Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Achieve Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is an achiever's delight.  It's a great action/exploration game filled to the brim with hidden Riddler trophies and mysteries to solve.  The whole game appealed to the explorer and achiever in me.  I even went on to do a 100% complete run of the game.  That meant completing over 400 Riddler challenges and I loved every minute.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Arkham City is the follow up to Arkham Asylum, a game I also loved.  It takes everything from Arkham Asylum and builds on it.  The combat has more diverse options and the controls feel tighter. The exploration is faster and far ranging thanks to the grappling hook, cape glide, and a full city to explore.  The cast of villains has been expanded to the point where some of the lesser known evil doers get their time to shine. Overall, it's a bigger badass Batman game.

All together I only had a couple of gripes.  By expanding the cast of villains the game actually ends up making each one seem weaker.  Since Batman defeats a villain and moves on to the next one so quickly I don't know if I even remember them all.  For such an iconic cast of characters that's a sad statement to make.  On the other hand the Joker and the Riddler are very well developed characters who I felt were actually Batman's equal.  They tormented me the entire game and made the payoff at the end that much sweeter.  Every other villain was a speed bump in comparison.

My other complaint is the stealth gameplay.  In Arkham Asylum I felt that stealth was always the answer.  Intelligently approaching a room to stealthily eliminate every opponent without being detected was the name of the game.  Hand to hand combat was always a last resort that felt less effective.  It's similar to the feeling I get at the start of an Assassin's Creed game.  Stay stealthy, stay smart.

This is no longer the case in Arkham City.  Batman is so powerful in hand to hand combat that I barely used stealth throughout my entire play-through.  A common battle tactic of mine was to throw a freeze grenade into a group of enemies, freezing 3-4 of them, then dive bomb at full speed into whoever was left resulting in an instant takedown and scattering anyone still standing.  I would follow that up with a batarang to a distant enemies, a batclaw to disarm a foe, a remote electric charge to any other armed foe (making them swing wildly at those around them), and then an explosive spray on the ground while I flipped away and detonated it.  From there cleanup was a breeze.  Yes, it's badass, but with abilities like that why would I ever take the time to be stealthy?

Keep in mind that when my two complaints are that there are too many iconic villians and that Batman is too badass the overall game must be good.  And it is.  I invested more time then I would like to admit in Arkham City.  From me, that's a rousing endorsement.  I played through Arkham City to the end and then I went back for more.

StarCraft 2 for $30

I don't normally endorse game sales, but StarCraft 2 is half price from now until Monday.  This is my absolute favorite game from the past 2 years and I recommend it to everyone, even at full price.  I love it so much I've written a whole Newbie Guide about it.  If you are an RTS fan and you don't own SC2 you don't know what you're missing.  If you've ever been intrigued by Starcraft 2 now is the time to pick it up.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gaming While Busy

I miss posting multiple times per week, but work has been absolutely crazy busy this fall.  It's great for us at work, but I haven't had a whole lot of extra energy to write about gaming.

That's not to say I haven't made time to actually play games.  I'm on vacation now for all of next week so I'm hoping to catch up on posting.  But, I wanted to touch base first and let you know generally what I've been up to.

I'm still playing Starcraft 2 at least a few times each week.  It's amazing to me that this game is so fun after a year and a half of playing it.  I don't anticipate it falling out of my gaming rotation any time soon.

I'm slowly working my way through Final Fantasy II on the ipod touch.  I'm getting to the point where I just want to finish it, but it can still be fun in small doses.

I bought and beat (100%) Batman Arkham City.  I loved the game, so I definitely need to get a post up about it soon.

I've been dabbling in Battlefield 3, League of Legends Dominion, and the Tribes Ascend beta.

Not to mention that Skyrim has absolutely dominated my gaming time since it came out on the 11th.

Each of those games has at least one post attached to it, so hopefully I can crank out a bunch of them for you lovely readers this week.  I did want to mention that of all these games I might be the most excited for Tribes Ascend.  I'll have to check out the NDA to see what I can write about it, but overall this is a PC shooter that I would love to see succeed.  If you care about FPS on the PC even remotely you should watch this video by Total Biscuit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Must Orcs Die?

Yes, they must.  Orcs Must Die is an entertaining hybrid of the tower defense and shooter genres from robot entertainment.  I picked it up when it released last month and couldn't put it down for days.  I had a blast placing traps and trap combinations for the horde of orcs to stumble into while I head-shot them with a crossbow.

The overall concept is familiar.  Stop wave after wave of enemies from reaching your exit point.  The difference is in the execution.  In Orcs Must Die you control a single war-mage on the ground who is entirely in charge of placing traps and killing stragglers.  The 3rd person shooter viewpoint made me feel much more immersed in the action compared to the standard high altitude/isometric view found in most tower defense games.

As you progress you unlock new spells, traps, and guardians.  Points gained from successful defense can also be used to upgrade existing spells, traps, and guardians.  It's not much of an upgrade system, and I wish it were deeper, but it's a step in the right direction.  If there were more upgrades for each item with different upgrade paths I think it would make for an intriguing upgrade system.  I guess I'll have to hold out for the sequel.

My only other gripe about the game is the amount of clicking involved.  As the player, you want to constantly be shooting at the orcs to maximize your damage to the horde.  There is no auto-attack, which means that throughout the game I was constantly clicking to fire my crossbow.  It's fine for a couple minutes but gets annoying after that. Fair warning for those with carpal tunnel or repetitive motion injuries.

I had a really fun week with the game upon it's initial release, but since then I've been devoting my gaming time elsewhere.  Because of that, I would recommend it to anyone who whole-heartedly loves the tower defense genre.  It's worth the $15 for you to own it.  For everyone else, it's still a fun game but you should probably wait for a Steam sale or price drop before picking it up.