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Alasdair Duncan's blog
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2:34 PM on 10.01.2013

Backlog Challenge Part 7




So two months ago I said that July would be catch up month and that tackling the backlog would have to wait for a few weeks. Well those few weeks ended up becoming two whole months as the Steam sale went on and I was, once again, overwhelmed as to what game to play and where to start. I got mucked in with Far Cry 3ís Blood Dragon which I picked up in the Steam sale (that in itself will be a recurring theme); man that is a dumb, dumb game but also an exciting one. You can tell it was made on a budget yet it shows a surprising willingness to break from the main gameís story. The humour was reminded me of the best 80ís straight-to-VHS flick that I never saw. My buddy Matt is a connoisseur of that kind of stuff but I was never a fan of the ďso bad itís goodĒ type of flick but Blood Dragon clearly has itís tongue firmly lodged in itís cheek.

Next up was the second DLC for Dishonored, The Witches of Bridgemore which I was itching to get to after completing the previous DLC, the Knife of Dunwall, which doesnít end on a cliffhanger per se but does leave unanswered questions. Witches of Bridgemore does start off slowly by bringing Daud back to a place we already explored with Corvo but the latter levels definitely are an improvement. The last level with the teleporting witches and the spectral hounds is so tense and itís great to see what the plan of Delilah really is. After that I played Gucamelee which is a quality platformer with some metroidvania-esque elements. Love the art style, the meme-stuff wasnít really off-putting and the difficulty curve is aimed just right. At the end, I was getting frustrated at the last few bosses but overall itís a fun game you should check out.



I played Gone Home which I was eager to play as soon as I could. This style of game is something I want to see more of; personal, reflective and emotionally engaging. I felt a connection with Samís tale, despite being a straight, hairy guy; I didnít grow up in the Pacific Northwest region but I was a teenager in the mid-90ís and the tales of high school romance struck a chord with me. Sure, thereís some contrivances that have to be made; did anyone really leave such a paper trail in their house and hey, why do none of the bathrooms have any mirrors in them? Still, the story has stuck with me over the last few days and again, Iíd love to see more small-scale, personal experiences like this in the future.

Next up was Remember Me, which had been described as ďthe type of game that you should wait until itís on a Steam saleĒ but I think that grossly undersells the title. The customisable combo system was really interesting and the memory remixes were really interesting to work with. Yes, thereís a lot of fluff concerning the terms for basic videogame mechanics but at least thereís an attempt to make a cohesive and distinctive world. Some of the mechanics concerning taking out certain enemies were frustrating but I really enjoyed the game overall.



Iíve managed to finish Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs too, which felt short but was still scary. The tension I felt was really strong but I had some glitches with the game too, like how my monitor would go onto standby mode when it got too dark. It didnít have the same impact as the Dark Descent but how could it? A Machine for Pigs was a grim tale of apocalyptic visions of the 20th century.

So onto this month, I really want to finish games that I came so close to getting to the end but wasnít able to polish them. Iím still working on finishing GTA V but Iím willing to split my time between Rockstarís latest and another game from the backlog. Weíre entering a busy period of the year both with new games (and Iíve got quite a few gigs to go to) but I feel I can pull off another backlog challenge.



First up is Fallout New Vegas; Iím already deep into the game and Iíve completed the Old World Blues DLC pack but Iím also at the stage where Iíve pissed Caesarís Legion off enough, where theyíre just appearing out of thin air to take pot shots at me. It got really frustrating to the point where I just gave up but I do really want to finish the main storyline. If thereís time during the month, Iíll complete that and hopefully another DLC chapter too.



I got likeÖ. this close to finishing Alan Wake on the 360, I know I was right near the end but for some reason I just never pushed to the end. This was back when I was living in Australia, so Iím not gonna be able to just boot the game up again and complete it. Iíll have to do it all over again on the PC but Iím okay with that. Just donít expect me to collect all those bloody flasks again.




Shadowrun Returns really needs finishing; I kinda screwed myself over by buying stuff I really didnít need and so Iím at a stage where I have to recruit mercs for a mission and all I can afford are the cheap ones that offer very little help. I need to roll back and start from an earlier save or I could start again.



Itís a similar situation with XCOM; I had taken a path that left me with hardly any engineers and therefore unable to build any income generating satellites. Iíve restarted and have a good base already built. I feel like Iíve got a good hang of the mechanics now so Iím hoping Iím not going down a path that I feel is going to screw me up later on.



Strangely enough, I got about ⅓ of the way through Thomas Was Alone whilst I was at the airport waiting to go to PAX East this year. I really should play more of it, as the game runs just fine on my laptop and works well without a mouse and keyboard.

So thatís your options, post one game in the comments and Iíll do my best to finish that title off by the end of the month.   read


3:42 PM on 06.30.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 6

Failure! As much as I expected it, Dark Souls has kicked my ass this month. I've put in some hours in Dark Souls but I'm making slow progress. This is what I expected though, my friends have told me that Dark Souls is a game Iíll make slow progress with. I'm going to keep plugging away at the game but I'm taking a break from my backlog challenge for the month of July to take advantage of some newer games. I'm hoping to avoid a situation where I come to the end of 2013 and I've not played enough games to be able to contribute to my Games of the Year list.



With that thought in my mind, I went and played and completed Gunpoint which I enjoyed very much. Tom Francis has talked about his love of games like Deus Ex before and you could see that in the openness of the design. Even though there are probably only a few ways to complete a level, I felt the levels were open enough to allow different approaches. The controls felt tight and the story was engaging and even funny. I also managed to polish off The Knife of Dunwall which was a Steam weekly deal. Itís basically more Dishonored but considering that was one of my favourite game from 2012, thatís no bad thing. Aside from the last level which was a repeat of an existing level from the original, it was some good stuff.




