Category Archives: The Android Collects Random Objects (Adventure)

Assassin’s Creed IV, or Pirates!: Murderbowl Edition

I, too, am now making a triumphant return to blogging. As Caesar once crushed Vercingetorix and rode through the great boulevards of Rome, the Votive Games beginning, his conquest of Gaul complete, so I crushed sheer bone idleness and ride through the great cables of the Internet, the Video Games beginning. And I would like to get started by talking to you about the recently released Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Assassin’s Creed, or AssCreed as it’s affectionately called, is a series with a rather interesting history. Back before the first game came out it was quite a curious beast – a game where you play as a member of the Hashshashin order at the time of the Third Crusade, where the Christians have invaded the Holy Land and the Kingdom of Jerusalem exists. This setting comes up now and then in strategy games (Crusader Kings 2 being the obvious example) but an action-adventure game? Much rarer. Also of interest was the fact that the game apparently had a lot of weird futuristic stuff going on. That conceit was well handled by their marketing department because in actuality the framing device of the Animus is revealed in the first few minutes of play.

The game itself was interesting and generally enjoyable but not quite as good as it could have been. Enter AssCreed 2, with the now famous Ezio as the lead. The Ezio Trilogy, including the Revolutions and Brotherhood games, took everything good about I and polished it while taking everything bad and removing or overhauling it. Renaissance Italy is similarly far from a commonplace setting for a videogame of any stripe, let alone an action-adventure game. The step from AC I to II is perhaps one of the seminal examples of how to make a worthwhile sequel that meaningfully improves upon the original. And the same is now true of the step from AC III to IV.

Well… baby steps.

See, the thing with III was this: It was a shiny new engine that allowed all kinds of neat new acrobatics. It included hunting and crafting and the exploration of the American frontier around the time of the Revolutionary War. A fascinating setting and, although perhaps a touch less unusual than the previous ones, still very far from a boring well-worn setting. On the other hand it felt like something of a regression in many ways. The exploration wasn’t tremendously interesting and the story failed to engage. The protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor seemed a promising character but soon felt too cliched and too typically “videogame lead”, a brooding sort without a sense of humor. In comparison to Haytham Kenway, Connor’s father and the protagonist of the opening chapters of the game, Connor felt uninteresting and uninspired. Kenway, by contrast, wasn’t exactly a beacon of joviality but he was an extremely refined and strong man who projected the utmost confidence and direction. This is not to say that III was a bad game – it was a decent one and I didn’t regret the money or time I spent on it. Nonetheless it lost something that Ezio’s adventures possessed and felt consistently like something was missing.

That something is back with a vengeance. AC IV sees you in the role of Edward Kenway, father of Haytham and grandfather of Connor, and a man of low character who plunders the High Seas of the West Indies. His only real motivation is money and it is deeply enjoyable to see him brush off all this nonsense of Assassins and Templars because he gives no shits, he just wants dosh. I admire that sort of single-mindedness and after Connor’s extreme seriousness it’s quite refreshing to play as someone who barely comprehends morality, let alone cares about it.

But as important as I’ve come to feel a good protagonist is for this series – the lighthearted Ezio, the amoral Edward Kenway, the serious but extremely driven Haytham all outstrip the pride of Altair and the anger of Connor by miles – the game itself has seen meaningful changes. As befits the protagonist the game takes place in the West Indies during the Golden Age of Piracy, in the aftermath of the War of the Spanish Succession. A whole lot of sailors were left with not much to do when the war ended and a good number of them turned to piracy to get by. So although a large part of the game revolves around the typical AC play of clambering up walls, hopping from rooftop to rooftop, and stabbing dudes in the back/front/face/neck/spine/kidney/liver/stomach/guts/eyes, a huge part of the game also revolves around sailing the seas aboard your ship, the Jackdaw, and getting into a variety of japes with her crew. Most fun of all is fighting naval battles, as you can use a good number of weapons to cripple an enemy ship and then draw alongside her to board her and fight the crew. Upon their defeat you seize her cargo and, well, off you go for more piracy. Now, to be clear, the general sailing and naval battle stuff existed in III and was widely praised as perhaps the game’s strongest element, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to see a late addition to a series be integrated so expertly and given the care it needs. There are gameplay reasons to commit piracy, sure, but I’ve fought a whole lot of Spanish ships just because it’s fun to do rather that for booty and I think that is the mark of a damn sound piece of game design and implementation.

