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  1. I really wanted to like this game, but my impression was that it seemed to take the wrong lessons from Homeworld. Maybe it's gotten better since I tried it several years ago, but I haven't gone back to see. The game itself is a 3D RTS with a persistent fleet, a few different resources to manage, and a story based on explorers getting themselves into some outer space sci-fi madness, and the voice acting for the game included Ron Glass's final role, so it caught my interest. It's also graphically smoother and more detailed than Homeworld or HW: Cataclysm, though no one will mistake it for Elite Dangerous in 4K or anything. Unfortunately, I found the control scheme for movement and camera angles to be needlessly awkward, like they were trying to find a way to mimic the intuitive Homeworld controls without actually copying them. The zoom distance is also pretty short, making it more difficult to get my forces organized than it felt like it should have been. Other reviews tended to list some glaring downsides. Many mention that the pathfinding to be hilariously bad, but I don't remember one way or the other, so I can't confirm or deny that part. Others say the computer also matches its fleet with what you ended the previous level with, so a decisive victory may make the following level far more difficult than it needs to be. I left the game to go play something else before getting far enough to see that aspect in action, but it would't surprise me. If that hasn't scared you off, then my recommendation is to wait for it to go on sale to the point of Ross's "price of a sandwich" standard.
  2. Just came across this game from a demo video by the main character's voice actor, the excellent Ryan Cooper. There's a lot of Lovecraft built into this game, and the themes of a tech-noir dystopia have always seemed to practically beg for that kind of horror game. No one will mistake this for Cyberpunk 2077 or anything, but that's enough to get me intrigued. A lot of reviews on Steam, however, seem to regard the game as unfinished at best: apparently, for all the great artwork used to build the world, not much of that quality translated into the characters themselves. Like Lovecraft's stories themselves, the game's story also leaves a lot of questions unanswered, or assumes you've played Conarium, the other game in the series. It's also apparently fairly short as these things go, running about 5 hours. I'll wait for a minor sale - its current regular price of $20 is a bit much right now - but it's on my wishlist. Might make for a good Game Dungeon entry in the meantime.
  3. This game... Oh man, this game. They did some amazing world-building, to the extent that it's a bit baffling how little of that made it into the game itself. The Hell-blimp flying things, for example, are a type of demonic wildlife called an "exospector". They're mindless, aren't predatory, and apparently mostly serve as a sort of terraforming system to turn Earth into something more comfortable for the demons. At one point in the game, there's a quest chain to shoot one down so a science crew can study it or something. You have to man a bunch of janky AA popguns that felt a lot weaker than they should have, with a weird interface a bit like the RTS-lite section where Ross ordered small waves of NPC troopers to push forward along a street. Once the exospector was down, you entered it to see how it worked on the inside, and the structure was - surprise, surprise - another type of recycled level: the instance used the same xenomorph ribbed-tunnel style like when the player went in to destroy that unlucky NPC's mind. It's a cool concept, but the game just never really lived up to it.
