I think I've probably made it clear that I like a good stealth game and thankfully I had the chance to try out the lovely-looking Calvino Noir at EGX. Set in post-war Austria (I forgot to ask which war... whoops), players con... read
We've known for a while that the upcoming Dreamfall game from Red Thread would be split into five chapters but now we have word that the first one, entitled Reborn, will arrive on October 21. I'm hoping that the studio will ... read
I talked yesterday about how horror games are difficult to demo at a convention; you need to block out so much noise and activity around you to be really immersed in what you're playing. Team Junkfish had no such problems as... read
When the recent Dungeon Keeper mobile game was released by EA, it went down like a barrel of stinking fish; it took the core concepts of the franchise and saddled them with a freemium model that made it a chore to play. Than... read
Heat Signature was one of the games I most wanted to get my hands on at EGX. Designer Tom Francis was the guy behind Gunpoint, one of my favorites of 2013, and this next title similarly allows a great deal of player expressio... read
Demoing a game like Alien: Isolation at a convention such as EGX or PAX has always been problematic since horror works best when there's time for quieter moments between the scares. There has to be a period of tension buildin... read
Whenever I've posted an article about a videogame Kickstarter, I've tried to lean on the side of titles that have either a demo as that helps ease some of the potential doubts you can have while backing a project. The team be... read
Sep 23 //
Wasteland 2 (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: inXile EntertainmentPublisher: inXile EntertainmentMRSP: $39.99/£29.99Released: September 19, 2014
inXile head Brian Fargo has talked at length about how Wasteland 2 was rejected by numerous publishers over the years. It's a traditional, old-school PC RPG in almost every way -- so much so that it feels like a follow-up to the original Fallout games.
The world of Wasteland 2 is still the irradiated wastes of a post-apocalyptic USA. The only form of law enforcement is the Rangers, a group of former military engineers operating out of a base called The Citadel. Starting with a party of four characters, players will roam the the Southwest, initially hunting for clues to solve the murder of a Ranger but gradually uncovering a new enemy.
What's interesting about the Rangers is that they're not universally liked; despite your best efforts, you won't always be able to change people's attitudes about your specific team or the Rangers in general. Not everything is black and white and your crew is going to have to make tough choices to achieve its goals. The wasteland is a dangerous, unforgiving place. Although the Fallout series has always had some dark humor to it thanks to the retro-futuristic setting, Wasteland 2 is mainly played straight -- there's not a lot of joy to be found in the irradiated wilderness.
At the start, you'll get to select a team of four characters that you can either pick from a pre-set group or design on your own. All the named characters have a predefined set of skills to suit certain roles, like a medic or sniper, but you're free to generate a custom character and choose their skills as you please. As with a lot of role-playing games, you're shown many stats, abilities, and attributes when you pick a character and it's hard to know what to invest in. Wasteland 2 is the type of game where after a few hours of playing, you'll realize you've got a bad or otherwise ineffective combination of skills and will want to just start over.
That's echoed with a lot of the quest design where there's often the urge to reload a much earlier save because you've either missed something or your party didn't pick up a vital piece of equipment from an earlier mission. You're not going to see everything on the first playthrough so don't be disappointed when there's some unresolved loose ends in the story when the credits roll. However, certain early missions just seem to lead into other ones without feeling resolved and you're left with unfinished business in your log. The game could do a better job of keeping you informed of where the most pressing mission is happening or let you know before you leave an area that there's still things to be done.
Eventually, you can recruit for your team and add up to three extra party members. They all have their own attributes, gear, and stats but are prone to losing their cool under fire and ignoring your commands. Most of the time this actually works out fine as they charge into battle, shooting enemies as they go but sometimes they'll walk into a trap and just cause trouble. Early on, it's worthwhile to take an extra teammate or two with you just to at least have another person for raiders and mutants to focus on instead of you. One way the game could stand to improve is sharing resources between party members; dragging and dropping items to a member's icon more often than not led me to just dump items on the ground instead.
Combat is based on action points that the player can spend to do things like move, shoot, and reload. Positioning and use of cover is key but it can be frustrating when you've got party members who are armed with melee and short-ranged weapons fighting in a big open area. An action queue is displayed at the top of the screen, showing the order of characters and who will act first, which is based on their initiative skill.
