Dead Space 2: A Tale of Two Platforms

I recently had some PC issues (PSU) that made playing games a bit of a craps shoot. Everything could be okay, or the system could just power down at random. With a new, higher wattage power supply en route I decided to dig into Dead Space 2 on the PS3. I've owned DS2 on PC for quite a while, but it's been a victim of the constantly expanding Steam backlog and only really started to stand out with the release of Dead Space 3 just around the corner.

Before I go any further I should state that I adored the first Dead Space. As a somewhat lapsed Resident Evil (haven't touched it since 0 on the Gamecube) fan I appreciated its variation on the gameplay and setting and I just geeked out on the whole thing, top to bottom. Dead Space 2 was another story entirely, unfortunately. While I liked Titan Station and my vaguely Bioshock-esque radio guided journey through its various sectors, I felt like I was constantly under attack by mobs of enemies charging headlong up my large intestine in locked "kill room" scenarios. To make matters worse, I was dying. Constantly. To be fair I suspected that part of the problem might be that as a primarily PC gamer there are some games that I'm absolute garbage with using a controller, but I do think that struggling a little bit with the Dual Shock 3 really only underlined something that was already a questionable design philosophy. Being locked in an area until you've killed every last enemy is well and good if you happen to be playing God of War, but it feels somewhat counter to my expectations for survival horror.

Since I'm nothing if not stubborn, I stuck with the game and managed to make it all the way up to the final encounter, which is another locked "room" sort of scenario, with about nine rounds of ammo between all of my weapons.I hadn't really expected that there wouldn't be some sort of final place to top off before the final fight, but that wasn't the case. I banged my head against it for a while, reloading, using stasis and melee whenever possible, but in the end it just didn't seem doable. I decided that before I closed the book on DS2 I'd have a peek at the PC version. By this point I'd already looked at reviews and found that the game was fairly well-regarded, especially here. I really only intended to go for a few chapters, but I was having a great time in spite of myself, and before I knew it I was halfway through and felt pretty good about finishing it off on PC. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that my preferred control scheme made all of t he difference since I went into every area and every encounter with the sort of knowledge you can only gain by having been through each of them a half dozen times, dying and learning the patterns. It did make quite a difference, though, and only Chapter 15 was a mild problem due to Nemesis the Ubermorph and some of the environmental challenges.

Go figure, choice of platform matters. Dead Space 2 is alright. I actively hated it on my first playthrough and found a lot to like in my second.

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Playing: Week of 02-06-2011

Really applying myself to that blogging resolution. Really.  
 

League of Legends

This past week's playlist is somewhat lighter than it might otherwise be due to having jumped into League of Legends with both feet. The game has really grabbed my attention in a way that few have in recent years, so I've been spending a lot of time playing, learning and generally absorbing the game and its related internet media fort he better part of this week. And y'know what? Despite having a single player backlog so deep that it could qualify for its own lifeguard station, I don't regret one moment "lost" to this wonder and incredibly polished game. Sure, it has its issues like any complex multiplayer pvp-based game, but as far as I've seen so far they're relatively few and far between. I expect that LoL will remain a staple of these weekly playlist blog entries for a long time to come. 
 

Monday Night Combat

Oh, MNC, sometimes you break my heart... 
 
As much as I'd love for Izzie to jump into League of Legends and play with me, she seems to have made up her mind about the game and dug in her heels already despite not having played it, so that prevents me from being all LoL all the time. Admittedly, that's probably a good thing. In the limited time that we have to game together between her getting home from work and my stupidly early bedtime, lately we've been playing Monday Night Combat. MNC has recently taken the place of Team Fortress 2, which has been our favorite competitive pick up and play game for a couple of years now. We cheat on TF2 a lot, but we always come back to it, with MNC being our latest mistress.  
 
This is such a strange game. I can see its MOBA roots and I know some of its dev team worked on Demigod, I'm just not sure the ratios are entirely right on this game. There's too much peanut butter in this chocolate, if you will. The game often feels like it moves at much too fast a pace to do its formula justice. Towers are laughably ineffective and can be easily dispatched from safely outside of their aggro radius, a favorite character class of many players relies on an (often) one hit kill gank from behind, and often games seem to come down to locking down the higher ground outside of a team's Money Ball enclosure. That all said, when the teams are evenly matched and there's some sense to the class distribution this game can be amazingly fun. I've been in some real nail-biters where neither team felt badly about their performance or the balance in the post-game.
 