  4. I fully support this. Ross's Snow/Christmas equivalence gives him a good bit of room, but Christmas as a backdrop (as in this game and Die Hard, to name just two) might help expand things a bit for him. I remember the crafting system being kind of unique and weird in a fun way, too: body armor that healed you or protected you from status effects, modding sub-machine guns to accept grenade rounds, lots of fun. Here's hoping he doesn't run into too many emulator issues, or Square/Sony getting all copyright-happy on him for reviewing a twenty-year-old game that, as best I can tell, they don't sell anymore and hasn't been compatible with their consoles for two generations now. Google says it works on the PS3 and PSP, but the links just take you to the PS store's front page, so it may be gone for now outside of emulators. Speaking of emulators (though not Christmas-related), one game I'd been thinking about for a while but took a week of searching to track down the name of, hails from the NES days: Captain Skyhawk. Generic name notwithstanding, this is a surprisingly solid game. The basic premise is you fly a sci-fi version of the sexiest fighter of the 20th century, the F-14 Tomcat, in a war against invading aliens. Even on the old 8-bit machines of the day, the gameplay is surprisingly solid: your fighter moves and drifts in predictable ways, debris/gibs from ground targets fly and tumble, there was little or no slowdown at any point, and while the missions were linear, they had a lot of variation. The main missions are isometric/top-down vertical shooter attack runs to blow up alien ground bases, but you also drop supplies for resistance outposts and rescue captured scientists, or you might be shooting down alien fighters and blowing up enemy space stations in more of a chase-camera mode. In the main missions, your maneuverability is also not just limited to front-back-left-right: you can also change your speed/altitude to deal with different targets, which so far as I know is unique in top-down vertical shooters. Also, a bit like Tyrian, you have the option at certain points to upgrade your fighter a bit: you can load up with missiles and bombs that can be consumed during missions, or improve the cannon, which is your basic infinite-ammo default weapon. Or both, if you're really good at blowing up aliens and rack up the score. The only criticisms I have are that the terrain is a basic type of 3D polygonal grid, a bit like Test Drive 3 - but as Ross observed, that sort of interpretive scenery isn't a bad thing. It's just... Well, not what a lot of gamers are looking for today. The other is that it has next to no music. The tracks it has aren't bad, in a minimalist 8-bit way, but not every level has them, and the noise of your cannon and the high-pitched drone of those big GE jet engines are going to be your soundtrack for most of the game. It's a bit disappointing, but if it comes down to a tradeoff between solid fast-paced gameplay and having lots of music, then I think the studio made the right choice.
  5. There's more than a few games like this, lingering on with development occurring when minimally funded studios staffed by all-but-volunteers can get around to it. A rating category of "Life Support" would fit this kind of situation. Still, the existing missions aren't bad. Doing the space station mission solo was one of the spookiest FPS's I'd played. You're creeping down pitch-dark hallways and access tubes, fixing circuit breakers so you can work your way through the facility, when you hear the patter of running footsteps off in the distance. ...Somewhere. Getting closer. Yeah, they're just training robots that don't do more than try to punch you, and you have rifles and machine guns, but damn if it isn't eerie to hear them wandering around in the blackness you haven't explored yet, looking for you.
  6. I remember that game! I think I still have the CD for it somewhere, but perhaps not. That was the first game I encountered that incentivized sticking with the starting weapon, since it wasn't completely terrible and had infinite ammunition. I mean, sure, its low power and low rate of fire meant you'd be trading health for (other weapons') ammo if you defaulted to it later, but spamming the fire button would see you through a lot of the game and not risk running dry on mooks. That game laid the foundation for my joining the ranks of the Fallout hoarders: that habit of grabbing as much of "the good stuff" as I can get my grubby hands on... And never getting around to using it, because I might want it later. That sounds kind of bad, and it isn't helpful in FPS or RPG games, but then when you get into the survival-horror genre, who's laughing now, huh? ...I'm making excuses, aren't I? Moving on! I never played this one, but another fun fact: a Captain Claw doll makes an appearance as an optional minor item in Shogo! Magic claw! In the game of noisy doll versus shotgun... It's about as useful as you might expect.
  7. Seconding the recommendation of 'Shogo' as a game worth playing, though its anime styling and opening music mean I have doubts whether Ross will review it. The rest of the game's music is pretty good, though there aren't a lot of tracks. The sound effects are generally really satisfying. Very few assault rifles, for example, have the same meaty, aggressive bark as this game's rifle. The grenades are cumbersome to use, since ideas like secondary fire modes and grenade buttons were still mostly in the future when Shogo released in 1998. That said, Shogo did something I haven't seen before or since: critical hits. At least, I haven't seen them done the way Shogo did them. When you score a critical hit, your target loses a ton of health, and you regain a fair chunk. Each bullet could score crits, though they were kind of random, since they didn't trigger every time on headshots or hits to something obviously vital. Oh, and the enemy could score crits on you as well. I never bothered to find out whether these healed the enemy, because it didn't really matter: the gunfights in this game are vicious like few other FPS games', and don't really last long. I have fond memories of that game, even the brutal on-foot segments where everything can go to hell in a heartbeat. Huh - it's almost like body armor doesn't make you an unstoppable juggernaut or something! Go figure... ***** A game I think Ross would have fewer reservations about is much newer: Brigador. It's a top-down, isometric vehicular shoot-em-up that just reeks of awesome 80's sci-fi action movie ultraviolence. You get to customize your choice of pilots, vehicles, main weapons, secondary weapons, and support systems, and get rewarded for blowing tons of stuff up. It's not a terribly complex game, but setting up ambushes by plowing through buildings like a heavily-armored Kool-Aid Man is a lot of fun. It's on Steam and not terribly expensive.
