then I clicked “Start Game”, in an expectedly anticlimactic fashion.

The loading screen told me that I was to take the place of Montezuma, the mentalist who ruled over the Aztecs in the 12th century. This is a shame, as while I approve of playing a crazed despot, Aztec city names are really hard to spell. As usual with Civ I started with a band of warriors and a group of settlers.  I founded my first city – Tenochtitlan, which has the memorable benefits of sounding like Shitland, at the mouth of a river leading to sea. My warriors were quickly sent out exploring, which they did with admirable positivity for something so far out of their job description. I set about training some scouts and then started researching pottery, as pots tend to come in handy during the sacrificial slaughter of my enemies. No need to stain the carpet.

The only thing of interest to happen for a few turns was my warrior-come-explorers discovery of some ancient ruins, inside of which they found some advanced weaponry. Considering that I’m already in 3950BC it surprises me that an even ancienter society had better weapons than me, so I came to the conclusion that  I just had piss-poor fighters. But no matter how much better at fighting they now were, their job was still to wander round the coast, marking herds of elephants down on the maps they drew. The abundance of elephants was the only remarkable thing in my new surroundings, which can only bode well for my ritual slaughterfests. If the harvests are good when I cut the throats of humans, imagine how good they’ll be when I murder elephants! I can only imagine that this is what through Thomas Edison’s head before he topped Topsy. I then found some more ruins, but these only had survivors in, who quickly settled in my capital and set about working the land. This may seem a good thing, but give a man a slave and he can appease the Gods for a week, give him a sword and he can please them forever.

Turn 7: More fucking elephants.

Turn 8: I met Askia, leader of the Songhai people! He seemed friendly, although his appearance in front of a burning city troubled me. Considering that as of now I have met no other empires, it is safe to assume that this man is razing his own villages to the ground. Nervous at the idea of another leader who rivals my intense dislike of his own people, I quickly said goodbye, and planned to kill him later. In less violent news, this turn also saw the completion of my scouts, the creation of whom now let me discover elephants at twice the frequency. My minions would now set about building a monument, which I intend to be a giant statue of myself. Then when I slaughter them at it’s base, it would prove both their love for me and my love for the gods.

Turn 15: I found the capital of the Songhai empire, Gao. Askia seems to be building his economy on cows, rather than my elephant based one. Our opposing philosophies will likely see us go to battle at some point, to prove who has the greatest thinkers. Or perhaps our irrational and warlike personalities will. One of the two. I also completed my discovery of pottery, which enables me to invite guests over to the palace without having to use the good drinking skulls. I set about learning the art of Animal Husbandry, which while currently useless to me, is a stepping stone on the way to capturing some elephants.

Turn 17-20: I met the City-State of Budapest, another place with an irrational but militaristic personality.  City-States are lone cities in Civ V, who never expand but can be valuable trade partners. They gave me a gift of gold, which does seem quite irrational. If they do that with everyone they meet they’ll be bankrupt before long. So while their irrationality means I’m not too comfortable with living so close to them, they’re small enough to bully and eventually they might let me have their spices. Aztecs love spices. After this the population of Shitland grew, which is nice, and just afterwards they finished my monument. Good timing, as an unused monument would be a sad sight. Next I met Bucharest, another irrational City-State. A cultured one, mind, although that seems something of a contradiction. They gave me twice as much gold as Budapest as I was the first great empire they met, which was very kind of them. If I had the option I’d have told them a joke about them sucking up to me but, alas, Civ doesn’t yet have that sort of advanced diplomacy.

Turn 22: While my warriors are off exploring the north, I sent my scouts down the coast to see if anything interesting was there. Until now all I found was some elephants and a mountain, which looked rather pretty, in a functional sort of way. But then, excitement struck! In a single turn they spotted not only some ruins, but a barbarian camp! Barbarians aren’t too strong, but my scouts would be no match for them. Would they be able to reach the ruins? Would they be destroyed by the barbarian hoard?! Find out next time, in another exciting episode of Duncan’s Civ Diary!





A Fresh Start

18 05 2011

Since I started this blog, I have posted four things. An introduction, a bunch of screenshots captioned with bad jokes and a list, split into two parts to make it seem like I’m writing more. This is pathetic, and may well go down as one of the least successful New Year’s Resolutions ever. The chances of me going from never writing anything, to writing a relatively lengthly piece every week were always slim, but even in my most cynical moments I didn’t think I would fail this badly.

So as you have probably guessed by the title, I’m trying again. I doubt that it’s possible to do any worse. Posts will go up on Mondays, and they will be of varying quality. Now I shall spend the next four days desperately trying to think of something to write about. Perhaps I could write about how I don’t like writing.





So Many Games Pt 2

12 01 2011

As explained in the previous post, I want more games than I can count and will forget things if I don’t write them down somewhere. I’m aware of how stupid that is, but I’m also aware of how empty this blog is. Here are some games that are coming out in the coming year, but not all of the games that are coming out in 2011. Just the ones I want to play.

  • Deus Ex human Revolution
  • Portal 2
  • Dragon Age 2
  • Crysis 2
  • Gears of War 3
  • Bulletstorm
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Fight Night Champion
  • Little Big Planet 2
  • Killzone 3
  • Test Drive Unlimited 2
  • Infamous 2
  • Motorstorm Apocalypse
  • The Last Guardian
  • Ico & Shadow of The ColossusCollection
  • Shogun 2 : Total War
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • From Dust
  • Mass Effect 3

I’m ignoring rumours and things that may not be coming out this year, as this list is already scarily big. There are also plenty of indie games on the PC which I can’t remember right now, but will get excited about when they eventually come out.





So Many Games Pt 1

12 01 2011

There’s a  crazy amount of games coming out that I want to get, and there’s plenty already out that I haven’t yet played. I need to write a list somewhere so I don’t forget anything, and as I’m all out of ideas for things to write (yes, I only had one idea), I may as well put it here. I’ll start with games that are available now:

  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Motorstorm: Pacific rift
  • Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
  • Heavy Rain
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
  • 3D Dot Game Heroes
  • Gran Turismo 5
  • Fifa 11
  • Modnation Racers
  • God of War Collection
  • God of War 3
  • Resistance 2
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
  • Skate 3
  • Vanquish
  • Metal Gear Solid 4
  • Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
  • MineCraft
  • StarCraft 2
  • The Sims 3
  • Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 2 – Chaos Rising
  • F1 2010
  • Lego Star Wars

That’s a far bigger list than I am comfortable with, although it is nice to see just how many PS3 exclusives I want. I’ll put up the future games that I want soon, and eventually I may talk about why I want these games.