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    May 2nd, 2011 at 15:01:01     -    Seventh Sanctum (PC)

    Seventh Sanctum

    Plot

    standard fare for most side scrolling shooters (there isn't one).

    Gameplay:

    Similar to other shooters, Seventh Sanctum places the player in command of a single ship. The player must avoid incoming fire and destroy all other ships on the screen. In the player's defense, they have a regenerating shield before their ship's integrity is damaged. Offensively, the player can switch between a default weapon, a piercing weapon, a spread fire weapon, and missiles which deal explosion damage in the area they hit. Each weapon is limited except for the default blaster. Powerups can be randomly generated from destroyed enemies which have benefits ranging from shield regeneration to ship performance upgrades.

    Pros:
    The game is simple and easy to pick up. Little to no explanation is required and gameplay is accessible to anyone.

    Cons:
    Bugs are littered through the game. Upon dying, a player must click the mouse to respawn, but no indication is given that a mouse click is required. Sometimes ships will reach the border and simply not disappear, but continue to fire bullets at the player while they cannot get in front of them to fire back. Should this happen with the boss, a player is stuck and must die. The difficulty is also much higher than it should be. Powerups were introduced to alleviate this problem, but it still exists.

    Overall:

    Seventh Sanctum is a fun game to play. The bugs and difficulty serve to make the experience frustrating at times, but it serves as a good distraction for short periods of time. Seventh Sanctum would serve its purpose best as a flash game: fun in short bursts but easily put down if the experience becomes too frustrating.

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    Mar 29th, 2011 at 12:23:42     -    Heroes of Might and Magic III (PC)

    Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete Edition: Tuesday March 29th


    Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM) is a turn based strategy game for the PC. Players can play against the computer or other players (up to 8 total players at a time). The game takes place in a fantasy setting with dragons, undead, and all manner of creatures inbetween. The object of the game varies per map but ranges from total conquest to resource acquisition.


    Pregame:

    While choosing a map, players have the option of selecting a town, a hero, and a starting bonus. There are a total of nine towns to choose from. Half of the heroes available to each town are geared towards "might" (military power) or "magic" (spell casting). The available starting bonuses are extra gold, extra resources, or an artifact.

    Heroes:

    Heroes are the player's generals. Each hero has a specialty which is either in a creature type or a secondary skill. Aside from this, each hero also has four stats: attack, defense, spell power, and knowledge. Attack and defense both affect the troops a hero commands. Spell power dictates the effectiveness of a hero's spells. Knowledge multiplied by ten are the hero's spell points. Secondary skills can be acquired by levelling up or through other miscellaneous means. Secondary skills affect many different aspects of a hero from their combat abilities to additional resources gained per turn. Additionally, heroes can carry artifacts which in effect act as stat boosters or interchangeable secondary skills. As heroes level up, they gain plus one of one of the four stats.

    Towns:

    Towns are a player's base of operations. Each town has a number of structures in common with others as well as unique structures it can build. Only one building may be constructed a turn, as well as a limit of only one building per type (a player cannot build two of the same creature dwelling). Common to each town are seven creature generating buildings. These seven buildings create a number of creatures the player may pay gold to recruit to their army. Additionally, each creature building may be upgraded to purchase an upgraded form of the creature from then on. Common to all towns are also taverns (recruit heroes), a marketplace (trade resources), a town hall (generates income), a mage guild (learn spells), and a fort (provide creature growth and defenses for the town). Each town has a number of unique buildings in addition to these which provide such benefits as additional spells, additional creature growth, the ability to purchase artifacts, and other benefits. In order to stay in the game, a player must own at least one town. If a player is without a town for seven days (turns), they will automatically lose. On each map it is possible to find non alligned towns and claim them.

    Resources:

    HoMM uses wood, mercury, ore, sulfur, crystal, gems, and gold. Resources are used to build structures as well as recruit the more powerful creatures. Players may use their heroes to "flag" (capture) a structure on the map which produces a certain number of a resource per day. Each resource is important, but should the player find themself in excess of one and in want of another, they may use a marketplace to trade resources. The greater number of marketplaces owned, the better trade rates available.

