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Tordah's top 10 (indie) games of 2011

Being a budget gamer and owner of a massive backlog of games means that I rarely play the big budget games on their release year. 2011 was no difference in this aspect. However, I did play a bunch of 2011 indie games thanks to the Humble Indie bundles and the expected cool Steam sales. This is a list of the 2011 games I played that I found most enjoyable.

1. The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac is the perfect example of how an incredibly simple game idea can have incredible depth and replay value. The random nature of the game makes it so that every new playthrough is unique and you never quite know what to expect. My goal is now to one eventually find and unlock everything.

2. Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Ever wondered what it would be like to play as the creeps in a tower defense game? Anomaly: Warzone Earth is pretty much that - a reverse tower defense game. It's a deceptively fun and challenging game with surprisingly good production values. Don't let the somewhat generic name fool you.

3. Outland

Take one part Castlevania and one part Ikaruga and blend them together and you have a pretty good idea what Outland is all about. Visually, Outland is by far the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing game I played all year. An overlooked gem.

4. Puzzle Agent 2

I loved the first Puzzle Agent and was looking forward to continuing the story of Nelson Tethers. Puzzle Agent 2 is exactly more of what I expected and wanted. The only negative thing I have to say about the game is that most of the puzzles were way too easy.

5. Sanctum

2011 seems to have been the year of really cool and interesting tower defense games. Sanctum takes the genre conventions into the first person perspective, which makes it a much more active and skill-based game that I found really rewarding.

6. Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages wins my award for the most deliciously absurd indie game of 2011. I still don't quite know what to make of it, but it's pretty awesome. I don't think I'll ever get tired of that silly scream the enemies make when you break down their gate.

7. Frozen Synapse

I'll be the first to admit I suck at Frozen Synapse and have not put as much time into it as I should have. However, I do feel that it's a very high quality product and probably deserves to be somewhere on this list.

8. Jamestown

I may not be the biggest fan of "bullet hell shooters", but I had a good time with Jamestown. Content-wise, I think it's lacking a bit, but everything else about the game is rock solid. I'm also a sucker for old-school pixelated graphics.

9. Terraria

I'm not sure if this is actually a real game or not, but I guess you could call it that. Everybody knows Terraria is pretty much the 2D equivalent of Minecraft, so I don't know what else needs to be said. Either you like the concept of that or you don't.

10. Atom Zombie Smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher may not have much to show for in the audiovisual department, but it has some unique and solid gameplay concepts that makes it interesting and deserving of the number 10 spot. Very challenging game, also.


Forever Alone in the Dark

Partly inspired by the excellent Fear Gauntlet videos courtesy of MattBodega and Lemon, I've decided to attempt a (half-assed) personal Fear Gauntlet as well. I've always had trouble playing scary games as far back as I can remember. As a kid I recall giving Resident Evil a go when I heard everyone saying great things about it, but I was too much of a coward to play it for more than 15 mins. Since then, I've pretty much avoided playing any scary game by myself, and since I've almost always been alone when playing games it meant that I didn't play any scary games at all... 
Now it's time to change that! I'm gonna ease into things by playing some supposedly un-scary "horror" games first, which brings me to my first choice: 

Alone in the Dark

Now I know what you're thinking. Why play such a critically panned and terrible game like Alone in the Dark? Well, you gotta begin somewhere, even if that means scraping the bottom of the barrel. But to be honest, this had been sitting on my shelf for a long time already, and the morbid curiousity was starting to bother me. "Could it really be that bad?", I kept asking myself. Also, I heard that it was supposedly not scary at all so it felt like it would be a good starting place.   

Short review

 SPOILERS: This is what happens in the
 SPOILERS: This is what happens in the "good" ending. Honestly.
To begin with, the controls in this game are pretty terrible. Everything is really clunky and unintuitive. The camera control while in 3rd person has to be the most annoying camera I've ever experienced in a game. The driving is also a pain the ass, and you have to do quite a bit of driving before you're through it.  The MacGyver-style inventory management was kinda cool for the first hour or so but quickly became more of a hassle than anything else. I give the game credit for trying to do things a bit differently, but mostly they just end up feeling unnecessary. 
Storywise, AitD leaves a lot to be desired as well. The initial premise of New York getting all messed up by "evil" earthquakes is pretty cool, and makes you want to know what the hell is going, but everything after that is just kinda dumb. The dialogue and characters are really campy, and there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo stuff before the game reveals what's really going on. And in the end it's really hard to care about anything you've just experienced, as both the "good" and bad ending are really abrupt and unsatisfying.
AitD is not completely without merits though; the soundtrack is honestly really good, and graphically it doesn't look terrible either. Particularly the fire and rain effects look really neat, and there's some good and appropriate lighting for most areas. Some of the setpieces are kinda cool as well, but unfortunately the bad controls negate any goodwill the setpieces might have created.   
Scary factor