So considering I've knocked off a fair few games off my backlog this year, I'm taking a break this month. With the Steam sale happening in July, I'm sure Iíll be picking up plenty of titles (budget permitting) and hopefully Iíll be able to get through a few of them. Iíve already picked up Rogue Legacy as it seems to be the game de jour and itís been fun so far. Thereís also Shadowrun Returns arriving at the end of the month too. Other games I'm looking to pick up are Far Cry: Blood Dragon, Papa & Yo and Monaco. So Iíll be back in August with a roundup of how I've done and with some more Backlog choices for you to pick.   read


2:11 PM on 06.01.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 5

If I thought last month was productive, then May was even better. Thanks to a pair of three-day weekends I managed to get plenty of games completed this month. First up was Singularity, which took me about 8 hours to complete. Itís a good game but itís kind of showing up now a lot of tropes which I'm starting to get tired of (audio logs, seeing ďghostsĒ or flashbacks, silent protagonists) but I did like the combat and the time manipulation device meant there was some fun and experimentation involved. The aesthetic was a little bit different but still fell into those videogame settings; labs, factories, sewers and so on. Still if you see it in the Steam Summer Sale for a few bucks, definitely check it out.




After burning through Singularity, I immediately moved onto Driver: San Francisco which as usual, I had picked up in the sale but hadn't even installed. Itís pretty good, the ďshiftĒ mechanic allows you to move between different mission types so the game had plenty of variety. Even at the end it got a bit bat-shit mental, it never got boring. Some of the stand outs involved scaring a car salesmen, smashing flyers for a nightclub event, and drifting underneath trucks to diffuse bombs. There were plenty of side missions but to be honest I did enough to get me some upgrades and never found them necessary. The story was fairly hammy but it was a nice mashup between Quantum Leap and Life on Mars. Plus is had a pretty great soundtrack (DJ Shadow, the Stooges, QOTSA, Cut Chemist, the Presets, LCD Soundsystem) and it took about 10 hours to complete. Again, if you see it going for cheap, then give it a go.



I did intend to play more games after getting through those two games really quickly but a couple of technical hiccups, working hours and general tardiness stopped that from happening. I've recently managed to get my PC hooked up to my TV, so I am all set up for Big Picture Mode. With that in mind, I've picked some big games this month that are well suited to playing on the couch. Now since these are all large games, please ONLY VOTE FOR ONE in the comments. Seriously my brain has a hard time with numbers...




Ok.... no seriously, letís do this.



So this is another title I have bought but not even touched. You have no idea how much I want to slap myself in the face every time I realise that. Still at least not Skyrim has been out almost 2 years, has had a legion of patches and mods released for it, so I guess thereís no time like the present.



I have played GTA IV to completion but I've not touched either The Lost & The Damned or The Ballad of Gay Tony (*slap*). I need to double check if these two support controller support but that should be a given considering the original gameís port origins. Also, I'm itching to try out the high-res mods for GTA IV, which my PC should run. Right?



Saints Row The Third was a THQ Humble Bundle purchase which I havenít played (*slaps again*). I really feel I should play this before Saints Row 4 comes out to see if itís going to be my thing. I think like a lot of people I had written it off as just ďcomedy GTAĒ but the reaction to Saints Row The Third was really positive so I do wanna play it.



I didn't get RDR when it came out as I was in the process of leaving Australia, so I didn't buy any console games at the time of release. Then when I was back in the UK, I procrastinated as I wished in vain for a PC release. I finally bought the complete Read Dead Redemption a few months ago and started playing it last weekend. Should I complete it this month?

So thereís your 5 choices; I think with the scale of some of these games, Iíll be struggling to fit in more than one in a month, so please only vote for 1 game. Feel free to comment on all the games but itíll make things much easier if you just say ďYes, play xxx as itís awesomeĒ. Leave your vote in the comments and Iíll announce a winner on Tuesday night.   read


3:51 PM on 04.29.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 4

Last month was a good result in taking on my Backlog; I took on three games, two old and one new and completed all of them. First up was Hard Reset, the old school sci-fi FPS. Boy, I tell you I havenít circle strafed in a game for quite some time. Hard Reset is real old school, a big array of weapons, no reloading, waves of small enemies to pick off... itís old school Quake and Doom with a grim sci-fi style. The story is told in some nice looking motion comic cutscenes (which are skip-able, bonus points there) but thereís not a lot of sense in them. Something about rogue androids and artificial intelligences running wild and the main guy swears a lot. I didnít realise it but in my first attempt at playing Hard Reset last year, I can really close to finishing the game. The free DLC did extend the game somewhat and I was grateful for being able to upgrade my weapons more to really waste the robots in the game. Recommend the game but be prepared to play it in bursts, maybe do a level at a time.



The next game I played was Mirrorís Edge which was recommended because it too was fairly short. The game looked great, despite some screen tearing and the fact that PhysX drivers made crowded scenes real laggy. I love the sense of speed and momentum you could feel once you got Faith up to speed, however the person that made enemies with guns so prevalent in the game needs a stern talking to. It was no fun bumping into a group of enemies and I died a heck of a lot more due to gunfire than falling to my death. I would like to see a sequel, maybe in a city thatís managed to shake itself from the oppressive government and Iíd love to see longer stretches of just running without complicated platforming, just for the sheer sense of speed.



I also played BioShock: Infinite this month which I was always going to do first up. I thought it was really good and whilst it leant quite heavily on the original BioShockís mechanics, I do want to go back and experience Columbia again soon. It looked and sounded stunning and I understand the complaints that the combat detracted from the experience as a whole but then again, Iím not sure what youíd replace it with. Where Irrational goes from here I have no idea, Iíll suppose weíll need to wait and see how successful BioShock: Infinite is financially and what the future holds for the franchsie. I like the idea of ďshockĒ representing a player either exploring the ruins of lost cities (the Von Braun in System Shock 2, Rapture in BioShock) or seeing the fall of a utopia (Columbia in BioShock: Infinite) but those themes could be explored in another game or with different mechanics.