I'm no game designer, but if I were Riot I'd set up a bank of test servers, extend the game clock by a good five or ten minutes and lower the damage and range on many of the skills and weapons to necessitate actually entering a tower's aggro radius in order to take them out. Then revisit Juice, Tanks and Assassins. This is a really good game that falling just short of being great, in my opinion. 
 

Chime

 Do you like music? How about Charity, Moby, geometry and Lumines? Are you too poor to afford a combo meal at McDonald's? Have I ever got the game for you!
  
Seriously though, Chime's great. It's just been a short chill out game for me lately, and as I slowly close in on more and more achievements I can see myself wanting to S-Rank this one. And if we want to talk real-world achievements, this game actually helped me overcome some of my lingering distaste for "Still Alive" from Portal after the internet and nerd culture completely beat it into the ground. Pat yourselves on your collective backs for that feat, Zoe Mode.
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I just discovered this "League of Legends" game

... is what I could say if I hadn't actually put a pre-order in for the game before it was announced as F2P and put some nominal time into the beta. I did those things, though, so I guess I'm just guilty of letting the usual parade of games bury me and forgetting about the little Free to Play MOBA. 
 
Or if I'm being completely honest I would also admit that I was pretty intimidated by the (so far undeserved) reputation that the game inherited from its surlier, bigger brother Defense of the Ancients. Players that I've been matched against in Solo Queue  have either been completely helpful and tolerant of me noobing it up or at the very least just as clueless as myself, and I haven't managed to trip over any unreasonable ragenauts yet. A sore winner or two, sure, but nothing actually offensive. 
 
I'm absolutely in love with League of Legends. I'm not sure I've played a multiplayer game that has ever clicked quite so hard with me as this one, with the possible exception of Team Fortress 2. Sure, it's still the honeymoon period so I may find some awful balance issues that turn me off, but at this point LoL seems like a game I could spend a very long time with. It has variety, a very solid map/playfield, an enjoyable pace of game and most importantly an interesting metagame that seems to be constantly in flux. This is one of those increasingly more frequent products that are beginning to make a Free to Play believer out of me. Great job, Riot! 
 
Incidentally, the game that re-piqued my LoL curiosity was Monday Night Combat on Steam, a very good game in its own right, but a somewhat simplified variation on the formula (and with what I consider to be a small handful of balance issues).

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2011, resolutely.

The holidays are over and done with and we're finished looking back on 2010 and ranking our experiences in neat little lists, which means that it's now time to set our sights on the new year, what it holds in store for our favorite hobby, and what we intend to do with it. So without further preamble, allow me to present my gaming new year's resolutions:
 

Whittle down my back log/Finish more games

2010 saw me  putting Giant Bomb's list functionality into use for tracking my games purchased, games finished, and games in progress in an attempt to keep myself more focused and honest about the money I spent on my hobby and the quality of the time that I was getting out of it. Looking back on those lists now I see a Steam library that managed to grow by nearly 50%, only 22 completed games and nearly that many games that were started and left by the wayside when something shiny grabbed my attention and pulled me away. A changing financial situation and a PC that's becoming a bit long in the tooth are only two contributing factors to my desire to spend more time on my backlog in the coming year than I do on lusting after and acquiring the new and the shiny. This isn't to say that I won't be purchasing new games in 2011 -- I will -- just probably not as many as in the past year.

Play some mods  

With the exception of my DS I've been exclusively PC gaming for the past several years and have been really pleased with the switch. Steam is partially to thank (blame) for this with its excellent sales, community features and friends list integration. I haven't done terribly much with one of the major talking points a lot of folks tend to bring up when making an argument for PC gaming: Mods. Sure, I've modded the ferret pet into Torchlight, skinned my avatar in Minecraft and made some minor usability changes to the Bethesda RPGs, but to my mind I haven't really modded. To that end I'm planning to dip my toes into a few of the larger, more notable fan mods like Fall From Heaven and GoldenEye Source to start with. 
 

Play more classics

The majority of the Monkey Island series, X-Com, Grim Fandango, Fallout 1 & 2, Baldur's Gate, etc. All PC gaming notes that I missed out on having grown up gaming primarily on console. With so many of these being re-released on services like gog.com and Steam, I'm looking forward to spending some time with the titles that helped to shape the gaming landscape into what it is today. Though from my time with the original Secret of Monkey Island, I'm not expecting it all to be smooth sailing. Sometimes old games, despite being clever and charming, play like the old games that they are.
 

Blog more often

 At least once weekly, hopefully more often. It's a frequent resolution of mine, though. We'll see how it all pans out.
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