How is this site still getting occasional views, anyway?

…Is probably not something I should be asking out loud, but there has been no new content since — [checks] — December. Bad news first: still no new content. As such.

However, my son has recently started playing La Mulana 2. (Rather, I recently allowed him to start playing La Mulana 2. He wanted to play something a bit more engaging than Smash Bros. Which is fair, I think.) I remembered that I had did a…guide? Sort of? — back when the game first released two years ago. I never finished it, to absolutely no one’s surprise, but when I went to look at it again, I realized that I had never made a table of contents for the project.

So I just did.

Timely it ain’t, but better late than never, I suppose. I guess it’s mostly for my own reference at this point, since I decided to actually finish playing the game. I’ve noticed some interesting inconsistencies between the PC version I played initially, and the version on the PS4 I’m playing currently. It’s still quite fun, though. 😉

As for actual new content, I just don’t know. I’ve tried sitting down to write a few times, on Anubai or new projects, but I haven’t really been able to get into it. Doesn’t help that I’ve been my kids’ homeroom teacher since early spring, and will be likely serving in that capacity in the upcoming school year as well… but hey. It is what it is, right?

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay entertained, y’all. 😀

One last post before Christmas…

Hey, everyone! Hope you’re having a good holiday season. I mentioned it last week, but I’m going on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time. I’d just like to thank everyone who followed my site over the last few years — considering how random and irregular the whole thing was, and how often I flitted from project to project, and even used different writing styles and framing devices. I still honestly have no idea what I’m thinking half the time… 😛

All that said, while I’m leaving the site to languish for a bit, I’m definitely not taking it down entirely. Anyone and everyone is still welcome to browse around and leave comments and criticisms, and I’ll definitely respond to any questions you might have. And while I have no time frame to offer, I am 100% committed to finishing The Anubai Hero, and returning to A Living Will as well one day. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but one day! 😉

I’ve worked together with a number of people over the last few years, sharing advice and ideas, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Mario Kaiba, who has been on a similar journey as myself when it comes to writing web novels and experimenting with different types of content creation. He’s currently concentrating on making YouTube videos, including various rants about issues and personages in Anime and gaming, and the occasional GTA Online gameplay vid; but like me, his web novel site is still up, so give him a read sometime. 😀

And that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for putting up with me, y’all, and I hope you’ll hang around until I’ve got my life straightened out again, and I can finish a few novels for you…whenever that might be. Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, and may you accomplish everything you set your heart to! 🙂

JaMiRe #115: Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge

Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge

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To start from the conclusion, I found Desperados 2 playable, but not amazing. I will you immediately remind you, however, that “playable” is already infinitely better than I considered the original Desperados to be. At the end of yesterday’s review, I noted four points that I would want to see improved: writing, voice acting, tutorials and mechanics. So let’s start there.

First of all, since I panned it so hard previously, let me just say that the voice acting is much better in Des2. Well, insofar as it doesn’t make me want to gouge my own eardrums out, anyway; it still isn’t the greatest voice work ever performed. Still, good enough is good enough.

As for tutorials, these are still a little ropey. They teach you how to do a few basic things — moving characters, special character abilities, that sort of thing — but it skips over a number of really important mechanics. For instance, that you can actually rotate the camera now, either by pressing Q and E or by holding down the right mouse button. Or how certain mechanics like Kate’s seduce or powder abilities actually work in non-scripted situations. It is very, very slightly better than Des1, but still a bit lackluster when it comes to introducing some of the games more important features.

Speaking of which, the mechanics have been streamlined a bit since Des1. To start with the disappointing bit, you can still see only one enemy cone of vision at one time, which is still obnoxious. That said, there is now a toggle for indicating how much noise you are making, which is helpful. As I mentioned earlier, you can now rotate and zoom the camera, meaning you can actually find an angle where you can see where guards are hiding, and it allows for more complex and interesting level design. For some reason, they also added a viewing mode that lets you play the game in a third-person over-the-shoulder style, letting you aim semi-manually (though it becomes much harder to judge distances, naturally). Character abilities have been reduced from five to four (by making certain actions default, like punching, and tying up unconscious foes) and the shortcut buttons for abilities have moved from a random row on the keyboard to F1-F4. It feels a bit weird, since character selection buttons are on the 1-6 keys, below the ability keys; but at least quicksave and load are still on F5 and F8. Oh, and quickloading always works now, so that’s a major plus right there.