As this article’s title suggests I can feel something of a parallel between this game’s naval aspect and Sid Meier’s Pirates!, which is one of the few games out there to have the same general setting and theme. Obviously they’re rather different games but AC IV definitely feels, to me, like something of a successor to that game – one with a different emphasis and different flavor, true, but still a game which captures what was fun about its spiritual predecessor. Roaming the Spanish Main, singing sea shanties (good luck not singing along IRL when your crew starts bellowing something out!), seeking plunder, and upgrading your ship; although there’s a lot of differences there’s a thread of the same feeling from Pirates! to AC IV and it’s an unexpected and very welcome thing. Combined with the refinements to the on-foot parts of the game and the fact that just running around collecting things is a huge amount of fun, we’re looking at a pretty solid title right here.

Plus, oh my god, forget what I said about Connor that one time – Edward Kenway is the sexiest man in videogames.

Artificial Difficulty

Hello all! No, you’re not seeing things, you’ve actually just got a little message on twitter or whatever telling you your very favorite videogaming blog of all time has updated. Let’s get right to business and start talking about some videogames!

So chances are good that you’ve heard of the game Dark Souls which was made by From Software. It is the successor to Demon’s Souls, a game which wasn’t released outside Japan but thanks to having English-language options managed to become a cult hit thanks to importation. Sadly it’s only on the PS3 so nobody has actually played it because who owns one of those, but Dark Souls has been released on 360 and PC as well, and it’s on the latter of these that I’ve been playing the game.

Dark Souls is infamous for its difficulty and this is not a reputation it has gained without reason. This game is difficult in the old-school sense, in that it’s uncompromising and you’re going to have to learn things like enemy attack patterns, how to block and parry and dodge, and level layouts to progress.

Turns out they occasionally do make 'em like they used to
Turns out they occasionally do make ’em like they used to

So here’s the thing: Until you have done some of that and get a handle on what you’re doing, this game can be really unfun to new players. It takes time to get into it, to find what works for you, to get into the flow of it. For me I didn’t really ‘enjoy’ the game until a few hours in, in fact I put it aside for a few weeks before being convinced to go back to it. And I’m glad I did, because once I did pass that stumbling block I really got into it – it’s a game that really rewards your investment and is one of the quintessential examples of “What you get out depends on what you put in”.

Of course any game which takes that long to get into is a flawed game, and I won’t say Dark Souls is perfect by any stretch. I enjoy the exploration and learning immensely but I’m not a tremendous fan of just how obscure the game can be about some things. But if you’re looking for an amazing experience and something to really get your teeth into then what you’ve heard about Dark Souls is pretty much all true – it’s a seriously great piece of software which does a great many things right and very few things wrong, and of those things it does wrong much is a matter of taste.

Basically what I’m trying to say is Dark Souls is superb and if you’re not already on the bandwagon you need to join it.

Y’all N’wahs gonna mod Morrowind!

CROSSPOST from someplace else I say words because I put all this effort into it!

Okay I’ll make an effortpost about mods for y’all, because despite the brilliance of vanilla Morrowind it’s even more mindblowingly amazing with mods installed.

Morrowind Overhaul: As Pike says this includes a bunch of different mods. This is mostly a graphics and sound pack with some unofficial patching but it makes an unbelievable difference and unless your computer can’t handle it, you need it.

Galsiah’s Character Development: GCD single-handedly fixes all problems with vanilla leveling. It makes everything so much more natural and smooth, lets you go above 100 in stats and skills (not without work!), and in the 50~ hours of playing with it since I reinstalled it’s seemed to be pretty much perfectly balanced in most regards. Playing without this is an indicator of the most depraved masochism. Note: There’s another leveling mod our there known as MADD Leveling which has pretty good reviews, but I’ve never used it myself. Consider that if you don’t like GCD. But for Vivec’s sake get one or the other.

Morrowind Patch Project (Formerly known as Unofficial Morrowind Patch): A project which has persisted in one form or another pretty much since release and which aims to fix anything it can, from typos to incomplete quests to actual game-breakers.

Morrowind Code Patch: Going deeper than the above this, unsurprisingly, touches the game’s code itself to make even more repairs and improvements. Fixes a huge number of issues which were in the base game and remained through patches and expansions. Some things are vital like crash fixes, some are quality of life, but this thing is indispensable.

