Steam Sales Review #80: Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 Uprising

Red Alert 3 wasn’t the smash hit that EA expected it to be.  The co-op campaigns ended up being too easy, the multiplayer was horribly imbalanced, and absolutely no expectations were met with this game.

So when the decision to make Uprising came around it was done with a lot of input from players.  It should be noted that this game goes on sale quite often.  It is available for 50% during sales as a static number at $10 and is available for around $5 during special sales.  However if you intend to buy this game and any other Command and Conquer game you might as well purchase the whole 17-game franchise directly from Electronic Arts via Origin.  When Origin has a sale the whole franchise goes down to $7 from the original $20 price tag.

So the big question, is it any good.

It should be noted the game isn’t perfect and polished.  There is no co-op play in this game, there is little to no multiplayer and you’re looking at a 16-mission single player campaign with 30 challenges you can do.

On top of that the game has some crashing problems when you alt+tab.

Much like Red Alert 3 the game can also not surpass 30 frames per second.

So if you can get past all those things, the game isn’t too bad.  The game adds a couple of units to each faction to play around with.  They are all very overpowered but because there is no multiplayer their overpoweredness doesn’t get seen.

Specifically Allies have seen some severe buffs including the addition of the Harbringer Gunship which is an anti-tank and anti-infantry weapon.  Coupled with the best jet fights in the game it is an unbeatable combo… which once again doesn’t matter because of lack of multiplayer.

The game is the campaign and the challenges.  You get one four-mission campaign and three three-mission campaigns.  On top of this you get fifty challenges.  This will rack up about 30 hours of gameplay on hardest difficulty.

The first campaign is the Soviets uprising against an evil corporation and maintaining control of their nation.  The Allies have conquered the world and are doing nothing to stop this new corporation.

The second campaign covers the allies trying to clean up the remnants of resistance in Japan so they can finally install a stable pro-Ally government.  They are helped by Emperor Tatsu who is working with the allies to return Japan to where it was pre-war.

The Japanese campaign covers the Soviets invading Japan, the Allied forces are ignoring it however and allowing the Soviets to take over.  Emperor Tatsu’s goal is to put the Soviet’s in their place.

Finally there is the story of Yuriko who is breaking out of a Japanese science facility and trying to get vengeance for what they did to her.

All of the stories fit in the same timeline… but just like other Red Alert games none of the campaigns are inter-related.  It ends up being one of the weak Red Alert story telling elements.  Games like Starcraft have succeeded by trying to tell a single story from different perspectives that interact with each other and build on each other.

The challenges have an “On Par” time limit that are the absolute lowest possible thing you can get.  These are achievable by spending a bonus currency that you get by doing the missions.  They are all quite hard.  As you move through the missions you unlock new units.  Each mission gives the computer player a large number of the unit you are trying to unlock.

It also introduces you to their ensemble cast of actors.  Much like every other Command and Conquer game they’ve brought on some people of relative value.  They include Bruce Locke (Robocop 3 as the robot ninja), Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (She’s All That), Malcolm MacDowell (honestly just name a movie and he’s in it), and Ric Flair (The Nature Boy from WWF/WCW).

Also I learned that Ric Flair actually has a lisp and has had a lisp all of his life.  I looked back at a lot of his old interviews and he just always lisped.

Is it fun, that’s the question.  I think on easiest difficulty it’s very enjoyable.

However, the challenge on Hard difficulty becomes very unfun very fast for some of the campaign missions…. and by that I mean the allied one.  Every single mission has a twist… and sometimes the twists are impossible if you don’t know about them.

It’s worth it on sale because you do get great value…. but it’s a really hard sell for hardcore RTS players.  Hardcore RTS players that live for the multiplayer are going to do better with Starcraft 2, Company of Heroes 2, or Wargame: AirLand Battle.  This game is entirely about a campaign.

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Steam Sales Review #79: Sonic CD

In 2012 an Xbox Live Arcade PC Port of the old classic Sonic games were all made available to the general public.  These were re-makes with minor bits of touch up.  The original PC Port was in 1996, this one has been adjusted to add in leaderboards and gamepad support.

But are the touch ups enough to make these games worth while.  I sat down with Sonic CD… and in two hours I had finished it.  Keep in mind that’s about right for what you’re paying.  This Sonic game costs $5.  If you buy all its only $30.  If you decide to ever buy Sonic Generations (which I would recommend it’s an excellent game) you can buy the entire Sonic bundle and all Sonic Generations DLC far cheaper than you could just Sonic Generations alone.  So it immediately becomes a worthwhile purchase in light of bundling options.

But is the game very good.  That’s an eerie problem for the Sonic franchise isn’t it?  In fact, very few of the Sonic games are very good.  They’re all very short, they’re all sort of the same thing, and they all suffer from requiring very little skill.  The leader boards allow you to challenge for a “top spot” but realistically people will stop using leader boards after a while.

This was the launch title for the Sega CD and was rather mediocre.