As for the writing, there seems to be less of it, for one thing. The game begins with one Marshal Ross Cooper riding into Santa Fe, where he is immediately ambushed and shot through the chest by a group of ruffians working for someone called “Angelface,” if you can buy that. John Cooper (same guy from the previous game, I just kept thinking his name was Jack for some reason) is in town with Kate O’Hara chasing down a low-level bounty named Dillon — apparently, there isn’t really an introduction to that particular plot point. Anyway, after the (previously mentioned) tutorial, the local sheriff mentions that John’s brother was in town. John and company track Ross down to the barn that Angelface’s goons had strung him up in. Ross promptly dies, but not before passing on two important(?) pieces of information: “Angelface” (duh) and “the Indians.”

So yeah, even after the first real story mission, there hasn’t been much in the way of exposition. Which frankly, given the nonsense the first game presented me with, I am fully prepared to accept as “less is more.” It would be nice to have a bit more introduction to the actual character of the characters, but being pretty much stock stereotypes, it probably doesn’t matter too much.

There are some other niggles I have with Des2 — it’s a bit unstable, and I had a surprisingly tough time finding a resolution that would work without chopping off the sides of the screen — but I found it to be a lot more inviting than Des1. Not necessarily easier, mind you, but it seemed a heck of a lot less random to me. So yeah. If I’m going to recommend one of the two, I’m going to recommend this one; I can’t help but feel there are better strategy games out there. Can’t say I can think of any set in the Old West, though, so there’s that. There is also a third sequel, called Helldorado, but I don’t own it and I’m really not interested. So let’s leave this one here.

Pros: Better than the first game. No, seriously.

Cons: More could be done with the interface to make the game a little less arbitrary, and a little more fair to the player.

Worth playing: Ehhhh…

Worth the price: $10 seems more reasonable for this game than $6 was for Desperados 1. I’d still wait for a sale.

Random observation: So you have limited ammunition for your firearms in this game, in exchange for them being way more effective (still loud as hell, though). The strange thing is, ammunition on the ground is all marked “Colt ammo”; but whenever you pick it up, it magically becomes ammo for whatever gun the acquiring character uses, such as Derringer ammo for Kate or Shotgun ammo for Sanchez. So why not just call it “ammo”? 😕

Arbitrary grade: C+

I mentioned this last Sunday, but I’m putting this project, as well as any other updates for my website, on hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time. Thanks for your interest, and I hope to be back in the not-so-far future with further nonsense and shenanigans. 😀

JaMiRe #114: Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive

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Well, as cowboy games go, Desperados is no Red Dead Redemption. To be fair, I’ve never personally RDR, but by all accounts the game is both playable, and rather fun; while Desperados is neither of those things.

The game begins with a train robbery, in which four bandits ride up to a relatively unguarded train, kill the few guards and steal a number of bags of money, before blowing up the train with dynamite for basically no reason. The scene freezes on a picture of the bandits which changes into a wanted poster, which is tossed onto the desk of some guy named Smith (a banker?) by our hero, Jack “Generic Cowboy” Cooper, a bounty hunter. Jack tells Smith that he’s going to “take care of his problem,” ignores Smith’s attempts to dissuade him from pursuing the bandit gang, and heads out to gather up a gang of his own to help him. The moment he leaves, a suspicious guy walks out of Smith’s back room, making it clear that Smith is actually working with the bandits.

That’s the opening movie, and I don’t know if it came across badly in my write-up, but no matter how bad it sounds, in execution, it is much worse. To begin with, the voice acting is frankly horrible. Jack is obviously supposed to sound like a tough, gravel-voiced cowboy, but in practice he sounds like someone pretending to be a cowboy, and it’s really obnoxious. None of the other characters sound much better, either, and every piece of dialogue sounds really unnatural. Oh, and on top of everything else, about two-thirds of the way through the intro, the video slowed to about half-speed and the audio started skipping — making an already painfully extended sequence even longer.

