Dénouement 2011: Games I Missed

By Shamus
on Dec 19, 2011
Filed under:
Video Games

In the next few posts, I’m going to have a look back over 2011 and talk about a few games I liked. Think of this as an alternative to “Game of the Year”. I’m doing this because I don’t want to try to justify lifting one game over the others, which feels too much like assigning review scores.

But first, I want to talk about a few games that I missed, overlooked, failed to review, forgot about, or neglected.

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Arkham City, Serious Sam 3, Saint’s Row the Third, and Rage

Wanted to play all of these. Got Skyrim instead.

Next time, why don’t you idiots try releasing your games during the season of not Christmas? I have less money for buying videogames at the end of the year, and I have much less time for playing them.

Okay, some of these were more “Halloween” than “Christmas”, but still. We need more summer games and less of a pile-up at the end of the year.

I’m sure I’ll pick these games up on some bargain sale next summer.

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Frayed Knights

I’ve been looking forward to Jay Barnson’s Frayed Knights for a long time. Then I got a copy. Then I got Skyrim.

In the few hours I spent with the game I found it to be charming and wonderfully old-school. But Skyrim consumed my gaming hours, and so I haven’t played enough Frayed Knights to do it justice in a review. Maybe once the holidays are over we can go back and give this thing the attention it deserves.

Sorry Frayed Knights. You’re fun, but you’re not Skyrim.

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Space Pirates and Zombies

Full disclosure: In my daydream fantasy world future, I design a space-adventure that harkens back to the old Starflight games. I’ve been working on this design in my head for years.

Spaz is too much like my dream game for me to see it as anything else, and too different for me to accept it as a substitute. Rather than write some crazy review where I savaged the game for not being exactly what I wanted to build, I decided to keep my mouth shut about it.

I will say I really disliked the leveling. Your most important upgrades were tied to story missions, which was something I really, desperately hated about Freelancer.

You might actually like this game if you’re not obsessed with an unrealistic dream project like I am. I don’t know. I can’t judge objectively.

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Bastion

I’d seen ads for this game, but I didn’t know anything about it. It came out this summer, but I never heard anything about it good or bad. Then a week ago a friend bought me a copy, and the next day people were talking about how it was their GOTY. So I have this to look forward to at some point.

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From the Archives:

  1. I got ridiculously frustrated with Serious Sam 3. It’s like it was made by a completely different studio who had heard of but didn’t quite get what made the originals good. and it did it in a completely different way to Serious Sam 2 which could be described in similar terms.

    Put simply, the only reason people like it is because the marketing behind it is rather insidious – all it’s selling points are things it doesn’t have – regenerating health, two weapon limits and such. The upshot of this is that when people come to judge it they go “regenerating health? no. Two weapons? no. It must truly be a fine shooter,hearkening back to the simple, fun arcadey games of yesteryear”. On it’s own merits however it’s just not very good – it’s brown, inconsistantly designed, poorly paced, unbalanced and uncreative, among other things.

    And the “story” makes me want to gouge someone’s eyes out.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yeah.It reminded me so much of duke nukem fornever.It has some nice humour sprinkled around,but if youve played the previous ones,this one looks just like a bland shadow.

    • Tizzy says:

      It is easy to think that those old-school shooters were designed around their technological limitations: simplistic AI, limited player options for movement… But the best oldie FPS games managed to transcend those: they were remarkably well designed in terms of pacing, balance, and even pleyers choices! So if someone wants to make a GOOD modern-day old-school game, it’s harder than it looks.

      • Klay F. says:

        It also doesn’t help that so many people look back at those old-school shooters with the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia permanently glued, soldered, and riveted to their heads. I’m somewhat guilty of this myself, but other just take it to ridiculous levels.

        • Someone says:

          As someone who bought the two original Sams during the Steam Autumn sale and played them for the first time I can testify that in this day and age they more than hold up and are bloody good fun, especially compared to all the modern military rubbish. I played the HD versions of both, but otherwise no rose-tinted glasses.

      • The same goes with Serious Sam – you never fought dozens of enemies at a time in Doom or Quake, its very much its own series with its own unique gameplay, it just pretends not to be possibly out of some crippling self esteem issues.

    • Kelly says:

      The game is garbage for the first four levels.

      Then suddenly you turn a corner, there’s an army of hundreds of dudes being spewed out of a giant spaceship, a pile of new weapons to play with, and you realize the horrible FPS with a few cheesy one liners you’ve been playing suddenly got replaced with Serious Sam 3.

  2. Xythe says:

    I have the same problem. All these games to play, but then Skyrim happened to me, and now Star Wars: The Old Republic as well. Between work and Christmas/New Year, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

  3. Scott Richmond says:

    I am now severely interested in SPAZ thanks. Just GREAT. More games to play. *sigh*

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I bought SPAZ a while ago during the “Why haven’t you covered this game yet, RPS!?! WHY!?!?! Oh wait, now you just did. Nevermind.” raging fan-boy “controversy” a few months ago.

      But for various reasons, I haven’t had time to play any games in the last few months, and SPAZ happened to be one of the few I purchased right when that period of time started. I do need to get around to actually playing it…

      But hey, I’m one of the few people left who hasn’t bought Skyrim, so my gaming schedule has plenty of free time slots! ;)

      • Lintman says:

        I thought SPAZ was pretty good, but Shamus is right about the leveling. The game is fairly compartmentalized so when you complete the mission that gains you the upgrade, the game usually moves to the next phase and there is no going back. It works as a story, but overall gameplay-wise, a more sandbox-y approach would have been better. But the actual ship designing and spaceship shooting part is quite excellent. If they were to add an open world mode in addition to the campaign, that would be awesome, but as it was, it is well worth the $15 or so.