So now onto the games I want to try and beat this this month; I started playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown in April too so Iíd like to complete that as well. Iím also wanting to play Donít Starve and Monaco as well, but I reckon thereís time enough to fit in a good story driven game into this monthsí challenge and who knows, I might be able to get two or even three games completed this month. Hereís your choices below:



I think the Ball may have been a gift and if it was, I apologise for not playing it sooner. All I know is that the Ball involves..... a ball. And Iíve seen some screenshots of some kind of giant lizard man and zombified gorillas. Iím not sure, I may have been drunk...... no, that does seem legit.



I got real close I think to finishing Zeno Clash back when I was living in Australia but I never did finish the game. It wasnít the strangeness or the sheer weirdness of Father Mother et al, but I think I was having some issues with the mechanics, specifically the melee attacks. But I did love the style and thank God for a first person game in 2009 that showed some real imagination. Just like Metro 2033, Iíd really like to play this before the sequel comes out.



Now that the sequel has been funded and will be on Steam, I should really finish Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. I got maybe an hour into it before maybe moving on. I remember feeling frustrated with the camera but I really should finish it; Caimdark highly recommended it and I feel it would make a good change from some of the games Iíve played recently.



Again, I think Singularity may have been a gift and I really should have played it already. All I know is that Singularity is better than average game with time control mechanics and some great Soviet aesthetics. I hope Singularity is one of those gems that sneaked under the radar at the time of release.



This was another game that was described as ďwait until it comes down in price before buying itĒ. Pretty sure I got Driver San Francisco in the Steam Christmas sale for a real good price but until I play it, itís money wasted. Iíve not played any of the Driver games since the PS1 days so I have no idea what to expect from the game.

So there you go, 5 pretty different games and Iíd love to get at least one or even two of them played and completed in May. Iíll be putting aside XCOM once the vote is over and Iíll be returning to it and other games throughout the month. Iíve got some big titles planned for the Backlog Challenge for the Summer months so stay tuned for that. Put your votes of which game youíd like to see me play before May the 2nd in the comments below.   read


2:32 PM on 04.05.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 3

Okay so that took longer than expected. At the start of February you voted that I should play The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition for the first time. And play it I did but it took a whole lot longer than expected. So hereís my excuses; I kicked wrote a lot more for the front page of Destructoid than I have done in recent weeks, including a preview of the upcoming Sang-Froid - A Tale of Werewolves. Iíve also moved into a new apartment, so it took a few weeks of getting things in order, organising furniture and necessities like internet all sorted out. Plus, thereís been PAX East 2013, a great week afterwards in New York with Changston...

...but I finished the game and boy that is a real old school adventure game. After playing recent point and click games like Yesterday and Da New Guyz itís strange to go back to a game where thereís very little concessions made to the player. At least, thatís the impression I made whilst playing the remastered version of the game; having to manually bring up the inventory and the commands took a bit of getting used to once I realised thatís how I had to interact in the world. It took a while because, remember, no tutorial. Thereís also a fair amount of backtracking which was frustrating especially on Monkey Island itself. No way that could have been streamlined a bit so I wouldnít have to paddle back and forth from the North and South of the island?



That being said, Monkey Island is known for itís humour more than anything else and that still delivered. Whether it was the great scene where everything happens behind a wall and you have to watch Guybrushís interactions on the bottom screen. The one-liners and insult sword fighting are still great and Iím now wanting get the sequel to play at some point too. But I need to score off a few more games before I make some more purchases. With that in mind, I did buy and complete the first episode of Kentucky Route Zero. I love the art style and the really subtle audio design as well. Instead of it being like a traditional adventure game, youíre really kind of sculpting your experience as youíre doing, making it unique to you but still consistent with the overarching story. Iím glad Iíve got plenty of forthcoming episodes to come later this year.

So onto this monthís picks; Iíve downloaded more games that I really want to play and finish toute suite as the French would say (I bet Beccy is correcting me right now as I type this). Let me get this out of the way first: Iím playing BioShock Infinite first and foremost this month (actually just finished it about an hour ago). This was one of the few games this year that I said I was going to play before anything else and my copy has been sitting at my parentís house since Tuesday whilst Iíve been in New York. So thatís getting played but then what next? Itís up to you.



Mirrorís Edge was one of those titles that people kept saying ďOh, you should buy it when itís cheap and play it then,Ē Well I did the ďbuy it cheapĒ part but now I really want to play it. Especially now as Iíve gotten a new TV and hooked it up to my PC; Steam Big Picture mode ahoy!



I tried playing through Metro 2033 but I felt I botched an early stealth mission and grew frustrated with it. That being said I feel Iíve given the game a short shrift and should really return to it. I definitely want to finish it before Metro: Last Light is released. Which also reminds me that I still have to finish the Metro 2033 book I bought...



This was a narrow loser in the first Backlog Challenge I did at the start of the year, just missing out to Sleeping Dogs. I do really want to play XCOM as I want to get primed for play Total War: Rome 2 and Company of Heroes 2 later on this year and I really need to bone up on my strategy games.



My buddy The Toilet Duck (aka Aidan) said this might be a bit much for me to chew on in such a short month. Whilst Dark Souls has this really hardcore reputation, the way itís been described to me by my friends who have played it, is that Dark Souls just requires a slow and steady approach and plenty of patience. I do think itís a game that will take a while to play but I can see myself being absorbed in it once I get into it.



I got maybe... half way through Hard Reset shortly after launch before my laptop really started to creak under the weight of the graphics. It had done really well running the game for a while but hopefully I can get back into it and finally finish it because I was having a lot of fun with this old-school style gem.

So vote now, I'll keep the voting open until Monday 8th. Get voting and hopefully I'll finish a game this month!   read


2:44 PM on 02.01.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 2

So last month you kindly folks voted that I play Sleeping Dogs and scratch that game off my backlog. And play it I did, completing the single player, a fair chunk of the side missions as well as the Zodiac Tournament and Nightmare in Northpoint DLC packs. Overall I thought the game was good; the story was interesting enough and it managed to do a good job of conveying Wei Shenís inner-conflict. The voice acting was good overall and the representation of Hong Kong felt really vivid.