Action point usage is displayed pretty clearly -- like when you hover over an enemy to see how much AP it will take to shoot them, or to throw a grenade, for instance. Keeping characters out of harm's way is a good idea as you can roll some unused action points over into that character's next turn. While it's possible to just push your way through early battles, you'll need to make good use of your party's skills to beat large groups of enemies.
It's easy to see where Wasteland 2's fairly modest, Kickstarter-generated budget has gone. Close up, the character models are basic, even compared with previous-gen console games. They're almost PlayStation 2-era graphics -- but they're not the reason you're playing the game.
A few darker areas could have used some extra user-interface prompts to help players pick out their party and traps, and there's a strange lack of consistency with character's painted portraits and their actual 3D model in the game. One of my custom characters had a picture portraying him as a clean-shaven black man even though the actual 3D model showed him being white and having a grey beard. It's not a major problem at all, but it was jarring every time it popped up.
Something else that's noticeable is the voice acting, or lack thereof. While your main contact General Vargas is fully voiced and you'll hear plenty of radio chatter with other characters, more often than not it's only the first and last line of a conversation that has spoken dialogue -- the rest is just text. Again, not a problem in the larger scale of things, but it's noticeable.
If these sound like nitpicks, then it's because they are really the only problems that are due to how the game was made. Other issues come from the fact that this is a real old-school RPG, the kind that most developers haven't made made in a while (Divinity: Original Sin is a recent exception).
It's the type of game that sticks with the "dice rolls in the background" mechanic and there will be times when you have a 99% chance to succeed and you'll still fail. There are separate skills for lock picking, safe cracking, and bypassing alarms. That's been part and parcel of the genre for years so if that kind of thing doesn't put you off, you're going to enjoy your time here.
Wasteland 2 is an expansive game that demands to be replayed again and again to get the best out of it. While a lot of the detailed mechanics feel somewhat archaic, they're not going to hold back dedicated players who want to micromanage and really role play their group of characters. It has all of the familiar elements and even if some aspects of its presentation are not quite up to modern standards, its design and gameplay are timeless and welcome.
This Kickstarted RPG delivers exactly what was expected [Disclosure: I backed the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter and as such received an Early Access copy of the game.]
Wasteland 2 is one of the projects that saw success in the wake of Double Fine's Broken Age. Just a month after Tim Sch... read feature
I've been playing inXile Entertainment's Wasteland 2 before its full release on Friday but I have to say, I'm even more excited for the studio's other title, Torment: Tides of Numenera. We've now got our first good glimpse a... read
While there's no firm release date, you can pre-purchase a copy of Elite: Dangerous from Frontier Developments. To sweeten the deal, if you order now you'll get some digital goodies like an extra Eagle Fighter ship which sou... read
A recent survey casts some interesting light on digital sales
// Alasdair Duncan
If there's one phrase you get used to hearing when talking about PC games, it's "I'll wait for a bundle or sale." It's common knowledge if you wait a while, you can get a better price through places like Steam, Green Man Gami... read
Summer? I think I must've slept through it... oh wait, I was watching the World Cup. Oh well, there's always next year and until then The Humble Store is settling me in for autumn and winter by having daily deals on some grea... read
GOG.com, the online purveyor of classic and indie PC games is celebrating its sixth birthday and in typical fashion, that means a sale. The site always tries to put a neat twist on its promotions, so for the rest of the week ... read
While adventure games are doing as well as ever, there's still not too many that hark back to the classic era games like Day of the Tentacle. They used to be really weird!
Jacob Janerka's Paradigm seems to emulate that style... read
Sep 04 //
Hatoful Boyfriend (PC)Developer: Mediatonic / Hato MoaPublisher: Devolver DigitalMRSP: $9.99 / £6.99Release: September 4, 2014
It's hard to explain the curious appeal of Hatoful Boyfriend without straight up spoiling some of its story beats. What is clear is that this is not a simple dating sim where all the characters have been replaced by avian love interests; that would have been maybe too easy and wouldn't come close to the weirdness that permeates everyday life at the St. PigeoNation's Institute.
This translation of a 2011 Japanese interactive novel tries to lead you in gently. You are the only human student at this particular school. All of the other pupils and staff are birds, like your friend Ryouta Kawara, a rock dove who looks after his sick mother. Over the course of the school year, you'll meet different birds all with distinct personalities like the stuck-up, aristocratic Sakuya and the creepy school doctor, Shuu Iwamine.
