30 November 2009

Left for Dead 2: Left for Dead Redux

Visited Wired in Galway for the first time ever on Sunday. It was recently done up and all, so it was nice to be there. €2 for a membership account + 1 free hour and €4 for an 1 hour and 4 mins. after that. We saved €2 by going here rather than squareyes, but they price the same from now on. Wired is handy because you can top up your account with hours, thus coming back whenever you want and playing right off. No cards either, so membership is all done by login. Dead-handy. Playing with headsets wasn't too unusual for me, a Live gamer, but not having the option of speakers can't be helped, I guess. Small place - it would ruin it.

Left for Dead 2 has a plethora of new options available, but we jumped right to the basic co-op/shooting your way to the finish line craic. The three of us (myself, majk and Formosus) picked Rochelle, Coach/Ellis and rich white guy respectively - no change in gameplay if only for the different quotes. We played 'the Hotel' first.

First off, LfD2 is almost exactly like LfD1. Same Source engine-looseness that we had to endure before. Walking along the tiny balconies of apartments isn't the best utilisation of such an engine. Shooting enemies is still quite a chore, and we were playing Normal difficulty. If your aim is slightly off, you miss (obviously) but you are punished by having the zombies eat your face off. Not fun. A good solid right-click = aim down the barrel would be much nicer. That, and slower, less-Halo like speed of movement for the characters.

Same story, make it across the zombie-infested map and jump into safe-rooms along the way. The usual protagonists like pipe-bombs and pain pills make an appearance once more. I was happy to see there were more drugs - namely adrenalin - which I perused readily. Always me with the drugs in LfD! Med packs are there to heal yourself and others. There are also a host of weapons to use. You have two primary weapon slots, pistol/melee weapon and main gun (shotguns, rifles). Seeing as this is the zombie apocalypse, there are plenty of these lying around, but the AI Director may see it fit to make them disappear. Bass-turd.

We got about the level sound enough and were intrigued by the one or two new things/effects, namely the fire and smoke you have to escape from and the objective of bringing a few cans of cola to some guy in a hold-out nearby. There were some new villains, namely the Jockey who "rides" the player and forces them to walk towards the Horde. There was also an enemy that dropped ooze all over the ground and downed you rapidly if you stay in it too long. Otherwise, just Hunters, Smokers and Tanks and all the others.

Even paying on for a second hour, I wasn't too impressed by LfD2. Granted, it was very fun but again I didn't feel too immersed. It was just too unreal to be jumping about like Grecian gods on the battlefields dowing hordes of scummy zombies and their mutated brethren. The lack of chronology or progression also somewhat gets to me. It would be nice if there was a suspense to the game, but the first 5 minutes saw us slaughter an entire hotel floor worth of zombies with unlimited pistol ammo to spare. When we got our M1 Carbines, it was game.

27 November 2009

Age of Wonders - a beautiful, underrated TBS

Click for larger image...

Way back in 2001, we got our XP. It was put upstairs in my brother's room, meaning I only had to go across the hallway to play it. He was also gone off to Cork at the time I believe, so I had it all to myself. My other, eldest brother most graciously installed a game on this XP - the same one I'm typing with now - called Age of Wonders. We played one hotseat game of which I can't remember the result. I think I was the Orcs in Love Thy Nighbour. Oh well. He took the game with him but left it installed and one thing that I could access without the disc was the fabulous editor.

The AoWEd tool became part of my life from then on. I relished the ability to construct maps in the fantasy setting with various terrain: from grassland, desert and steppe to wasteland and snow. There were 12 fantasy races and their units for me to place as I wished, as well as many creatures and other humanoids. After the 'Write a Book' Competition, an old friend and I invented the world of Necut. It just so happened that i had the perfect way to customise it at home!

Some stage in First Year I believe, my brother gave me a burned copy of Age of Wonders. I was delighted. Now I could actually play the game that I had fiddled with for over 2 years. I started by playing various scenarios and slogging my way through them. I also did playtesting of my created maps - before I even knew that word existed! I could now make my own entertainment in a game, a wonderful game just for me. I did share it with my friends as well. I remember playing a game of Heartwood Forest with a friend; he was the Halflings, I was the Elves. We were against the Orcs and the Goblins. After 400+ turns of inexperienced play, it was too late and we had to call it quits. So much fun though!

In 2006, which was Junior Certificate (3rd) Year, I joined a wonderful site. Age of Wonders Heaven. My first forum and still my favourite. An old community, as old as the game itself, I now had people I could relate to. I love tragedies, with Age of Wonders' lack of general appeal the biggest of them all. There are only 10ish active members every year on the Age of Wonders 1 boards, with about 30 retired/semi-active members visiting now and again. The sequels are much more popular generally. I was introduced to Play by Email (PBEM) here, my first experience against or with other human players. The site was also an incredible outlet for my created maps, as well as an inspiration for yet more.

I will make another post detailing the gameplay and the like. It is a turn-based strategy, so there is a bit of thinking involved!

Clearing the Backlog #3 Final Fantasy 12 Remastered

Here we go again. Must have played it two or three times on the PlayStation 2 not too many years ago. I always liked this game but it felt l...