Steam Sales Review #73: Warlock – Master of the Arcane

It’s happening people

itshappening

Yes it’s finally an official end to the Paradox Interactive boycott.

A little over a year ago (maybe even closer than a year and a half) I was buying every single game that came out and game after game Paradox was giving us unfinished filth that wasn’t worth anyone’s time.  Most of these games were eventually taken off of Steam for being so bad and most had their servers shut down with no opportunity ever for a refund.

So I decided to officially boycott, buying no games from them under any circumstances.  But after keeping in the no we’re at about a year and a half of solid quality releases with the filth being removed.  Their reputation is still in question and so I’ll be buying their games on sale.

So the first game being back on  is Warlock!

This opening loading screen was amazing.

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Righto ff the bat I’m yelling “WHY DOESN’T CIVILIZATION 5 HAVE THIS!?!?!”

Yes it’s another Civilization clone.  It doesn’t quite have the polish of Civilization and you’re still best off getting Civilization if you don’t already own it.

But I think Warlock does a lot of stuff that is great, different, and worth noting.

First and foremost is how they handle barbarians… or as they call them monsters.  Monsters are giant, they are massive, they are able to take over towns and rule them.  There are tones of “brown” towns (the color of monsters) because they are so powerful.

Even the computer AI has problems dealing with these guys.  They are an annoyance and the payoff for them is not very high.  Which makes them perfect, they are a counter balance in the game.

At one point I ran into an elite element who had range 3 (everything else in the game has range 2).  He was able to one shot a unit per t urn.  It didn’t even seem like it was possible to kill them.

They were very much a permanent part of the game and most definitely changed how you deployed your armies on the map.

The second part of the game would be the equivalent to Civilization’s city-states… the neutrals.

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The neutrals are seemingly all undead and are seemingly all at war with you.  I did eventually find some trolls and goblins conquered by the monsters, but most of the neutrals start off with a single defensive tower and are seemingly weak enough (on the non-towered flank) to get easily taken over by the monsters.

One of the “funny” things is that once you conquer a city you don’t just get a brand new city like in every other game of this genre.  No you get their people.  If you conquer an undead city you get undead residents in your empire.  You build undead buildings and you build undead armies.  So what evil buildings can I build?

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A bank!  What’s more evil than a bank!  Yes we will become an evil undead capitalist empire! mwahaha… but seriously…. it’s kinda cool that I can amass an army of humans, undead, goblins, trolls, and elves to take on whoever I want.

The game is worth the sale value but a lot of things keep it from being worthwhile full value.

One of the major issues with the game is the artificial intelligence is pretty terrible.  In every game I played it seemed impossible for there to be a peaceful outcome.

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It just seems like this binary option doesn’t work too well.  Realistically you shouldn’t have to declare war if you don’t give in to their demands.  There should be at least some option to ask for things nicely.

Instead every single computer is always asking you to go to war with them if you don’t give them a resource of which you have tones of.  Then you decimate all but one of their cities and they offer you a peace treaty which of course… you never accept.

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Unlike Civilization which is all about how you interact with other civilizations this game is really missing that diplomatic niche that everyone knows and loves in Civilization.

There’s something about the algorithm which is just a little off.

In a lot of ways it feels closer to Lords of Magic than to Civilization.

The only downside is that there is already a game like this out there that unfortunately for Warlock… does a better job at it.  That game is Fallen Enchantress.  Unfortunately the games also have a similar price point.

So it goes like this.  If you want a piece for piece copy of Civilization that is fantasy themed, Warlock is your game and you’ll save a few dollars.  It doesn’t have the polish of Civilization, but at this price point… who was really expecting it?

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Steam Sales Review #72: Making History: The Calm & the Storm

Happy Halloween people.  Nothing says Halloween like World War 2?

I think the one sub-genre of games I hate the most is the grand strategy game  Yet despite this and the severe lack of people who like these games, they keep making them.

The grand strategy game has become a grand niche and unfortunately as games have evolved, these ones have not.

So a basic break down.  You have so much real territory.  There are two or more sides vying for control of all or most of the territory.

In order to do this you have to build armies.  Armies require resources.

The majority of the game focuses around managing and developing resources.  Each grand strategy game has its own set of distinct resources.  As an example in Nobunga’s Ambition you had food, weapons, conscripts, horses, various weaponry, and gold.  If you ever were missing any of these resources the game imposed penalties.

This means the grand strategy games tended to be a little more realistic in that you couldn’t just continuously push with your armies without having to deal with some consequences, nor could you build too big of an army without eventually finding yourself so far in debt that you can’t support that army.

Everything is turn based so there’s no real time elements.  You make all of your economic and political decisions during a decision phase and execute those orders after you end your turn.

