Review: Detective Grimoire

Adventure titles have certainly come along way.  Seen as a totally dead genre in the early 2000s they became completely rejuvinated largely in part because of Telltale Games.  But since then we’ve seen every single game’s maker out there crank out an adventure title.

Adventure titles have this odd problem where they need to craft an open world, non-linear, partially scripted, high quality experience.  In most games fully voiced content and custom animations would be seen as a bit of a luxury… but in this genre it’s a requirement to get in.

Detective Grimoire is an adaptation of a flash game of the same name.  It’s rather appropriate that adventure titles would show up in flash games because flash games are also all about high quality custom artwork.

Detective Grimoire is a murder detective… and there’s a murder in a swamp.  You need to interview all of the suspects, collect all the clues and put two and two together.  The game only has one mystery and promises (and gives) four total hours of gameplay.  Those four hours are mostly dialogue about clues and interviewing suspects.  There are 9 suspects total… including the deceased.

You can click on anything and Detective Grimoire will give you a comment.

Items are barely usable and there’s no real wonky combinations to work on.  The game only requires you to talk to suspects and remember enough details about them to continue on.

There in lies the problem with the games.  Adventure titles tend to lend to mass amounts of complexity that drive the player nuts.  They’re usually insanely difficult to figure out and you may have to take some time to think about it.  But with this kind of adventure title you simply have to pay attention to the dialogue.

The game offers enough complexity for a child, but not really for an adult.  It’s cheap which is good but I don’t know if you’d enjoy your four hours of play here.

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Steam Sales Review #75: Robin Hood The Legend of Sherwood Park

The story of Robin Hood is a popular one…. but definitely an odd one at its routes.  Robin Hood in the original lore only told of two bandits, Little John and Will Scarlett.  Every single hundred years someone has retold the story of Robin Hood in a new way to the point in which the version we know today is presumed to be the official story.

This game is based off of the popularized story in which Robin Hood returns from the Crusades and has his land stripped from him.

The game is an real time strategy game which is a bit closer to Splinter Cell in some ways than to an RTS game.

You have to sneak around and knock out guards instead of engaging them.  You are rewarded for “saving” people instead of killing them.  The major goal of the campaign is to save as many people as possible, get as much gold as possible, while still doing the goals of the mission.

Fair warning the game was made in 2002 so nothing in this is beautiful at all.

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There’s a lot of clumsy awkward game controls that do not lend themselves to what they’re asking you to do.  The entire thing is point and click in which you have to click on the bottom right pane’s commands and then click on the guard to use them on.

If this were to be modern re-made the first thing that they’d probably consider is adding in some sort of fast command structure that is easy to learn… you know similar to DOTA or LoL.

The game does offer a lot of innovative elements that simply did not take off.  The idea that you gain more by killing fewer is a major win for games that glorify killing over saving lives.

Unfortunately the gameplay shortfalls of the game are very massive and hard to over come.

Unfortunately there is no price tag short of free that would make this game worth buying.  Unfortunately the game suffers many FPS issues and resolution problems that just stop it from being a great game.

It’s unfortunate but I think there  might have been a real reason this game wasn’t mega popular back in the day.

Review: Long Live the Queen

I’m always skeptical of Greenlight games.  They’ve been out for a little while and for some reason or the other they’re not on Steam already.

Worst yet are the tones of games with Japanese anime style graphics that are just way too common.

There is no world in which I would ever buy this game based on the cover.  So I went to the Steam forums and started looking at some topics.  There was one thing in common with them.  The developer of the game responded to every single question that was asked.  When people asked for recommendations for games other than this the developer was even honest listing off many great games.

It was really impressive to see a developer that cared enough about their game to actually respond to their potential customers.

Anyway, I had to give this game a try.  And it was well worth it.

The game places you in the role of a 14-year old Crown Princess who is in control of the Kingdom after her mother (The Crown-Queen) dies.  The King still lives but doesn’t rule because well… he doesn’t have the crown… you do.