Some parts didnít feel as good as they could be; I kept being reminded of other games whilst playing Sleeping Dogs which isnít a good thing. Whilst I was fighting I kept thinking ďthis combat system is good but not as good as Batman Arkham Asylum or Arkham CityĒ. Whilst doing one of the chase/traversal missions I thought ďthis movement is good but Assassinís Creed games does it betterĒ. Aside from that, a lack of polish stuck out at me Often I found myself in a combat sequence with three identical enemies. I took a screenshot randomly of three identical woman just hanging out, completely at random. The radio stations were great; having a station that features two of my favourite record labels, Warp and Ninja Tune was a great move. But having the tracks skip between missions even though youíd only been out of your vehicle for a few seconds was frustrating.



Strangely GTA IVís Liberty City seems more cohesive and more identifiable as a place rather than Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs but I still think the latter is a good game to play. It looks gorgeous on the PC with the HD texture pack and playing it with a controller feels like the right way to play. Since I finished Sleeping Dogs in the middle of the month, I felt I could get another big game finished before the end of the month. With the memory of me trying to cram games into the last few months of the year to be able to vote in Destructoidís GOTY for 2012 poll, I thought Iíd better play a 2013 release. So I picked up Devil May Cry DmC on Steam mainly due to the positive reviews. Despite never having played an original Devil May Cry game, I enjoyed the new title a lot. It looks great, the combat has a great flow to it and some of the levels and boss fights were really imaginative.



So now onto Februaryís challenge. Iím leaving 2012ís games behind for a bit so I can actually start to get into the depths of my backlog. I had a Garth Marenghi-esque revelation recently when I realised that Iíve probably received more point Ďn click adventure games than Iíve played simply for fun, and that was just in 2012. Lacking a PC for most of the early-mid 1990s meant that I missed most of the golden age of Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games; the Curse of Monkey Island was the first one I played, which I really enjoyed but the year after I played Grim Fandango which became a steadfast favourite of mine. Afterwards the adventure game genre seemed to decline severely in popularity but in the last few years thereís been a glut of great adventure games released. This selection of games matches old and new adventure titles that I really want to complete off my backlog.



I suppose we better start with maybe the classic adventure game. As I mentioned earlier, I missed out on a lot of early adventure games because my family didnít have a dedicated PC. My dad had a work laptop but he stopped my brother and I from using it after finding we had installed Doom on it without his permission. I purchased The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition with the intention of filling in some of the blanks of my gaming past but Iíve yet to play it.



The Dig was seemingly highly regarded at the time of release only to fade in the eyes of some as being over-hyped thanks to the involvement of Steven Spielberg. Iíve played about 45 minutes of this game but Iím willing to start up a fresh game and get laid into this one.



I always assumed Spielberg was associated with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis because well... itís Indy. Again, I bought this with the intention of adding another classic point and click game to my library but like with the Dig I have barely touched it.



Resonance reviewed really well last year and I picked it up on Steam in the Christmas sale. I hoped it would simply sit on my laptop and be there whenever I was travelling or had some downtime during the year. But if you guys pick it, I will be starting it and finishing it by the end of the month.



Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen Please were so stupidly cheap that I had to buy them. And of course play them for about 5 minute before not touching them again just like about 80% of my Steam collection. So if you vote for this pair of games, I will be playing them both this month. That way I get two games written off for the price of one.

So there you go, 5 games for you to vote on. Simply put down which game you want me to play in the comments below, I'm going to keep the voting open until Sunday 3rd February at midnight when Iíll post a comment declaring a winner. Part of the reason I've picked these games is that I'm probably moving into a new place at the end of the month and all of these games will run on my laptop without too much trouble. Hopefully Iíll be able to get online and post my thoughts again but until then, get voting!   read


10:24 AM on 01.05.2013

Backlog challenge 2013 Part 1



So in the vain hope of reducing my backlog, Iím throwing open the chance to all of you lovely folk as to what game Iím going to play next in my backlog. When I say my hopes are in vain, it basically means that Iím hoping to play as many games as I end up buying in 2013 so I start 2014 in pretty much the same position as I started this year. Anyway, with that cynical thought out of the way, hereís a couple of ground points I want to make.

1) Iím going to provide 5 options each month for people to vote on. Iím planning a theme on each set of games, so I donít end up

2) If I end up completing a game really quickly, then Iím reserving the right to play another game of my choice in the same month. If I finish that game, then Iíll start the next vote early

3) Iím still going to be reviewing games for the site, so if something comes my way, Iíll be dropping everything to play the game and review it. Last year I did about 7 or 8 reviews, so that wonít happen too much, but...

4) When it comes to big new releases, I am dropping everything to play them. So when Bioshock Infinite comes out, I am playing that straight away. Like, maybe taking some days off work to play. Again, wonít happen too much but at the same time I need at least 10 games for my end of 2013 Best Of... list, right?

5) I reserve the right not to play DLC that extends the game and also to play the game on Easy mode (if applicable) should I choose. Also, I ain't playing multiplayer but I may play co-op if I can guarantee people will play with me.

So with those excuses out of the way, letís get to the theme for January and the games youíll be voting for:

Best of 2012 I didnít finish.

So hereís a list of games that I either bought but didnít play in 2012, or started but never finished. I think youíre going to see a lot of repeat themes here...



Sleeping Dogs seems to have been a case of ďhey, this is way better than expectedĒ, considering itís troubled development. I bought Sleeping Dogs at launch knowing my new PC was going to be arriving soon but two reviews and repairs to my desktop meant I had to shelve playing it until this year. I have only played an hour but that was mainly to see how good the HD texture pack looks on my PC (spoiler: it looks reeaaaaallllyyyy good)



Fez was more of a case of ďwow, this is really greatĒ and then ďI have no idea where I am or what I should be doingĒ. The seemingly maze-like series of doors and passages meant I quickly lost my bearings and my puzzle solving skills are so lax that I know I wasnít going to make it far. But I donít want to give up on Fez, I want to experience that ďah hah!Ē moment that everyone seems to have with that game.