When you play the game for the first time you get to see this amazing cartoon cinematic playthrough of Sonic in this amazing graphical form running around.  But then it brings you into the actual game which isn’t that brilliant.

None of the levels are also particularly good.  They’re all very easy to play very short and really lack a lot of the complexity you find in other Sonic games.

Overwhelmingly this game is only worth a purchase as part of the Sonic Steam package.  Otherwise avoid at all costs.

Steam Sales Review #78: Commander Conquest of the Americas

If you were looking to get a discount trading game, look elsewhere.  This game is simply of very low quality.

Let’s go for the beginning.  It’s a trading game.

What resources can you trade?

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It’s never made clear what any of these things are.  Maybe I’d want to try and make a profit outside of the generic “transfer to home city.”  But no, they are just ledgers with random unmarked information.  Was accounting really so bad back then?  In the middle there are some icons that tell you what the product is.  But it’s insanely hard to figure out where to sell these to and how they’re useful or useless.

When you go to your home city you get this

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Big blank Ocean with Bremen on the side.  Despite having modeled a giant chunk of the world they couldn’t put any effort into giving some indication of where Bremen is… it just simply ceases to exist.

The trade mechanics are very basic.  You buy resources from ports and sell them at your “Home Port” which is off map.  Then you come back with all profits, expand and do the same over and over and over and over and over.

map of Newfondland

Props to them for modeling a very specific and very good shape of my home province of Newfoundland.  But as  a resident I’m aware that the Long Range mountains pierce through half of this province… so it’s not modeled all that wel.  As well the major forestry for the province is located in the center and the west…. but you wouldn’t get an idea that Corner Brook (home of the Humber Valley) has any trees at all from this.

When you make your port you will have one local delicacy that you can grab a hold of.  You then ship it back to port.  If you’re smart you use auto-trading.

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However if you’re smart you just won’t play the game.  Unfortunately there are far better trading sims out there for you to buy.  Off the top of my head Rise of Venice, Port Royale 3, and East India Company are all overwhelmingly better games than this.

It was a nice attempt, but unfortunately everything is just muddled in non-intuitive controls.

Steam Sales Review #77: Ghost Master

When this game was released in 2001 it saw very little attention despite strong reviews.  The studio went bankrupt and the game license was acquired by Strategy First in a general properties auction.  To this day Strategy First has done nothing with the license other than distribute the original game.

The game failed largely on the fact that it had fierce competition in the realm of strategy horror games.

A lot of these I cannot even remember the name of.  One I can remember would allow you to load ghoulish traps in hopes that the people you are trying to scare would run into them.

Of course the ultimate downside to all of this is that eventually developers realized people would rather be scared than do the scaring.

So how has this game held up over the years?

Pretty well it seems.

The big indie movement has really done a good job of making games like this appear “legitimate.”  5 years ago had this game been proposed people would have looked at it and said… what is this shit?

The game is pretty simple.  You get to choose a bunch of “scarers” who each have their own power set and you have to use them to scare people out of a particular building.

You get a resource that is obtained through scaring people which drains based on how many ghosts you have deployed at once and what powers they are using.

Each level is about 10-15 minutes in length for a total of roughly… two hours.

And that’s the kicker for this game.  It has tones of innovative concepts and has tones of value and tones of different ways to play.  But the main campaign of the game (the only part of the game) is only two hours long.

This is very similar to Portal.  Portal is $9.99.

Ghost Master however is appropriately priced at $4.99 which is a steal.  When it goes on sale…. it’s a must have.  This is especially true for people who enjoy challenging puzzles and fast reaction real time strategies.

Steam Sales Review #76: Papers, Please

Have you ever wanted to be a border security agent?

No?

That’s okay, no one did.  So from 3909 studios is the game no one ever asked for, Papers, Please.

The premise is quite simple, you are a border security agent who has a family and has to go to work every day and work the border.  The only difference is that this border is very tight similar to 1984.  Similar to how in 1984 the Ministry of Happiness presumably had nothing to do with happiness.

So the game is pretty simple, a person comes up to your booth, hands you their documents and you have to make sure the papers are good.  You are given a criteria, on top you have to make sure all of their details match up and whether everything is up to date.

If you make a mistake it is absolutely possible you could let a terrorist in who will bomb things.

The game is really interesting in that you have to keep your family alive as long as possible.  If you cannot pay the bills you lose the game.  So it’s absolutely possible that your family starves to death, dies from a lack of healthcare, or freeze to death.

The odd thing is despite none of this sounding very good at all, the game is surprisingly addictive.  You’re just playing this game and then BOOM you’ve clocked in 20 hours of it.

The campaign is even highly re-playable.  Every single time you play you get different people with different criteria.

As well the game has a really odd mechanic that just makes sense.

I call it, the alternate universe paradigm.

Basically you can play through the game and then start and any day you want.  Instead of wiping out your previous progress.  I honestly wish every single developer out there would pick this up and use it.