But you’re also 14 so you need to learn what you’re doing.  You take two classes a day.  There are four categories of classes 4 sub categories and 3 different classes per sub category…. so you’re looking at 64 possibly classes you can learn.

To make this decision easier your “mood” effects how well you study things.  So if you are depressed you gain a +3 to medicine.  There are seven days in a week so you will gain +21 to that field of study.

The story runs and as it runs they will draw on your experiences through learning.  Let’s say you somehow encounter Battlefield Medicine.  If you have high enough it will read “SUCCESS.”  However if it is low it will read “FAILED” and it won’t activate the bonus to that story.

You will make decisions and you’ll make the right (which are most profitable) only if you guess right through having the right skill set.

The game is about basically surviving as a Princess.  There are dozens and dozens of ways to die and get dethroned.  There are several successful endings.

They also allow you to create this log to help you re-do the whole thing.

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It’s a really handy feature for continuing to play.

Overwhelmingly it is a solid game.  The first playthrough will be about an hour. Once you figure out the game you might be able to squeeze 10 hours out of it total.  Well worth your time and probably one of the most innovative games to come out in a while.

Steam Sales Review #70: Viking: Battle of Asgard

Published by SEGA and ported to PC by Creative Assembly PC Port we have Viking: Battle of Asgard.

Now unlike a lot of games this isn’t a game er-done for PC… it is an almost piece for piece console game ported to PC.  It doesn’t get any more beautiful than console and if you have a console, you’re better off playing it on console.

Getting this game started up was a bit of a pain.  Upon starting it up it told me to run the Config.  I opened the Config did the configuration and closed it off.  I then started the game and got the same message.  How annoying!

I realized after a while that the problem was the config window.  For whatever reasons the buttons like to hide underneath the windows menu that read “Save and Exit” and “Save and Start Game.”

It is a small thing… but it goes to show how poorly this game was ported to PC.

This game on consoles is pretty pricey, $40.  But on PC it’s only $15 and can go as low as $2.50.  It is a pretty discount game for PC but a very expensive game for console.

So as the story goes Freya really hates Hel.

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But for whatever reason the gods always have to work with proxies.  So you are chosen to be the champion of Freya.  And you have to go off and destroy Hel.  And that’s the whole story.

For whatever reason the developers decided to voice every single person in the game except for the protagonist.  Unlike in other silent protagonist games where you have manual chat options this one just has you stand and get dictated to like it was your job to save the world or something.

As well the chat itself is kind of odd.  The voices will stream normally and “Pressing A” doesn’t actually fast forward it at all.

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Instead by Pressing A it changes the text you can read along with the voice… which doesn’t automatically match up with the voice.  I know it’s nit picking… but that just seems like something really basic that all game developers should have a grasp on.

The main focus of the game is running around the country side saving vikings who are tied up or placed in wooden cage and then invading a main fort with your main army of vikings and sometimes dragons.

You would think this is epic.

It’s not.

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In reality there are so many frigging vikings that you can barely see yourself in these battles.

I don’t know how many times I’m just spamming the X key because I just want to get through the hoards to move on and do the objectives of the battle.  It really was not all that well thought our and unfortunately lacks a tonne of polish.

Talking about button spamming they have quick time events.  I just don’t get why devs do them though.  In the good ole days button mashing was a way to integrate you into the action by having to hit combinations of buttons to do a task.  Literally every single task in this game requires you to mash a single button.

Want to land an insanely awesome looking killing blow, Spam A relentlessly.

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Want to summon a dragon?  Spam B relentlessly!

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There’s a lot of other minor things that bother me too.  Like he’s this big badass Viking superhero who cannot die and is resurrected from by a godess every time he dies…. and yet he has a freightened animation whenever he gets near an edge.

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He can full on jump off this super tiny fall distance… but if he walks to it he’ll just do this weird cowardly animation.

