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    Mar 28th, 2011 at 23:35:28     -    Dungeon Keeper Gold (PC)

    -- Summary --
    Dungeon Keeper Gold is a repackaged version of Dungeon Keeper, a real-time strategy game published on 6/26/1997, and it's expansion Deeper Dungeons, published on 11/30/1997. In the game, the player takes control of a dungeon keeper who is trying to take control of his realm by destroying the different communities within it. Within the levels, the main objective is to eliminate enemies from the map. This is done by attracting minions and building and maintaining a dungeon.

    -- Concepts --
    Dungeon - the claimed area of the level map
    Lair - a room in the dungeon where the minions sleep

    -- Strategy vs. Luck --
    As the genre implies, the game does require strategy, like when and where to build the different rooms in the dungeon. For example, some of the minions are natural enemies, such as a fly and a spider. If the two are forced to share a lair, they will attack each other; so, if the player wants to keep both types of minions, he or she needs multiple lairs. However, there is also luck involved. A larger dungeon increases the types of minions the player has, but each new minion is random. Also, there is some luck involved in the minion battles. Overall, the balance between strategy and luck make the game more enjoyable; the underdog, usually the player, will sometimes win. However, some of the strategy elements, like the natural enemies mechanic, gets annoying after the first few occurrences.

    -- Story vs. No Story --
    The game has a very simple story: The player, as the dungeon keeper, wants to take over the realm. Each community has a short comedic narrative before and after the level is played. The lack of story and the funny narratives help the gameplay by not over complicating it.

    -- Realism vs. Abstract --
    The game is very abstract. The graphics are cartoon-like and the sounds are over the top. The main location is a whimsical place untouched by evil until the dungeon keeper shows up. So, the abstract graphics and sounds help the game immensely.

    -- Player Role --
    Like most RTS games, the player has very little control over the individual actions of the minions. The player selects the actions to do on the map tiles, like dig, mine, and build. Claiming tiles and fortifying walls is done automatically. This helps the game by simplifying gameplay and taking tedious tasks away from the player. However, there isn't a way to prioritize the tasks, therefore the player has no control over when the actions are done.

    -- Difficulty Curve --
    The difficulty curve is the worst design decision I've found in the game. The first 9 levels are fairly easy; however, the 10th gets immensely harder. Although I've tried to play through the level multiple times, I have yet to beat it. From what I've read on forums about the game, the level was too easy, so the developers over-corrected the problem with a patch.

    -- Session 1 --
    This was the first time I've played the game, so I went through the tutorial level and about five other levels. The game is very good about not overloading the player with new items, rooms, and minions. So, it was easy to get into and keep playing for several hours.

    -- Session 2 --
    In this session I played through until I got to level 10. The difficulty was rising noticeably; however, it was still manageable until level 10. After about 3 hours and loosing the 10th level once, I decided it would be a good time to stop.

    -- Sessions 3 - 5 --
    The next sessions only lasted about an hour each and got increasingly frustrating. Each time I loose spectacularly to the dungeon keeper controlled by the computer.

    -- Overall --
    Despite the few design flaws, the game is overall enjoyable and I will keep playing until I beat it.

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    Jan 26th, 2011 at 22:26:47     -    Risk (Other)

    Risk: Command Room -- Sunday, Jan 23 (Game One)/Monday, Jan 24 (Game Two)

    The classic game of Risk is a lot of fun; however, it was an all day event. To remedy this, Hasbro released a prototype called Black Ops, a new version of Risk that modified the rules to speed game-play. The actual game, released in 2008, was just named Risk.

    = Players =

    The game is designed for 3-5 players. Each player represents an empire bent on world domination. They move their armies from country to country attacking everyone the gets in their way.

    = The Board =

    The board is a mock world map separated into named regions, such as "China", "Western United States", "Alberta", etc. These regions are grouped by continent, each with a troop bonus for the player that controls all the contained regions.

    = The Modifications =

    Risk: Command Room, created by Hasbro to speed the game-play, adds additional goals, called objectives, besides total world domination. There are 8 objectives split equally into two categories, Major and Minor, and are selected at random from a stack at the beginning of each game. Also, each objective gives a non-transferable bonus to the player that completes that objective; these are also selected at random. To win the game, the player must obtain any three objectives. The objectives can be obtained by completing the objectives, limited to one per turn, and eliminated a player that possesses objectives.

    Also, the idea of cities and capitols were introduced. Each of these aided in troop recruitment in on way or another. The 15 cities are placed on regions randomly at the beginning of the game. The capitols are player specific, and chosen at the beginning of the players first region selection turn.

    = Game-Play =

    First Session: We played Risk: Command Room with 3 players. This was the first time any of us had played Risk: Command Room; however, two of us have played Risk. The setup of the game take a while, in this case 30 minutes. Each player must take turns taking regions until the map is full, then divvy their remaining troop on the regions they just claimed. In this session, most of the regions in North America had cities in them; so, there was a lot of conflict in that area. But when one player finally pushed the others out, he had the game in his hand; it was just a matter of time. This session lasted about an hour and a half.

    Second Session: The following night we setup the game again, this time with 5 players; the three that played the night before, one that had never played Risk: Command Room, and one that has never played any Risk. Again, the setup took a while, 45 minutes this time. In this session the cities were more evenly placed; each major continent had about 4 and each minor continent had about 2. Since the number of players increased, the number of troops each player starts with decreases. This mean each player must be more conservative in how they play at the beginning of the game, or risk being eliminated from play. Which is exactly what happened with one of the old and new players. This session took about two and a half hours.

    = Overall =

    I thoroughly enjoyed the new version of Risk. It fixed my main problem with the game, but still has the issue of setup time and introduces a new one with the randomness of the city placement.

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