These games started off rather simple, but as the fans of them become more and more niche they became increasingly complex and eventually shied away newer players.  Over the years they’ve tried to make ones that are less and less complicated but it all still seems more and more complicated to newer players.

Europa Universalis is probably going to be the best selling game of this sub-genre of all time and honestly no one wants to even review it.  IGN had their Italian division review it but never looked at it themselves.

So now I have to review this game, Making History: The Calm & The Storm.

This is a World War 2 themed grand strategy game.  Unlike most games of this type you can play as almost 50 nations…. insane considering most you play as 4-5 nations tops.  Hell some even only let you play as one.

Your map is the entire world and it is the world as it was in 1932 to every exact margin.  Every single independent country established up to this point is completely playable… it doesn’t mean you want to though.  The chances of winning the game as say, South Africa, is nearly impossible.  A lot of the fun here is less about winning and more about seeing what you could do if you ruled such a ridiculously small country.

The time frame for the game is very spread, there are six scenarios all of which run between 2-5 hours long.  The longest one runs from 1932 to 1945.  The first scenario is the most interesting because it starts you at a period when everyone has low to medium productive powers and have small to medium sized armies.

Where you go from here is entirely up to you.  The only thing of course is seeing as they are scenarios certain things are scripted to happen.  Guaranteed you will see Germany try and expand its borders around Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia and you are guaranteed to eventually see Britain and America declare war on Germany.  The other side of the world doesn’t seem to work so hot though.  It takes a really long time for anyone to declare war on Japan because there’s absolutely no guarantee in this game that Germany, Japan, and Italy will form an alliance.

The fact that this part is devoid of history is excellent, it means every time you play you can actually play a completely different game… something lacking from most of this genre.  The game does try to ‘force’ certain factions together by giving ideology bonuses.  As an example Republican Spain was a republic like France and because of this I was able to ally with them and help them kick the Fascists out of Spain.

I think the beauty of this game is its simplicity.  The tutorial for the game is total 30 minutes long (which isn’t long for this kind of game).  All of the units are simple, there’s only a hand full of resources and if you can’t make enough, you can buy them from other AI players.

The game is not without its weaknesses.  The biggest one of course is the graphics.  In a genre that sees little evolution it seems weird that there are no combat animations in the game.  Instead you get a “POW” logo appear over a battle and you are told your power and their power in the battle.

As well the UI for the game is pretty awful.  There are tones of menus to go through  and not everything is easily accessible.  Even figuring out where locations on the map are is kind of ridiculous… when they list every single province in the entire world.  It’s a little bit odd when Germany creates the independent country is Danzig…. and you have no idea where that is.

A completely missing part of the game is alliance management.  You should be able to vote on your whole alliance going to war.  Instead you vote on adding alliance members who are already at war to go to war.  If you go to war without voting members just leave.

It would have also been nice to see a League of Nations.  In the least war should have a reason.  If Germany only wants the Sudtenland I think Czechoslovakia should be allowed to freely give up one territory to avoid war.

The thing about this game is that it goes on sale for a measly $2 and is currently available for $5.

To me this game has a great place in the industry, it’s simple enough that newer players will just “get” it.  It is also an inexpensive way for a person to figure out whether or not they actually enjoy the grand strategy genre.

Steam Sales Review #71: Dragon Age Origins

I really felt like I needed to play a great game, so I installed the one that everyone was talking about…. years ago.  Dragon Age Origins gets some really weird mixed reactions.

On the one side you have conservative media who was upset that the video game featured sex… and then went on to feature gay sex.  You had people who were excited about an RPG with so many options.

And when it released everyone thought either the game was really stupid, or really amazing.

So I decided I’d buy Dragon Age: Ultimate for an extra $5 (sale price was $15).  I can say with some sort of honesty that I’ve been burned in the past by not getting all of the DLC.  That extra $5 could easily become a $40 purchase.  Ironically if you don’t buy ultimate you don’t even have a chance to buy DLC…. it’s all bundled in Ultimate.

How messed up is that?

So the game starts off with one of nine possible stories in which the first hour of your game is different and the remainder of the game is roughly the same…. so that means you get a whopping nine hours of extra gameplay from different introductions.  I made nine saves and got through every single starting area.  I was most impressed by the Male Dwarf Warrior… so that’s what I played as.

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One of the problems with the game is actually the story telling at these introductions (and not so much beyond that).  A good story will use coincidences to get the hero in trouble, but not use coincidences to get him out of trouble.  This is just the case.  There is always a need to invent a reason for your hero to jump in on the journey.  It’s like trying to fit a round peg into a square works fine if you make the circle small enough.

This game is REALLY dialogue heavy.  You’ll spend most of your time talking to people.  Even purchasing and selling items brings up a round if dialogue.  Oddly everyone in the game speaks except for you.  It’s as if having a protagonist who actually speaks would just be weird.

Another odd thing is blood splatter.