Delayed Dark Brotherhood Attack: Exactly what it says on the tin. In base, with Tribunal installed, you’ll get attacked when you’re a prisoner fresh off the boat in Seyda Neen by elite assassins. Not only does this unbalance things when you kill them because their gear is great and valuable, but it also makes very little sense that the person sending the assassins would even know you exist, let alone care. So with this you’re safe from the DB until you’ve reached a position of power in various guilds or have progressed to a certain point in the Main Quest.

Expansion Integration: Bethesda were lazy fuckers with Bloodmoon and especially Tribunal, and this mod goes a long way to helping that. Basically it brings everything appropriate from those expansions into Vvardenfell, so you can encounter Durzogs in the wild and alchemy ingredients can show up for sale and so forth.

That’s pretty much it for what I would class as essentials, and even the last one of this short list is debatable. Everything else is really up to the player in question, but I’ll link to a few of my favorites and then a couple of the bigger lists and important sites.

Mister Adequate’s favorites
Tamriel Rebuilt: I strongly considered putting this in the essentials section because it’s just that good. TR is a project that has been running since the early days of Morrowind with the original aim of recreating all of Tamriel. They’ve since scaled back this absurd ambition to ‘just’ the whole of the Morrowind province, which is still only slightly smaller than Vivec’s Spear. They’ve recently released part 3 of this vast effort and already the game is literally twice the size.

The big peninsula is roughly akin to Vivec's Spear, come to think of it
The big peninsula is roughly akin to Vivec’s Spear, come to think of it

Those of you who’ve played the game will realize just how vast an expansion this project is. And although I’ve only seen a very little bit of it so far I can assure you what is there is great. Firewatch is a better-made settlement than any Imperial one in the native game. (Note: The small island south-west of Vivec/Ebonheart is not a part of TR, but a seperate mod named Dulsya Isle.)

Piratelord’s Creatures XI: There have been a great number of creature adding mods over the years but this is the best one currently. Everything added is well-made and fits perfectly with the theme of Morrowind and the aesthetics and stuff.

Executor Zurg’s Merchant Money Mod: Some people may dislike this. Those people are wrong. This mod increases the amount of money carried by merchants (not those added by mods though) tenfold. Very simple, and incredibly welcome, because you don’t have to go traipsing off to Caldera or the Mudcrab Merchant to sell anything worth more than five septims anymore. Don’t worry, when you start getting more expensive gear you’ll still struggle to find places to sell them.

abot’s gondoliers, boats, and silt striders: This triune of mods by abot does something that some of us have longed for for years. It adds the ability to choose a ‘scenic travel’ option from various ports, which means you can actually ride the stuff as it takes you to your destination in real-time! It also adds some ambient stuff like gondoliers paddling around Vivec City and stuff. It’s tremendously good for gigantic nerds like Pike me who just looove to act as if they’re really in the game and write up huge backstories for their characters and stuff!

Traders 300: Adds a locked chest to most merchants, within which will be a leveled list of appropriate goods. The end result is that merchants will be far more variable in what they carry, giving a lot of flavor and life to them and encouraging you to check back with them now and then.

Homes to Let: This is a really nice little addition that does, well, exactly what it says. You can now rent homes on a monthly basis. Excellent alternative to most of the housing mods out there, as this lets you rent something in, say, Hla Oad for all of 60 septims a month. Superb for anyone who can’t afford other houses or who hasn’t progressed enough to gain them, or who fancies a change of pace, or who just wants more housing options.

The Less Generic NPC Project: A huge undertaking which seeks to give unique dialog for most topics to every single NPC in the game. So far they’re up to about 1/3 of the game, which is pretty damned impressive, and most of what I’ve seen so far has been decently written and kept to lore and stuff. It tends to add some minor quests as well, but the general overall effect is to make the world a much richer place. I happened to rent a place in Vivec with the above mod and it was next to a store; I went into the store and the Khajiit in there was affected by this mod, so we sat and talked forever. They worked together superbly to create a great little experience for my character!

Service Requirements: This mod is for masochists. What it does is when you try to trade with a faction-aligned person, they’ll tell you to fuck off if you’re not a member of their guild/house/etc. Want to port to Sadrith Mora? Best be a member of the Mage’s Guild! You can also pay surchages to access their services. Altogether a pretty stupid mod that only makes the game harder, I couldn’t play without it.

Further Reading
Now, this game’s over ten years old now and still has active modders. Unsurprisingly there are an immense number of mods out there, and my little list of mostly personal taste doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. If you’re interested in looking more into what is out there, here’s some resources to do just that!