    Creatures:

    There are seven creatures associated with each town, plus one upgraded form of each creature. Creatures are often referred to as levels one through seven in reference to their power (seven being the highest). To balance this power, creature growth is enacted on each town. Based on certain factors (a town's fort/upgraded versions, external dwellings owned, etc.) only a certain number of creatures are generated to be purchased at a town per week. On the first day of each week, players may purchase as many creatures as are available (per creature growth). When creatures are purchased, they are placed into a "stack" with a number showing how many creatures of that type are currently a part of the stack. Stacks may be split, but only a total of eight slots for creature stacks exist at a town (seven for heroes). Each creature has its own stats (attack, defense, speed, health) as well as possible special abilities (cast spells, do additional damage to another creature, etc.). Creatures not associated with any town are also available should a player encounter a dwelling to recruit them from.

    Combat:

    Combat takes place in a few different ways: hero vs hero, hero vs wild monsters, hero vs town, and hero vs town with hero present. There are minor differences in these combat types. In any combat, a player's creature stacks will be represented on screen by a graphic of the creature type and a number showing how many are left in the stack. To defeat your opponent, simply defeat all his creatures. Heroes do not directly take part in combat. They provide passive benefits (their stats) as well as may cast one spell per round (all creatures have had a turn to move/attack). A hero may retreat (able to recruit them again in town with everything but their creatures intact) or surrender when faced by an enemy hero (pay a gold sum to retain creatures as well as everything else). Creatures may move and melee attack, but ranged units must choose to fire or move. However, a random "morale boost" (which can be affected by many different means, mostly artifacts) may allow creatures to take a turn twice. Generally, creatures are either melee or ranged. Melee creatures must attack units directly next to them while ranged units fire a projectile. The further away the unit being fired upon is (as well as across any obstacles in the battlefield) affects the damage dealt. Additionally, when ranged units are adjacent to an enemy unit, they may not fire and may only melee attack. As all units are subject to morale, they are also subject to luck. Luck randomly appears when attacking and doubles the damage dealt. When attacking an enemy town, their defenses come into play. Depending on the level of fort they have built, the battlefield will have a moat lining the castle wall as well as zero to three archer towers which provide extra damage per round. The defending town gains an advantage in the form of a wall which keeps all units out except flying units, as well as providing additional damage.

    Gameplay:

    Players manipulate their heroes around a preconstructed map in order to accomplish a specific goal defined before play (usually defeating all other players). Each hero has a set amount of movement he/she can use per turn before being unable to travel further. Once a player has used all their actions (or has decided to finish without enacting anything else), they may end their turn and the next player's turn begins. The map has a fog of war style covering except after a part has been uncovered it stays that way. Scattered about the map are many different structures, artifacts, resources, and creatures which may help or impede the player. Any number of effects can be associated with the multitude of structures in HoMM. Many buildings were simply taken from a town and made into a standalone structure (creature dwellings are a common example of this). Some of a town's unique structures may also appear on the map. There are too many different types of structures present in HoMM to name, but generally speaking the majority of them boost morale or luck, give resources, or allow learning of a skill. Players must take what they can from other players, amass an army to overtake their foes, and do so before their opponents do the same.


    Play Session One:

    For the first play session, I choose a campaign mission on "hard" (one level above easy). In this mission, my goal was to acquire an artifact called "The Ring of Vitality." I would lose the scenario if I lost all my towns and didn't capture one for a week or if I lost my main hero named Gelu. I started with one town (Rampart) and one heor (Gelu) whose specialty was "Sharpshooters." This specialty allowed Gelu to upgrade elves (a Rampart unit) into sharpshooters (who incur no range or barrier penalty). Sharpshooters turned out to be very powerful. However, it seemed the majority of my enemies started out much further developed than I did, and I had to fight an uphill battle. Often I would begin to explore a certain area and then run away as a hero of a much higher strenght than i could handle would appear. After many restarts, I did finally acquire the ring. I would like to note that often making one mistake (from mistakes such as "didn't recruit enough creatures" to simply "being in the wrong place") would spell the end of your gameplay session. Thankfully, it is possible to save at any point during your turn. It seemed highly beneficial to know where everything on the map was and less beneficial to have a strategy.