Papers, Please is full of hipster bullshit…. but dear god is this game fun and addictive to play.

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.

Steam Sales Review #74: Prince of Persia

Ten years ago Ubisoft bought the rights to the Prince of Persia franchise.  They hired on the original developer of the game and got to work on a master re-imaging of the series.  The result was overwhelming praise from everyone.  Everyone who played the game loved it and bragged about how great it was.

Despite this, the market reported something really different.  Despite being one of the greatest games ever made, it only saw 3.5M sales.  To compare Halo: Combat Evolved saw 6.5M sales.

When Halo 2 came out their sales doubled.  When Prince of Persia: Warrior Within saw almost half as many sales as the original game.

The Prince of Persia “Sands” franchise saw roughly 1,000,000 devoted fans which was enough to keep pushing out titles, but not enough to improve the series.

Eventually they decided that they would “refresh” the series again and in 2007 we saw a re-imagining with a brand new art style.

I have to say this new art style is absolutely breathtaking.

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So why did this game overwhelmingly do so poorly?

This review is a list of gaming defects that stop the game from being the greatest puzzler that ever lived.

#1 Difficulty

One of the major design elements of this game that has made massive waves in the industry is the idea that death was a mechanic designed to get children to throw quarters at an arcade machine.

So this game removed the sand dagger that would give you one chance to re-do what you just screwed up and gave you Elika, a Princess who had magical powers that would save you every single time you died.

This mechanic is excellent.  Ever played I Wanna be the Guy or I Wanna Be the Boshy?  These are really cheap looking indie titles that are hyper difficult but always set you to automatically re-appear every single time you die.

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By having no death it means you can scale up that difficulty to ridiculous ways.

But Prince of Persia (whose franchise is known for hard games) didn’t scale up the difficulty one bit.  The whole game you were being slow pitched and when you get to the difficult part of the game… it is very very short.

This was a huge lost opportunity here.

#2: Non-Linear Puzzle Game

Ask yourself this question, how many non-linear puzzle games are there out there.

If you’re left scratching your head the answer is, none.  There are none… at least not successful ones.

The reason why puzzle games are linear is because they are supposed to scale up in difficulty over time allowing you to sequentially make things more complicated and make the solutions that much harder to get to.

But when you have a game that isn’t linear it means you have to slow ball pitch all the content to the player.  It means there is no reasonable point for you to adjust that difficulty rating until you get to the end of the game.

There is a hipster gamer boogie man that cries how bad linear games are.  In truth, many game formats just fit as being linear.

What can be non-linear is puzzle design and puzzle solutions.  It is possible to have possibles that have multiple solutions.

HOWEVER, puzzles with multiple solutions tend to be easier and thus less fun for a puzzler.

#3: Lacking Puzzles

A puzzle game should have puzzles.

At first looks it would appear this is a jumping puzzle game.  Almost all puzzle platformers involve getting in somewhere or getting out of somewhere.  This game at its core should be a puzzle platformer in which you have to get somewhere.  But it’s not.  When you hit your magic button a path is revealed to you telling you exactly what path you have to use to get somewhere.

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The pathing indicator was REALLY cool and really well implemented… but it took away from the solving bit.  It meant that the actual puzzles which involved moving parts became the only puzzles.

And this game had three puzzles total.  It just needed to have more puzzles and more stuff for people o try and solve.

Just having three puzzles wouldn’t have been so bad… if it didn’t only take me 2 minutes to solve each one.

#4: Dat Story

The most notorious thing about this game on PC is the story.  If you play on console you get all this lovely DLC that makes the story better and expands it.

But if you played the game on PC, you are likely to just hate the story.

The game runs about 10 hours long.  The story goes like this, 30 minutes in you find a man with his donkey named Farah (a throwback because Farah was the name of the woman from the original reboot).  The man runs into the princess, saves her, and is enthralled in an adventure to stop an evil god.

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9 hours take place in which nothing is really happening except for random shots of what is happening and a few back story elements to some villains.

And then you get to the end of the game in which the awful ending explains away everything in seconds.

It was just really really bad.  On top of that… you are very likely going to be upset about the ending which was designed entirely to make DLC viable…. and there’s no DLC.

#5: No DLC

One of my biggest complaints about this game is… it’s actually a great game.

Yeah you didn’t see that one coming, did ya Internet

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No it’s a really spectacular game that has no bugs, is really smooth, and the parkor and art style is amazing.

But with that being said the fact that there is no DLC on PC is very bad.  The single DLC pack on console was really unpopular because of how difficult it was.

But had that DLC pack been tagged on to the game or given for free, the main game would have been far more worth playing.

But without the DLC available on PC, it’s not worth the time.  If the entire game can be solved in less time than it takes to solve an average puzzle in another game… there’s a serious problem.

It’s a real shame that so many great game mechanics are gone to waste and that there couldn’t be another 30-40 hours worth of DLC available.

But that just ends up being the case.