File under the ďhey, this is way better than expectedĒ category too. I want to play another modern military shooter set in the middle east like I want an extra couple of holes in my head. Yet Spec Ops seems to have gotten a lot of praise with elements of itís story and itís non-glamorous take on warfare. Worth a shot it seems, after I picked it up in the Steam Winter Sale for next to nothing.



XCOM: Enemy Unknown was something that was on my radar but it wasnít until I played it at PAX Prime last year, that I knew I wanted to play for sure. I wasnít ideologically opposed to the FPS reboot but seeing Firaxis update the older XCOM games for modern times was really pleasing. I know I will dig into this at some point but will it be next game I play?



Just like XCOM, I wasnít opposed to the idea of an FPS reboot of Bullfrogís classic Syndicate; the only thing I remember from the original game was playing it at my friend Martinís house when I was a kid and guys in trench coats gunning down people with miniguns. And Starbreezeís update has both of those. I got about halfway through and got frustrated with seemingly invincible boss fights and the nagging sensation that I maybe missed out on some gameplay info.

So there's your 5 choices, I'm gonna keep voting open until Sunday midnight GMT, afterwards I'll post what the choice of game was in the comments and start playing. Bear in mind there were more games I got in 2012 that I need to finish but these were some of the big ones that came to mind. With all that, get to voting!

image header credit   read


1:46 PM on 01.02.2013

Hey, here's my top 10 personal favourite games of 2012

Hey, here's the games I enjoyed the most out in 2012. See the bottom of this post for the obligatory apologies and excuses.



10: Thirty Flights of Loving
A game with simplistic graphics and controls that only takes maybe 15 minutes to play? Thirty Flights of Loving scattershot narrative echoes Reservoir Dogs (a heist movie where you never see the actual heist) but it's told in such a fractured way that it's always moving between action sequences and surprisingly touching moments between your character and his band of crooks.

Be right back, booking my flight to Hong Kong so I can hang out with my close friends and peel some oranges.



09: Mass Effect 3
Yes, the ending was muddled but when it comes to games, I'm more of interested in the journey instead of the destination. The road to the end of Shepherd's tale still delivered some great highpoints in the series. The Krogan genophage is handled really well, returning characters come back with some great moments and the improved gameplay from ME2 (I preferred the shooter-centric style over ME1's loose gunplay).

There were problems with the the third installment; the pacing felt all off after the initial excitement of the Reaper invasion of Earth. The random fetch quests you pick up whilst wandering around places seems really weird and keeping seemingly important story information in paid DLC is really disappointing. Where does the series go from here? No idea, but I'd love to see something different in this universe. A space combat sim during the First Contact Wars? Sign me up!



08: Tribes: Ascend
I already mentioned how Tribes: Ascend was an under-rated game this year. Whilst the aesthetics aren't very original and hardcore fans weren't keen on a classic multiplayer shooter being re-tooled for a modern free to play title, Tribes: Ascend managed to get the frantic, fast paced combat intact.

It's just so fast compared to modern twitch based shooters, the arenas are large and allow you to get a good sense of where the flashpoints on the battlefield are. Seeing a scrap in the distance and skiing over to it was super satisfying and Tribes: Ascend became my multiplayer shooter of the year.




07: Botanicula
Amanita Design have been bringing us charming adventure games for a number of years now, Botanicula doesn't follow the lead of their previous title Machinarium, it still has the same European sense of style and craft. Following the journey of a group of tiny tree dwellers as they seek to protect a precious acorn from a life sucking spider creature, Botanicula manages to communicate purely through tt's wonderful artwork and sound design.

Whilst the puzzles are sometimes simplistic, Botanicula wowed me with every new screen; there's strange and wonderful creatures going about their weird business and new sounds and music that kept surprising me. The scene where the group encounter the magic being in the lamp who grants their wishes was one of gaming high points for me this year.



06: Hotline Miami
I feel dirty after playing Hotline Miami.
Whether it's the slightly queasy visuals or the relentless beats that accompany your balletic bloodshed, I don't feel empowered or like a superhero after wasting a room filled with Russian mafia types. There's a lingering sense of unease after each mission and whilst managing to clear a floor of enemies is rewarding, it's never without a "ooooohhhh shit" that comes with beheading a dude.

Whilst the controls don't have the tightness that might make the game a little easier, Hotline Miami is more about quick planning, reactions and weighing up your options. Ok you only disarmed a guy when you threw your baseball bat at him; should you rush in and take him on before he recovers and picks up a weapon or retreat and wait for a better opportunity. The lightning fast restarts help the sense of speed and meant that experimentation was encouraged. I frankly suck at the game but that doesn't stop me from wanting to come back to it time and time again.



05: Max Payne 3
I played the original Max Payne games back in the day and whilst I really liked them, I recognised there were flaws with them too. The script often veered too much into self referential humour and I often found myself just clearing a room of enemies, quicksaving and continuing which negated a lot of the challenge.
But Max Payne 3 was different; the older, paunchier and even more miserable Max struck a chord with me. What ex-cop who'd been through what he had would not be strung out on booze and pills. The game's presentation was top notch, both in it's visuals and audio and the challenge was rock hard (remember, I generally suck at games but not as bad as babee Britt Zaddler). The multiplayer was decent and I enjoyed playing the Gang Wars mode with the Dtoid Crew on Friday Night Fights. All in all if this is the last Max Payne game then I'm okay with that, the dude deserves a break.



04: FTL
Just like Hotline Miami, I suck at FTL but again, failure isn't a bad thing. With FTL, I learn a little more about the systems at play and I quickly realised that sometimes I was up against a stacked deck. I didn't have the right combination of early luck to get me the right upgrades or weapons to secure victory or maybe additional crew. Maybe I didn't respond quickly enough to emergencies; maybe I panicked when I got boarded; maybe I forgot about re-sealing that hatch and everyone suffocated.