There’s so much about this game that is just terribly awkward.    Most awkward is you only get about 10 hours of gameplay…. which is awful.

Unfortunately the entire game falls on the gameplay…. which isn’t anything mind blowing by any means.  It’s an alright game and the engine and franchise have potential…. but as of right now it’s just an unfinished product severely lacking in customization and replay value.

Is Wizardry 8 For You?

Every now and then you ask yourself, whatever happened to… that game.  Yeah that game.  They made a bunch of them and then it never returned… and then it comes back.  This happened with Fallout when Bethesda purchased the property and returned it as a First Person Shooter.  It is also happening to a lot of these gems as of late.

Wizardry 8 is the latest in revival efforts from franchises from the 90s that were moderately successful in the 90s… but never anything but moderately successful.

The actual makers of Wizardry 8 went bankrupt in 2003.  Oddly enough the developers of the games continued to work on the game providing updates and fixes despite not getting paid to do it.  It was a work of passion.  Unfortunately no company ever wanted to pick up these titles and work with them because the profits from them were simply not very high.

In fact they were so low that every copy of Wizardry 8 came with a product placement when you closed it:

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Thankfully this ancient product placement is still in the game in its original format although I’m almost certain Falcon Northwest isn’t paying to have it in there this time.

So is Wizardry 6, 7 and 8 for you.

The short answer is no.

The long answer is… maybe.

Wizardry is a really odd series these days… but in the early 90s it was the bread and butter of the RPG industry.

It was an early attempt to try and get the Dungeons and Dragons playing crowd to play PC games.  And for the most part it worked.  Of course the demographic that played Dungeons and Dragons was REALLY tiny and so the popularity of these kinds of games also in turn was really tiny.

They created stats systems that became so insanely complicated that it would take 30-40 playthroughs before you would understand the classes and the stats.

They all had something really odd about them.

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At the most basic level you ahve your classic DnD type elements of Strength, Intelligence, Vitality, Dexterity and Speed…. and a few others to add in.  But then there are other things.

Each class type can wield every single weapon.  But does it make sense for a warrior to wear a gun?  Well no and you’ll be penalized hard for it… but you can still do it…

It’s a kind of false choice that you were often given in this type of game in which you were given all these options but the people who made these games secretly wanted you to play in a very specific manner.

There are these nine general purpose points you can invest into around 20 different categories.  Some of them are obvious.  But other ones like Communication are just not all that clear at all.  What does it mean that they “talk more often.”

As it turns out communication skill does something that isn’t identified differently for every single class.  I got this from the 10-year old FAQ for this game.  The FAQ is a character and classes FAQ and it will take you about an hour to learn all of the classes this way… that is if you can remember that leveling Psionic will increase the potency of your treasure finding skills.

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Combat can be a bit wonky in a generation that is all about doing stuff yourself.  In this it is either Turn Based or Live (you get to choose this).  You click on each class and choose to either attack (by right clicking on the enemy) or you can select one of the eight icons at the bottom of the screen to get them to do other things (like spell casting and item using).  As well you can change the formation of your group so weakened units fall to the back and you can make your whole group move around… all using up turns.

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The story itself begins when you select or create six party members.  Some alien king sends you on a space ship that lands on a planet and you are the survivors.  Very small amounts of story reveal themselves but nothing like a typical story.

I think this game illustrates exactly what Bethesda was making sure they didn’t do when they rejuvinated the Fallout franchise.  I just hope that if they decide to bring back this one…. they cut out all the nonsense that makes it not so worthwhile to play.

Steam Sales Review #63: Trine 2

Well it’s a time for another indie hunk of junk.  I’m starting to get sick of the great Steam sales being crappy indie games that everyone pretends are AAA titles.

But wait, you say, it’s Trine 2.

Upon loading up the game I’m in awe.

Serious awe.

LOOK!