  8. I'd popped on to see what might be in the pipeline and wing in a few suggestions of my own, but three of my biggest suggestions have already shown up - and a reminder of a fifth I hadn't expected, but I guess this would be the place for it. So, these are going to be more "I second that opinion!"s than "try this game!"s. Not being a game designer, programmer, or even more than an overcautious modder, I can't offer a huge amount of insight into the back end of the game, but I found these interesting. Make of these what you will. First.. uh... Seconding: Call of C'thulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. A tense, tough stealth adventure game set in H. P. Lovecraft's most famous fictional universe, but with controls that make it play like a first-person shooter. It has some huge bugs that can make it almost unplayable (or in one instance, absolutely unwinnable) but probably nails the weird, hostile little town vibe Lovecraft seemed to love writing about better than any other game I've seen. Second "me too!": Ares. A top-down space RTS with no voice acting, and I remember nothing about the music, but it has a dozen factions that all play wildly differently as you lead a galactic crusade to liberate Earth. The writing and the science-fiction world building they did for the game make it notable, at least, and they had decent two-dimensional Newtonian physics for the time. One interesting part of the plot, to me, was that you only left Earth at all because someone screwed up translating the message in a "Wow!" first-contact signal. Third "try this game!": The UFO: After[blank] series. Three games - Aftermath, Aftershock, and Afterlight - that chronicle humanity's struggle against invading aliens. Having played Shock and Light, I can see how they get compared to X-Com a lot: you have a strategic resource and research management overworld game, a fairly brutal top-down squad-based tactical game, an almost endless amounts of customization, but it isn't turn-based. They managed to find one of the rare ways to make a squad-management game playable without forcing turns or leaving ally controls in the dubious hands of the computer. The minor "try/remember this game!" entry was Hocus Pocus, a shareware side-scrolling action platformer from the mid-90's with DOS graphics and a Pratchett-like feel to the writing. You have to wipe out a bunch of interdimensional squatters charging tolls along the magic paths between dimensions. As the manual puts it, "especially the path to the Beautiful Amazon Tribes Before the Time of Clothes era. This bothered the [wizard] Council, who wanted the obstructions "removed" so they could get on with their Amazon studies." Good game. The first of the two remaining big "check this out" , and the first I haven't seen listed previously, and have been thinking about since the Test Drive 2 Game Dungeon: Chuck Yeager's Air Combat. An early 1990's flight sim with a fair* amount of realism, you fly selected German, American, and Russian fighters in historical missions from WW2 (the European theater, anyway), Korea, and Vietnam. * "Fair" here means if you eject during career mode over friendly territory, you're probably fine, but bailing out over enemy territory means you might be captured, and get a game over. Also, exceeding your plane's maximum speed by too much can and will destroy the airframe. Probably not what Ross was thinking of when describing Test Drive 2's steering, since it isn't random, but a flight sim where your plane's wings fall off totally does exist. Finally, there's Operation Neptune. It's a puzzle-type game with some arcade-like gameplay, where you guide a Deep Sea Research Submersible through dangerous trenches and around obstacles, collecting data modules from a crashed space mission that reveal the game's story. It's kind of unique (to me, anyway) in that it's an educational game: the puzzles are all math-based, and designed to be relevant to the situation. For example, to dock with an undersea base, you might have to solve a question about volume to counteract a minor flood, or about redistributing weight when you pick up a data module. It's aimed at (I think) a younger audience than most of the Game Dungeon, but definitely notable. I dunno - while I have some details on these, what I've put here is all or most of it: what I remember of the game that isn't just rephrasing the wikipedia article, or finding new and exciting ways to say, "hey, yeah, I remember playing that game in middle school!". I think these games are worth a look, but what I have here is a bit light for six new threads.
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