Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lasting Appeal

I can't find a new game to hold my attention.  I want something that I've never played before that grabs me and keeps me interested... but I've had no luck.

Thankfully, I have a few fallback games that keep me happy.  Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, and Starcraft 2 are all amazing games that I love to play.  I started wondering why I keep coming back for more.

After giving it some thought, I've come up with a few reasons these games stay enjoyable.

PvP Done Right
No matter how well an AI is programmed there is still nothing like matching wit and skill with another human.  All 3 of these games are based around multiplayer and have systems in place to keep things fair while competing against other humans.  TF2 scrambles the teams whenever it detects a big imbalance in skill.  SC2 and League both have awesome ranking systems in place to match players with others of a similar skill level.  This way, no matter how good or bad you are, you'll have just the right amount of challenge in your gameplay.

Diversity of Play
TF2 has 8 classes which all play in unique ways, SC2 has 3 races that add their own twist to the RTS formula, and League has close to 80 champions to pick from that span a wide range of playstyles (and they add more all the time).  Not to mention that each of these games has multiple game modes which means there's even more chance to find something fun to do.

Skill, not Luck
I know when I'm playing these games that I win or lose by skill alone.  There's no dice rolling or random number generator in the background to swing the game one way or another.  Skill determines the outcome.  In TF2 and League my twitch skills are tested, but also my skills at communicating with teammates and coordinating our efforts.  We win and lose as a team.  In SC2 my multitasking, strategy, and execution skills are put to the test and I rise or fall depending on me alone (I play mostly 1v1s).

These categories are some of the key aspects that keep these games fun.  I could also tell you about the level of polish or the stylistic graphics or the payment models or other details that I love... but I think it all comes down to fun gameplay in the end.

So, dear readers, do you have any games that always seem to draw you back for more?  What do you love about them?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Those Dulcet Tones

From the moment The Kid awakens he's vocally followed by an aloof narrator.  That, above all else, makes Bastion stand apart from a stagnant game market.  The narrator's ever-present dulcet tones hounded and haunted me as I played but they simultaneously drove me onward.  Super Giant Games has implemented a storytelling device in a unique way that must be experienced to be appreciated fully.

I should have written about Bastion when it first released on XBLA but I was far too busy playing the game.  I beat my first playthrough of Bastion within three days of it's release.  I honestly can't tell you the last time I was so drawn into a game.

Mechanically, Bastion is a hack and slash, but putting it like that doesn't do it justice.  Every weapon has it's own individual feel, something often overlooked and no easy feat to accomplish.  Choosing and customizing the weapons that accompanied me were fun decisions because they actually mattered.  The bow ended up being my trusty companion during my adventure while I switched out the second slot to play around with all the other weapon options.

I'm four paragraphs in and haven't even mentioned the visuals.  Shame on me.  The way the world is reconstructed at The Kid's feet is simply breathtaking.  It gives the world the feeling of being utterly destroyed with just a tiny bit of land still clinging to existence.  The artwork throughout is beautiful and made every new area a treat to explore.

At this point it would be next to impossible to top Bastion as my favorite indie game of the year.  We'll see how I feel in January, but this game completely captivated me.  It's out now on PC and XBLA for just under $15.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trenched: Multiplayer, Co-op, Mech-based, Tower Defense

Trenched is the most interesting take on tower defense that I've played in awhile.  This game came out of nowhere, it wasn't even on my radar, but when I tried the demo on XBLA and I was hooked.

The second I got into a "mobile trench" I knew this game was something different.  The World War I/II mech setting somehow works and really drew me in as I played.  I did the first couple of missions solo while I felt out the mixture of laying down defensive turrets and charging with guns blazing.

Then I discovered the best part of the game, multiplayer!  All of the missions can be played with friends or with a random set of allies online.  Once I played a map with allies I didn't even consider going back to solo.  Not only is four more fun than one but getting to see each player's customized Trench is a treat.

There's all the customization I've come to expect from a mech game.  Various chassis (basically classes) with different strengths and weaknesses along with all sorts of weapons that fit into various sized slots within said chassis.  I had just as much fun in my engineering chassis throwing down turrets left and right as I did in my heavy chassis running and gunning.

With a free demo, anyone considering themselves a fan of tower defense, co-op, shooters, or mech games should spend some time with Trenched.  I shelled out the $15 for the full game and after playing through to completion I don't regret it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Console and PC Disharmony

I have a huge craving for a single player console game.  I want something that I can have fun with while blasting through mindlessly, but I can't find a good one I haven't played!  Ugh.  But that's what happens in the summer slump.

Anyway, since I'm in the mood for a console game but have been doing a lot of PC gaming lately I started to think about why I want to play a console title.  The main reason is the sitting back experience.

My oh-so-comfy couch

When I'm playing PC games I'm always sitting forward (or at least sitting straight in my chair) while I'm engaged with the game.  When I'm gaming on a console I'm usually slouched back in my comfy couch.  They make for two very different styles of play.

One isn't necessarily better than the other, but some days I just want to slouch in my comfy couch and chill out.  I haven't been able to do that as much as I'd like to lately.  I guess I'm still stuck holding out until fall.