        As for Starflight, wasn’t that a first person space sim? I thought it was like Elite, Privateer, or Freelancer?

        • Shamus says:

          Heh. Starflight was around 1987-ish. It was 2D gameplay. When you landed on a planet, it showed this little 4×4 grid, a 3D render of where you were landing. That would come to about 32 polygons total, and the machines of the day could barely do it. Ran at 1FPS on my machine. Keep in mind this was just a takeoff / landing view. You didn’t play like that.

          Out in space, where the gameplay was, it was all 2D.

        • Unimural says:

          Perhaps you confused Starflight with Starglider II?

          http://www.mobygames.com/game/starglider-2

          The original Starglider is very similar, but it does not feature outer space, merely planetary flight. Iirc.

  4. EwgB says:

    I’m very glad that I picked upped Bastion way before Skyrim. I found it very engaging and original. I really don’t know how you could have missed hearing about this game, I had the impression this summer that it was kind of everywhere. I guess you must have been busy with your book. I first heard about it at Zero Punctuation (and Yahtzee gave it such a positive review (!) that it was enough of a reason to buy right there), then it was reviewed (very positively by the way) by both a gaming magazine I read and a non-gaming, but general computer/technology one. (Yeah, I know how you think about gaming magz, but I’m not in the US and the ones over here are not afraid to review indie games, bash Modern Warfare for being a rail shooter and pointing out over-restrictive DRM (!), so I find them to be a little more trustworthy.) So yeah, should you get enough of Skyrim (which could take a while, I know) and start working on your back-catalog, you should definitely give Bastion a try, especially considering it’s relatively low price and the fact that you’ll probably finish it in a couple of days.

  5. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I had contact with three of these.

    Serious Sam 3 was something of a disappointment, obviously I wasn’t expecting deep storyline or anything and it is indeed a fairly mindless shooter fun. However, while it is possible my memories of the previous instalments are already nostalgia coloured, BFE felt like it wasn’t quite as imaginative with its level design and occasionally seemed to treat itself too seriously, the fact that it was much less cartoony might have contributed to that impression.

    SPAZ was kinda fun, I have a lot of sentiment for the genre. Though it was awfully underoptimized to the point of near unplayability in the lategame (in the game’s defence they did release some patches to help with this) and I think the majestic fleets pounding each other at range with massive weapons in Gratuitous Space Battles are more my speed.

    Finally, I have a problems recommending Bastion. Myself I loved it to bits: I loved the graphic style, I loved the story, I loved the soundtrack and I at least liked most of the gameplay… and my unconditional love for the game is precisely what prevents me from shoving it down everybody’s throat, I know I buy into certain genres easily and not everything is everybody’s speed (my devotion to JRPGs being a perfect example). Still, from a personal point of view the game was downright magnificent and from what I heard there’s quite a crowd sharing this opinion.

    • Kizer says:

      I have to agree about Bastion. As a gamer who values story above just about everything else, even game play (explains why I like Skies of Arcadia: Legends so much), Bastion was the perfect combination. A wonderful story with brilliant writing combined with a fun action game made for one of my most pleasant video game experiences this year. I played through it 3 times before finally getting distracted by school. It isn’t perfect, but in my opinion, it had the best writing since Portal 2. If I had to rank my top 3 games of 2011, they would have to be Portal 2, Bastion, and Zelda: Skyward Sword. I can’t wait to read your reactions to Bastion!

  6. Phoenix says:

    Listen to the words of wisdom of Skyrim:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_GaEgZacCE&feature=player_embedded

    Watch how the riders of Skyrim mesmerize bears:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93W6mB0ZqCM&feature=player_embedded

    Unravel the mistery of strange mysterious butterflies of Skyrim:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuhRbUHLBtw&feature=player_embedded

    :D

    And it’s the biggest game I’ve ever met, even more than dragon age…then I took an arrow in the knee!

    PS And enjoy the trippy pony!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcrwBh-f95U&feature=player_embedded

  7. Joe says:

    It would be great to hear you weigh in on Skyrim. I have been playing it like mad, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I like it so much. It’s been improved since Oblivion, true, but some things have been simplified to the point of non-existence (e.g. character interaction). And the critics have been largely uanimous in its praise, so I can’t find many dissenters to point out any flaws either… The conversation seems to mostly end at ‘it’s great’.

    • Phoenix says:

      I like it because of the bugs and because it’s incredibly huge and mad. Oblivion was far less inspired and certain parts were really boring, like the despicable oblivion trips. Then I took an arrow in the knee.

    • Amarsir says:

      I also would like to see many Skyrim posts from Shamus. I figure I probably wouldn’t be interested because as an objective-driven min/maxer I’m bored by sandboxes. But I’d still like to read about it.

    • Yar Kramer says:

      I found this review, which basically lambasted the writing and story-elements. Well … that’s kind of an oversimplification, but that’s basically the ten-word sound-bite.

      • Klay F. says:

        I have so many problems with what that guy is saying, I…I don’t even know how to enumerate them. If he doesn’t like fantasy lore then he is playing an entirely wrong genre of game.

    • Jakey says:

      I’d wager Shamus is saving it up for an inevitable Let’s Play of it, just like he won’t talk about Deus Ex in the event they cover it in the new season of Spoiler Warning.

    • Kana says:

      I’d honestly rather see some counterpoints besides “it’s great”, just to get a little perspective. Everyone goes on and on about how amazing Skyrim is, but almost no one ever goes at it’s flaws. And this isn’t me hating on Skyrim (waiting on modders, moving on to other games to verbally murder), but it can not be some kind of gaming gold everyone else makes it out to be.