Okay, so the presentation isn’t that great — what about the gameplay? Well, I’m glad you asked that question, theoretical reader, because I was thoroughly less than impressed with that as well. The game seems to want to be some sort of cross between X-Com and Hitman; you (eventually) have a team of characters with their own specialties, and you have to sneak past or neutralize guards to complete your objective. But here’s the thing: you have to control everything in realtime, so if anything goes wrong (like a guard sees you, or you miss your shot) you have to fumble around for a different ability, or more likely, just run and hope for the best.

Oh, and the game does an awful job of teaching you how to play it as well. Of particular note, when teaching you Jack’s abilities in the first level, it always says “push the button for [doing a thing], or press the appropriate shortcut key.” So what is the appropriate shortcut key? Well, you can dive a few menus deep into the options to find out — which was something I had to do to learn how to crouch, since I couldn’t see the button for it on the playing screen, it being about six pixels across in the lower left corner.

So after struggling through Jack’s tutorial and wrestling with the not-exactly-streamlined controls, I attempted the first real mission of the game, rescuing Jack’s first party member Sam. It’s here that I seriously had enough, because the game is ludicrously imprecise. The idea is to sneak up on guards and eliminate them quietly (because going loud will quickly get you swarmed and killed) but you can only see the cone of vision of one guard at a time, and it really isn’t clear what constitutes cover that you can’t be seen behind, and what is simply map-dressing. Jack’s knife almost always kills the person he throws it at, but he’s only got one knife, and his gun seems to be nearly useless. He can also use a musical watch as a sort of lure, but it doesn’t show up on the map, so if you forget where you put it down, it’s gone for good. Long story short, I died a lot, leaned really hard on the quicksave button, and eventually made it through; but I was already completely sick of the game at this point, so I gave up. Bleh.

You know, though, it might not have been such a bad game…if it just had better writing, tighter mechanics, smarter tutorials, and better acting. Coincidentally, tomorrow I’ll be playing the sequel. Is it too much to hope that some of these issues will be addressed…?

Pros: The graphics look fine. That’s literally all I can think of.

Cons: Pretty much everything, but let me single out the voice acting as the thing I find most awful.

Worth playing: Avoid this one.

Worth the price: I wouldn’t even pay $6 for this.

Random observation: You can quicksave at any point, but notably, you can only quickload during ordinary gameplay, and have to load from the menu instead. For instance, you can’t quickload during an in-game cutscene. Or when you die. Which happens a lot, and would be the most optimal time to quickload. I am not pleased. 😡

Arbitrary grade: D

Tomorrow: Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge. Hey, I’m the one who wants revenge here!

JaMiRe #113: Desktop Dungeons Enhanced Edition

Desktop Dungeons Enhanced Edition

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Desktop Dungeons is a ‘thing.’ I’m not kidding, that’s how the game describes itself in the first line of the tutorial: “Welcome to Desktop Dungeons, a randomly-generated turn-based puzzle-roguelike thing of dungeoneering, heroism and monster-slaying.” (Emphasis mine.) Yeah, it’s a bizarre thing, I’ll admit, but it’s also a fun thing that I enjoy playing a lot.

The story is nice and simple: you were part of a caravan moving into the aptly-named “Unexplored Territories” and the caravan was attacked by monsters. After being chased into a nearby cave system, you eventually come out alive (by guiding…someone else out?), and all the other survivors are so impressed that you survived, that they all decide to follow your orders and make a new kingdom for you. So now, you have to recruit adventurers and send them out into the wilds to get money for the fledgling kingdom to build itself up. Don’t mind any logical gaps you might see; the game is not very serious about its setup, or anything else, really.