Just another walk in the park. 
Just another walk in the park. 
After playing through AitD to completion I can totally agree with just about everyone that it's not a scary game at all. There were a few times when the game attempted some half-assed jump scares, but they didn't even make me flinch. The game tries to create a moody atmosphere,  and to be fair, it partially succeeds at that, but when you know there's not much to fear, it feels kinda redundant. The survival horror factor never really comes into play either as there are tons of items laying around everywhere. Items even respawn inside lockers, which is highly convenient, but makes no sense whatsoever.     
The enemies that you encounter are pretty dull, as most of the time you're just fighting off regular-ass possessed "humanz" and "vampirz" as the game likes to call them. It also doesn't help the scary factor that your dude can take one hell of beating before dying. As far as I know, there was only one difficulty level in this game, and it seems to be set to very easy. I did, however, die a lot from all the awkward and clunky platforming segments, but almost never in combat. The checkpointing is also really forgiving in this game, so death never is much of an issue anyway, nor something that you'll ever feel anxious about.  
Scary factor: 1/5 stars

Alone in the dark is a very flawed game. It has some neat moments and interesting ideas, but mechanically it's just not very good. It tried to do a lot of things differently, and I can appreciate that, but when the core gameplay is as broken as it is, it's hard to forgive it for that. The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't completely dislike it, and that I believe it may be a fairly memorable game experience (I guess we'll see about that). It's not a good game by any means, but I've played far worse.
Overall score: 2/5 stars

Thoughts on Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West

Since this weekend featured yet another free-to-play event of Lead & Gold I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the game. I already owned the game since 2010's Christmas sales but hadn't really put much time into it until now. 

The Good

  • The game is reasonably good-looking with detailed characters that move and animate fluidly.
  • The UI is clean and easy to understand.
  • The four characters all have different weapons and skills that make them useful in different situations. Good balance between them, also.
  • It's actually pretty fun. All gameplay modes are team-based, which is something that I personally quite enjoy.

 The Gunslinger, The Blaster & The Deputy
 The Gunslinger, The Blaster & The Deputy

The Bad

  • No host migration. When the host drops the game just boots you back to the menu.
  • No auto-balancing teams and no way to change which side you play on. I've played a lot of very unbalanced games where the same team is completely raping the other team for several maps in a row.
  • Not a lot of people are playing it (free weekends are an exception). While this is not the game's fault, it's worth pointing out since this is a multi-player only game.

The Ugly

  • Nobody that plays the game seems to know how to, you know, play it correctly. This might just be an issue for the free weekend when a bunch of new players get to try it out, but still. Figuring out the basics of Conquest or Demolition isn't exactly quantum physics.
  • "Spawn choking". I don't really know what else to call this phenomenon. This is something that seems to happen quite often and is a direct cause of unbalanced teams. Basically, what it boils down to is one team completely dominating the other one by strategically guarding the area directly outside of their spawn point, killing them as soon as they show their faces.
 Blowing dudes up with dynamite is always satisfying.
 Blowing dudes up with dynamite is always satisfying.


The fascination with backlogs

I've been trying to figure out what's the deal with backlogs and why gamers are so obsessed with them. As we all know, gaming is a very time consuming hobbty, so it's not uncommon to have of bunch of unplayed games that we struggle to find the time for.  
Some people have more untouched games than others (thank you, Steam sales!), but one thing I've noticed that almost everyone have in common is their obligation to share their backlog woes with everyone. It's impossible to visit the Giant Bomb forums and not see someone sigh about having a huge backlog or how they don't have time to play all the cool games they purchased 6 months ago. I know I'm guilty of it myself. Hell, there's even a website dedicated purely to help you catalogue and keep track of your gaming backlog. I thought about signing up for it but apparently they don't accept new registrations at the moment because the site got overloaded from too much activity. So yeah, I'd say it's a pretty common phenomena within the gaming world.  

