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    Gears 5 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 28th, 2020 at 15:44:33)

    Aside from the luscious visuals and superbly detailed environments (that hid its many collectibles), Gears 5 didn't wow me as much as Gears of War 4. The game is less cohesive overall both in narrative and pacing. Half the game is about Kait and the COG's secrets, and the other half is about assembling the Hammer of Dawn to...to...destroy a hive? I was never quite sure until the end and I don't think the characters were either. The AI is worse and it had more technical issues. There is a "choice" at the end that has no impact on the game's outcome and probably required a few extra lines of dialogue, though I wonder which choice will be canon. The main new enemy type is a swarm (appropriate) of leeches that flies through the air. These are very easy to deal with though. You also get some new Juvies that sprout explosives and are fun to blow up. There are some new mega bosses, which were all spectacles to fight. I particularly liked the Matriarch fight (and the whole secret laboratory chapters). There weren't any new weapons of note, just some variations on lancers, and I was sad there were no giant mechs to control this time around. Thankfully, The Coalition did away with the glorified Horde mode in the campaign. Those were the only parts of Gears of War 4 I didn't like, and I must not have been alone.

    There are two main things that Gears 5 adds that made it feel unique in the series (but not at all to the genre): the skiff and Jack. The skiff is the means by which you traverse the new open-ish world environments in the ice and desert levels. The ice parts are stunning with huge looming crags in the distance and shining icicles always threatening to drop on your head. The desert, unfortunately, is basically a re-skin of the ice levels that makes Sera look like Mars. But the skiff! It's kind of like parasailing and waterskiing. You use the sails to catch the wind and skim along the ground's surface. Ride it around to explore and find and complete secondary missions (a series first?). You'll help Outsiders secure their water source, investigate downed Condors, and through the few secondary missions you'll find items that upgrade Jack...

    ...Jack is a cute drone that is, well, a jack-of-all-trades. He's with you the whole game and has a handful of useful active and passive abilities that you can deploy. Often, you have to use one to get past an environmental hazard (Stim) or power a generator (Shock). The more "components" you find, the more you can level up his abilities. By the end of the game, Jack can give you invisibility, shield you, freeze enemies, mind control enemies, set traps, and more. He's fun to use and nice to have around. Your crew isn't nearly as chatty or funny as in Gears of War 4, so Jack's beeps and blips helped make up for some of the missing charm.

    I left unexplored the myriad options for online play, customization, account leveling, and microtransactions. One could play these newer Gears of War games for ages and never unlock everything. Campaign and done! It sets up for a Gears 6, so I'm sure we'll see that roll out right on schedule. In another couple years, I'm sure it'll be as enjoyable as these games always are.

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    Ori and the Will of the Wisps (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2020 at 10:44:03)

    Another breathtaking game. This takes everything from the previous one and adds layers. The levels are bigger and more distinct, there are more enemy types, more abilities, more upgrades, they added quests, tons more characters, etc., etc. It's Ori turned up to 11.

    All that is to say that bigger is not necessarily better, as the game feels a bit bloated. An example: quests. The game has a heavier story focus, adds a handful of named characters whom you encounter, and adds quests to tell you about the characters. Quests are nearly all of the "fetch an item and return it" variety. You'll complete most of them just in the course of playing, but it necessitates looking in all the nooks and crannies (I generally did that anyway for pickups). For one, you find seeds and return them to a gardener so he can plant things. For another, someone asks you to find a hat for him.

    One big quest is to help a character build a village. To do this, he needs ore, which is hidden throughout the world. In total, there are probably 50 pieces of the stuff, and I'm pretty sure that you need to find every piece to complete every building project (I completed all but one). Finding and returning ore to complete building projects generally yields light conversation with another character, some spirit orbs (experience), and maybe a life or mana fragment. These interactions and quests are all kind of cute--the characters and creatures are very likable--but they're very shallow too.

    One huge improvement over the first game that I didn't know I wanted is 3D backgrounds. Stop and look as you play, or look at a screenshot. Every frame looks like concept art. It's beautiful. Sometimes, especially early in the game, the 3D backgrounds can be a little distracting or obfuscate what you are looking for (I used a walkthrough at the very beginning of the game because a movable stone blended so well with the environment that I couldn't see it), but you get used to it after a while.

    Another neat improvement is varied environments. In the previous game, the environments looked differently, but generally played the same. In this one, there are new movement abilities that make sense for each environment (e.g., a drill to travel through sand in the desert level; a fireball to warm braziers in the ice level). This means that, to some extent, each level forces you to think a bit differently. This could be annoying, but I think that's only my "I just want to use what I already learned!" brain talking. Really, it makes you figure out new abilities and ways of progressing through a level. At the very end of the game, you can go in an extra area or two, which I declined to explore, but my guess is that it (is really hard and) forces you to use all the abilities you have learned to master tough challenges. At least that's what I hope it was.

    So, if you're like me, you loved the first game and are happy for more. Most of the additions are welcome (I've talked to other people who disliked the combat addition, but, although combat was generally easy, I enjoyed it), but some are unnecessary and make the game feel overly packed with things. To that point, it took me 50% longer to finish this than the original. Maybe in another 5 years there will be a third!

