Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Neglected acquaintances

I need to start posting in the morning. Afternoons have actually gotten busy at work, and evenings are for playing games, not just talking about them.

Saturday night was a demo night. I had nothing sitting on the GameFly stack (which doesn't happen very often and makes me very sad when it does) and I was not in the mood the drop several more hours into a fighting game that I hadn't actually enjoyed to last several times I played it. I don't like playing demos of games that I know I am going to eventually play the full game of, so this means that most console demos are just out of the question. There is a whole other, often ignored console two floors up from my man cave that can do more than surf for porn and then remove the viruses acquired from said porn, and it was time to pay it a visit.

I booted up the now slightly aged sexy beast and starting rummaging around sites looking for interesting demos. It took around fifteen minutes of finding nothing to remember that my PC is not just a PC anymore, it is my Steam console. Sure enough, hiding in a task bar icon I found a wealth of little games, some of which I had heard of, many I hadn't, and most of which deserved at least a few minutes of my time. Add to that my fat bandwidth from being the only AT&T Uverse customer in the area (1.5 meg down, oh yeah!) and I was set.

First up was Guardians of Graxia, a card based strategy title that makes no effort to look like anything other that Magic the Gathering tactics (which, oddly enough, is a thing now, a thing that I will not try for fear of spending real money of pretend cards again). Honestly, it has more in common with Eye of Judgement than anything, and that game was a tremendous idea saddled with terrible hardware. Graxia seemed to have less strategy to it, but that may be because the starter deck had about three different kinds of creatures and four spells; not a good way to pique the interest of an old MtG nerd who still has a few of his old cards squirreled away. It wasn't bed, it just was interesting enough to purchase, even at the discounted price of a Chipotle burrito and soda.

Magicka is a little better known than Graxia, looks to have had at least a little more money thrown at it during development, and has a small but stalwart fan base. It really looks like Torchlight, but while Torchlight plays like Diablo lite Magicka is a completely different animal. Eight different varieties of magic are mapped to the key board and be combined into thousands of different spells. Some work, some don't, and some will kill you immediately upon casting. It is aimed at co-operative multiplayer, right down to the 'don't cross the streams' nature of several of the spells. That being said, either some of the encounters were not balanced down for one person or I was just missing the point, because the first time I had more than a few goblins to deal with at once I got waxed. When the first goblin sapper showed up and I accidentally blew myself up right along with him it was amusing. The second time it was not, and subsequent deaths did not improve my mood. I can definitely see how Magicka could be a blast with four understanding friends, but I can also see it ending long standing relationships the same way a blue shell in Mario Kart can cause bloodshed between family members. It's good, it's just not for me.

Finally I gave Winter Voices a shot, an episodic strategy RPG that I downloaded just because the art looked interesting. The first hint that it just might be full of shit were the names of the character attributes that I had to distribute points to. I am all for non-traditional, or at least creative, character traits (hooray for the SPECIAL system) but when one of the categories is perspicacity someone is really trying too hard. I soldiered on after visiting dictionary.com and found a game that took itself so seriously that it was damn near unplayable. I checked  and BeyondThePillars is a small startup French developer that employs around five people, so I am suddenly not surprised by its tone. Still, I played it for five minutes and I was depressed, and that was before I got to the ugly, ugly combat.

This three strikes and yer out evening made wonder if I had simply lost interest in PC gaming. The last two games I honestly attempted on the platform, Torchlight and The Witcher, I had not finished, and not because they aren't excellent games. Both titles have sequels coming this year, and they both look awesome, but will it really be worth it to buy them? Console titles never stop coming; I am still not even close to caught up on last year's games and this year has already seen at least one blockbuster title that I haven't played yet.

I need a goddamn time machine or I need to stop sleeping.

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