It’s really hard to decide where to begin explaining the concept of this game, but I’ve got to start somewhere, so let me arbitrarily tell you about how the gameplay reminds me of Minesweeper: your dispatched level one hero starts out on an unexplored grid, and by moving the hero you can reveal more of the map. The “mines” in this case would be various monsters that become revealed as you explore, all of which are level 1 through 9, and have various special abilities based on their type. Fortunately, none of these monsters will attack you if you don’t attack them first (mostly), but your eventual goal in each individual dungeon is to kill the level 10 Boss creature, which will drop a trophy worth a lot of money back home. So obviously, being a level 1 hero isn’t going to cut it.

So you want to explore as much as possible right at the beginning, and then slay the monsters from weakest to strongest, right? Wrong. You see, revealing unexplored tiles is also the main source of healing in the game, restoring both HP and MP between battles, and if you reveal everything you can right at the beginning, you will likely not be able to get your level high enough to challenge the boss without dying to a strong monster. There are health and mana potions, but you will likely need them for the boss, which tends to be stronger than you even if you manage to make it to hero level 10.

As you can tell, there is a very strong element of luck involved, since dungeons are generated semi-randomly, and you have to start from level 1 each time. You can slant the odds in your favor by improving your kingdom and making thorough preparations, however. Building and upgrading structures in your kingdom let you use different races and classes, and some buildings allow you to spend extra gold to send your heroes in with extra equipment. The smithy, for example, lets you choose between a sword, a shield, and a one-time-use instakill wand.

…Incidentally, I understand that the game is supposedly a roguelike, but what exactly happens to all the high level heroes after a dungeon? Either their skills atrophy extremely quickly, or they immediately leave your rather exploitative kingdom if they make it out alive…actually, that makes a lot of sense. Never mind, then.

I could go into a lot more detail — there are a lot of surprisingly complex systems in the game — but finding out how things work is kind of part of the game itself. There is also a puzzle mode that also doubles as a sort of advanced tutorial, with fixed maps that have to be finished in specific ways. So if you are having trouble with the main areas, you can try something different. I also like how it’s very easy to just do one or two levels if you have limited time. (I ended up playing it for hours, though…) So yeah, I can recommend Desktop Dungeons, as long as you don’t mind how silly everything is.

Pros: Whimsical and silly humor; surprisingly deep and complex mechanics; short individual dungeons.

Cons: Luck-based dungeon design can make winning feel a bit random.

Worth playing: Absolutely.

Worth the price: $15 seems expensive, but I’m still slightly inclined to recommend it. Definitely worth buying on sale.

Random observation: Apparently, goats are extremely dangerous, bloodthirsty, and frightening. Apparently. 😉

Arbitrary grade: B+

Tomorrow: Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, by Spellbound Entertainment AG and THQ Nordic. I’m just gonna level with you, I have no idea what this game is, or how it ended up in my collection.

JaMiRe #112: Descent 3 + Mercenary

Descent 3 + Mercenary

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I feel like I didn’t really give Descent 3 much of a chance — I didn’t even finish the first actual level. Part of the reason was I was already feeling nauseous before starting the game, which obviously isn’t the best; but there were enough other problems with the game that I don’t feel too bad for the relatively weak score I’m giving it.

On the positive side, a lot more effort was put into the story this time around, with a relatively long FMV at the beginning of the main campaign which explained pretty much everything up to this point in the series. The pilot from the first two games had cleaned out all of the virus-infected mines of PTMC, but someone must have decided paying him was a waste of money, because they remotely sabotaged his warp drive and sent him careening across the galaxy while comatose. Fortunately, he is picked up by a group of PTMC competitors (right before his ship fell into a sun) and brought back to Mars, where he is informed that PTMC had been experimenting with the alien virus and, predictably, probably lost control. He is given a new ship and strong-armed into helping combat the ambitions of the PTMC — although personally, he just wants the money that he is owed…

So yeah, it’s actually pretty predictable and a little overly long, but I appreciate the story focus nonetheless. So that’s good. And the graphics and resolution are also a step above the first two installments, so that’s also good. The keyboard controls are pretty much exactly the same as the first two as well, meaning that I had to reassign them to make things comfortable, but that’s fine. So here’s the first major fly in the ointment: the mouse controls.

