S-Rank Blog Post #11 - Catch Up (Part 3)

Back up in your ass with the resurrection. I'm sure that if you're reading this you already know I was offline for close to 3 weeks, without the internet. I'm not too proud to admit atleast 50% of that time was spent rocking around in the fetal position, crying uncontrollably in the shower. But I'm back now ready to wreck shop. I can see you all chomping at the bit for the details so I guess I'll spill the beans, nosey good-for-nothings. 
The deal I have with my girlfriend at the moment is she pays the phoneline rental every month (around $30) and I pay for our internet ($75). We live in a sort of sectioned off self contained area of her mum's house so me paying more isn't a problem. One day at work I get a message from her that they've disconnected our phone line, which puzzles me. She then fills me in on the fact she forgot to pay the phonebill for 3 months straight. She says she's paid it now though, so I figure I'll phone up Telstra and try get this shit sorted and they can just flip it back on right? Yeah I wish. 
I get informed that the system hasn't updated yet and I need the receipt number, which she didn't have so I'm stuck for the day. Next day I phone up and get told it's not just a mater of flicking the switch back on, and since the phoneline was in my name I now have to give them all sorts of information so they can file a credit report on me. Now I'm fairly pissed off that my credit rating has perminently got a mark against it that wasn't my fault. Oh well, life goes on and I'm to be honest I'm more annoyed about not having the internet still. After taking all matter of personal information I get told 3-5 business days and my phoneline will be up and running. 
A week goes by and still no dice, the next 3 to 5 days involve me making around one phonecall a day to Telstra and the people on the other end don't really have a clue what is going on, every call I basically get told to be patient and in 24 hours or so I'll have my phoneline back. After copping every excuse they could come up with I finally get someone who gives it to me straight, says he has no idea what is going on and that no matter what problem there could be I should have had a phoneline by now. He sends it up the chain and the next morning I get a call while at work saying I'm finally reconnected and for waiting so long they are dropping the $99 dollar connection fee. 
Excited I go home to jump on the internet, but that would be to easy. After staring at the red light on my router for a while I phone my internet company, they inform me that even though I have the same physical line, with the same number when it got disconnected they lost the ADSL codes for it, and now have to get Telstra to send a technician and that would take 3 to 5 business days. Begrudgingly I tell them to go ahead but it's not that simple either, I need to fill in forms and basically re-order my internet plan to cover them legally. So after around 2 hours sitting on hold, another hour or so talking to customer service people and nearly 3 weeks of waiting I now have internet, which I am using right now to write this blog. It's the simple things... 
Onto the real reason for this blog, to take another chunk out of the games I have completed and yet to talk about, first up: 
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
I've played and completed every Lara Croft/Tomb Raider game available on the 360 so far, and while not the biggest fanboy they do serve up a change of pace from the usual balls to the wall third-person action shooter. Guardian of Light is a depature from the other games in the series by using a different viewpoint, closest to that of an old-school isometric RPG ala Diablo. It also layers in highscore challenges and other exploration and time based ones which unlock certain buffs or weapons enhancing Lara for the next runthrough effectively adding an arcade feel to the usual tomb raiding. 
I'd say these new additions ended up increasing my enjoyment many times. Even if you don't like the gameplay of normal Tomb Raider games I would recommend you having a look at this game as it's challenge based gameplay really drew me in. 
Greed Corp 
Here's a change of pace, it's been a while since I've played a proper turn-based strategy game. I'm not a major fan of the genre but I can get into the odd game or two if they offer something interesting. Greed Corp has one of these interesting concepts at the base of it's gameplay, you harvest land to get the resources you need to buy units, obviously you need land for your units and buildings to exist on though. This leads to interesting strategies of harvesting chokepoints in the maps and sending units on kamekazi missions to build harvesters in the middle of enemy bases, efectively cannibalising the land from underneath them. The choice of harvesting most of your usable land and limiting your movement options can easily fence yourself in, but leave you with lots of credits to pump out units. Skimping on harvesting leaves you with room for expansion but also means you'll be at a sizable unit disadvantage atleast early in the game. 
Matches weren't overly long and the AI was spot on. Saying the AI is spot on, mind you, is high praise in my book for these types of games. Too often the AI gets programmed to be basically perfect and borderline cheats, leaving me frustrated and forcing you into playing a specific way to beat them. The AI here is more natural, makes to odd mistake, but isn't retarded either and allows you to utilise different strategies depending on your situation. 
Being a turn-based game this isn't for everyone, but if you are partial to these games then have a look at this one, it offers something I havn't seen before in this genre which leads to many new strategies to consider. 
Mafia II 
The first retail release for this entry is Mafia II. The original Mafia was one of my favourtie games when I played it years ago. The sequel isn't quite up to the same level it still offers a decent Mafia story, cribbing lots of scenes from classic mafia and crime movies. It takes place in a fully open world, however there is pretty much nothing to do in it besides achievement hunt and take on the next story mission. The missions are highly polished and the gunplay and destruction that occurs during gun battles is impressive. The openworld city is basically window trimming, framing the story but not adding anything. 