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If you are engaged in a fight and talk to someone closely after your army and face get this really odd pattern of blood on them.  I know it’s intended to be realistic… but why oh why 5 seconds later does this happen:

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Magically clean, all is fine!  This blood splatter especially takes away from the dialogue when you have four adventures who all have blood on their face simultaneously.  It becomes really difficult to pay attention to dialogue being given from a guy who has blood just above his lips… I mean shouldn’t that blood have moved down into his mouth at some point…. that is if we’re trying to be realistic.

I’m pretty sure no game has ever done this and I’m pretty sure no game ever will.  It’s just really weird.

So eventually you will get a dog.  Of course as an owner of two dogs I know it doesn’t matter what I call him his name will always be…

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It’s a weird part of this universe in which there are these war attack dogs.  It’s kind of similar in tone to the American dogs in Red Alert or the zombie hunting wiener dogs in World War Z (the book, not the movie).  There is one giant epic scene in which the first wave of the defense plan is to send a bunch of dogs at the enemy zombie like things.  It’s cool to watch

The game tries to hybridize RTS game play and RPG elements together.  You control four players who each have somewhere between 10-20 abilities.  So you’re constantly microing back and forth between various heroes trying to get as many abilities as possible.

The combat is fun, how the encounters happen is not.

Combat will engage and a bunch of people will mob you.

It all just happens so fast and having played this on the hardest difficulty, I can say it just isn’t very fun dying to random encounters.

I mean honestly Bioware, this is how it works.  The boss fights are super hard and challenging.  We’re all willing to re-load saves for that.  But a random encounter with a bunch of bandits…. that shouldn’t break the bank.

Unlike most people who’ve played this game… I just didn’t find it all that enjoyable.

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The dialogue was good… but there just seemed to be too much… even for a Bioware game.  The combat was fun…. but harder difficulties make playing skillful pointless and depends on more random factors.

Having said that on easy difficulty the game is enjoyable and very playable.  The game is 60 hours of gameplay with all of the DLC and expansions adding another 60 hours.

Unfortunately it feels as though easy is the only really enjoyable difficulty and anyone who reviewed this game clearly only played it on easy.

If you’re looking for an easy game to playthrough this is your game… but anything higher in difficulty is just completely unplayable.

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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sdsd

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.

Steam Sales Review #69: The Settlers 7

When first presenting the idea for this franchise to his boss the leader designer of the game said.  “I want to make a game in which you do something and then other stuff happens after you do it.”  This pitch was so thought provoking that here we are today on the seventh version of The Settlers…. well I guess there is an eight one if you count The Settlers Online.

I can say with some certainty that before this point I had never played a single Settlers game.

With good reason.

No interest

Every time someone explained the concept of the game to me I just rolled my eyes and thought it was really dumb.

And I was happily correct.

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So here’s the game.  You mine a limited number of resources in each zone to build up an army.  You attack another zone and steal that zones resources continuing to build up your army in size and strength.

You build defenses at key points  to prevent the enemy from easily taking zones and forcing them to waste their resources in attacking you.

But Troublmaker… that’s a generic RTS game…

Except it’s not.  You can only attack in linear paths meaning that the ‘tactics’ of this game are very limited.

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The campaign for this game really wasn’t all that fun.  It just didn’t translate as an exciting plot into English… keeping in mind the developers are German.

The problem for me is… why do people like this game?

it doesn’t seem to offer anything that is deep or amazing… it’s just a very very basic simulator with a competitive power meter to it.  There are no subtle strategies and there really isn’t a giant community playing this game like other Bluebyte titles.

I just do not understand why oh why is it that this game is so well received.

I have a feeling it has something to do with the hipster effect.  It happens when a game is really old and had a niche crowd and all the reviewers don’t want to look like idiots for never playing these games, not enjoying, or not reviewing these games and so they tend to give them far more bloated scores than they deserve.

Listen to this quote from Multiplayer.IT as a final note explaining their score:

Settlers 7 does not innovate the formula it belongs to but offers a good quantity and quality of different contents. If you like the genre and can manage the dull DRM, It could be a nice experience.

This reviewer said it was an average game.  The score… an 80.  That’s what the top games get.

I suffered through the slow and boring campaign and proceeded to delete the game off of my computer after no multiplayer games were available.

Money poorly invested.

Steam Sales Review #68: Titan Quest

You’ll have to forgive the graphics because the game was made in 2005…. 2005….. 2005!

WHAT TEH F@#*!

Diablo 2 was released in 2000.

Why does a game made in 2005 have crappier graphics than one five years previous?  I’m sure people asked this very question at the time.  For those not in the know check this out.

Item exists but is not selected:

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Item selected:

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Like I’m really sorry but that’s just terribly odd.  Diablo had already established that you have to give names to loot dropped on the ground and it is just a standard that every single game out there used.  I’m sorry but this is unacceptable.