Every few days, an elective day is held which gives you the choice of taking a unique class that can level up one of your three stats: wisdom, charisma, and vitality. These tie into later activities like socializing or taking exams but this isn't an RPG -- there's no checks against your stats before you can complete a task.
One thing that does feel out of place is the lack of continuity between scenes. You can pick sides in a fight between two classmates on one day and the next day neither of them will mention it or seemingly think any different of you. Whenever you play, the main story is going to pan out roughly the same, excluding any individual choices you make.
Sometimes, Hatoful Boyfriend has smart dialogue -- even simple things like replacing the term "everybody" with "everybirdie" -- but there are also times when the text can be confusing, possibly due to a mistranslation. It's a weird game, so there's a tendency to just go with the flow and not look for the logical narrative.
The achievements reveal that there are multiple endings but there's no clear way of striving for a particular conclusion; a lot of the time you just have to make your choices and see what happens.
That's an awfully reductive way to talk about the game, as an interactive novel like this. You're not really expected to manage stats, you're just trying to get through the day to see the next crazy thing that happens. From pudding-obsessed athletes to a secret society that has big plans, Hatoful Boyfriend goes above and beyond the average dating simulator.
Occasionally, it doesn't feel quite weird enough to carry the whole concept of a human schoolgirl at an all-bird high school, but there's still plenty of laughs to be had for a brief experience that you're going to have to play through multiple times to fully enjoy.
Pigeon Dating Simulator 2014 Moving to a new school always sucks. You need worry to about grades, pick classes, join a club, try to find new friends, and fit into an existing social hierarchy.
Imagine that but with the added confusion of all your schoolmates being birds. read feature
As someone living in the UK, it's super frustrating to see notifications pop up on a console or Steam showing my North American friends playing new releases when I usually have to wait a few more days to get my hands on the s... read
As a former Australian resident, one thing I don't miss there was the lack of an R18+ rating for videogames; despite the fact that the R18+ rating has now been introduced, there have still been cuts to games like South Park: ... read
Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Red Faction will be removed from sale
// Alasdair Duncan
One of the assumptions of buying games digitally is that you assume they'll always be available. That's sadly not the case, but GOG.com is offering discounts on 35 games that it will be removing from its catalog on Septe... read
It's like Smokey and the Bandit meets Red October. In space!
// Alasdair Duncan
Remember kids, crime doesn't pay. That is unless you find illicit liquor floating in space and decided to slowly sneak into a space station without the cops seeing you. In which case, it very much pays. YouTube user Isinona ... read
I appreciate how a publisher like Devolver Digital can put out games as different as Hotline Miami 2 and Hatoful Boyfriend within a few months, as well as this neat top-down shooter A Fistful of Gun. The game looks like ... read
Dwight Schultz is in it! Murdock from the A-team!!
// Alasdair Duncan
If you're anxiously waiting for that Homeworld HD remake to arrive, we can console ourselves with another nice-looking space-based RTS game in Ancient Space which will dock with us later in the autumn for PC and Mac.
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A YouTube user named LennyReviews has stumbled across some alpha footage of Hotline Miami 2 and has posted a whopping 80-minute-plus video of the hotly anticipated release from Dennatron and Devolver Digital.
This is suppose... read
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The Humble Bundle is always good value for money but it differs for person to person; is it worth buying a bundle that includes several games you already own? Maybe, but I know I'll be getting the new Humble Jumbo Bundle for ... read
Just a few weeks ago, we let you know that the much anticipated Wasteland 2 was being delayed a few weeks into September. Now we've gotten word from inXile head Brian Fargo that the game will finally be with us on September 1... read
Remember that animated .gif of Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata holding a DS and proclaiming "It prints money"? You could probably do the same with a picture of Chris Roberts and his pet project Star Citizen. The ambitious ... read
It is currently sitting at zero positive reviews on Steam
// Alasdair Duncan
Sacred 3 wasn't a very well received game; I felt it was an average and uninspired hack-'n'-slash game with some terrible attempts at humor. Comments on my review either sided on "hey, it's not too bad in co-op," to "this is ... read
I'll be honest, I haven't played a Pro Evolution Soccer game since the PlayStation 2 days but after the series lagged behind EA's FIFA juggernaut for the last few years, I'm keen to try the series again on a current-gen platf... read