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    Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! (PC)    by   jp       (May 20th, 2020 at 22:51:18)

    I started up a new game and interestingly your relationship with each of your colleagues/employees/business partners remains. So, you can essentially grind them all up to the maximum, which is nice for completion. I'm guessing there are rewards for repeated playthroughs and you can probably unlock new characters and make them available for hire and such.

    The beginning is similar, but your nemesis turns out to be working for your REAL nemesis and on it goes. I'm also guessing there's more story stuff to see and so on, but - I'm not really all that compelled to suss it out.

    I have enjoyed the writing and the humor and the game does have a neat little feature - a dictionary of sorts you can use to look up the meaning of certain words and phrases. It's quite funny, actually - and I'm guessing the writing team had a good time looking up old english slang and such.

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    Dragon Age: Origins (PS3)    by   jp       (May 19th, 2020 at 23:37:57)

    I thought I was closer to the end. :-(

    I had forgotten that I needed to go talk to the mages to get them to side with me. Since my character is a recently graduated mage, I figured I'd do this one last because I'd show up as "levelled up" (more impressive?). Anyways, so. I start doing the "go to the mages" and, as expected, something terrible has happened and so on. Interesting/fun story bits but what really knocked my socks off was a completely interesting gameplay twist!

    So, it turns out that demons and blood mages have taken over and a particular demon "traps" you in the fade, which is like another dimension. You wander around and eventually learn to transform into other "characters"! Each character has a bunch of special abilities and a key ability you need to use to solve navigation puzzles (e.g. walk through fire, bash open heavy doors).

    I really enjoyed this part since I had to figure out how to solve the puzzle - e.g. get to the monster in the middle. But, I also appreciated the "refresh" in terms of gameplay - I could play around with some new abilities and was also, at least for the moment, granted a respite from all the inventory management/optimization I'd been getting tired of (picking up treasure, not having enough space, trashing stuff, etc.). The entire "in the fade" portion of the game has no loot/treasure to pick up! (you get get stat boosts).

    So, a nice change of pace that really refreshed the gameplay.

    Ok, so then finished the mages and off to the last task before the final (supposedly). Perhaps one of the more interesting things is realizing that a lot of the story hooks/goals are political in nature. It's not about fight big monster move on to the next one, rather help this leader get this support so that they'll then do something else and so on. Really neat.

    Anyways, I spent some time wandering around the city and then went to rescue the queen(?) but - IT WAS ALL A TRAP!

    Whoah! Another nice surprise - again, with gameplay variations. I didn't play "after the trap", but it looks like I'll have lost my party/companions as well as all my equipment (a common trope), but it's interesting because it's happening so far/late into the game.

    Needless to say, I've been really impressed and enjoying the game!

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    Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! (PC)    by   jp       (May 17th, 2020 at 20:03:41)

    Played this a bit ago, but just posting now. It's not every day I get to play/write about a game a former student worked on. Or at least a former student I interacted with but might not have been in a class I taught? (hmmm...)

    ANYWAYS.

    It's basically a "empire builder" sim in which you're clicking on things to get numbers to go up before a (long) timer runs out. There's some "live" managing you need to do - you send people to places and then they get tired and you have to manually swap them out. However, it also has a dating sim side which is a change of pace - sure, you're always dating your employees/business partners which is not weird/unusual at all - but it's fun.

    In terms of the design I think it's an interesting mix of optimizing numbers and efficiency, with fun writing and dating. BUT I noticed there are a few elements from Slay the Spire! (familiar to me from that game, not claiming they were copied).

    In Slay you can get Relics that give you permanent buffs/modifiers/abilities - they can really change they way you play and help you lead into certain strategies etc. Here, you can also unlock "relics" (forget what they're called) - I only played once so... - but I think they might also affect the way you play? I don't think you always get the same ones. Mostly they might just be buffs/boosts? I hope not - definitely a more interesting game if they're not.

    I finished (beat my rival) a full game - but it hints that I have not REALLY finished it - so I might want to go back and see what's new? I wonder if other than unlocking new relics, there will be differences in story (I'm guessing I'll also see a lot of different/new characters and such).

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    1 : dkirschner's Frostpunk (PC)
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    Super Fighters Deluxe (PC)    by   TStanesa

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Sunday 4 November, 2012
    This game is still in pre-alpha build, but it is a very playable build. This game is a 2D fighting game in which players must move around the map to pick up weapons(all of which have a very limited amount of ammo, usually two magazines) and eliminate the enemy players. The game is based around it's movement mechanics and destructible environment. The movement mechanics are jumping, rolling, diving, sprinting, and taking cover. To aim a player must be standing still and holding down the aim key, allowing them to then aim up and down as opposed to shooting while moving, which only fires parallel to the ground. Diving into an enemy causes you to tackle them. These simple mechanics in combination create a unique fighting game that is equally fun to play with two players or eight. The game levels are not flat, but rather composed of many rooms, some of which are vulnerable to gunfire, others are not. This allows some strategic positioning on the part of the individual. While there are still many flaws in this game, I don't think i should focus on these too much as the game is still early in it's development. The combination of destructible environment, great 8-bit style, and slow motion powerups(as well as slow motion whenever a player is killed) results in plenty of spectacular moments. While currently the first game, Super Fighters, is more fun to play due to it's completeness, when this game is fully released it could very well become a hugely played free multiplayer game. I would recommend anyone to try out the current build of this game, but be aware that it is still a work in progress, and that the unique controls require a steep learning curve.

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