      So, are people just ignoring the flaws? What makes skyrim good? What makes it bad? What about the designs in the background, the interactions, the mechanics, the gameplay, the story, and how it all comes together? At best, I can get someone to answer 2 of those. Why no game analyzing, people around me? :<

      • swimon1 says:

        I think I can find some flaws at least. While I love the game to bits it does have a lot of rather obvious flaws.

        First of all it auto-levels. I’m amazed at how smooth and well done the auto-levelling is (maybe Oblivion just lowered standards here but it’s usually very well balanced for a game this free) but at it’s core auto-levelling is a bad idea for this sort of game. There is never a dungeon, a quest or encounter that is really any dangerous since you by design can’t meet anything that is difficult (some enemies still manages to be hard by being cheap but it’s not the same). Because of this the world loses it’s fangs and some of the thrill of exploration. After all part of what makes exploration tense is the thought that just over that hill there might be a coven of witches that can tear you apart in seconds. On the opposite side of the spectrum you never really feel like you have improved since you rarely meet anything too easy, wolves don’t level and not every enemy is of equal strength but it still feels wrong when bandits put up a fight after you’ve killed liches. Also shops auto-levels, which is just stupid.

        There are too many dragons. The dragon fights are really well done and again scale well (ba dum tisch) but you fight so many of them that all threat is quickly diluted and fighting them just becomes a chore. That’s fine for like mudcrabs and the undead (my spell check has never heard of the undead, I’m saddened) but dragons should always feel menacing.

        The quest structure is often a little too hand-holdy. The problem is not really that there is always a arrow pointing you to where you should go (I don’t like that it does but I can understand why) but rather it often goes out of it’s way to like summon a ghost or whatever to tell you why you’re doing everything you’re doing and where you should go next instead of letting you wander.

        The interface sucks. It’s a common complaint but it’s true. It’s atrocious.

        The journal sucks. Yeah I’m picking nits here but the journal provides zero context. It only tells you what to do next but never why so if you’ve forgotten what the quest is about the journal wont help you out.

        Also the Nords aren’t very interesting. Skyrim has a similar setup to Morrowind in that you’re released from prison into this strange warrior culture that has rather sketchy ethics. Most real power belongs to the empire who is your entry into the world by having our real world morals (for the most part) and being rather stock. Also in both cases are the natives angry with the empire for subverting their culture. The difference is that the Dunmer of Morrowind has this really complicated political system a strange religion that worships flesh and blood “gods” and rather unearthly architecture (giant mushrooms and insects for example) despite this it still seems like one cohesive culture. The Nords are fictionalised vikings. Really despite them being super racist slave owners that has legalised assassinations I still feel a lot more sympathetic towards the Dunmer than I do the Nords.

        So yeah I like the game but it’s flaws are rather obvious (there are certainly more than these but these were the ones I thought of off the top of my head).

        • Veloxyll says:

          Also the Dunmer (and the dwarves in game) are pretty seriously different from the traditional dark elves. With how everyone talks about historical events (High elf invasion and Vvardenfell erupting), it kind of feels like all this amazing stuff happened in game before I got there. I’d rather be in Elfland invading the Empire (or trying to protect it) than in Skyrim. I am finding I don’t really care about being a dragon or protecting the nords or whatever I’m meant to be doing.

          Still way better than Oblivion, but it hasn’t grabbed me like Morrowind. Plus I seem to be having the game experience everyone else wants. By which i mean I am dying a lot because everything is more dangerous than me (possibly due to too many smithing levels, to which the response is MORE SMITHING LEVELS FOR GLASS -> DRAGON ARMOUR)

          • swimon1 says:

            I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right, that conflict with the elves and them devolving into a militaristic dictatorship seem a lot more pressing and interesting than some Nords being whiny and a few unexpected additions to Skyrim’s fauna.

            Edit: Also maybe I phrased it poorly but I didn’t mean I wanted the game to be harder. I want it to be more varied with some battles that you need to avoid because you’re not high level enough to survive them. I didn’t think you could put yourself in the “enemies are always better than me” position tho. That always happened to me in Oblivion and I hated it but it never happened to me in Skyrim since they’ve made the whole levelling thing way smarter. Guess you still can get crushed, a shame really.

            • Kana says:

              Honestly I never saw the point in killing the dragons. Why not make alliance with them and go murder other places? Like Cyrodiil.

              Stupid gaurds… teach you to stop my assassination spree.

        • ima420r says:

          What do you mean by auto-leveling? You make it sound like the monsters level up when you do, which they don’t. Usually auto leveling would mean when you raise a level all your stats are increased without you picking anything which is not the case (the stats you use go up and then you level).

          Please don’t take this as being negative or anything, I really just want to know what you mean. Though I find no flaws in Skyrim at all I can respect that others have opinions of their own and have experienced flaws I have not.

          • Bubble181 says:

            Some, but not all, mosnters/enemies do level along with your character. Haven’t played it myself, but as far as I’ve heard, it’s done relatively well – as said, wolves and the like don’t level, so they do become easy after a while (which makes sense), some types of enemies only partially level along (Villains will never be a push-over but you can still make it easier by wwaiting), and some level right along with you.

            Oh, and IIRC, it’s all determined the first time you enter a zone/region, and not recalculated afterwards, so if you find something too hard, you can leave, level, and return, and kill’em all…But that might be me confusing it with another game, now I’m in doubt myself. Eh.

            • swimon1 says:

              yeah I guess it’s more Schrödinger’s auto levelling rather than the more straight version Oblivion had.

              Also while you can leave and level if it’s hard for some reason I never liked doing that. In Morrowind if my level 3 character found daedra I had no problems with running away but for some reason when I find electro mages in Skyrim (which are super cheap if you’re playing destruction magic since they can block spells way better than you can and their attacks drain your mana) I feel bad about leaving. Maybe it’s because I know they’re supposed to be balanced and therefore feel like I’m playing badly if I have to flee? I don’t really know but it doesn’t feel the same.