 So many games, so little time.
 So many games, so little time.
What is it about backlogs that's so fascinating to gamers that we feel that we must share it with friends and strangers? I understand that it's nice to have an eternal meta-goal to strive for (i.e., play/beat all games in your backlog) but I can't help but feel like there must be something more to it. It it because backlogs are a thing so unique but common to gamers that it unites us? Is talking about our backlogs our weird way of "bonding" with each other? I don't know, I'm just rambling now. Somebody needs to study this.

Tordah's week in gaming - Rebel scum and Strogg minions

Hey everyone.  
It seems like my initial intention to blog weekly was a bit over-ambitious. Writing takes time (at least for me) and a week goes by way too fast for me to keep up, so here I am - still trying to find some kind of routine with it all. I think restricting this blog to talking about 4 games every second week is a realistic goal to strive for. Hope you enjoy the read!

Forza Motorsport 2

 I guess everyone has moved on to Forza 3 at this point, but for me this was my first introduction to the series. It might even be the first pure racing simulator that I play, I'm not sure. The closest that I've played is probably the PGR series (which I totally love), but that doesn't count, does it? 
This is not a good racing line, that much I know.
This is not a good racing line, that much I know.
Anyway, so Forza 2 is a pretty great game. The graphics are good and I'm positively surprised by how differently the vehicles handle from each other. I'm driving with all the assists except the braking line set off, and the computer difficulty at medium, and I usually win every race quite easily. I've tried a few races on hard, but I quickly realized it stopped being fun with that kinda AI pressure. Having to restart the same race over and over again due to a bad start, or a badly calculated turn halfway through the race that ruins all your chances of winnings is just aggravating. The rewind button from Forza 3 will surely feel like a godsend the day I play that game. 
I have one major complaint about this game though, and that is the severe lack of tracks to race on. I swear, I raced the same goddamn track 4-5 times in an hour at one point. It gets pretty tedious after awhile. Also, Forza 2 has no personality whatsoever. I know it's supposed to be a hardcore simluator, but come on! There needs to be something. I find the lack of music during races disturbing. Even an awful soundtrack like Burnout Revenge would be better than nothing. 

Quake 2

So I finished up the second Quake 1 expansion not too long ago (had some great levels in it, definitely worth playing) and decided to continue my playthrough of the series with Quake 2. Man, I had forgotten how completely different this game is compared to the first one.  
 Take that, grunt!
 Take that, grunt!
Gone are all the vicious and hellish monsters, dark and occult-themed levels, and weird awesome weapons. Quake 2 feels much more deliberately paced and "tactical" in nature, for a lack of better description. I found it hard at first to NOT run head first into every new room and strafe around like crazy while shooting, like I usually did in Quake 1. That rarely works in Quake 2 for several reasons, mainly due to the narrow and compact level designs, and secondly because of the slow-firing weapons (or maybe the enemies are just tougher to kill?). In fact, everything about Quake 2 feels very slow coming off Quake 1, but I guess that would be true for ANY shooter you play after playing that game...
Anyway, I guess I'm about halfway through now so I've started to get used to the differences. Oh, and I have to mention those goofy bear-like creatures you usually encounter in caves.  I'm never gonna stop laughing at them. Seriously, what were they thinking?

Star Wars: Empire At War

I picked this up on the Steam deal when it was 5 bucks (including the expansion). Having never played, nor heard much about it before, it was a complete impulse buy. All I knew was that it was a Star Wars RTS and that it had gotten decent to good critical reception at its release. 
      The land battles are typical C&C-like scenarios.
      The land battles are typical C&C-like scenarios.
Okay, so I'm gonna be honest here. I have no idea how to play this game. I've done a couple of missions in the campaign and I feel no wiser than I was when I started out. You have this space map/overworld with a bunch of different planets (most of them hostile or unknown), and you get different objectives on what you need to do, like attack this planet with ground forces, send droids to spy here, etc. You can build buildings and troops on most of the planets that you control, and you can then move those troops around between the planets as you see fit.  
However, what I don't understand, is how to balance how many troops you need to take with you into battle and how many you should leave to defend. Basically, when you send a space fleet to attack another planet, you'll want to send everything you've got to ensure victory, since you don't know what their defences are. However, enemy fleets can easily attack any of your planets at any time and if you don't have enough defenses to withstand the attack they'll destroy all your buildings on that planet, which is bad. Now, I'm playing this on easy and the AI is still giving me a hard time. I'm not saying that it's a bad game (yet), but it does a really poor job of explaining the game mechanics properly.  
The ground battles are easy to understand as they tend to play out like straight-forward Command & Conquer missions, and have thus far been my favourite portions of the game. The voice work and audio have been really good, too, and visually I think they've captured the Star Wars essence really well. 