I was praying for more responsive mouse controls with adjustable sensitivity, and I got those, and for a moment I was happy. But. In the previous games, you could switch the X-axis (up and down) direction with a simple toggle, so that I didn’t have to worry about the cognitive dissonance of pushing the mouse up to look down, and vice versa. Descent 3 has a toggle too, between “flight controls” and “mouselook”. “Flight controls” move the ship smoothly, but they do the “push up to look down” thing, like you are using a flight stick, and that just doesn’t feel right with a mouse. On the other hand, “mouselook” uses up as up and down as down…but it also causes the ship to turn extremely jerkily, and makes it even more difficult to actually hit anything. Oh, and it also set off my nausea. I have no idea why they made the mouse do that, and it frankly feels like deliberately punishing me for wanting to play the game a certain way. So that’s the biggest reason why I don’t like this installment.

On top of that, the enemies have gotten even better at aiming and dodging, and I ended up dying quite a few times even in the first level. Fortunately, the “lives” system has been abolished, and you basically always respawn right next to the area where you were defeated, and can immediately pick up the stuff you dropped. It’s still very frustrating, though. I wonder if I’ve just misjudged the difficulty levels? There are five, and I chose the one in the middle, expecting medium difficulty. But I suppose it’s possible that it could have been “Easy, Medium, Hard, Really Hard, Nearly Impossible.” It’s difficult to tell, sometimes.

One more thing that really annoyed me, and then I’ll quit: the automap is no longer a hard-to-read wireframe, but an even-harder-to-read textured map. And the map opens directly behind your ship, meaning that you can never see anything about the environment at first glance, but have to fiddle with the movement controls until you can actually see where you are in relation to anything else. It’s exceptionally bad, even compared to the version in the first two games.

All in all, Descent 3 attempted several improvements, but mostly made the game harder to play. It’s very frustrating, because I see the potential for a good game in there. But I didn’t have fun with it, and even considering that I wasn’t feeling well even before I started, it still feels quite disappointing.

Pros: Expanded background story; improved graphics and level design.

Cons: Control issues; automap is even less helpful; enemies are a little too precognizent.

Worth playing: I was disappointed, but if you don’t have the same issues as me, this is still definitely a Descent game.

Worth the price: Compared to the other two in the series, this title contains enough content to probably be worth $10.

Random observation: OK, on the plus side, you can now store the guidebot in your ship and give it specific directions, fixing one of the most annoying things from the previous game. For every cloud, a silver lining, right? 😛

Arbitrary grade: C-

My Series Ranking: Descent 1 is still my favorite, despite being objectively the worst implemented of the three. Then 3 for its technical improvements and expanded story focus, and 2 last for being one step forward, two steps back from the first game. (That the grades I gave them don’t reflect this really shows how arbitrary the grades really are.)

Tomorrow: Desktop Dungeons Enhanced Edition, by QCF Design. I could have done the first Freespace game instead, but… Nah. Let’s do this weird…roguelike…RPG…thing… Actually, what the heck is this game?

JaMiRe #111: Descent 2

Descent 2

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I’m going to try to hurry this one along, because while calling Descent 2 “pretty much a level pack” like I did is a bit unfair, it is true that the game plays basically the same as the previous installment. The plot is basically the same, as well: the Post-Terran Minerals Corporation is so happy that you helped clean up all their mines within the solar system, they are going to install a warp drive in your ship and send you across the galaxy to clean out more mines. The biggest difference is, the executive screwing you over has a name now (although I’ve already forgotten what it was. Devlin? Derwin? Starts with a ‘D’, anyway.) Oh, and there are actual FMV movies for the intro, and for escaping the mines, which is nice.

The biggest, most important change to the game itself is that you can actually change the screen resolution, to my great relief. The game starts in 300×200, and looks pretty much exactly like the first game, but you can increase it to 640×480 and actually see what you are doing, and it’s amazing. Oh, there’s also an 800×600 mode, but it causes the game to lag whenever you open the automap, so sadly it isn’t worth it.