There are two main download sites these days. There used to be many, many more but most have fallen off the Internet.

Planet Elder Scrolls has a huge repository of mods. Problem is some of them were on off-site hosting, and said off-site hosting has now disappeared. Still one of the most valuable resources for getting mods though, and if you check the comments on a missing mod you’ll often find someone pointing folks to a new upload someplace.

Morrowind Modding History is a place which is trying to salvage and preserve pretty much every Morrowind mod it can get a hold of. If you can’t find something on PES it’ll almost certainly be here. Also great to just browse through and see what’s on offer.

Aside from those there are various lists out there which… list different mods, usually grouped into categories like “New buildings” and so on. Like anything these lists will be based on the personal taste of their authors but you can usually find some pointers towards stuff you’re after. Great House Fliggerty is a good resource anyway and this thread has a list of lists (of lists, in a couple cases). Well worth checking out are Telesphoros’ List, Empirical Morrowind, and BTB’s list. Also try the TESNexus Wiki.

A couple of closing notes! There’s a very widely-used mod named “Necessities of Morrowind” out there, which adds the need to eat, drink, and sleep into the game. I’ve not yet tried it myself though I plan to with my next character. There are also a couple of mods which add NPCs walking around settlements. A lot of people swear by Morrowind Comes Alive but I prefer Starfire’s NPC additions; it really does help add life to towns to see people wandering around and having different people when you leave and return and stuff.

Okay I hope that helps anyone looking for mods get an idea of some of the most important ones currently around and points them to where to look for more! If you’ve got questions go ahead and ask, I’ll probably know the answer or where to find it!

Drox Operative

Hey gang, it’s been awhile hasn’t it? Very sorry about that, but with Pike and myself both writing books, her getting a new computer, and various Christmas stuff we’ve both been somewhat busy. Still, here is a post now, and it’s an important one because it’s about a damn good game!

Soldak probably isn’t the best-known name in gaming, which is a crying shame. They generally work in the ARPG field and two of their previous games – Depths of Peril and Din’s Curse – have been pretty well received by those who have played them. I do not number among those yet but I will soon because Drox Operative is pretty amazing. See, whilst Soldak’s games are very solid ARPGs in and of themselves, they’re also trying to do some new and interesting things with the genre. Let’s talk about Din’s Curse first of all.

In that game, you play a typical adventurer type off to conquer dungeons, kill bosses, and get great loot. So far so normal, but here’s the twist: The world is doing stuff while you are doing stuff. While you’re in a dungeon looking for something, the Big Bad at the bottom might open a portal to the town and kill everyone so you have to rush back to try and stop this. And you can fail, and your quest progress is for naught. Or you can partly succeed and only some people survive. Move on to another (randomly-generated) town and setting and deal.

Drox Operative is even more ambitious.


You are an eponymous Drox Operative – a secretive and powerful mercenary agent who flies around the galaxy doing stuff. The thing is that the setting isn’t a premade one, nor is it just a regular randomly generated one. The setting is actually a 4X game which is going on all the time no matter what you’re up to, and you’re one part in that. You’re an important, sometimes pivotal part, but you’re not the only one and whilst you can certainly swing things around for a race on the back foot, you may not have the same ability if they’re on the ropes entirely. The various races – and there are an abundance – hire you to do exactly the sort of stuff that tends to not exist in a typical 4X; go clean that pirate nest out. Go deal with this one Space Asshole. Go shuttle some stuff between our worlds. That’s the “early game” stuff, where you’ll do less dangerous and difficult quests to build up relations with a race; then things will likely kick off and they’ll want your help with the big boy fights. Or you can just try to make nice with everyone, or you can go make loads of money instead if you want, as there’s more than one way to win (and lose).

If the game was just a regular randomly generated ARPG it’d be more than worth getting – it’s a damn solid game with a huge amount of things to try and a fuckton of different item types that give you a startling degree of customization options. Putting the player into a dynamic world which can be influenced and played around with and never controlled quite as completely as you’d like elevates it to downright genius territory.

It’s not a perfect game by any means. There are some interface and control issues, a few of the controls aren’t really intuitive, and the graphics, music, and sounds are serviceable rather than particularly good. None of this detracts significantly from the extraordinarily solid game at the core of this thing and if you want a good dose of ARPG after burning out on Torchlight II, this is one of the best options out there right now.

