Gamer Journal: “Xenonauts” or “Why Adam’s Not In Charge Of Military Decisions”

Journal! Hi there!

I just played Xenonauts (Goldhawk Interactive, 2014), one of my favourite games to play when I need a reminder that if the aliens actually invaded I shouldn’t be the one in charge. As you might know I’ve played and written about Xenonauts before. It is one of my go-to games when I am looking for a challenging strategy game that’s quick to start; and its often quick to end (cuz I’m not very good at it)!

Set in 1979 Earth Xenonauts is a faithful successor to X-COM: Enemy Unknown / UFO Defence (Mythos Games, 1994), a turn based strategy game placing the player in control of a worldwide organization charged with fighting against an alien invasion.

I really do like this game, but I am eager to play some of the other titles! So instead of doing a detailed write-up about the game here’s a video entry instead:

 

 

Advertisements

Gamer Journal: “Adam’s Apology to Deus Ex: Human Revolution”

Dear Deus Ex: Human Revolution,

I’m sorry I was a little harsh in my last entry about you. After a total of 31 hours I finally finished you and as it happens you’re pretty good.

Love, Adam.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about what makes a game enjoyable and I think I came up with a pretty okay answer. To me DE:HR, and games like it, are equatable to action movies; you’re not watching it because you want it to change your life, you’re watching because you want to be entertained. DE:HR is certainly entertaining.

I take back what I said about the story being passable. If the story was only ‘meh’ I don’t think I would have invested the 31 hours. Instead I update my opinion on the story to ‘decent’. It’s all very much a conspiracy theory and I still stand by my earlier comment about it being predictable, but it turns out to be divergent enough to be interesting. There were a couple of moments where I rolled my eyes or said things like “called it” but over all the story was good. I must also add (without spoilers) that the voice-overs for the final cut-scenes were well scripted and executed and do a good job of tying things together.

The game-play also held up. When playing a game for 30-40 hours it’s easy to get into some automatic routines and the game-play can become monotonous. The addition of some augments and the level design prevented monotony and kept me wanting to get to my next checkpoint.

There was a moment though that made me pretty upset. When Jensen is woken up from the shipping container and all his gear and stats were taken away. It felt like I was starting again at zero and it wasn’t really clear when my stats were restored. You do find your gear, with no ammo, and only 8 praxis kits; I had spent way more points than 8 building my stats up. For me, as a designer, I would have avoided removing all the stats and skills the player has been working hard to build unless I was giving it back to them right away. However, much later on I discovered that I had 11 points somehow, which might have been me missing the re-reward so I guess it evened out.

In the end Deus Ex: Human Revolution stands up as both an FPS and RPG and really knows how to rock that Bladerunner-Matrix vibe! Thanks for showing me that with a little cybernetic surgery, anyone can perform the sleeper hold.

Now that I am finished DE:HR it’s time for my favorite part of the show: DRAWING FROM THE FISHBOWL!

And the winner is…..

And the next game for my game journal blog is………..

A video posted by Adam Carriere (@adamthegameguy) on Nov 30, 2015 at 9:13pm PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
Xenonauts (Goldhawk Interactive, 2014)!

See you soon!

Gamer Journal: “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” or ” Bladerunner Has A Lovechild With The Matrix”

Hello Journal!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal, 2011) is a “cyberpunk-themed first-person action role-playing stealth video game” (Wikipedia) set in a run-down 2027 Detroit. The player is placed in the role of Adam Jensen, the augmented security manager for Sarif Industries, who needs to find and stop the people who gone done blowed up his girlfriend. Okay, they also blowed off Jensens arms and legs and some research and stuff too.