Another Steam impulse purchase. Yay!  
Fun and addictive, your name is Droplitz.
Fun and addictive, your name is Droplitz.
Droplitz is neat little puzzle game, similar to Pipe Mania or Pipe Dream. Your goal is to save as many "droplitz" as possibly by rotating different pipe pieces on a board and creating path for the drops to flow down. You can score combos by creating several active paths at once. The board also changes theme and color frequently ala Lumines Live, which is always refreshing. When you run out of droplitz, you lose.
It's a very simple concept, but a lot of fun. For 1,80 € I definitely think I got my money's worth.  
Thank you for reading!

Top 5 segments from The Big Live Live Show Live

Phew, watching through the whole Big Live Live Show was pretty exhausting. I stayed up until 3 AM and watched it all (not the Block Party) and I don't regret anything. Thank you, Whiskey Media, for bringing us this completely bonkers show.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 favourite segments of the show.

5. The first segment of The Screening Room where we are introduced to the lovely "Denizen"

We all saw it, now we can't unsee it. I think the first part was the most entertaining due to nobody knewing just how terrible this movie was. Yet. The genuine outbursts of laughter and baffled reactions the crew had (especially Ryan Davis) were priceless. Please, don't do this ever again.

4. Norm and Will in sauna suits and HD vision glasses doing random poses in front of a giant green screen Ryan


I think it was at this point that The Big Live Live Show Live started going off the rails for real. Norm and Will is such a great duo to watch. I never really noticed how funny Norm can be before now. Also, props to Vinny and Drew for making this bizarre event possible.

3. Smooth Brad singing David Bowie's "Space Oddity"

There was not too much of Brad's presence during the show, but at least we got this short excellent segment. Good job, Brad. Truly sesmerizing and dreamy. I'm pretty sure the subcription rate of the female user audience peaked at this point, too.

2. Greg Kasavin talking passionately about Bastion (Also, Jeff suddenly shaving his mustache)

This was an excellent and informative segment that served it's purpose really well. Bastion looks delicious and Greg was really passionate about talking and answering questions about it. That man clearly loves his video games.

1. Norm and Will cooking bacon in microwaves while demonstrating the aptly titled EZ Cracker

Between this and the super fun flops segment, it was a hard pick. I think the pure chaos of this segment makes it the winner for me. Norm and Will, once again totally killing it. Not even the power surge could handle the greasy and nasty microwave bacon cooking action. Norm: "Do you need to use...The Glove?" Classic.

Tordah's week in gaming - All over the spectrum

Hello, everyone. Last week I already fell through on my promise to start blogging weekly on what I've been playing so here's two weeks worth of gaming instead! It feels like I've been all over the place with my playing habits lately, but that's just how I tend to roll. I don't know why I'm like that when it comes to gaming. I don't have any attention span problems with movies or music or anything else really. Maybe I'm just afraid of getting burnt out on any one game so I change things around constantly? Anyway, here's my latest adventures

Starcraft: Brood War

 En Taru Adun!
 En Taru Adun!
Rejoice, I finally beat this bastard! The last few Zerg missions were really difficult and time-consuming. I spent nearly 5 hours on the very last mission, out of which 3 were actual game time. The other 2 hours came from constantly reloading 10 min old saves when the enemy did a fierce unexpected attack or I completely messed up my own rushes. Such a chore. However, it was really satisfying to finally crush the last remaining Protoss forces and finally be done with it. I'm really happy I was able to beat it on my first try. I don't think I would've had the energy to give it another go if I had failed it the first time.  
Now if I only had Starcraft 2...


I bought Sacred Gold on a Steam sale some time ago, but forgotten about it until now. I came in expecting a decent Diablo-clone, and well, that's sort of what it is too. A super janky one. I want to like this game but the whole affair feels very clunky and unintuitive, especially the combat. The weird thing is that you seem to swing your weapon much slower if you click rapidly (as you naturally would) than you do if you hold it in. Considering the fact that you're often surrounded by several enemies (who generally die in one or two hits) that have a tendency to flee and run all over the place this becomes an annoying problem. Also, it happens way too often that I click an enemy and my dude refuses to attack it for some reason.
 This game looks much better when you don't see it in motion. Trust me.
 This game looks much better when you don't see it in motion. Trust me.