          • X2Eliah says:

            Have you played Fallout 3? It’s basically pretty much like that, only a bit less noticeable.

          • ACman says:

            Most cRPGs will have an autoleveling component for the monsters to adjust challenge when you’ve leveled up.

            In skyrim this seems to mean that all the bandits and undead get extra words tacked on to their title and they have more hitpoints, more powerful spells and seem to do more damage with their weapons.

            Most of the Forsworn dungeons used to be cakewalks but now if I don’t pull off a sneak attack with my crit-stacking bastard of an archer I can expect to get fucked up.

            The wildlife also gets more ferocious. I’m seeing way more bears and sabre-cats than wolves these days.

          • Eschatos says:

            All that it means is that whenever you enter a new dungeon all the monsters within are generated based on your current level. If you’re level 5 you’ll probably be up against all regular bandits with a thug at the end. If you’re level 50 there’ll be a few low level bandits but the majority will be higher level. It’s different from Oblivion because Oblivion would simply make all enemies in a dungeon equal to your level.

        • Phoenix says:

          There’s a reason for the too many dragons I think. (heck one dragon killed my blacksmith in riverwood! It just disappeared after a fight, I thought it wasn’t possible)

          In this kind of game, past a point, you become god (reasonably you become the most powerful being in skyrim), despite the auto-levelling. You may prefer dragon age where battles can be difficult even later (at least they did for me).

          But it’s still hard if you do an archer to try and fight melee or like a mage since you’re built as an archer. It would help levelling since once you max something it’s over. I’m 52 and it’s hard to raise more, I’ve maxed smithing, enchanting, bow, sneak, I’ve got lockpick at 98 I belive, also one handed and light armor pretty high. It’s not about raising the character anymore for me, I wouldn’t have fun making him also a mage or a fighter, I like the exploring and I do that.

          That’s the beauty of Skyrim, a lot of things to do and you can choose what to do.

          I would love a true sandbox game like that. But that’s a different thing… it’s like playing with a DM that had made an enormous effort on his world, and a DM that allows you to make really what you want, losing the premade work but gaining in freedom and living world, and customization. Skyrim instead has just the appearance of living, or it could be a really foul living. One just don’t care about that thing since there’s so much to do, but once you do that the game is over, and it will take long.

          • Kana says:

            Oh wow, this discussion took off way better than I expected. Consider me pleasantly surprised!

            Part of the problem for me is, Skyrim is too open, to the point where all the choices feel meaningless. Yes, you can choose how to build your character, or what to do, and on and on, but none of it really means anything in the world. The world is beautiful and pleasant to just run through and explore, but is horribly at odds with the main quest line.

            As far as I got in, I decided to go warn the Jarl, then I’d just go on my marry way to murder and pillage everyone in the world. Only I couldn’t, because every main quest sounds the exact same at the end: “Please Dragonborn, you must hurry right now, time is running short!” It makes the game feel like your reaching a culmination of world events… only your not. Step away from the main quest, do whatever you feel like, come back and they are still spouting the exact same thing. All that sense of urgency and importance is now dead, because I’m acutely aware of the fact I’m playing a video game, instead of being immersed in the world anymore.

            That coupled with the fact the world will freeze on your actions just drove me off from the main quest entirely. Why should I care at all what happens to anyone (according to NPCs) when I already know nothing will happen unless I move the quest along? The openness of the game just underminded the main plot to me.

            But Skyrim is stillan amazing, open world. Right now, I can’t be bothered to play, but once the modding community kicks it into high gear, I’ll gladly step back in. Preferably having a mod to scrap the entire main quest line and murder-telepathy Bethesda gave people, so I can enjoy the wide world without feeling like either cheating (by not solving the main quest) or annoyed (because I’m ‘stuck’ on the man quest).

        • Kana says:

          This is also a minor nitpick of mine, but you reminded my by calling them fictional vikings. Why on earth is there all of this terminology in the world, and none of it is explained? At least, it wasn’t in any of the time I went around asking people.

          The absolute worst part was becoming the Thane of Whiterun and talking to Lydia.
          “So… I’m Thane? What is that?”
          “It is a position of great honor.”
          “Whats a housecarl?”
          “Someone sworn to carry your burdens”

          What I wanted was a little backstory and an explanation for why those terms were being used. What I got was a cheap cop-out of what it was supposed to be, and the game telling me how I should feel about that.

          Which was alright on my first attempt, since I was playing a Dark Elf. Cool, Thane means the racists will sell me a house. Then came the second character, that was a Nord, who was told the same thing. What, was everyone in town a Thane or Housecarl? Devalued the title a bit there. :<

      • Phoenix says:

        Easy done.

        Controls could be better (too much console-like), it gets annoying to cast a lot of spells using only 1-8 keys and the favourite sets only the right hand to my knowledge.

        Also the follower can’t be ordered at distance, or ordered to stop fighting or be more careful, and that’s annoying. Horses too tend to fight and to die.

        It looks far too easy to make experience in crafting, expecially in smithing, comparing to other things. Also everything you craft gives the same amout. I just maxed to 100 making iron daggers.

        I don’t like certain option in the quest. I won’t spoiler, but I renounced to take some paths and it wasn’t avaible clearly as an option, I had to press tab and left the poor npc’s there waiting for me forever. That’s understandable under a certain point: too much do this or walk away, no real choice. Considering that they are important quests.

        Bugs are funny but can be also crappy. I got this bug of a sound error looping and I had to change sex twice every time I loaded a game. Luckily it went away I don’t know exactly when.

        Dragon attacks are kinda crappy. They don’t do real damage, there are no quests related to that (not many at least).

        People try to surrender but then they attack again. They never run away.