As I’ve mentioned before I don’t really get into FPS games all that much but DeHR had enough RPG elements to peak my interest; plus I’ve never really played a stealth game before and I wanted to give it a try. I also admit that having the same name as the main character added a completely unfounded personal connection between me and the game. Also plus the art style reminded me a lot of Bladerunner, except the game seams to be in a perpetual Matrix-esque darkness. Well, that, and Jensen sounds like Neo… And there’s this whole ‘chosen one’ vibe…

238010_2015-11-24_00003

Flippant sarcasm aside, I am actually enjoying DeHR. Having played most of the weekend and in the evenings this week Steam says I have played 16 hours so far and I’ve unlocked 12/59 achievements. Overall, it’s a fun game. This is mostly due to it being greater than the sum of its parts. The story, for starters, is passable; fairly predictable but interesting enough for me to enjoy it. At this point the story has lacked an “OH MY GOD! THAT CAME OUT OF LEFT FIELD!” moment, but makes up for it with enough “hmmm yea okay” moments. The character interactions are good, especially with the social augmentation which you can add with “Praxis Points” (which are basically points you get when you get enough XP points; i.e. leveling up). Speaking of augmentations I thought it was an interesting way of tying in the RPG elements into the narrative.

Augmentations basically serve as a mechanism to apply points to certain skills such as your fancy eyesight, computer hacking ability, or your uncanny ability to carry a crazy number of guns without a backpack. Where other RPGs I’ve played simply go “yay you’re a master lockpicker even though you’ve never picked a lock in your life” DeHR ties these skills into the game’s narrative by turning them into augments that you install in yourself.

The game-play is your standard FPS fare, but balanced in a way that favours stealth and choking out bad guys from behind a washing machine (not sarcasm, that happens in the game). What stood out for me was how you are able to take cover behind walls, poke your head around corners, and make stealthy jumps and somersaults between gaps without being detected.

238010_2015-11-24_00002

I tend to enjoy games that offer multiple styles of play and I think DeHR allows for that. The level design does a really good job of giving Jensen a reason to be stealthy. Of course, you could also Rambo through the levels with guns blazing, but for me the stealthy route was the way to go.

As it stands there’s a good chance I will finish the main storyline (as I said I find the stealth missions fun) but I must admit that I am getting an itch to try something else for some reason; which could be due to the game, or just my mood. Maybe I should table this game and play another, going back to it when I’m more in the mood for Bladerunner: Reloaded.

Gamer Journal: LIMBO

LIMBO is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer developed by Playdead in 2010 which plays with your senses and toys with your fears. With an ambiance reminiscent of a 1932 film the audio and visual work in LIMBO is a demonstration of what it is like to live inside a nightmare. Never quite able to see ahead of you, or behind you, the only clear thing is that you are certainly there; wherever you are. You can never be certain of what awaits ahead; the boy can only walk further into the haze.

From a game design perspective LIMBO is a puzzle-platformer at its core. With simple run-jump-climb controls it’s very easy to get into this game and start playing. What really makes LIMBO stand out from the crowd is the way the designers and artists have created this nightmarish environment. From the beginning it is hard to determine where you are and what you are doing, but you very quickly realize that you cannot trust anything that you are seeing.

Something that stood out for me was the way the game was paced. There was often a long interval between puzzles which created these long periods of anticipation and short intense periods of HOLY SH*T THAT’S A FREAKING SPIDER THAT JUST KILLED ME OUT OF NOWHERE!!!!!! And if you watch the video you will see me nearly jumping out of my chair!

Not only are you being given audio and visual feedback you also get tactile feedback in the rumble of a gamepad; you should totally play this with a controller. By playing with these three senses, in tandem with the game’s pacing, I got this feeling of anticipation mixed with anxiety as I wait to be eviscerated by a spiked bear trap or impaled by a giant spider sent from the deepest depths of hell… I really hate that spider…

Where LIMBO succeeded in a fantastic and well rounded design I failed as a player.

LIMBO is a great game, and if you like puzzles that toy with your fears then this is for you!  LIMBO is full of very clever and well thought out puzzles. Players are given visual queues, foreshadowing, hints; all the things a great puzzle needs to allow players to succeed without hand holding. However, I am the type of player that doesn’t often thrive in this sort of environment. In addition to the jitters I suffer from what I like to call Puzzle Fatigue.

Essentially, puzzle fatigue happens when you have failed a puzzle multiple times and now you are getting frustrated to the point where you start failing faster, and then you get more frustrated. This started fairly early on for me when I encountered the giant spider for the first time. I was able to push through but through too many trials and errors after an hour and a half got frustrated enough to stop playing.

Don’t get me wrong, LIMBO is a well designed, well executed, and all around awesome game. I’m not you, so you might be into this sort of thing.