I also dislike the zooming options in the game. You have 3 different options on the mouse scroll button and they all feel wrong. The far out one is probably the best option but even on my 26" monitor it becomes difficult to hit the small enemies that run all over the place (in addition to the clunky and unresponsive combat system I already mentioned). The worst thing about this view though is that the framerate is terrible for some odd reason. Hello, this game is from 2004, right? I'm pretty sure my PC should be able to handle this with ease. The medium zoom is way too close to be any useful except when you're inside smaller caves and tombs and such. Out in the time open you're pretty much running blindly, forcing you to constantly view your minimap for directions. The closest zoom is just plain retarded. I won't even comment on that one.
Right now I'm about 3 hours in and I have serious doubts if I will ever finish the game. I thought I had made good progress, but then I brought up the Log with my quests and stats: 1,72 % of world explored. Say what? I've played 3 hours and uncovered such a puny percentage? This must be some bug, I think. So I bring up the world map again and...Holy crap! You can scroll it! So yeah, apparently Sacred has a pretty huge-ass world. It's hard to say just how large it is but I'd say it gives Morrowind a run for it's money.

Quake: Scourge of Armagon

Say Hello to the new scorpion with nailgun enemy.
Say Hello to the new scorpion with nailgun enemy.
I don't know if anyone read my last blog, but I finished Quake 1. This is the first expansion for that and I finished it just recently. It has some pretty sweet and memorable levels. The soundtrack is also pretty cool with both upbeat industrial tracks and ominous and atmospheric pieces. I enjoyed it a lot more than the somewhat dull ambient noises of the original Quake. 
However, it did have the most anti-climactic boss battle I've ever played. So the thing is this. I'm running nQuake, which is a multi-player focused source port of Quake, and it's kinda iffy with the single-player stuff, especially the expansions. When I entered Armagon's Lair I expected a tough battle, but what is this? He refuses to spawn on me! I'm running around in an empty level with tons of ammunition. Awesome. I opted to watch the battle on Youtube instead.

Street Fighter 4

Yep, I finally took the battle online in vanilla SF4 (the only version I own). First two days I did surprisingly well. I managed to round up 14 wins in about 2 hours of gameplay and got my battlescore up to about 600 pretty quickly. I guess I must've been lucky with my match-ups, cause today I got destroyed every single match I played. I raged a little, but it felt better when I saw some of them had like 2500 battlepoints. I played against a godlike Akuma that I couldn't even get close to (I mostly play as Zangief) and a Balrog player that barely gave me enough time to stand up before pummeling me into stunned. 
 I think I'm going to main this guy right here.
 I think I'm going to main this guy right here.
I guess everyone moved on to Super, leaving only random pros and noobs like me playing vanilla. The main problem I have right now is that I'm twice as terrible when I'm on the right side facing left. I guess those 35 hours spent playing on the left side in single-player made me retarded in that aspect. I can't for the life of me pull of Shoryuken and Banishing Flat-type moves from the right side. They just refuse to come out. On the left side I can pull them off pretty much every time, which is how it should be. I don't know if I wanna invest in a fighstick either. I don't have anyone to play against so I'm afraid I will get tired of it quickly and it will gather dust. It's a dilemma. 
Thank you for reading!

Tordah's week in gaming - Old-school JRPGs and DOTA-clones

Tordah's week in gaming (week 34) - Old-school JRPGs and DOTA-clones

Hello, everyone. This blog is an attempt for me to start writing a weekly blog about what games I've been playing. Since I often tend to play random older games and switch from game to game pretty frequently, I think it might be an interesting read for people who like to wear their nostalgia goggles.
I must say I've been pretty inspired by fellow Giant Bomber ArbitraryWater and his excellent blogs about old-ass DOS games and forgotten PC titles. It's always nice to run across people who aren't frantically striving to always play the hottest new games. There's a time and place for everything, as the saying goes. Well then, on with the blog!