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It’s actually an indie title with pretty graphics.

This is something I’ve wondered for quite some time.

And it’s a huge wonder.

Why is it that all these indie developers are developing gaming styles and mechanics people want… but then they make them look like this:

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Yeah I get when you’re completely broke and it’s your first game and all.  But that’s not a real excuse when your game sells 2,000,000 copies at $20 a pop and you’re now sitting on a $40,000,000 budget for your next release… which ends up being the exact same crappy graphical style every time.

But Frozenbyte decidedly are doing things different, they’re taking all that money they made from the first Trine and investing it into actually improving the quality of their game.

I mean look at this in awe.

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Here’s a 2D puzzler with AAA graphics.

But enough on that, on to the actual game!

The game has 13 levels with each being roughly about 20 minutes long.

The game has three heroes in it.

First is your wizard.

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The wizard will build these blocks with cogs in them.  With further talents he can also make more of them and can also build a line shaped one.  This makes most puzzle solving very easy.

He also has the ability to levitate objects however he has no offensive abilities and is thus useless in battle.

Next up is our warrior type.

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The only thing the warrior can actually do is attack with a sword, block with a shield and break stuff with a hammer.  As far as puzzle solving goes you’ll never use him, but whenever packs of goblins show up, heave ho!

Finally we have our thief…. I’m sorry enterpreneur class.

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She can throw a whip up to tackle on to objects and swing around.  She can also fire arrows to break objects or hit enemies.

Once again, compared to the wizard her uses will be limited.

You switch between these heroes by pressing 1, 2 and 3.  You aim with your mouse and move around with WASD.  For modern platformers this will not be awkward and will be very common, for others it’ll take some getting used to.

The game is a co-op game that can be played 1-player.  A lot of times it is amazing how much easier it is to solve puzzles with a second person around.  A puzzle that might have you scratching your head is merely a matter of having a wizard elevate you on a box so you can get to a switch that was completely untouchable before.

Another element of the game that gets easier with a group is the gem gathering.

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Gems are often acquired through jumping games, cross-character interactions and interactive environments.  The one above was obtainable by using the wizard to move water flow and the warrior to splash water off of his shield on a giant plant.

However if you had a team you would simply conjure a box, get your buddy on it and float him in the air to grab the gems.

Gems of course are used for leveling up.

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The game features your standard talent tree prototype, but honestly if you even have half a brain you will assume the game is balanced around not having damage points in the warrior… and so you’ll just float all of your points into wizard conjuring.

It truthfully makes the talent tree kind of pointless.  Perhaps in its place there could have been automatic granting abilities over time since if you’re co-oping or whether you’re going alone… you’re only going to invest in one tree.

Since the game is balanced around only being able to conjure one object, the ability to conjure four with line and box shapes becomes insanely powerful for winning the game.

In fact… too powerful.

99% of the time that I was solving puzzles I was just crafting boxes and sticks to jump on.  Big puzzle coming?  No problem wizard will make some boxes and then we’ll rinse and repeat over and over again.

This is what it was like for about 80% of the game.  You could breeze through the game pretty easily on this basis.  For the other 20% (which 99% of people probably skip) there are complicated puzzles that actually do require all three heroes to do something.

Trine 2 Complete is hopefully the version you get.  With the DLC added in you are looking at about 12 hours of gameplay, compared to 6 hours of the normal version.

Trine 2 is definitely a hot shit game you should check out next Steam sale.

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Steam Sales Review #52: Far Cry

It’s story time!  Everyone loves stories.

Once upon a time there was a small two-man company called Crytek.  Crytek went to E3 with an engine that displayed the most realistic graphics ever seen.  What they showed was a lush realistic looking jungle.  In a time when polygon style graphics was so common Crytek showed there was another way.  Crytek wanted to sell the engine, what they got was something very different.

Ubisoft came forward and said they want them to build a game that features these lush jungles and open world setting.