You can buy Drox Operative from the Soldak website for the absurd price of US$20. If you’re like me you’ll feel like you may have committed a crime getting it so cheap.

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead

Spawned originally from the comic book, then the TV show, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is set in the same universe and, indeed, the same state of Georgia as a zombie apocalypse strikes and overwhelms humanity. Lee Everett is a convicted murderer being driven to prison when all hell breaks loose, setting him free as the world goes completely to hell. Very soon you come across Clementine, a young girl who has survived through this without her parents, who were vacationing in Savannah when the outbreak began. So begins your quest to keep yourself and Clem safe, find other survivors, and to face the various and extreme threats that beset your little group every day.

TWD is a point-and-click game made by some of the masters of the genre, including people from back when LucasArts was making such paragons of gaming as Sam & Max Hit The Road, the Monkey Island series, and Grim Fandango. So they know what they’re doing – and it shows in the game. The Walking Dead is a tense, melancholic affair where even the best outcomes come at a cost, where you feel intensely protective of people even as they’re pissing you off, and where the gameplay is sensible, well-paced, and works excellently with the setting. Even when you know you are safe there is a tension to the gameplay and you rarely, if ever, feel as though you aren’t under pressure to get things sorted out quickly.

What really stands out is the characters, which is damned good news for a zombie game that doesn’t go the action route. Clementine is an example of perhaps the rarest thing in all media – a child who is not annoying. Indeed, she’s incredibly sweet, she’s believably smart but still naive, and she reacts to Lee’s choices in a believable way. Because TWD is episodic and Chapter 5 is not yet out we can’t judge how this all wraps up so far so it may be it all falls apart and TTG will screw up, but so far that seems pretty unlikely. She is the focus of the game, really, and the quest on the part of both Lee and the player to protect her and, as time passes, to raise her well in that hellish world, is the centerpiece of the entire experience. It’s about choices, from the mundane conversations with Clem to life-or-death decisions that have to be made in a snap, and all of them have repercussions.

The game’s major failing is that there is no Daryl Dixon being unbelievably hot.

The game is not without flaws, primarily technical ones that are easily overlooked, and it would be nice to have a broader array of possible paths than exist but that would be a lot more work and is likewise forgivable. Still you can go into Chapter 5 with a variety of setups and people who have your back and it is quite feasible that what happens in the end will open up the desire to replay the game more than once. The game also does some cool little things; at one point you fight a zombie and what occurs is essentially a QTE, but the icons keep popping up and in your panic you keep hitting the buttons, even though the zombie is long ended. It’s a nice touch that makes a lot of sense and is probably the best use of QTEs since they were invented.

I would recommend The Walking Dead for anyone who wants a story-led game that is well-written, well-acted, and has a lot of tension. It’s a superb point-and-click that does damned near everything right and very few things wrong, and TTG have confirmed that a “Season 2” will be on the way at some point when they finish Chapter 5. Just to clarify, buying TWD gives you all of the Season 1 stuff including the soon-to-be-released Chapter 5. You can get a hold of it on Steam for PC, and it’s out on 360 and PS3 as well!

Torchlight 2

In between huge bouts of WoW and considerable addiction to FTL, I’ve also been playing the long-awaited release of last week, Torchlight 2. The original Torchlight was a widely lauded game, and rightly so, of the Action RPG genre – which is to say a Diablo clone. Indeed, Runic Games was formed partly by exiles from the Diablo 2 team and this shows in a variety of ways. I was rather late to the TL bandwagon but I had a blast with it recently, and the polish and love of Diablo was present there too. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I would argue it had shortcomings rather than flaws, and that these shortcomings were deliberate choices made in order to ensure a polished final product. Entirely reasonable and indeed much more commendable than overstretching limited resources and doing nothing properly.

Torchlight 2 however has had the budget, built on the success of the first game, to try to overcome those shortcomings and so far I have to say it looks as though it has succeeded fairly comprehensively. It’s a far larger game, with a much greater variety of locations. It has one more class, and all four classes seem somewhat more malleable in playstyle than the previous iteration’s. I will admit that I would have liked to see more classes still, and I’ve heard reports that the game isn’t properly balanced for every playstyle (e.g. berserkers can have an especially hard time, I hear, when enemy damage starts to ramp up). There are more items, more characters, more locations, just plain old fashioned more of everything, but in my own play experience the game’s polish hasn’t suffered for for the increase in quantity.