Whatever the reasons for my failures, it never put me off FTL. Modern gaming is generally failure averse meaning there often feels like a lack of geniune challenge, or at least a sense of learning from failure. FTL did such a good job of hooking me in that it was hard to resist jumping into a game every few hours just to see how far I could flee the rebel fleet.



03: Mark of the Ninja

Unlike a lot of people, I really enjoy stealth games; I enjoy the patience and tension they provide and when a game like Deus Ex or Dishonored offer me a stealth option, I'll take it. Mark of the Ninja is stealth above all but the way it communicates information in the levels is sublime. It took me a while to realise that my character had line of sight, it just felt really natural to have to peek over a ledge to check the position of a guard.

Sure, all the indicators and visual cues are super-gamey but it's never distracting; Mark of the Ninja is similar to Hotline Miami as you need to work out the best route to clear a room before you can proceed. Leaping into action expecting to cut the guards to shreds is never gonna work, you need to be thinking clearly and ready to respond to danger. The controls feel so right that I never felt that I was screwing up because of them, rather I hadn't thought a situation through well enough.



02: Dishonored
When I read that Harvey Smith and Viktor Antonov were working on a systems heavy stealth/combat titles I was instantly excited. Smith was one of the key designers on Deus Ex and Antonov's designs were used to great effect in Half Life 2's City 17 levels. Deciding how I should extract revenge on the conspirators that murdered the Empress was a delight, especially when I realised that the harder non-direct solutions were so much more rewarding.

Considering I'm a big fan of Deus Ex, it was no surprise that Dishonored scratched that particular itch; the option of whether to play as a pacifist, a blood thirsty stab-a-holic or a mix of the two is always intriguing. I wish there was a bit more to the stealth mechanics, especially coming off the back of Mark of the Ninja, but the blink/teleportation system was a great choice and the whole city of Dunwall was a strange place that begged exploring. Lady Boyle's party was a highlight of 2012 with the guests' grotesque masks making the vibe so creepy.

Oh, and stop calling it a "steampunk game".... did you see any cogs, steamworks or goggles? No. If anything we should call it "whale-oil punk".

Actually, that sound pish.



01: Torchlight 2
Hey Steam, how many hours did I plough into Torchlight 2 since it came out? 62, really? It feels a lot more. I know I'm almost at the end of my third playthough and I still want to play it in between sessions of the other titles I've been struggling to finish this year. Whilst it's accepted Diablo III's combat has more "crunch", I've loved the build of my Outlander character. Blasting away with dual pistols, her blinding back flip can get her out of trouble really easily and she can summon a whole host of Shadowling allies if things are too overwhelming.

The addition of the interconnecting maps was a great addition, the tweaks made to the pet were fun and the allure of collecting gems and armour sets was totally compulsive. The fact the game ran like an absolute treat on my laptop was a great boon. It meant playing sessions when I was out then returning to my desktop via cloud saves a total breeze. I played no other games this much during 2012 and I certainly didn't return to any game again one I finished playing it. The fact I've started over twice in Torchlight 2 is maybe the highest compliment I can pay it.

2013 and beyond!

"Hey, you bearded pretentious twat! You didn't enjoy (insert name of acclaimed game here)? You useless tit!!"

Hey, whoa.... the year wasn't perfect. I was unemployed for almost half the year, so I wasn't buying a lot of games. My laptop meant I could play fairly undemanding titles like FTL and Hotline Miami but it was only when I got my gaming PC in October that I was really able to play really graphically intense games. Then there were reviews I did and other delays (PC broke, got it fixed)...

Basically, I grossly underestimated the time I had before submitting my top 10 games for the Destructoid end of year list. I purchased titles like XCOM, Spec Ops: The Line and Sleeping Dogs but have only played maybe an hour of each, same with Dark Souls on PC. I waited until all 5 episodes of The Walking Dead to be released only to have a few days to play the whole thing before my list was submitted. Then there's games like Journey, Sound Shapes, Rhythm Heaven, Super Mario 3D Land, Persona 4 Golden that I really want to play but I'm lacking the funds for either a PS3 or Vita right now. Dammed European release delays aren't helping either. I bought a few iOS games but my original model iphone won't support them.

Right now I'm almost at the end of Borderlands 2 as quickly as I can and I've set a backlog challenge of completing 25 titles in 2013. Since I've got a PC that can handle anything I can through at it, I want to eliminate big titles from my backlog as quick as I can. I also want to avoid being an idiot in the Steam sales (probably too late at this point). I'm also considering doing a backlog challenge that will be similar to the one Conrad Zimmerman did a recently, where I list some options for a game to play and you all can vote on which one you'd like to see me play. Won't be streaming them but I'll do a write up on each one I finish, is that something people would like to see?   read


2:19 PM on 10.07.2012

Review: Cards Against Humanity

Cards against Humanity is a very simple game. It can also be a staggeringly offensive game if you are so inclined. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cards Against Humanity gained notoriety online and it's been something my friends and I have been keen to play. Now, after a few games at PAX, and the fine folks at Cards Against Humanity providing me with copies of both expansions, I can whole heartedly recommend you play Cards Against Humanity as soon as possible.

Gameplay is very simple; each player has a number of white answer cards that have a variety of things written on them; people, places, objects and actions. A randomly chosen "card tzar" will pose a question from a black card and the remaining players will place a white card answering the question on the table. The card tzar will then pick his or her favourite answer card and the person that played the winning card will win the question card. Then a new card tzar is selected and we start over. Simple.



But there's an amazing amount of depth to this game; since the cards are played anonymously, there's a meta game taking place where playing to the card tzar's tastes come into play. Standing out from the crowd with left field and surreal answers can also work in your advantage too. Sometimes the more apt (and probably the most shocking) the possible answer, there's less chance of it standing out from the other answer cards.

And here's where we get to the meat and bones of Cards Against Humanity. The answer cards can get into scorchingly touchy subjects; certain actions, historical events and bodily functions are all fair game in Cards Against Humanity. But the truth of the matter is that by themselves, the cards aren't offensive, it's the players. YOU are the person that chooses to answer the question "What's the crustiest?" with the card marked simply "my vagina".