        But the game it’s so full of good things that hell, who cares. It’s a huge map to explore with hundred of quests. Skyrim basically it’s that. It’s not a living world of course, it’s a kinda funny simulation.

        One time I got mad at marchath for a certain abuse and It started the killing. I assaulted the jarl discovering that it was immortal with some other npcs as well. Felt cheap ’cause I was thinking about making another character to destroy the entire world, but that’s not possible :(

        • Veloxyll says:

          Wait, you can bind 1-8. damn it.

          Click the other mouse button to bind your other hand to something. So you can click Left + Right to have fireballs on both hands (or double cast) I think it’s left mouse binds right hand, right mouse binds left hand.

          • Phoenix says:

            About the left thing you’re right, maybe they fixed it with a patch, I remember it didn’t worked before.

            And you can bind only 1-8. What about 9 and 0? That’s plain stupid. As in Oblivion. I needed two extra bindings (or more).

            (1 Bow 2 Sword 3 flames 4 heal 5 heal other 6 night vision 7 kyle’s peace 8 dagger… 9 bow against the bosses 10 the shout that pushes).

        • ima420r says:

          I have it on Xbox and using the dpad for ‘favorite’ equipment is pretty poor. Left and Right equip 1 thing each, otherwise you press up to go to a quickmenu and pick what to equip. I would have liked to use the dpad as 8 different quick keys.

          I love how baddies will say they surrender and then after they heal just a sliver they come right back at you, or they dont heal at all and maybe just summon the courage to try again.

          After I did one of the quests where I had to do something my character wouldn’t do, but there was no way to avoid it cause the game made me, I just shrugged and went with it. It was my gateway drug, so to speak, because now I even steal a little and have joined the thieves guild.

          There are a few flaws I suppose, but you are right that the pros far outweigh the cons.

  8. Nick says:

    Kid got given a portal into the world by a friend. He don’t remember exactly who it was, but I guess it aint important now

  9. Steve Johnstone says:

    The best thing about Bastion is wondering what your life would be like if it was narrated by a man with a husky voice.

  10. Daimbert says:

    Great, now you’ve got me interested in “Frayed Knights”. And since it’s relatively cheap, I might just go ahead and buy it if I don’t just get completely lazy over the next few weeks. And given my long, long list of games that I want to finish at some point in my life — goes back to the original Suikoden — that just adds to that list. Thanks ever so much.

    (I’m still trying to play Oblivion, let alone Skyrim [grin]).

    EDIT: And looking at the other games I now see that they have some other interesting ones there, including the Cute Knight games that I kinda liked (played one of the demos for a bit). Sheesh, I could double the size of my list if I went gung-ho on it …

  11. Simon Buchan says:

    If you have any love for Batman’s Universe, Arkham City is amazing. If you have any love for collecting things Arkham City will DESTROY YOU. If you have any love for incredibly stupid stuff, Saint’s Row 3 is AMAZING. I know exactly what you mean – I have “only” played 70 hours of Skyrim D:. If anyone is curious as to why game companies do this, it’s apparently to get the profits before the end of their fiscal year, which is normally about September but (according to Wikipedia) depends on the company.

  12. noahpocalypse says:

    *sigh*. I didn’t get any of these. Or AC Revelations. Deus Ex. Etc. No gaming PC (my brother’s, which is one, is riddled with bullet holes from viruses), so I have to Xbox, but it’s been broken for TWO MONTHS! On the bright side, I have friends with Xboxes, and mine will be fixed before Christmas. These are the games I received or purchased this year:
    Portal 2
    Red Dead Redemption
    Bad Company 2
    DA: Origins
    Halo 2

    That a pretty pathetic list, innit?

    • X2Eliah says:

      If it makes you feel any better, Portal 2 and RDR were pretty good games, so it’s not all a waste. But missing out on Deus Ex… yeah, OUCH. That game is basically golden (pun intended, ofc).

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You can skip rage,its not that impressive.And serious sam 3 isnt all that impressive either,unless you didnt play the previous two.As for arkham asylum,I loved it,and Im not a batman fan(never read the comics,didnt watch the cartoon,nor the campy series,watched the movies only once).Saints row 3 was ok.Bastion is something you should get to as soon as possible because it is also amazing.As for spaz,Ive played it for a bit,but then Ive noticed some shit growing all over the walls,so I got in my ship and got the hell out of there.

  14. Khizan says:

    Bastion is incredible. They’ve recently added a few modes to the game, including a time-attack mode for score, and an infinite-continue version that disables some achievements in favor of letting you beat the game by corpse rushing it.

    And after you beat it, you get a New Game+ mode, with all your weapons and optional difficulty switches unlocked. Those switches, by the way, can turn the game into a stone cold bitch. I’ve restarted some levels a dozen times before going back and turning some of the switches off.

    • Trix2000 says:

      The game’s not too difficult to beat with continues though, assuming you don’t have the difficulty things on (except the last level or two…those are tough).

      All in all one of my favorite games of the year though. I’d have played it more if it weren’t for all the other games I still need to play through…

  15. Eruanno says:

    B-b-but what about Trine 2 (or as it should be called – “Colourgasm”)? D:

    • Vipermagi says:

      +1 to this. Trine 2 was an amazing experience. Only had one area where I felt the checkpoint was just too far back, no puzzles that had me and my co-op partner quit the game (only stopped out of necessity; food and sleep :p ), not a moment where the visuals were less than impressive. The story is simple, but it being transparent didn’t detract from the game for me.
      Fairly short, but so, so sweet.

    • X2Eliah says:

      Can it be played ( I mean more like can it *really* be played and enjoyed, not just technically able) solo? Or is the level design catered to a co-op campaign?