    Play Session Two:

    For the second play session, I choose a four player map with the Tower town and the easy difficulty. The goal was simply to conquer every other player. In this playthrough, I was placed in a position with unfavorable terrain, and therefore had a severe movement penalty. It seemed unfair to have been dropped into a condition I couldn't control. As I continued to explore, suddenly out of nowhere, two of my enemies appeared, but both were quite underpowered compared to me. They seemed to throw themselves at me and make foolish mistakes often. I did not finish this playthrough as a game takes many many hours to finish, but I don't doubt I would have won.


    Overall:

    HoMM is a seemingly deep strategy game. Players may employ a number of tricks to get ahead or swindle other players out of towns/resources/etc. However, when playing against the computer, the difficulty seems to be off kilter. Easy difficulty involved being under challenged while one step up involved barely hanging on. There are four higher difficulties past "hard." I feel these difficulties don't increase the AI's thinking capability as much as it "cheats." I suspect opposing players start out with more resources, creatures, and better heroes than the player does. This is an artificial jump in difficulty as it isn't a tweak in difficulty but a tweak in impossibility. Instead of being marginally impossible it could be completely impossible (if you decided to choose the hardest difficulty).

    Nonetheless, HoMM is a deeply engrossing game. There is enough micromanagement to be fun while not being too inclusive. Playing against computers can only be so fun, but playing with humans can be much more so. Allies are assigned on certain maps which make for a fun experience, and on maps without allies, temporary alliances can be forged. It adds an entire new dimension to the game.

    The only complaints I have about HoMM are the length of time it takes to play a game and the unforgiving nature of the difficulty settings. An average game on an extra small map takes around two to three hours to complete (the largest map is labelled XL). The difficulty is unforgiving in that losing your strongest hero is often a death sentence (as you are also losing a good chunk of your troops), and computer players will beeline straight for your town (regardless of if they know where it is) upon your hero's defeat. Despite these flaws, HoMM is a highly addictive and fun game.

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    Jan 25th, 2011 at 03:07:33     -    Munchkin (Other)

    ---Munchkin---

    Style: Card game

    Players: 3-6

    Objective: Reach level 10.

    Materials: 1 die, 73 "treasure" cards, 95 "door" cards.

    ---Terms---

    Treasure cards: Cards that provide bonuses from combat strength (equipment) to additional levels. These cards are in their own deck separate from the door card deck.

    Door cards: Cards that provide an element of chance. These cards can be beneficial, harmful, or situationally so. The door deck consists of race cards, class cards, monster cards, curses, and miscellaneous effects cards.

    Race cards: Cards that provide inherent abilities to the player that equips them. A player may only have one race at a time (unless the player has a card allowing more than one).

    Class cards: Cards that provide inherent abilities to the player that equips them. A player may only have one race at a time (unless the player has a card allowing more than one).

    Monster cards: Cards that represent a monster to fight. A monster card has a level, special effects, levels gained from defeating it, treasures obtained from defeating it, and consequences of losing the fight with the monster.

    Curse cards: Cards that come with a negative effect. When drawn face up, they affect the player who drew them. When drawn face down, the player who drew them may play them on another player at any time.

    Miscellaneous effects cards: Cards that essentially cover other random events/effects (example: add +10 to a monster's level).

    ---Gameplay---

    Set Up: The door cards and the treasure cards are separated and placed face down in a deck. Players draw four cards from each deck. All race, class, and treasure cards may be placed face up in front of the player and go into effect immediately. Players roll a die to determine who goes first.