Final Fantasy 1 & 2: Dawn Of Souls (GBA remake)

This week marked a legendary moment for me; I finished my first Final Fantasy game! I've always enjoyed the SNES-era titles a lot, but I've never actually finished any game in the series until now. I blazed through FF1 in about 11 hours, so I guess it was not long enough to make me feel fatigued and quit. Also, I hear the GBA remake is much easier than the original, so I guess that removed the need for grinding.
 The GBA remake doesn't look this nice, but the art is the same.
 The GBA remake doesn't look this nice, but the art is the same.

The story-telling here is extremely minimal. Basically, there are 4 crystals, and you need to collect them and kill the evil of this world because you're the 4 heroes that "The prophecy" spoke of. Pretty much all you do is go from dungeon to dungeon and battle monsters. A lot. Oh, how I hate you, random enemy encounters. 
The game is also mad cryptic. Very rarely does anyone tell you anything about what you need to do or where you should go next. All the help you get is a NPC in the first town that might give you some vague clues about what to do. That's it. Without a guide I would probably never have been able to finish the game -- or gone insane in the process. Overall though, it's a pretty decent game, and a promise of greater things to come from the series.

Breath Of Fire

 There be dragons in this game.
 There be dragons in this game.
BOF is a game I've always been very fond of for some reason. There's something about the characters that I really like, especially badass wolf man hunter Bo. The main character Ryu is also pretty badass since he can turn into a goddamn dragon. How many protagonists can do that? Not very many that I know of.
I've never actually finished the game before, so we'll see my current attempt goes. Right now I'm about 3 hours in and about to investigate some rumors about the living dead (read: zombies) roaming the small town of Romero at night. Coincidence, no? 


League Of Legends

Ahh, DOTA. Love it or hate it -- you can't deny it's monumental impact in the PC strategy genre. League Of Legends (or LOL, if you like) is a more streamlined and user-friendly clone of the game that is also completely free to play. It has all the polish and shine of a Blizzard title, and is constantly getting updates in the shape of new champions, alternate skins, and so forth. 

I never played much DOTA but I found it pretty easy to get into LOL. There are essentially two rules you should abide if you're new to the game. 1) Don't feed and 2) If possible, always help your team mates. This basically boils down to being careful over being aggressive. If you're unsure where the enemy champions are, don't go alone.  You'll only get ganked. If you're unsure what to do; go help your team mates. It's pretty simple.
Some champions hanging out in the snow.
Some champions hanging out in the snow.

Everyone says that the communities in these games are horrible, but I beg to differ. Sure, there are people that will spam the chat with "omg noobs!" everytime a team member dies, but I just find it funny. Often enough they end up doing just as bad as everyone else. I've seen a lot of people who are willing to help other players out by telling them what items to purchase, and so on.

Overall, it's pretty amazing game and everyone should at least give it a try. Feel free to drop me a PM if you're playing on the European client. Be warned though, it can be extremely addictive. 


I picked this classic up on the awesome Quakecon Steam sale. 7,5€ for all the first three Quake games and their expansions is a complete steal, if you ask me. 
For better or worse, Quake is the grandfather of all grey/brown/green games. You can thank ID software for that. Quake always freaked me out when I was young, and I still think it's pretty unsettling to this day. The game is just utterly bleak and depressive to simply look at, and the monsters are brutal and vicious -- both appearance-wise and in their deadliness. Oh, and the sound definately helps to set the creepy ominous atmosphere too.
 One of the most terrifying enemies ever - The Shambler.
 One of the most terrifying enemies ever - The Shambler.
I've played this in very brief sessions (about 3-4 levels per day) and already I've almost finished it. It seems like it's much shorter than I remember it being. Oh well, I still have both the expansions left to play as well as Quake 2 and its two expansions. That's gonna be a lot of Quake!
Until next time,

Got Xbox Live, need friends!

Yeah, so I finally caved in and paid the 30 bucks for a 12 month subscription of Xbox Live. I'm usually content playing single-player but I thought I'd give this multi-player thing a try for real. Here are my experiences so far.
Rainbow 6: Vegas
I've always enjoyed the Rainbow 6 series a lot but I've never tried it online before. I was surprised that not everyone was as super skilled as I had thought. First game I played I had around 8/15 KD ratio, even though my team lost. Compared to my god-awful Gears Of War stats when I tried playing that game online a while back (I had a free 1 month subscription) this was really good. I've done well enough in most matches to have fun. The game seems really balanced so I think I'll continue playing this one for some time. 

Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix
I've always been awful at fighting games with the exception for Mortal Kombat 3, so it was no surprise when I got my ass handed to me in SSF2THDR. At least the game was nice enough to give me an achievement after 5 consecutive failures. I know playing with a gamepad isn't helping me much but I don't know if I'm willing to pay up for an arcade stick just yet. If you feel you're bad enough at fighting games and need another crappy opponent to play against, feel free to add me!
I'll write more later when I try some other games.


How I became a Baldur's Gate addict 11 years later

First off, let me welcome you all to my first blog ever! Not just on Giant Bomb, but also my first blog anywhere on the internet! The thought of writing one has bounced around in my head for some time now but I never put the effort needed to convert those thoughts into words and sentences. The awesomeness of the Giant Bomb community finally made me take that first step towards blogging so I'm hoping this won't be my first and last blog here.

So about Baldur's Gate...I've owned this game for god knows how long, but I never got into it. I think I've tried playing it 3 or 4 times in the past but never gave it more than an hour or two before getting bored and quitting the game, never to return. This changed last thursday. I was ogling at my desktop trying to decide what I should do when my eyes came across the Baldur's Gate icon. I faintly recalled having installed it a few months back and played it once. Again. I was utterly bored and couldn't think of anything else to play so I thought I'd give it a shot. I also figured that I should glance at a guide while I play so I have some clue what the hell I was supposed to do. It wasn't until much later that day that I realized I had been playing for 8 hours straight. I couldn't believe how quickly the hours had went by! In the game world I had barely made any progress at all but in the real world I had dedicated a full work day to adventuring and exploring. I also played for 6 hours on both friday and saturday and now I'm wondering what the hell happened? I don't usually play for more than 1-2 hours at a time and sometimes even less than that. Spending this much time on a single game in such a short amount of time is not something I've done since Diablo 2 came out. I know what it was - I had become an addict again.

Now, Baldur's Gate is not a game without flaws, quite the opposite actually. It's old, it's clunky, it's slow, and there are several gameplay elements that have been imporved upon since in newer games. The quest journal flat out sucks. You have no clear way of telling what quests you have open and what quests you've finished since all journal updates gets written down automatically in a linear fashion. Not to mention that sometimes you only get a journal entry once you finish a quest so you'd better remember what you were supposed to do. But it's okay, I'm using a guide. Another annoying aspect is finding and remembering where important characters in this game are. I don't want to have to talk to every character I see, or hover my mouse for 2 seconds over each and everyone before I find someone whose name is NOT "commoner". But it's alright, I'm using a guide. The third and final nuisance for me is the trouble of finding any cool loot. In Baldur's Gate this is pretty much impossible unless you know exactly where to look, and I do mean EXACTLY. How on earth would you find a hole in the ground or a crack in a rock formation rougly the size of 3 pixels if you didn't know about it? You wouldn't. It's impossible. I know I'm not playing the game at it's original resolution (I'm running it in 1024 x 768) and that these stashes are supposed to be extra secret and difficult to find, but come on. If you happen to travel through that area when it's nighttime you're sure as hell not gonna find a hole in the ground unless you know the exact coordinates. There's absolutely nothing to indicate that there might be something valuable there. But it's fine, I'm using a guide.

Yes, I'm using a guide while playing Baldur's Gate. Shoot me if you want, I don't care. It makes me enjoy the game so much more and takes away all the things I hate about open world RPGs: not knowing where to go, not knowing who I need to talk to, and not finding any good gear. I have a tendency to go to places I shouldn't go until much later and end up getting slaughtered by some ridiculously strong monster. I appreciate the aspect of having an open world but in the end I prefer a more linear path, which is pretty much what a guide helps me with. Without these problems to worry about I can fully enjoy the things that Baldur's Gate excels at, which would be the atmosphere, the story and the battles. Exploration is a huge part of this game and the detailed and well-crafted areas you visit really makes you believe in this world. The graphics may not be all that impressive by today's standard but I think they have a certain charm to them that will never grow old. Travelling through an old murky forest while it's storming and raining and fighting monsters is always awesome. The music and sound effects are pretty good too (ignoring the lame character voices) and help increase the immersion a lot. Now, I'm only at chapter 3 so I can't say much about the story yet other than I want to know more about what's going on. I guess that's a good sign.

So awesome I bought it twice.
So awesome I bought it twice.

I know I'm a bit late to the party but who cares? A great game is a great game, regardless of when you play it. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm gonna continue exploring some dark dungeons...