Oh wait…. Titan Quest was made by downed company THQ… wasn’t it.

Well as it turns out this game was picked up by Nordic Games (makers of Painkiller) as well as were most of the THQ properties.  It’s actually rather bizarre how much of THQ’s shit they picked up.  They’ve actually created a full forum asking people’s opinions on what THQ titles they should develop first.

The popular IPs people want to develop are Red Faction, MX vs ATV, Destroy All Humans, and Supreme Commander.  The Red Faction discussion is definitely worth checking out because anyone who indicates a plot driven RPG with any depth are immediately silenced by the mob of people yelling I WANT A DESTRUCTION OF THINGS SIMULATOR!!!

But I digress, we’re here to talk about Titan Quest, especially in light that there might some day soon be a sequel to it.

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The game is based in Greece and so everything is bright and shiny… unless you are in a cave.

This can be compared to Torchlight which is fantasy-cartoony and Diablo which is very dark… this game is very bright.  I’m not entirely sure whether or not this is good or bad.  I know dark works really well in Diablo and I know fantasy works really well in Torchlight…. but I don’t know if sunny really works in a titan slaying game.  Personally when I think of Greece I think of this:

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Its dark its epic and the minions of Greece are coming upon you!

The game has some other ‘hits’ against it.

The major one has to do with the class system.  After one level you get to choose your class.

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I chose archers.  So all of the weapons I pick up that aren’t bows are useless and I have little to no choices of things to invest into.  Most RPGs tend to go with allowing you to get a little bit of each.  This game starts you off with a dagger and then offers you up eight random trees.

As an archer I realized the game has a fault… everything leashes.  By this I mean there is an invisible leash on them and once they hit that point they will turn around and try and run away.

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I did this through the entire game and realized i never actually needed any skills at all.  I just invested in passives the entire way there.

This proved to be very boring.  This can be compared to a game like Diablo in which you mix and match different features from different trees because if you don’t have some magic you will just get overwhelmed and die.  But this game was trying to go for the multiplayer experience in which different styles mix and mash…. but it doesn’t and probably never had such a community.

In the end the game made for a pretty poor single player experience.  The great co-op games of our time (Borderlands and Diablo) were amazing single player games that just got that much better when you add in people.

Steam Sales Review #67: Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War is easily one of the most successful RTS games out there.  Dawn of War beat Half Life as game of the year and its continued expansion packs would be enormously popular.

When Dawn of War 2 was released people were shocked by how… small it was.  Instead of choosing to make a classical RTS they went with a format that people were REALLY unfamiliar.  Even with my initial review two years ago I didn’t even see it as a strategy game.

But these days MOBAs are super common and so micro managing smaller groups of units with abilities is ‘all the rage.’  It’s entirely possible that much like the original Dawn of War, Relic was just too far ahead of the time.

Speaking of far ahead of its time… WTF is Games for Windows doing here?  Honestly get used to filling out this bad boy because with the always Online aspect this game… it’s heavily buggy.

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So it crashes quite a bit.  In a full play session I had three crashes.  So does what the game adds make it worth getting this expansion.

Well first off its a stand alone expansion which means you can get it on its own.  However if you enjoyed DOW2 this game is most certainly for you.

What they add to the game is minimal, it’s mostly more of the same stuff you liked.  There is a better story telling element that has a little more interaction and an extra member of your team.  The extra member is another Tech Priest to fill in that slot from the one that died in the last game.

The game starts by informing you that there must be a traitor in your company!  So now you are off killing Chaos being setup by one of your own guys.

But who is it?

This is honestly one of the stupid overwhelmingly common themes in Warhammer 40K games.  It might be why so few people buy them.  There is always a traitor and all of your team members always yell TRAITORS WE HATE TRAITORS and then at the end the traitor ends up not being anyone on your team at all…. just some extra person you would never expect… because you never really knew they existed for most of the game.  All the while there is some traitor in the Chaos world, throw in some Orks who add nothing to the plot at all other than to admit that Orks exist and make some cameos from the Eldar who despite almost always being right we have to kill for some reason.

The standalone expansion game will give you about 7-8 hours of gameplay… this can be compared to the almost 40 of the original.  The game does have 5 endings if you are willing to grind them all out.  However gaining them is a bit wonky and odd.

There is this system of corruption in which if you make missions far easier you get corrupted and if you make them harder you have corruption removed.  The endings are earned by balancing off corruption on five levels Highly Corrupted, Slightly Corrupted, Neutral (neither direction favoured highly), Slight No Corruption, and High No Corruption.

I honestly just looked up the other four endings as I didn’t feel like grinding them all out.

The core gameplay is good and it was fun to play, but it’s just so short and lacking.  Unfortunately this game is just not worth buying, not even at a sale price.