Of course, now that you can actually see the enemies, the developers decided to make them significantly more difficult. It’s difficult to do a straight comparison, since all the enemy types have changed, but it seems like they all dodge better, fire faster, and absorb more damage than early enemies in the previous game. On top of that, even the first two levels were about three times as complicated as the early levels in Descent, and ambushes became even more prevalent due to walls literally disappearing as you progress, releasing previously unseen robots.

And that’s basically how it goes, with every step forward being matched by a step back. For instance, the guide bot that you can release in every level: it will show you the way to the next important location, but it will ignore your current situation, block shots at enemies by getting in front of you, and spam part of the screen with repeated “Going to find XXX, coming back to get you, going to find…” ad nauseum. You can choose not to release it and explore on your own, but you will get lost, I guarantee.

There are plenty of niggles I have with this game, but here’s one final thing that I found irritating: you can get an Energy to Shield converter, which sounds useful, right? But, you can only activate it when your Energy is above 100; Energy restoration fields only restore up to 100 Energy, so you have to collect Energy pickups from destroying enemies to actually use it; most weapons and subsystems in the game run off Energy as well, which means you will seldom be above 100 Energy even with pickups; and the conversion rate is pretty horrible, 2 Energy to 1 Shield. The device is so situational as to be functionally useless, so why even put it in the game?

So that’s Descent 2, a game that improves on its predecessor in several key areas, but adds so many other minor problems, that I end up liking it less than the objectively inferior original. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I just find it harder to enjoy, for a variety of reasons.

Pros: More classic Descent gameplay, but with higher screen resolutions.

Cons: Many of the in-game “improvements” don’t add much to the game, or even make it less fun to play.

Worth playing: …Yeah, it’s worth playing, but I can’t say that I find it as fun as the first game.

Worth the price: $10 is too much, sorry. Can’t agree to that.

Random observation: And then there are Bandit bots. The are small, evasive, and if they sneak up on you they can steal weapons, items, and upgrades off your ship. And they have a stupid level of toughness, so even if you manage to hit the spastic things, they can absorb a ludicrous amount of damage. And do you get your stuff back if you do manage to kill the stupid thing? Nope, it drops a pile of Energy and Shield; your items are gone for good. GDI. 😡

Arbitrary grade: C

Tomorrow: Descent 3 + Mercenary, now by Outrage Entertainment and Interplay. Please, let me increase the mouse sensitivity this time. Please?

A bit of forewarning…

Hey, happy Sunday! First things first, I finally finished the Metal Earth Zaku-II that’s been sitting incomplete for months…sort of.

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Turned out pretty well, actually, but somewhere along the line I lost the handle of the battle axe it’s supposed to be carrying. I’m going to be cleaning my room this week, so potentially I might find it. I’m not holding out much hope, though.

Second, it’s my birthday. I’m older. Yay.

Third, and most importantly: I’ve been having trouble finding time and energy to get various things done, and while I’m enjoying doing reviews, I have to admit that it kinda needs to be at the bottom of my priority list. As such, I’m going to do one more week of reviews (5 in total, in other words) and then I’ll be going silent for… a while. 😦

I don’t intend to abandon this site entirely, and I imagine I’ll still be posting content of one sort or another on an irregular basis. But I can’t commit any extra attention to what is essentially a hobby for the foreseeable future. My apologies, but this just has to happen, given my current circumstances.

I’ll say this again next week, but thanks to everyone who has stuck with me through the somewhat — no, extremely random experiments in content creation. I appreciate each and every one of you. 😉

Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season! 😀

JaMiRe #110: Descent

Descent

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In the near/far future, a megacorporation known as the Post-Terran Minerals Corporation is mining various moons within the solar system. Suddenly, their robotic workforce on Pluto is taken over by an alien virus, which quickly spreads all the way back to Earth, or specifically, Earth’s moon. Deciding to write their mines off as a lost cause, PTMC hires a mercenary pilot and puts him in a nimble, battle-ready spaceship. His job is to dive into the infected mines, blow up the generator within, and escape before the mine collapses around him. Oh, and if he could rescue some of the PTMC staff being held hostage, that would be cool too.