    -Game flow-

    Draw phase: When it is a player's turn, they draw a card face up from the door deck so all players can see it. If this card is a curse, it applies to the player who drew it immediately. If it is a monster, the player enters combat with the monster. Otherwise, the card goes into the player's hand. The player then has the choice to either play a monster card from their hand and enter into combat with it or draw another card face down from the door deck. The player's turn is now over.

    Combat: A player's aim in combat is to overcome a monster's level with their own. Player's level is calculated as follows: player level + equipped treasures + other cards (miscellaneous cards that come into play). At this point, other players can use equipped treasures or miscellaneous cards to help or hinder the player if the card's flavor text allows. Should a player be unable to defeat a monster, the player has two options: they can ask for help or they can run away. When asking for help, a player can request help from any other player. Should another player agree, the two players are considered a singular entity. Their levels (including equipment) are added together. The player who is asked for help may establish conditions for help (such as a certain piece of equipment or a portion of the monster's treasure). If the player succeeds in defeating the monster (with or without help), they gain a level and then may draw however many treasure cards the monster card indicates. The player who helped them *does not* gain a level. Should the player(s) be unable to defeat the monster, they must then run away. To run away, a player must roll a five or a six. Should the player fail to run away, the monster's penalty is then enacted. Combat is then over.

    Death: Certain monster cards cause death when failing to defeat them. In the event of a player's death, the player loses all equipment and their hand. Starting with the player on the left, players get to choose one card from the dead player and take it for themselves. The rest of the cards are then placed in the appropriate discard pile.

    End of turn: At the end of a player's turn they must ensure they have only five cards in their hand. Any additional cards must be discarded.

    ---Play Rules---

    Equipment: A player may have any number of equipment in play in front of them at any time. However, a player may only equip one of each kind (except for one handed items; two may be equipped). Non equipped items provide no benefit. At any time during a player's turn (except for combat), they may sell 1000 gold worth of items to the discard pile for a level. This only applies for exact increments of 1000 (example: 1200 will only provide one level). Equipment may be traded to other players for other equipment in play (on the table) at any time (outside combat).

    Rules: Certain cards conflict basic play rules (such as equipment limits). In such case, the cards override the basic rules.

    Miscellaneous rules: The player with the lowest level receives all cards discarded due to exceeding the five card end of turn hand size. In order to win, a player *must* defeat a monster. They cannot sell equipment to level up to level 10 or play a "gain a level" treasure card.

    ---Game play analysis---

    A large portion of the game relies on randomness. It's entirely possible to receive a string of bad draws and be unable to do anything about it. However, while bad draws can influence game play, strategy is critical to success. Building up resources while strategically holding or playing cards to impede your opponents or impede them at a more critical time is crucial. Additionally, alliances are important as well. To prevent loss of equipment and other penalties from being unable to defeat a monster, it is imperative to be able to work with other players to ensure other players don't become too powerful while building up your own strength.

    Alliances are important to progress in the game. Without help, often monsters will destroy any singular player without exceptional luck or help from other players. However, by the nature of the game, it's quite difficult to trust an alliance when one member becomes stronger than the rest.

    Thus, the main strategy of the game is a divide between self preservation and aiding those who will (hopefully) aid you. Strategically choosing when to back stab and when to trust your fellow players is a difficult task. Being able to defend yourself against the inevitable back stab comes at the price of being unable to impede other players should they become close to reaching level ten. Being able to determine what the current flow of the game is leaning towards (helping others vs building up yourself) is vital to understanding the main strategy of Munchkin. The second core game play aspect to understand are alliances and when to break them, forge them, or sabotage them. This adds an entire dimension of game play to the basic card game.

    ---Opinion---

    I enjoy Munchkin very much. It's a great game with many expansions should you get tired of the vanilla flavor. Each expansion has its own rules and individual quirks which change the game. You can even combine other expansions together to get a unique style of Munchkin. The ideal Munchkin experience requires a large amount of people to play (preferably the maximum), but even with only three, it's still enjoyable.

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