Sunday, January 6, 2013

PC: Looking back at 2012

So, we’re steadily approaching our first completed week in the new year that is 2013. And as usual, all the work on has kept us all busy; way too busy to play games at least. Besides a few pnp-sessions, the advent of this year spawned preciously little time for anything else, so I assumed I’d sit down and do the next logical thing.

Write about games.

Long time followers know I wrote a New Year’s Speech last year, and it was way too long. So instead, I want to look back, focusing solely on the domain of PC-gaming and its heights and lows throughout 2012. I hope to share with you some of the strongest impressions these titles left on me, be it for good or ill, maybe even inspiring someone out there towards a great experience.
So without further ado; let’s hit it!

How some of the most expected games turned out for me in 2012!

1) Diablo 3
There is no getting around the infernal elephant in the corner so we might as well around that first. I don’t think I ever hyped a game as much as I did with D3, perhaps with the exception of Dragon Age 2; meaning my expectations for it skyrocketed as far as the high heavens. I’d bought snacks, treats and even taken the time off for a whole week in order to play this gem. I’d watched those character class-trailers over and over, trying to find just the right option for me.

Of course there was some hesitation, as previous blogs have shown. But in the end it seemed forgivable; I dismissed it as trivial concerns likely not affecting my style of play.

And then, it all its irony, I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed with a game as I was with D3. Perhaps with the exception of Dragon Age 2. There were attempts at rationalization; denial of truth, an ongoing attempt at self-induced brainwashing that it was just my expectancies that were too high.
As I’ve later explained, D3 has seen its improvements; I’m not denying this. It’s just amazing how a game with so much development-time managed to drop the ball so hard. While legendaries certainly have become useful and thrilling to find, the lack of build diversity and lackluster item-acquiring keeps pushing me away from ever getting into it.  At the one time I surrendered and spent 150$ on the auction house, I had a rather good time on my whirlwind barbarian; doing what I wish I’d be doing from the start: Smashing up minions of Hell. Then, later on, there were nerfs and it didn’t really feel good anymore, unless I spent an additional 150$ or so. 

“Wah wah QQ MOAR D00D! KILL MOAR ELITS B4 MOANIN!” I hear some of you brilliantly argue. Well, this is not a complaint. I had my share of little fun in this game. All I’m saying is, compared to what was said in one of the very first trailers for the game; “This is a perfect example of our character design philosophy; there is no such things as too much power!”

Well, apparently there is, Blizzard?

In honesty, the approach of nerfing a powerful specc so it becomes as weak as the rest is contra intuitive in a Diablo-sense. It should be more about making the others speccs just as lucrative with a myriad of options.
If you’re in doubt, I might suggest asking those Path of Exile-guys. They seem to have it pretty much nailed down.
 And I’m not even going to start on that horrible, abysmal story that in some parts didn’t make the slightest sense.

2) The Walking Dead
As previously mentioned, I used to know and care little for the Walking Dead. Or zombie-games in general. Though I generally say what needs to be said in my former blog, TWD was a sudden, wild and emotional surprise for me that sprung up way behind the rest of you. Starting out with a careful approach towards the first season, I eventually got enthralled by the captivating storytelling and the sheer, beautiful horror that characterizes this universe.

TWD is beyond doubt the best game I played in 2012, luckily getting into it when all five seasons were available. How the rest of you managed for so long, waiting for the next episode to be released, hell, I can’t imagine. It must have been hell. It’s odd that it just appeared in a flash and took me by storm, compared to the two other titles this year, that I suspected would likely run off with the prize.

This only goes to show the value of going out of your way from time to time, trusting your instinct and try something new. You might find shitty litter most of the time, but on occasion there is that little, sparkling, zombie-infested treasure that will keep you up for nights and make you question your own ethics and moral. As I wrote in my article, if you haven’t yet; go play the walking dead.

If you’re into rough ethical decisions, zombies and a game that will make you go “Screw you!” for pulling you through such a story; I don’t get what you’re still doing here.

3) Baldur’s Gate - Enhanced edition
This one I covered as well, some time ago.

Well, it turned out my expectancies weren’t that far off. I haven’t written any specific reviews on this, because when I finally thought I’d get around it, there were so many reviews out there already.
What’s interesting, however, is the overwhelming amount of praise BG:EE had, which I’ve given a lot of thought since. Because, honestly; it’s not very good.