      • Vipermagi says:

        You can play it through entirely on your own; the game is designed around solo play. Honestly, co-op can rather easily ‘break’ the game due to how powerful Amadeus, the Wizard, is. We set a rule that levitating our way across was always a last resort. It made the game a lot more enjoyable :P

  16. Adam says:

    I’m surprised we didn’t get anything more about DX3HR. You basically posted a “This game is really great, I’ll tell you more about why in this next post” post, and then never did the next post in the series. Is that still in the pipeline, or are you shelving it?

    Or (more insidiously) are you saving all of your commentary for a future season of Spoiler Warning?

  17. Erik says:

    Euhm, Shamus. Your link to Freelancer actually links to the wikipedia page about the Job-type freelancer. (Somebody that’s self employed)

    I think you where looking for this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freelancer_%28video_game%29

  18. Derek K. says:

    I actually really enjoyed RAGE. Once you get over all the stupid “We have MOAR TEXTURES!” thing, it’s a very scripted game with hugely open ways to murder lots of mutants. The sheer volume of weapon types and ammo (ammo is the key) mean you always have interesting ways to make things stop living.

    I picked it up a month or so after it came out in the lull before BF3/MW3, and found that I liked it far more than I expected….

    • LadyTL says:

      I found RAGE to be really fun for me up until the game just kinda ended poorly with no real set ending to it. That kinda killed any interest I had in the game.

  19. Matt says:

    Bastion is an amazing game, and even in a year that gave us Skyrim, Skyward Sword, Terraria, Magicka, various calls of warfares, Serious Sam 3, and so many other things, I still think Bastion was the most remarkable game in the bunch. It is definitely worth your time.

    • Falcon says:

      Bastion is something essential. Utterly gorgeous, fully realized, and packs an emotional punch. Other games try to get the emotion that Bastion does, but few have ever succeeded.

      It really is a game where all the systems compliment each other. None of the Rockstar ‘I’m a good guy in the narrative, but homicidal maniac in gameplay’. Your in game actions are the narrative. You really feel the weight of your task through actions, music, and most certainly through Logan Cunninghams narration. You gush over HL2 and how the gameplay helps tell the story, and how Valve made the mechanics reinforce the narrative. You also bemoan other games that botch this *cough*Fallout 3*cough*. Well Bastion gets this so right.

      Now how does that song go again

      Hmm hmm hmm hmm

      Oh yeah that’s it

      ‘I dig my hole you build a wall…’

      • TrentB says:

        I want to make out with The Singer.

        Also, /agree to all that. Everything compliments everything else. Such a well focused and designed game.

        I love the soundtrack, and particularly the duet/end theme. I need to learn it on my geetars… doesnt seem too difficult.

  20. Wonderduck says:

    Okay, every time I’ve asked this question, I’ve received the usual “go out and buy a PS3” style of response. I figure I’ve got a better-than-average chance to get a real, useful answer here.

    My computer has a AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+, with 3GB of ram, a GeForce GT240 graphics card with 1GB of GDDR5, running XP. Will I be able to run Skyrim with any success?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Gruegar says:

      I don’t see why not.

    • CTrees says:

      I would guess you’d need to run at pretty low graphical settings, but you could probably do it, yes.

      • tengokujin says:

        What do you mean, low settings? I have a Phenom II X3 2.8GHz processor, 12 GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 1GB of GDDR3.

        I’m running the game with high textures, high shadows, max render distances, 1600×900 (admittedly, my screen is 1920×1080 but that high a resolution slows down the game to an unplayable 7 fps). I’m getting ~30 fps outdoors and ~55 fps indoors.

        And since the game is mostly run through the CPU, you can easily get high-res texture packs that affect your framerate by maybe 2 fps.

        That said, you’re gonna need to do a lot of fiddling and tweaking to get the best performance out of Skyrim, but its completely doable and there are plenty of resources to help you get that beautiful game going.

    • noahpocalypse says:

      Why would they tell you to get a PS3? They have too many problems with memory corruption and stuff with this game.

      Go out and buy an Xbox, PC fanboy. ;)

    • Raygereio says:

      The current console generation and the need to put games out on various systems actually made system requirements easy for those that haven’t immersed themselves in the ridiculous world of computer hardware.

      Did this PC game come for the Xbox 360/PS3?
      If yes, is your PC’s hardware younger then 5 years?
      If yes again, then you’ll be able to run the game at the very least on low settings with decent preformance unless the game in question is a really bad port.

    • Z-Ri says:

      On minimum settings it should run okay, but if you want a definitive answer google “Can you run it”. The first result should take you to system requirements lab where you can check if your computer will run just about any title out there. Its a site that has served me well in the past.

      P.S on there they have Skyrim alphabetically under “T” as in
      “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” just a heads up

    • Gale says:

      I think you’ll probably be fine running it, but you might get some freezing – I’m not sure how common it is, but apparently it’s a known issue the game has with XP. For me, it would periodically lock up whenever I was out walking in the overworld, or if there was anything interesting happening on-screen. Most of the time, it carried on as if nothing had happened after a second or two, but it got kind of tiresome after a while.

    • Shamus says:

      I don’t know about your GPU, but your CPU is probably faster than mine, and I have no problems with the game. I’ve got the graphics set near the top, so even if your GPU is below mine (hate these alphabet soup naming systems) you should be able to turn it down and get it to run.

  21. X2Eliah says:

    Ahh, Saint’s Row 3.

    I’m really perplexed about that game. On the one hand.. it’s said to be the GTA with all the fun placed back in. And, hell, I LOVED the 3rd-era GTA games.. And yeah, I think GTA4 was pretentious and overly sombre with it’s lack of antics, which is often cited as the reason to go with SR3. So.. seems like I would like this game, right?
    On the other hand.. the marketing material for this game (reviews, trailers and such) seem to imply that there is little else than purile/immature dick jokes, that the core gameplay is all about making a naked/skimpily dressed character and smacking people with purple giant dildos, that the missions are far too thin and that there is no progression, you have everything at your disposal from the start and the only incentive to do stuff is to gain “respect” – all things that I usually can’t stand in games.