So as I mentioned yesterday, I enjoyed Descent quite a bit back in the ‘90s, when it came out. It was a relatively unique game for its day; there were numerous flight simulators, and even spaceship flight simulators, but none that had you maneuvering a ship along all three axis in (relatively) zero G. But does it hold up to modern games? Unfortunately, not really.

To be fair, the issues it has were there all along. To begin with, the control scheme is…well, pretty dated. I think in those days you were more expected to use a joystick…although I didn’t have a decent joystick, and only used the keyboard. Keyboard controls put most steering functions on the number pad, and forward and back on the left hand. I tried playing with pure keyboard controls for a while, but it was a great deal more cumbersome than I remembered. Eventually I grabbed my mouse, went into the options menu and switched things around until I had something that played a bit more like, say, Darkstar One. And that helped, but honestly, it never really felt very comfortable, and aiming my ship with the mouse felt really slow. Still more accurate than the keyboard, though.

Problem number two would be the graphics. I’m not necessarily down on low resolution graphics, even if in an objective sense they look like absolute crap. And when it comes to the enemy robot design, I actually like them quite a bit; if anything can get away with being a colorful mass of polygons, a deep-space mining robot should. Nevertheless, enemies tend to become indistinguishable from the background at any reasonable distance. Not just the blue medium drone types blending into identically colored blue walls, either; the orange-ish light drone become an illegible dot at a surprisingly short distance away from the ship. The larger, green hulk-type enemies are easier to see, usually, but they still look like 2D cutouts at a distance, at best.

The enemy AI compensates by being more than a bit myopic itself; but the enemy reaction time is literally instantaneous if you are within its vision. On the other hand, the enemy lasers and blasts travel far slower than your lasers, and your ship has a surprisingly small hit box, so as long as you aren’t ambushed you at least have a chance of dodging. On the other other hand, you will be ambushed all the time. It’s actually something I like about the game, really; enemies will wait in difficult-to-see places in all directions around you, and really make use of the freedom of movement both you and they enjoy. You have to stay aware of your surroundings, and make good use of the automap, to keep those damn drones from sneaking up behind you and chewing away at your shields. Fortunately, you can hear them coming, thanks to good sound design. So, kudos for that.

There are a few elements I don’t really care about one way or another. There is a lives system, giving you the traditional three chances before you have to start over, and you can get extra lives by increasing your score like an arcade game. On the other hand, you can save your game at any point, making the lives system more than a bit pointless. Oh, and if you do die, you drop any weapon upgrades and ammo you have collected, and any rescued hostages immediately die. While you can go pick some of your equipment back up (the hostages stay dead, naturally) there isn’t really any reason not to reload.

In conclusion, while I still like the game for what it is, I’m reluctantly forced to admit that it really isn’t something I’d recommend to modern audiences. Still, if you liked it in the past (like myself) it’s still a very unique experience to play it again. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a game that does 3D ambushes quite as well. So there’s that.

Pros: Unique zero-G combat in 3D space; good soundtrack and sfx.

Cons: Resolution is so low, enemies blend into walls in the middle distance.

Worth playing: Mostly for nostalgia’s sake, but it’s hard to think of a modern game that does 3D ambushes so well.

Worth the price: $10 is just barely okay. A sale would be better, especially if you’ve never played it before.

Random observation: Turns out these “mines” of the PTMC are also being used for military weapons development. Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the “alien” virus taking over everything… 🙄

Arbitrary grade: B

Monday: Descent 2. It’s pretty much a level pack for the original, mind you. But since it’s sold separately…

JaMiRe #109: Depths of Peril

Depths of Peril

depths

The difficulty I’m having with reviewing Depths of Peril isn’t so much my feelings for it — I think the game is pretty decent, given the limited resources it actually uses — but that I keep wanting to compare it to Din’s Curse, a later Soldak game set in the same fantasy world of Aleria using pretty much the same interface. I’ve played Din’s Curse a lot more than Depths of Peril, but since I haven’t reviewed it yet (and won’t for a few weeks, at that) I can’t really say things like “Depths of Peril is like Din’s Curse, but…” Admittedly, DoP came first anyway, but it keeps getting flipped around in my mind.

