post mortem: random games

So, I know I promised stories about Nate’s visit, but alas – I’ve lied again.  With Linux class, game trials, introducing my roommate to the genius of Ronald D Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Galactica and three (that’s right) three neurotic cats in the apartment, what’s a nerd girl to do?

Why, shirk her responsibilities as a writer and get wired on coffee, of course. Oh, and paint her nails. Repeatedly.

As I’ve noticed that I haven’t posted anything exceptionally nerdy in a while, I figured I’d give all (possibly two) of my readers (you know who you are) a quick rundown of the game demos I’ve been nomming on over the past week or so. Bear in mind that most of these can be nabbed off of the Steam client or are offered in glorious downloadable format from their respective official sites. Join me after the jump for my half-assed, jumbled-together-at-one-in-the-morning review of some simply stellar games. Feel free to “ooh” and “ahh” at my handiwork as well. Bahah. Handiwork. Oh, man. I’m no better than the writers of Relic Hunter now.

my n00bish attempts at a french manicure. it’s okay. you don’t have to like it.

Disclaimer: the images below aren’t actually from the games in question, but other games to which I felt the need to compare them. I’ve also included the links for the official sites in case you feel like trying them out for yourself or (if you’re a creature of spite) you just want to find ways to disagree with me.

– Portal 2 –
I was slow to install this one. I actually have had it kicking around on my bookshelf for the better part of the summer, but figured I wouldn’t bother reinstalling Steam until after I reinstalled Windows 7 and… well, it’s a long story that more or less boils down to “Why do today what you can put off ’til tomorrow?” Having played the first Portal fresh out of the Orange BoxI had high expectations for this game. Admittedly, I have not yet finished the single player campaign, but so far, it does not disappoint. Nate and I actually completed the 2-player co-op a couple of weeks ago and it was unlike any team-based gameplay I had experienced up ’til then. I mean, it sort of reminded me of the co-op puzzles in Little Big Planet, but Portal‘s physics engine is just so much more prone to blowing your mind. If you thought Portal was a brain-grapist with two portals, just try it with four. Add some speedy-uppy goo and some bouncy-wouncy goo and you’re playing a game you never would have imagined. And if you did, then holy crap – how did you not make money off that idea?!

Bastion – 
A very well put together game.  Aesthetically, it plays out like a dream. I’ve never seen this version of a “fog of war” effect; the map actually materializes as you venture towards its edges, with little chunks of landscape literally flying up from nowhere to be trod on by your funny little sprite feet. The realtime combat system has the feel of good ol’ Diablo. You click – mobs die. Well, there’s a little more to it than that. In any case, it’s fun. The music is different from most RPG/adventures, landing somewhere closer to rock (Brutal Legend ball park), with a dash of that wicked intro to FFX (a game which admittedly went downhill after said intro). Still, for me, the real hook was the adaptive narration. Try it out. You’ll find it interesting. Especially if you’re prone to leaping off the edge of the map or going ballistic smashing up crates in the hopes of finding a hidden item. The demo was disappointingly short, but the game itself is super cheap and definitely worth a couple days without your morning coffee. Except for me; I need that stuff if I want to function before noon.

i mean, really. it looks like naked midget ron perlman.

– Amnesia: the Dark Descent –
Altogether the freakiest game I’ve ever had the guts to play. I mean, sure Doom 2 gave me nightmares, but in my defense,  I was ten. And my brother would sneak up behind me and grab me by the shoulders just as one of those ugly naked bull-things ran into my face. Amnesia is what would happen if Myst birthed an unwanted child that it conceived after an unfortunate and not altogether consensual run-in with Dead Space at a New Year’s Party. Except that the party took place in an asylum. In the early 19th century. And all they had to drink was ouzo. Except, in Amnesia, you can’t fight the monsters. You can’t even look at them. If you do, you lose your mind. In other words, you can only run. Run and hide and scream at your computer even though you know the protagonist neither hears you nor gives a shit as to what you have to say. It’s a brilliant game, dark and paranoia-inducing, with an uncanny ability to fuck with your head. Now, I know, you don’t really want to associate with sweater-vest-donning, hipster teenagers or stoned collar-poppers. But the very fact that these people are scared shitless is solid evidence that this game is terrifying. It takes true darkness to strike fear into something without a soul. Oh, and the gameplay and puzzles are terrific. It’s basically an incredibly elaborate escape-the-room game that will leave you breathless and possibly needing a change of underwear. The studio ostensibly produced a pretty decent series prior to this called Prenumbra. It’s on my list of things to check out.

i swear, she looked hot from in front. some things even a paper bag won’t cure.

Rift –
For the many months that this has been out, I kept hearing that it was basically a WoW clone. Well, I’m going to be uppity and insist that it isn’t. Indeed, it’s more of a WAR clone. You know, that game no one played. The public quests and general aesthetic of Rift are such a far cry from anything World of Warcraft has (as yet) managed to accomplish. Now, I speak from a lowbie perspective; while I’ve been WoW‘ing it up since 2005,  I only played WAR until level 18 or so. However, until I see what instances, raiding, and PvP are like, I can honestly say that aside from the basic framework that comprises any MMO (i.e. action bars, basic controls, unit frames, quests, vast, immersible fantasy world, and some kind of hot elf race of ambiguous sexual preference), it hasn’t got all that much in common with that mightiest of the gaming world’s cash cows. All in all, so far I find that it’s a solid game. Beautiful graphics with much more customization than WoW or WAR for that matter, but without the icky neckbearded chicks that Aion tried to hook me up with. Gross.
Also, for anyone who hates WoW‘s current guild system, you can blame WAR for that. Blizzard decided it was a good enough idea to nab. I’m still sort of glad they did; otherwise, no one would have experienced the system except the four people who play WAR.

Oh, fine, while I’m at it:

– Warhammer: Age of Reckoning –
I actually started playing this one with my then-boyfriend right after its release. All in all, it was a pretty solid game except for a few crucial gashes. As MMOs tend to go, the longest-lived, most durable hook a game can have on a player is the social aspect. Hell, I still keep in touch with all my old guildmates from WoW. One’s even managed to become my boyfriend. However, the thing that certainly is the foundation of any online friendship would be the text chat on the bottom left of your screen. Something about WAR‘s chat system was seriously clunky. I don’t know whether or not that got solved eventually; I should hope so, but at this point, I’m too far removed from that game to care. The tab-targeting was sloppy, too. Sure, I’ve got something 30 yards in front of me, but the thing would auto-target the freshly-spawned bear 20 yards to my six o’clock instead. Just silly.

Speaking of silly, did you know I just spent the past forty-five minutes writing reviews for games that have been out at least three times as long as Lady Jane Grey spent being queen of England?

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