    So.. I still don’t know whether to get this game or not. Some people (e.g. Rutskarn, to make a local reference) say that game is awesome.. some others say it’s insultingly shallow and crude. Some say that the city/world is fine, others say that everything’s bland and repetitive.

    Most notably, a lot of folks say it’s like SR2 but crazier, which to me is incredibly unhelpful, since I couldn’t get SR2 to run properly on my system, even with screwing around with some stupid cpu-throttling mods; the vehicles still handled like rubbish, the sound still seemed like coming from inside a tin can, and the game still had weird bursts of framerate, going up and down along with gamespeed.

    What with SR3 still costing a fair amount of monies, I’d really not want to end up buying it only to discover I hate it – that’s what SR2 basically is, it was an utter waste of money & time… But I also wouldn’t want to skip something I would enjoy playing.

    So, it’s a bit of a shame to see you won’t have a review of this game up on your blog. Even if I tend to disagree with a lot of your points back in the SR2/GTA4 debate, I could still rely on your feedback and filter the info I want to know.. Now, no such luck it seems :[

    • Matthias says:

      tl;dr: I loved it, you might not, maybe you should borrow or buy when cheap.
      Now the longer version:

      For me, someone who is not particularly fond of, but also not offended by crude jokes, the game was really great, and also really funny.
      You’re not required (or even actively encouraged) to make your character silly, or use the dildo weapon at all (except for a really inconsequential challenge that you only do if you want to get 100% completion). I played a somewhat gruff guy (“male 3” is the best voice!) in business casual clothing. Black skirt, purple top, you know, the usual. I think it’s the most awesome character I’ve ever created in a video game. The best moment came when the game forced a temporary wardrobe change on me which left me topless, but didn’t remove the bra! :-D

      As to starting out at the height of your power, well, that’s true, but taking all that away in the first half hour has to be a trope by now ;-)

      Gameplay-wise I also really enjoyed the game. While the controls (I played on XBox) took some getting used to – really, hold LB to sprint? – I never felt that I fought against the game mechanics. It seems to me that whenever the designers were in doubt whether to make a thing either realistic or fun, they asked themselves “what would Rockstar do” and did the opposite. ;-)

      The difficulty also scaled pretty well for me. I played on normal and went through the story first, only doing the odd activity (repeatable side missions) here and there, and never felt the game to be too easy or too hard. A colleague of mine dug into the activities and city takeover gameplay ASAP, and unlocked some pretty unbalancing stuff, which made the missions way easier.

      Finally, the story. This is another point (apart from the humour) where opinions and tastes might differ. On the substance-style scale it probably overtakes even Modern Warfare, but in my opinion that works in this game’s favour. Most story missions have at least one crazy element (fans often gush over http://deckers.die, and with good reason!), and while not all are memorable, there are plenty that qualify as “water-cooler moments”. The overall story arc is pretty thin and mostly predictable, and while I’m 100% in favour of good stories in games I think trying to tell too deep a story would really not mesh well with the overall tone of this game.
      As I said, opinions on that might (and probably will) vary wildly.

      I just hope I haven’t just added another unhelpful data point to your “buy or not” evaluation :-)

      • X2Eliah says:

        Thank you. This certainly isn’t a waste, and so far sounds pretty encouraging. Maybe indeed the advertising campaign is pushing the worser parts of this game.

        • Veloxyll says:

          It’s possible. I can pretty much agree with the previous comments. SR3 is just a bit silly, and a lot of fun. There are some adorable moments through the game too, but overall the voice work is great. Sure you can make your character a scantily clad hussy. But you can also have pirate costume or formal dresses or suits or whatever. You can get most stuff fairly early, true, but it still feels worth playing.

    • Kana says:

      From what I’ve seen… SR: The Third is basically a lot of stupid, dumb fun. There is a story and setting, but it takes nothing serious and doesn’t really hold any punches or jokes back. It’s something I’d consider playing after a stressful day or just to burn time, but nothing that’d be worthwhile to seriously get in to.

      As an example, there is a mission from Burt Reynolds voiced by Burt Reynolds to go kill hundreds of zombies and kick a bunch of plague canisters into a river. That you can get to by hoverbike. It’s just silly nonstop.

      If you’re looking for something fun to waste time in, Third might be worth it. Otherwise it’s monies best spent elsewhere.

    • empty_other says:

      Epic start. Then you are given a lot of missions thats just repeatables. You’ll do them for a while.
      Then you’ll be thrown into the end-game story in a tank (A-Team style) and it just gets more epic from there.

      If you played SR2, then SR3 is… more over the top. Almost like they took a page out of the Crank movies (if you liked Crank, and watched Crank: High Voltage, you know what im talking about).

      Btw, get a friend to play this game with you. The single-player campaign plays flawless as a co-operative campaign.

  22. TrentB says:

    To Shamus and everyone:

    Play Bastion.

    It is wonderfully made. The game design is exquisite – Gameplay is really fun, difficulty system is clever and immersive… the story is so simple and lovely… the soundtrack is gorgeous… the characters are delightful and intriguing. The ‘levelling’ and customisation are very well balanced and a blast to screw around with.

    Its just a really well made game. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to game design recently and it is, to my mind, exemplary.

    Only complaint is that maxing out the difficulty makes the pike the only viable melee weapon, but WHATEVER, OK?

    • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

      Which is why I don’t use melee weapons at all. Carbine and pistols all the way!