And so Far Cry was born.  This game was released in 2004 for the PC.  The specs for this game at the time were so high that no console could run it.

So it was only released for PC and despite this it sold over 700,000 copies making it Ubisoft’s most profitable game at the time.

So since this game it’s important to note not to judge this game for innovations that simply did not exist at the time, like regenerating health points.

Far Cry was a game changer for it’s time.

But the real question is, is it worth buying today.

Certainly things have changed and Far Cry no longer looks as amazing as it did:

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But the sad thing is that it still looks better than a lot of the shooters out today.  This game in 2004 has slightly better graphics than Modern Warfare 3 and about the same graphics as Battlefield 3.

It’s amazing how nine years have passed and really not too much has changed eh?

What really wins this game over are the lush atmospheres including some great underwater bits

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And rich forests of course

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The game also has some weird things to it that try to get you into the mood of the game.  Here for example is a copy of RedNeck Today:

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Also don’t forget your copy of Play Merc:

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Little things like this add to the cool factor of the game.  But chances are 99% of people did not find either of these magazines.

This game comes in a year or two before the fad of cover based combat.  This is the Max Paynes, the Mass Effects, The Grand Theft Autos, and the Saints Rows.  All of those games were top performing games and seemingly the entire industry was shifting to some sort of cover based system.  Cover based systems are not always bad, but these run and gun games definitely hold far more fun factor.

So you have four weapons slots and you can pick up and drop weapons as you go.  Also ammunition is rather scarce leading to the survival aspect of the game.

For most of the game I used an assault rifle, it was accurate, long range and most importantly if I was in a panic I could just hold down the left click button and spin it around hoping to hit people.

The game’s hardest difficulty is still quite relevant as it took probably twice as long to finish the hardest difficulty as it might have taken the easiest one.

The story of Far Cry is by far one of the dumbest ones.  Oddly enough this story has persevered throughout all of the Far Cry games and continues to repeat the same thing over and over.  So a man and a woman are on a vacation and their boat gets close to an island in which an evil scientist is doing experiments.  They attempt to capture the tourists only to find that one of them is a little harder to catch.

One of the nice things about Far Cry is an obvious homage to Doom.

Doom:

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Far Cry:

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In fact a lot of the game looks like Doom and it is obvious at least at this point in Crytek’s life that they were huge fans of Doom.

A little disappointing is how little options you had for moving around however.

I found this little vent:

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As I walked towards it I realized it was purely aesthetic and that I could not enter the vent.  Walking through vents of course was synonymous with older games allowing for multiple ways to get around.

The interior of the game is just entirely linear.  There are some loops but you will go one linear path or another.  There’s nothing really clever about it.

The outside world however is giant and allows for multiple playstyles.  You can find positions to snipe, launch rockets, close quarters for shotguns and some venues for running and gunning to cover.

This is a really odd design choice as you are constantly bouncing between one of the most linear games to one of the most open world games.

The game was so obviously designed for the outside and the inside levels were an after thought.  This is even more obvious by the option to “Run Demo” on the title screen that allows you to continuous loop a screen saver of the beautiful jungles and waterfalls.

On the hardest difficulty this game took me 18 hours to beat, a better person might be able to beat it in 14-16.

This game for what it is, is actually really good and definitely worth picking up at $10.  On sale it is a steal.

Before ending this I should note exactly what this game is.

Every single publisher on the planet needs to have one title that shows the pinnacle of what they can do.  It is important that it is a beautiful game that they can show at a trade show.  Usually this game is a racing game.  But in this case Ubisoft (who really don’t do racing games) has gone for a first person shooter as their trade show piece.

Ubisoft since the release of Farcry has skyrocketed to being one of the most successful publishers in the world with successful franchises like Assassins Creed, Trackmania, Heroes of Might and Magic, Trials, Splint Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Rayman, Anno, and The Settlers.

Their success has been based on taking risks on games like this one.