And thus the meta-game continues with games of chicken being played between those who wish to get a reaction out of other gamers. As such it's best played with newbies who have no prior knowledge of what is on the cards. Getting through those first few rounds produces the most laughs and it's something that Card Against Humanity can produce over and over again.

However, it's best that you play Cards Against Humanity in short burst with small groups of people. I've found between 4-5 people and playing up until 1 player has amassed 5 cards is a real good way to play. A group game I played with 10 other people didn't have a good flow to it and became unwieldy. There's also the temptation to play for hours just to see how crazy/offensive your answers can be but again, that just leads to a game running out of steam.



Photo via Beccy Caine. I was the one who selected The Force and I won. Naturally.

As someone from the UK, some of the specifically American references went a bit over my head but there are blank question and answer cards in the main game and two expansion packs so you can flavour the game to your own regional tastes. Unfortunately the game isn't available in the UK (Amazon.com won't ship Cards Against Humanity to the UK for some reason), so you're going to have to hit up one of your transatlantic Dtoid buddies for a copy. If you can't wait, you can visit the Cards Against Humanity website for a downloadable cards that you can print off yourself.

Play Cards Against Humanity; trim some of the answer cards if you have to and keep the game brief. Do all this an you're guaranteed a damn funny time with your friends.   read


11:31 AM on 12.30.2011

Resolutions: Get Better At Games

So in 2011, I set myself the challenge of completing more games and making a dent on my backlog. In the end I had mixed results; the games I finished almost all the games I started this year, but I still didn't really make a dent on my actual backlog as I mainly played and completed games that I bought in 2011. Taking stock of the situation I can take comfort in the fact I now have a fairly solid work ethic when it comes to completing games but I realise that big chunks of my Steam library may lay unfinished for a long time.

So now in 2012, I have set myself a new challenge and it's one that I wrote about a while ago, concerning my fairly narrow tastes in games. In 2011 I didn't stray from my usual favourite games, franchise or genres; FPS/RPG combos, small indie titles on PC and XBLA. Lacking funds for the latter part of 2011 meant I didn't get to play things like Skyrim or Rayman Origins but really I played the type of games I would play every year. Hell, I managed 2 playthroughs of Mass Effect in 2011 which is no surprise to me.



So in 2012 I'm going to make an effort to expand my horizons; each month I'm going to play a new game in a genre I'm not familiar with or have traditionally resisted playing for whatever reason. There's a couple of reasons I'm doing this, firstly I feel I will get better at games by experiencing new mechanics and gameplay devices. Playing the same type of games that have similar structures, controls and mechanics means I'm getting better at that type of game but it could mean I'm getting stale in my thinking.

Secondly, I could be missing out on some great gameplay experiences because I'm just playing the same genres over and over again. Variety is the spice of life, so they say and that's something I'm missing out on right now. Thirdly, I think this will be a useful exercise in seeing how a newcomer approaches a genre of game they're unfamiliar with; are games still accommodating for new players or are many catering for the hardcore.



So here's the deal; each month I'm going to play a new type of game that I'm not familiar with and I will write up what I thought of each game in a blog post. Now here's some conditions I'm going to make clear before we go any further: this isn't a backlog challenge, I'm not under any pressure to make sure I finish each game. If I pick a game and find it overly frustrating to play or just not enjoyable, I'll stop playing it but I'll explain why in my blog post. I'm going to try and pick a recent example of a genre or at least a videogame in the last few years that is a fair representation of it's respective genre. I've not got access to a load of systems so my hand is forced in that respect, which is also why I'm not going to listen to complaints of "I can't believe you picked that game, don't you know the superior version is on the SNES?!?". Unless someone is super keen to read what I'm going to write and wants to donate some consoles my way, then I'll be playing on the 360, PC and my DS.



So that's my resolution for 2012, yes it's a flimsy attempt at masturbatory self improvement (along with the cooking classes my brother has signed me up for and I'm going to try and see if Rocksmith will teach me guitar after all these years) but hey, I'm going to try some games, probably fall on my arse and maybe even learn something.   read


10:00 AM on 12.17.2011

Beating my backlog 2011: the results

Earlier on this year, I made the decision I had to finish more games and to make an effort to try and reduce my backlog. The reasons for this were twofold; I had received an X-box 360 for Christmas and after moving back from Australia I had no console games. As such, it would be a good habit to get into before I eventually amassed a big collection of games that would mainly be unfinished, if my past habits were anything to go on. The other reason was my Steam catalogue was still filled with unfinished games, the result of being too spend-happy when it came to sales and my seeming inability to turn away from a bargain.

So, I wrote up a blog entry declaring my intentions to reduce my backlog and to commit to finishing games before getting new ones. I think the year ended up with a mixed result for me but Iíll break the challenge down into two separate parts. First of all, Iím going to list all the games I played from start to end in 2011, listed by format:

PC Downloads

Back To The Future Episode 1
Back To The Future Episode 2
Back To The Future Episode 3
Back To The Future Episode 4
Back To The Future Episode 5
Braid
Dungeon Defenders
EDGE
Max Payne
Max Payne 2
Portal 2 (single player only)
Puzzle Agent 2
Sideway: New York

i-phone

Mass Effect Galaxy

X-box 360

Alpha Protocol
Assassinís Creed 2
Batman Arkham Asylum
Darksiders
Dead Space 2
Deus Ex Human Revolution
L.A. Noire
Mass Effect (twice)
Mass Effect 2

XBLA

Age Of Keflings
Bastion
Beyond Good and Evil HD
Dead Rising Case Zero
Dead Rising Case West
Dead Space Ignition
Pac Man Championship Edition DX
Stacking

At the start of the year, still lacking disposable income, I managed to get some cheap XBLA titles, also I decided to make the commitment to getting all the achievements for any XBLA game I got (even if this meant getting some lacklustre DLC later down the line). The only XBLA game I didnít complete was Half Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax which I didnít really enjoy. Aside from that, my XBLA games were completed before I bought another one, especially in the case where I got Dead Rising Case Zero when it was on special offer, completed it and then picked up Case West before the sale ended that week. If you want to see how well I did achievement-wise, you can look at my achievement list on my Giant Bomb profile.