Sweetie Belle explains the appeal of ARPGs with commendable succinctness.

Bearing in mind I’m not tremendously far through the game yet, everything so far seems to sparkle with both polish and love and it’s just a really good, satisfying game that lets you carve through hordes of monsters in order to get experience points and loot. It’s not a complicated concept, but it is what we humans like, so it’s not like there’s much room for complaint about it.

The game also has multiplayer, the absence of which was by far the original’s greatest and most bizarre shortfall, but I’ve not yet had the chance to mess around with it. Pike and I are planning on some playing soon though so if anything about it is striking I shall report to you all.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Recently released was a small indie game named FTL, or Faster Than Light, and after an eight-hour stint of WoW yesterday (WHY) I grabbed it and began to play. Then I went to bed very late. This is some SERIOUSLY addictive stuff right here.

FTL is described as a “spaceship simulation real-time roguelike-like”. This isn’t an inaccurate description. The premise is that you are the captain of a Federation starship carrying vital intelligence to put down a massive rebellion, and you’ve got to make it back to Federation space to deliver it. You do so by travelling across a number of sectors in space, jumping from star to star and investigating or dealing with whatever you find at each one, be it a station in distress, a trader, a pirate, a pirate disguised as a pirate, and so forth. Always trying to stay one step ahead of the rebels, who will sweep across each sector as you cross it and give you a serious incentive to press on.

But of course each consecutive sector is tougher and contains stronger threats, so you also want to explore and see what you can gather in order to upgrade your ship (Or just repair it after the inevitable damage you take), recruit new crewmembers, and so forth. When you’re in combat is when the real fun begins, and it’s the part that they mean when they say “real-time”. You have to juggle a number of things going on at once, directing your crew to the posts you need manned (Most things operate without crew, but they can make it work better and they can gain experience to increase this further) or reacting to various things occurring shipboard such as fires breaking out, systems taking damaged, or boarders teleporting over. Meanwhile you’ve got to decide how to use your various weapons against the enemy, what to target, whether to use or conserve missiles, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t look like much but once you’re in there it gets pretty freaking tense and engaging.

Things get way more frenetic than you might expect

At almost every star you visit you will be presented with a short text event requiring you to make a decision. Do you try and help that civilian ship under attack by pirates, or hope to sneak past? Do you want to investigate that abandoned station or just move on? These events form one of the cores of the game, and the whole thing depends on decisions you make in one way or another. They also tend to consist of the good old standbys of shows like Star Trek, so if you’ve ever wanted to deal with various unpleasant space gribblies, this is the game for you!

As for the “roguelike” appellation, well. This is some random shit right here. Your starting ship is predefined but almost everything after that, from the weapons you might find at a store to the events you encounter to the sectors within the galaxy itself is randomized. Some games will give you an easy time, some will bend you over and make you squeal like a schoolgirl on prom night. This is a game to be played and replayed, not played through once and put aside; each play will probably last under an hour and each time what you largely gain is knowledge and experience (You, the player, that is) although there are some unlocks that mix things up a good deal.

It’s also a game of hubris. Some boarders have teleported over and are attacking your weapons bay? Well we’ll just see how they like it if I vent all the air. Heh. Oh crap, their ship just blew up my O2 room. And now they’ve sabotaged my door controls so I can’t close the airlocks again. Now I’ve got to try and repair the O2 room AND door control with the air supply rapidly depleting and oh everyone is dead. The game explicitly tells you to be prepared to lose, and like any roguelike or Dwarf Fortress, that’s an attitude you’ll need to get very far with this. Losing is Fun. Still, Losing can Hurt as well, though funnily enough total defeat hurts less than losing a single crewmember can. Just between their name and a few experience-based stats you can grow attached to the little guys, and when one gets killed I tend to feel some guilt and sorrow – “Mattz was with us from the start, he saved the ship more than once! And I let him die!”

You can grab it now from Steam or and I highly recommend you do so, it’s only the price of a movie ticket and you’ll get much more fun from this. EDIT: Thanks to commenter neothoron, who pointed out that you can also get FTL from the game’s official website for Windows/OSX/Linux, comes with a Steam key, and is DRM-free.

The Damage Thus Far

So lemme put it this way: I smashed through my entire “Steam Sale” budget by Day Five.  Obviously this hasn’t stopped me from buying anything further, but let’s just say that I’ve spent a rather lot of money so far.

It has occurred to me that I need to buy a Spongebob Wallet.