      • TrentB says:

        I fell in love with the musket once I got the 5th upgrade for it. BA-BOOM! There are so many fun combinations for the weapons though.

        I’m currently living in a room with 4 other dudes (dont ask) and typically play at night… the pistols require way too much clicking and I feel guilty about keeping everyone up haha. I did like using them though =]

  23. Dev Null says:

    We need more summer games and less of a pile-up at the end of the year.
    I’m sure I’ll pick these games up on some bargain sale next summer.

    I know, right? Its like they don’t _want_ me to pay full price for their games…

    Full disclosure: In my daydream fantasy world future, you design that Starflight game and sell it to me. I’ve been hankering for it ever since your procedural world project, because thats where I always envisaged that going. So my daydream is less creative than yours; sue me.

    I’ll have to give Bastion a look, sometime before I inevitably give in to Skyrim. But its no rush; I spent half of last weekend playing Riven (again) so I’m a few years behind the curve…

    • Trix2000 says:

      This is my problem too – replaying old games I like when I have a stack of new ones to get to. It’s a curse I say!

    • noahpocalypse says:

      Don’t say that, he’ll have to design a world generator for asteroids and stars and suns as well! And ships, just like Pixel City, and weapons like .kkrieger, and armor and races like Spore and stuff, and radiant story like Skyrim, except it should consider people’s motives, i.e. is there profit for them to get, or could they convince you to do a favor for them to prevent them from blasting your lvl. 1 ship, but that would make the dude you stole from send a bounty hunter after you, and you would steal the bounty hunter’s weapons and stuff…

      I’m sorry, Shamus. Don’t read that paragraph.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Yes please! I definitely would pay to play that game. Not only should you be able to have the computer design ships and cities and alien races, you should have the tools to design them yourself. Plot door in your way? Cut it open with a plasma torch! Aliens invading? Sell them your rivals homeworld, in exchange for a military alliance!
        Awesome.

    • Dev Null says:

      And, just to prove my point: Skyrim is currently – already – on sale for 33% off on Steam.

  24. Shinjin says:

    I enjoyed SPAZ a lot until I realized that the way the game is set up, you are pretty much guaranteed to spend some time letting the game play itself in order to level-up or step up to the next hull size.

    Some of the blueprints were next to impossible to get by myself. I make no claim to fantasticality, but some of the hull upgrade jumps involved battles that were next to impossible. The solution was to hop around in combat zones and pick up blueprints dropped by the two AI factions duking it out. This detracted significantly from the fun and sense of achievement that games like this should evoke. I want to play the game myself, not just watch the AI do things for me.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I enjoyed SPAZ, but I believe it was mostly due to discovering and exploiting the AI penchant for targeting mine dispensers. In order to keep progressing in the game I have always had the largest ship possible outfitted with mines. Otherwise, you’re just totally outgunned. Definitely a balance flaw.

  25. Urthman says:

    Why get so worked up about lots of games releasing at once? They’re not going to get stale. They’ll still be as much fun this summer as they are now.

    • Naota says:

      Disdain for the seeming short-sightedness of these publishers sums it up, mostly. I know I certainly won’t feel quite so irritated in six months when many of these games are on sale for half price.

      Still, they’re almost certainly losing money in the long term by dogpiling all of their big-budget releases into one three-month span in order to make their yearly profit report look better. Very few people are going to have the cash on hand to purchase even half of the games they want to play this season, and fewer still will actually have the time to do it even if the former was true. All this, and later in the year we can still go for months at a time without any significant games being released.

      Rushing games out for the holidays (or indeed for any particular date) is also almost always a bad thing for the quality of the game in question, lest we forget Dragon Age 2.

    • Zukhramm says:

      To me, part of my interest in games is not only playing them but also to talk, read and write about them. People seem to forget most games a week after their release so you really have to be there at the release or you won’t be able to take part.

      And aside from the really popular ones, games pretty much do disappear after a while, becoming impossible to buy.

  26. GTB says:

    I’m not sure Bastion’s gameplay is anything new, but the clever-yet-simple narrative system they have is basically right up your alley I think. The story itself was equally simple but perfectly acceptable. I would really like to see what they could do with a lot more money and a much bigger game.

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Achron.I know it went mostly under the radar,but you should definitely try achron.It can frustrate with its pathfinding at times,but you get to experience time travel in real time,and thats worth it.

  28. Nick says:

    Is it pronounced sky-rim or skirrim?

  29. Aulayan says:

    I was in a similar boat to you, except the only gaming rig I have is my 360. And I don’t have much extra income to devote to videogames. But I remember NEVER Hearing of Bastion, then this past week EVERYONE is talking about it.

    I would like to point out, that today I turned on my 360 and saw that Bastion was 50% off on X-Box live either today, or for the next 12 days. I’m not really sure how their Countdown to 2012 sale works. So for those without a gaming PC, or might prefer it on the X-Box, it’s only 600 points, so just around $7.50. For the game people are now declaring their GOTY? Yeeeah I had to go for it.

  30. Bryan says:

    Having just played through the Bastion demo a couple times in Chrome (…not having access to either a windows machine or xbox, just this overpowered laptop running Ubuntu), yes, highly recommended. If I had Chrome on my other Linux machine, I’d definitely buy it; as it is, I’m strongly considering figuring out how to compile Chrome just to run it there early next year. (Assuming the rest of that system’s software is new enough to build a recent Chrome.)

    (The laptop controls are wonky due to the touchpad, but I have an external USB mouse plugged in at the moment, so that’s a lot better.)

  31. DM T. says:

    You sound like a new internet meme.
    I really wanted to do __________, but then I got Skyrim

    #ArrowInTheKnee

  32. A pity, but I dispute with this unique blog post. I do appreciate your specific internet page though and may keep on moving right back for fresh news.

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