With the 360, I did just as well as I mainly got games that Iíd either played before (I had owned a 360 whilst living in Australia but left it there when I moved to Scotland) which is why I picked up titles like the Mass Effect series (which I played through to get a save file setup for ME3) and Batman Arkham Asylum (which I wanted to play again). I was really excited for titles like Deus Ex Human Revolution, Dead Space 2 and L.A. Noire so I had the motivation to get through them. The only thing I didnít finish up was Need For Speed Hot Pursuit which was a Christmas present. Itís a great game but I found myself reaching that glass ceiling that I experience with sports or racing games, that point where no matter how hard I try I just canít reach that next level of skill.

I actually lacked a PC for almost half the year but I got a decent laptop in the Summer and was able to play some more games. Previously Iíd completed titles on my parentís iMac which made me grateful for the PC+Mac Steamplay options that I had available to me. The Back To The Future episodic games were good as they could be completed within a couple of hours and there was a new one each month. However with my new laptop, fell back into my bad habits, installing Team Fortress 2 and playing that instead of getting laid into my backlog and new releases. And yes, I still bought plenty of Steam games and more than one Humble Indie bundle which meant I added about a dozen games that I didnít complete.



On reflection, I think I did pretty well with this year; I completed over 30 games for the whole year (compared to 10 from the previous year) and I did get into the habit of sitting down and finishing games, at least on the X-box. A big factor would have to be my lack of funds this year, meaning I really only could play the games I was really excited for; there was no just going out to a games store and just blowing my money on a game I wasnít 100% interested in, just for something to do. On the PC, thereís still too many distractions for me; I can jump on Youtube, IM or the forums if I get frustrated with a game and want to put it down for 5 minutes. And if itís not some internet distraction, itís another game: get frustrated or die in Defence Gird, I could play Rock Of Ages or Orcs Must Die with just a couple of clicks.



Beating My Backlog

The other part of my challenge was to reduce my backlog from having 60% uncompleted games to 50%. Well I did achieve this but only by virtue I was adding a lot of games which I then completed, so I didnít really make much of a impact on my pre-2011 backlog. The only games I did complete from before 2011 were Braid, Max Payne and itís sequel; aside from that I only really completed titles that I got in 2011.

Also, I cheated. When I bought a lot of games for the PC I just didnít actually add them to my backlog unless I played them for more than 10 minutes or so. Again, I spent a lot money on bundles and sales that my backlog would have shot back up to the 60% mark. Towards the end of 2011, The Backloggery introduced a feature to have you list games as being ďunplayedĒ rather than uncompleted. So for instance something like Sanctum or Sol Survivor would really be ďunplayedĒ rather than being ďunfinishedĒ. I think this might be a good way of again, helping me finish games. I could dip into my ďunplayedĒ games when I had no ďunfinishedĒ games on the go. So once 2012 rolls up Iíll start on re-organising my PC backlog again.



Did I follow my own advice?

Earlier this year, I posted some tips on how to possibly beat your backlog; now itís one thing to give out advice but itís another to actually follow it, so did I actually follow my own advice? Well I stuck to normal on nearly all games and it served me well. I rage quit less than I used to and my ego didnít suffer it. I avoided games during the year, that when they approached I looked at them and thought ďI donít think Iím gonna enjoy this, Iíll pass for nowĒ. I mean, no monies helped that decision too....

ďResist temptationĒ Ö. oh man, did I fall foul of that one. I still bought plenty of games that I ended up no touching or playing for 5 minutes. Thatís the one habit I need to change: itís the one that means Iíll end up with plenty more games I doubt Iíll get through. I did avoid multiplayer distractions, however the change to free to play and the creation of a Dtoid server meant I did get back into playing TF2.

So on the whole, I still think I did pretty well. I think next year Iíll do better though. If I can get work Iíll be saving up for a desktop PC purely for games, so Iíll be able to get through some of the more graphically intensive games from my PC backlog. Iíll still be frugal when it comes to purchasing console games but then I see that the MGS HD Collection and Catherine get a UK release in February, Max Payne 3 is in March and Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite are due to hit before April 2012. Argh! Iíll give it my best shot though.   read


10:55 AM on 11.29.2011

Stevil's very, very late and belated PAX 2010 adventures*

*(Yes 2010, not 2011. I am very late with this)

I am easily distracted. Whilst I like to think I'm very focussed and single minded, I get overwhelmed with other things and find myself wanting constant variety. All of which is a fairly lame excuse for posting these pics so late and why Stevil's avatar adoption for PAX 2010 was such a damp squib. When I got back from PAX 2010, I started my plans to move back to Scotland after living in Australia for 4 years. By the end of October, I was back home but without a PC of my own to use, so Stevil's pics lay on my external HD for months. However, I can now post the results of Stevil's fairly low key and lame adventures to PAX 2010.

First up, Stevil get's endorsed by Mr Destructoid in a pic you may have seen before:



Stevil get's a good view of Duke Nukem Forever. Remember when the announcement of DNF was actually exciting? Wow, that was like last year 'n shit...



I'm pretty sure I saw these delightful young ladies at the End Of Nations booth this year again:



Ok, so yeah I hardly took any pics. I didn't bring a proper camera with me so I was stuck with my 1st gen i-phone camera which is really not a good way to take photos at all. The reason why I didn't do an avatar adoption again is because I just keep forgetting that I need to take photos whilst I'm at an event, I'm not a guy who goes snap happy at all. So, Stevil you crazy Welsh bastard, sorry it's taken so long for you to see the crappy results of your PAX 2010 adventure. My apologies.







Wait, there's one last pic...












*phew* saved   read


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