I somehow knew this, especially from what was written between the lines of their forum and statements before release. This is NOT a new Baldur’s Gate. It’s a rerelease with a few tidbit-goodies.  I think this is where most of us stumbled.

No, let’s cut right to the bone: This is BG 1 for those who don’t want/like/know how to mod the old versions on Good Old Games. Period. Argue, shout and bellow; but you won’t get around it. And for a 20$ price that’s excessive. The new characters are sweet but ultimately take up very little space. They’re side quests are decent, but too short.  The new Black Guard is interesting, though.

I got off as one of the lucky folks who experienced no crashes and could run the game perfectly fine from day one. Others said it was ultimately unplayable, and additions such as the ability to zoom in seemed downright redundant to me and I couldn’t think of anyone who’d actually have any use for it?

What ultimately killed it for me was the fixed FPS-rate, set at 30. I don’t know whether this has been fixed yet, as some people on the forum spoke about, but it’s very, very slow-going. Too slow for me, who always played it around 45. Add on top of that, that you can’t progress into the second game once you’re through the first (not until it’s released at least) and eventually I bought the old versions from Good old Games instead. There is a very easy and thorough guide to mod your BG-games into something much bigger, better and certainly MUCH more interesting than the EE.

Add in the BG1NPCProject and banter packs for a much more alive BG1. Try out the various mods for BG2 as well; especially “Amber” is really good for a whole new NPC.

I suppose we’ll just have to lean back and wait for Project Eternity now.
I’m certainly not getting the BG2:EE.
Neither would I ever want to play BG on my iPad.

Guess what; I did a blog about this as well! Hah, figure that.
This was one of those of which I was rather hyped and later proved right about being so. X-COM was beyond doubt one of the greatest hits this year, especially for people like me, who’ve been craving that special old school with a certain touch of polish. While getting the original formula right seemed to be an art lost after Terror from the Deep, we certainly came a good deal closer, as I wrote in my review.

While certain degree of freedom seemed lost with the more laniary approach in XCOM, there is so much you remember and reconnect with the same instant it appears on screen. The graphics are okay, the music lovely and the tactical aspect can give you more than you bargained for once you start cranking it up. Add in a load of the original enemies you encountered in the first game, and it’s hard not to be a little tempted by this game. While I hear those complaining about the streamlining and lacking elements from the first games (apparently there are people who miss carrying around live aliens in their backpacks…) I do recommend this game to anyone who loved the first two. 

5) Farcry 3
This one I began not long ago, so take my words for what it is. So far they’re all very positive; Far Cry 3 is one of those games that appeal to me so much because of the massive sandbox element, and the fact that it isn’t about to tell me what do to in what order. Somehow. I’m saying somehow, because I still jog around with 10 unspent skill points and the game won’t let me invest anymore in Path of the Shark till I complete more of the main story. But it’s such a little complaint, next to a massive shooter that has a high satisfaction in blowing up pirates and setting wild animals ablaze with a flamethrower. Barbaric, I suppose, but bear with me here.

It’s some of a completionist’s nightmare, in that way you pretty much need to fast travel in order not to get too sidetracked. Think of it as Skyrim with guns, on a tropical island.
It has the usual quirks and oddities some might remember from Thief; you blow off a pirate’s head and his friend will go crazy for a while, then shrug it off and return to his duties.  Or you can start throwing stones to lure them closer to your ambush; apparently not making them suspicious about the hail of flying stones coming from behind that container.

6) Legend of Grimrock
Coming in last but certainly not least is my dearly bellowed Legend of Grimrock; beyond doubt a treat to any Eye of the Beholder fans out there. The best way to describe this game is that it delivers what was promised; likely just as you expected. It’s a solid handful of dungeon layers with insidious puzzles and traps, along with nasty monsters to make your life difficult, as you battle your way downwards in an attempt to escape with your life.

It’s so brilliantly executed and can take several hours to complete if you aren’t using any kind of guide. There’s also a certain element of replay available, depending on how thorough you wish to be about it. It’s also one of those developers who seem so keen and set upon delivering a good game that they really deserve our support.
This is definitely a game you want to check out if you’re into rpg’s.

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