I would rate the story pretty highly, but with nothing to do inbetween missions except drive to the next story mission boredom sets in. It actually ends up detracting from an otherwise good game. I'd still recommend checking out Mafia II, though if you're striving for completion one of the achievements (Explorer) in the DLC Jimmy's Vendetta (which is otherwise a decent DLC, along with the other one) involves clocking up 1000 miles driven only in that piece of DLC. To give you an idea of what you're in for, I 100% completed Jimmy's Vendetta (besides the Explorer achievement) in around 7 hours, with 130 odd miles racked up. That's a lot of hours of driving around aimlessly you've got to look forward to if you're going for it legit. Luckily there is a bit of a glitch you can take advantage of, which lets you fall through the map, rubberband the throttle and rack up miles "driving" while falling endlessly. This still takes many hours of leaving your Xbox on, so I hope you have something else you can do while waiting. 
A World of Keflings
Back on the XBLA tip, the sequel to A Kingdom for Keflings, is a relaxing kingdom builder. You find your Xbox avatar walking around the Kefling world and you're regular BFG (in the Roald Dahl sense, it would be a way different game if we were using the Doom definition). You're atleast 5 times bigger than the average Kefling, but you use this size to harvest resources, place buildings and help the Kefling civilisation advance. There really isn't any major hinderence in your journey through the Kefling world, you just leisurely move your way up the tech tree, harvesting the resources you require as you go. 
There's some slight strategy in managing your Keflings. You can give them jobs, harvesting resources, carrying them from building to building, converting them from their raw form to more usuable forms but overall the game is very low impact and really is ment to just be a place to chill, maybe with a buddy or two in co-op and build up your Kefling kingdom.
Faery: Legends of Avalon 
Now here is an interesting game. Faery, by the by, is the hardcore way of spelling fairy. Fairy implies nice frilly pink dresses and the magical laughter of 5 year old girls playing teaparty. Faery, however, is a distinction made by sad older more mature types to justify their continual intrest in fairys and other impish beings, atleast that's the impression I get. 
Whatever I've said previous is irrelevent however as this is actually a really good game. I knew little to nothing about Faery: Legends of Avalon, except that it would have been an even better game if it was actually called Faery: Legends of Mickey Avalon. All jokes aside this is a good RPG, especially for XBLA, with a few rough edges. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the different environments and running into various characters from fairytales and fables which I barely recalled tucked away in distant memories. The whole style of the game is darkly twisted but set in a vibrant and colourful world. Exploring a 3D environment with a character that is able to fly lets you get from point to point very quickly and isn't something you can do in most games.
If you have an interest in RPGs you can do alot worse than Faery: Legend of Avalon. It's turnbased party combat is a little bit of a throw back, but it works nicely and picking your party strategicly adds depth to the combat. You'll find all sorts of loot for your guy, and select how you want to level up from tonnes of options, which affect the look of your character. There is even a sort of Elder Scrolls like character builder at the start of the game. I bought it when it was onsale, but I'd say it would be worth full price. People are probably just put of by the title, I know I was at first. 
Raskulls is a sort of platformer/racer hybrid. Looking at gameplay it didn't really impress much but playing it is a completely different experience. It cribs heavily from all sorts of retro games, and provided hours of challenges. It's got a good sense of humour throughout and the sheer variety of gameplay keeps this interesting throughout. You would think racing from point A to B would get repetitive, but the sheer about of modifications they chuck in always keep you on your toes. 
It is on the whole a pretty easy completion, with 3 or 4 challenges giving me a bit of trouble. Besides King of Bling (completeing all of the previously mentioned challenges) the other achievements are a cakewalk. 
Doom II: Hell on Earth 
Like a lot of early FPS games I never experienced Doom II in it's hey day. These re-releases of classics from the past are always welcome. It gives me an opportunity to brush up on some iconic games while not feeling like I'm wasting time in DosBox that I could be using to play something fresh and new on my Xbox. Doom II seems like it would have been quite the game back then, however in this day and age some boredom and repitition started setting in. 
Having no nostalgia for these games I can't be to hard on them, I would say that I liked the original Doom a lot more then the sequel. I'm happy to have played both Dooms, along with Duke Nukem 3D as now I feel like I have finally filled in some sort of void nobody else seemed to have. It's most definately the nostalgia speaking but Wolfenstein 3D is still my favourite out of all of these early FPS titles. 
I think that is going to be it for this edition. A quite sizeable chunk down, but still a decent way off from being caught up with my current gaming escapades. A whole heap of arcade titles, and even more to go. It's really weird, I never thought I played so many of them back to back like this. I'll see you guys online (yes!).