Of all the stuff I’ve gotten so far, here are some of the ones I’ve been enjoying the most:

The Legend of Grimrock: Fun dungeon crawling oldschool RPG that eschews silly things like maps in favor of you bumbling around lost and attacking giant snails.  All of the charm of old dungeon-crawls from back in the day.

Train Simulator 2012: No, I’m not kidding.  This game is great.  Especially if you’re a sim game grognard who gets excited by the thought of playing a travel game in real-time, so if it takes an hour to go from Point A to Point B in real life, you’d better believe it will take you an hour to do so in game.  With “Simple Controls” activated, this game is in the vein of classics such as Desert Bus, except you can pause and do things like start and stop.  This is more endearing than it sounds and this game easily devoured three hours of my time right after buying it.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: A game which I haven’t touched since it launched almost a decade ago and I played it on the Xbox.  I’d really forgotten how much fun this game is and what was originally going to be an “I’ll dink around for an hour and feel some nostalgia feels” game has turned into several hours of a legitimate playthrough.  Let’s just hope Carth stops wanting to talk about his feelings at some point.  (He won’t.)

Orcs Must Die!: I’ve actually yet to play this one (the curse of buying so many games at one time), but my dear associate Mister Adequate swears up and down that this game is amazing and fun.  Considering his raucous laughter over Skype whenever he plays it, I’ll take his word for it.

What sorts of gems have you picked up with the sale?

Boss Fight of the Year

Having finally bothered to set aside some time to play through Batman: Arkham City, I have to say it’s a fantastic game whose story (Or rather the last fifth of the story) is a little bit of a letdown, but that doesn’t bother me because holy. Christ. This game has one of the best boss fights I can ever remember enjoying.

Also dat voice HNNNNNGGGGGG

The fight with Mister Freeze is superb. It is brilliant. It is genius. I’m almost tempted to leave it there because saying almost anything could begin to spoil things, but that would make for a rather short blog post so I’ll take that risk. The core of the fight is that Freeze’s suit is a giant-ass super-awesome thing that even Batman can’t damage directly, because if he tries Freeze will just shoot him with his ice gun or something. (I want an ice gun.)

So you need to figure out how to attack him. Only here’s the thing; everything you do he will adapt to. You cannot use a single tactic more than once, because he will sabotage anything you could use to repeat it. This is not a gimmick or anything, it is brilliantly executed and it genuinely felt like I was in a battle of wits to try and figure out new tactics to try against him, whilst he was hunting me down and I was trying to avoid him. It took me several goes to win the fight, and I did not mind one bit. In fact I loved every second of it. It is, for my money, a quintessential example of how to stage a boss fight. He is entirely unique in the game, requires a wide array of Batman’s abilities, and engages the player completely. Every other developer should take notes on how this whole thing is conceived and formulated.

So I’d like to throw the question out there to y’all about this topic. What are some bosses you’ve found particularly enjoyable and engaging in your gaming?


Last night I completed Batman: Arkham City. But this post isn’t about the game itself, but the little statistic of how much of the game you have completed. Because mine is nowhere near 100% even though I’ve seen the ending!

BAC is of course one of those many games where completion of the main quest/storyline in no way means you’ve actually completed the game. Indeed, this is one of the most striking examples of that I’ve seen in a long time; I think I’m at about 40% completed now. There is an absolutely enormous wealth of things to do, from collectables to challenges to side missions. And of course I have varying degrees of enthusiasm for these. The side missions and challenges are pretty much great fun and I imagine I’ll do many if not all of them as I continue to play; the collectables (Specifically the Riddler trophies) rather less so. I have always found collectables to be a very boring and tedious way of extending gameplay. I can’t really bring to mind any games where it has been done well, except perhaps Final Fantasy X because the collectables there (movie spheres) show Auron, Jecht, and Braska.

Hnnnggg Auron

I’ve very rarely 100%’d any games actually. Partly because I’ve got a small core of games I play a lot that aren’t really open to that as a concept; sure you can WC as Haiti on Very Hard but there’s always another campaign to fight in Darkest Hour, you know? And open-world games generally just annoy me with their hidden collectables and so I end up running over innocents or whatever instead!

What about you? Are there games out there you can say you’ve completed 100% of, explored every last nook and cranny, done every sidequest, found every hidden room and item, reached level 99 with every character, whatever it might be? Or are you like me, and more prone to put a game down well before that point?