Access Granted: Signs of Life

Signs of Life is a 2D Exploration/Action game in the vein of Minecraft, Terraria, and Starbound from Sweet Dog Studios. In the game, you play a character of your creation who lands his or her escape pod on an alien planet and must scavenge and craft in order to survive. Some of the things that make Signs of Life distinct are a narrative drive, a greater density of resources, and less restrictions such as item durability. In fact, the developers stated they wanted to make a game closer to Metroid than Minecraft. For more, check out my video.

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Access Granted: Hawken

Hawken is a first-person shooter from developer Adhesive Games where players control giant robots on a futuristic battlefield. On the spectrum of mech games, Hawken is closer to Armored Core than Mechwarrior with a large focus on mobility and boosting. The game has 5 game modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Missile Assault, Siege, and Coop Bot Destruction. Most of these are self-explanatory with Missile Assault being a control point mode and Coop being a wave based horde mode. Siege is a little different, requiring players collect energy from points on the map and return it to their base in order to launch a battleship. When battleships are launched, teams must fight over control of a central Anti Air turret which will shoot down the enemy battleship and start the process anew. The game is also run on a Free-to-Play model where players can use two types of currency: Hawken Credits and Meteor Credits. The first is earned by playing the game and can be used to buy Mechs and equipment. The second can be bought with real money and used for most of the same as the first but also allows you to get cosmetic items and XP boosts. For a more in-depth look check out my video.

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Secrets of Raetikon Early Access on Steam

So I spent some time with Secrets of Raetikon from Broken Rules (the devs behind And Yet it Moves) which is currently in Early Access on Steam. What struck me first when I saw the game is the bold 2D art style. It uses angular geometry and vibrant colors to give a look similar to papercraft. The gameplay is primarily exploration-based with the character controlling a bird who must collect runes to decipher tablets left by an old civilization. To do this, the player must collect slivers which can activate ancient machinery and open up new levels. At the moment the game is just about complete, with the devs looking to add two more levels with additional narrative content to flesh out the ending. For a look at the game, check out my video preview.

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The Unfortunate Tale of the XCOM FPS

I probably should have spoken up about this sooner but with the recent news that 2K Marin's FPS reboot for XCOM may have been canned, I decided it was better late than never. I haven't spent much time trolling threads on the subject but it feels a bit like I was the only man in the world who was the least bit excited for this game. Now, I had never played the original XCOM so I came to both of the more recent incarnations with no affinity for the series. I remember seeing the first videos/screen shots from these games and thinking Firaxis' Enemy Unknown had an extremely generic art style with big, bulky marines fighting little green men. The turn-based gameplay, while not new, was certainly not the norm and I ended up buying and thoroughly enjoying the game,

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2K Marin's XCOM FPS, with its 50's period style and crazy/unique/downright weird alien designs, was refreshing. I am, however, at a time in my life where shooters don't interest me as much as they used to but, like the recent Bioshock: Infinite, the art direction and world crafted in the game could have been worth the price of admission.

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It has been suggested that 2K may just rebrand it to distance the game from the successful Enemy Unknown, which is fine with me. Detaching the existing franchise from the game could free it from all, if any, remaining restrictions afforded it from the established universe. The fate of this game isn't known yet but it would be a shame if such a unique looking game never sees the light of day.

EDIT: There is hope!

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Contemplating Mass Effect 3

So Mass Effect 3 is coming out and I feel a sort of responsibility to 'finish the fight' but I can't seem to muster a real sort of excitement for it. I remember playing the 1st game and loving it but that could have been because it was free and I was going in relatively blind. I liked exploring the galaxy, unraveling the mystery of the reapers, and digging into the rich fiction of the universe. The 2nd game, on the other hand, took out most of the exploration elements in favor of a more streamlined action experience. When I think back on the story most of what I remember is assembling a team and something about collectors kidnapping people to make a humanoid reaper (which made for an extremely silly boss battle). I seem to remember feeling like everything was getting a bit repetitive in ME2, with all the game play boiling down to ridding corridors of enemies and pressing the button prompt to collect/activate the objective. When I played the ME3 demo I just realized how uninspired the combat was, how bizarre cut scenes were, and how generic the dialogue was. The way the game starts also made me feel as if all the actions I took trying to stop a reaper invasion were for nothing seeing as they just waltz into Earth's atmosphere without incident. Am I just jaded? What should get me excited about ME3?

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3 Favorite Games

I've been thinking about my favorite games of all time recently and this is what I've come up with:

- Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 is a game that came out 8 years ago and still feels more mature and progressive than most modern games. The story-telling, pacing, variety and mechanics are leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of products in this medium. The story isn't revolutionary but it doesn't feel dumb in its content or delivery like so many other games. Its presented in the environment and through characters without feeling like exposition dumps between gameplay moments and without taking player control away. The characters and dialogue seem better realized to me than just about any game to come out this year.

- Braid

Braid was one of the first and only games that made me stop and digest the content like a good movie or book. It stuck with me afterward and begged for real analysis. It is one of the deepest experiences I've ever come across, not just in terms of narrative, but every aspect of design. One of the most important aspects of design for me is 'justification.' Is every piece of content included in the game justified in the world you are creating? Braid is a game where every piece of code and asset was put there not just for a reason, but because it was necessary to deliver the concepts the artist wished to communicate.

- Alan Wake

I am currently on my 3rd play-through of this game, which, on its own, is proof that I have a deep affection for it. With the amount of entertainment out there it says something that I take time to replay any experience I've had before. Alan Wake crafts such a deep world with rich fiction and profound sense of place that most games never get close to. Like Half-Life, Alan Wake has superb pacing and variety, never keeping you in the same place or doing the same thing for too long. Like Braid, the game stuck with me after completion. The narrative isn't spoon-fed to you and lends itself to being replayed and analyzed.

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