Setting all that nonsense aside, Depths of Peril is an RPG in which you play as the leader of a barbarian covenant, trying to take over the city of Jorvik. You see, thousands of years ago, greedy miners dug too deep searching for lifestones, and unleashed the various evil monsters that had been sealed under the mountains in the so-called Depths of Peril. After a series of wars against the encroaching evil, the various forces of good…lost, and were scattered. Fortunately, the moment the evil races lost a common enemy, they fell to feuding with each other, giving the other races a chance to reestablish themselves. Which is what you intend to do in the city of Jorvik, once you subdue the other covenants therein and make yourself the supreme ruler of the city.

The biggest issue I have with DoP is that it really doesn’t tell you anything upfront. There is no intro, and while you can glean a few clues about your ultimate goal while creating a character and starting a new game, most of the details are left until you are actually in the game itself. Once you start, everything about how to play the game is presented to you in a series of hint boxes and/or from the tutorial NPC right next to your house; there is also a book in your initial inventory that gives you the lore about who you are and what your goal is. But it would have been nice to have at least some of that information presented to you a little earlier…

The game plays like a fairly typical isometric RPG: you place skills and items on your action bar and use the number keys to activate them, you get quests from NPCs to kill monsters and find items, you gain points to improve your character and skills as you level up, etc., etc. The unique bit would be that you are not the only person trying to complete these quests: there are rival NPC covenants in Jorvik, and they are competing to complete the same quests, recruit the same newbies, and gain the most influence in order to win the game — all in real time. It feels kind of like a MMORPG, except there isn’t a chat window to trash talk in… Oh, and you can pause at any time.

One of the unique points about Soldak games (well, relatively unique) is that you keep your character and items (to an extent), but the world itself is randomized each time. Say, for instance, you level your character up to level 10, and manage to destroy all the enemy covenants. You can then create a new Jorvik, with a new world around it, at a higher level than your last game. There is even a slider that lets you make enemy covenants a higher level than you, if you want a challenge, or a lower level if you want to just walk all over everything in your path. You can also start a new world at any time, even before finishing the current one, but naturally you won’t get any bonuses for completion.

The downside of having such a randomized world, of course, is that it is fairly impossible to get attached to anything in it. Quests are random, enemy covenants are random, recruits are random; nothing really has any weight outside of, “can this help me win the current game?” There is a lot — a lot — of backstory, told in collectible books and certain rare item descriptions; but none of it has any impact on the game itself. So whatever longevity the game gains in replayability, it somewhat loses in engagement. Call it a wash.

So yeah, I like Depths of Peril, but take it for what it’s worth: a solid RPG action game with a few interesting elements, but nothing amazing in the grand scheme of things, especially if you consider things like graphics and music as well as gameplay. But let me repeat, I find it an enjoyable little time-sink, despite its flaws.

Pros: Solid action RPG gameplay; greatly customizable difficulty; a deep backstory to explore.

Cons: Graphics and sound feel dated; backstory has little effect on actual gameplay; controls often feel awkward and unresponsive.

Worth playing: It isn’t my first choice, even among Soldak games, but it’s not bad.

Worth the price: $10 feels slightly expensive, but not by much, and I seem to see the game on sale fairly often.

Random observation: The first history book you receive mentions the god Din, father of the god Dorr whose imprisonment set off the first Great War against evil and, not incidentally, caused Din to completely flip out against the mortal races. This is the same Din of the titular “Din’s Curse”, wherein Din is flipping out against…atheists. Din is technically a good god, but the guy seriously has no chill. 😕

Arbitrary grade: C+

Tomorrow: Descent by Parallax Software and Interplay. I loved this game so much back in the day, I wonder how it holds up…