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A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases: April 11th, 2014 Edition

This has never been a particularly popular blog, because frankly I'm such a craven introvert that I don't care about popularity at all.   You know what's popular?   Reality TV and Fifty Shades Of Grey.  When that qualifies as popular, "It's popular because it's good" is obviously false.

And yet, looking at my blog view stats, I noticed this odd downward dip over the past few months.  That got me thinking: "Sure, what's popular isn't necessarily good, but neither is boring reading all that worth reading."

The problem is pretty clear to me.  Giant walls of text.  Talking about nothing but Minecraft.  Having no real mission in my content production beyond dumping what I have been up to lately.  Just who am I blogging for, anyway?  I really ought to respect my audience... whoever they are.

So here is an experiment.  I have not been diversifying my gameplay experiences much on account of how I'm too jaded to want to play other recent releases.  Why not have a serial feature where I discuss last week's Steam releases and why I did not buy them.  Developers can appreciate the honest feedback, gamers might pick up a few unique insights, and I get to bitch about terrible games while not being expected to play them.  Everybody wins!

So, looking down the "New Releases" tab on Steam, I currently see:

Smugglers V:
  • Genre: Freeform Space Trading presented as a turn-based strategy game.
  • My take: I actually played a demo of an earlier version of this game before.  The idea of turning a space trading game into a top-down turn-based strategy game isn't bad, but I had troubles with the combat balance: it was far too random for my liking, resulting in defeat despite my best efforts from a few bad rolls.  That said, this game is actually a pretty good showing for the first game on the list.  It's reasonably novel, not badly made, and a genuine labor of love.
  • My action: At $9.99, it's at least wish list worthy.  Maybe I'll snap it up when it hits $5.

Demolition Master 3D:
  • Genre: Casual Job Simulator
  • My take: 99% of the time, casual job simulator games are basically just cash grabs intended to sucker people who don't know gaming into buying the game just because what's on the cover looks interesting.  The other 1% of the time, we get Euro Truck Simulator, a labor of love from people who happen to like what's being simulated enough to do a good job at it.  From what I gather, Demolition Master 3D is a mobile device port job, which skews it in the direction of the former by default.
  • My action:  I'll keep an eye on the various YouTube channels who revel in making fun of games like this.  If it surprises me by being good, that would be a surprise.

Beware Planet Earth:
  • Genre: Tower Defense
  • My take: Tower defense games can be fun, but the formula is simple enough that they're easily trumped by existing games in the field.  When you played your last tower defense game, were you thinking to yourself, "Well, I guess this is alright, but I wish the game was just a whole lot cuter!" ... No, why the hell would you say that?  Unfortunately, that's the direction they decided to go with Beware Planet Earth.
  • My action: Pass.  I wager I bought and ignored better tower defense games than this.

  • Genre: 3D Action Brawler
  • My take: Actually, this looks like a pretty well done 3D action brawler, albeit one made in 2008.  Made by "Creoteam"- is that a misspelling of Croteam, the developers of Serious Sam?  Weird observation: is it just me, or do parts of those maps look lifted directly from S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl?
  • My action: Considering how I never did get around to finishing Dead Space 3 or giving Devil May Cry 4 a serious play, I'm not sure if Collapse has anything that makes it worth playing versus better alternatives I already own.

Finn And Jake's Epic Quest:
  • Genre: 3D Platformer
  • My take: I want to say, "Oh, cool, they finally made Adventure Time into a well-wrought Zelda-like action adventure game, what they should have done in the first place!"  Then I remember how many games Cartoon Network released with the Adventure Time license that were absolutely awful.  Odds seem poor that this one has turned over a new leaf.
  • My action: Considering what they've had to endure, only a diehard Adventure Time fan would take a chance on buying this game.  I just think it's a pretty good cartoon.

Imperial Glory:
  • Genre: Horrendous cadaver of greed in the guise of a Total War clone.
  • My take: First impression is that it's a low-budget Total War clone.  I was wrong... instead, it's a re-release of a 7-year old game that they didn't even bother to mark with the correct date. 
  • My action: I already wasn't going to get this game because I haven't bothered to play the superior Total War games I already own.  The fact that they're misrepresenting the game on Steam just seals the deal.
I'm not even going to bother giving you a trailer to look at for this next one.

  • Genre: Strategy game dragged noisily out of its grave and reanimated to seek the wallets of idiots.
  • My take:   Praetorians has the same problem as Imperial Glory: it's publisher and developer.  Hah, I kid.  Actually, it's just a strategy game that got an average score when it was originally released, years ago, and the press of time could only evolve that to being grossly inferior today.  In Praetorian's case, it was 11 years ago, which translates to 110 years ago in technology years.  Yet, on their Steam page, they're listing Praetorians as released this month, and even quoting ancient reviews like it's still relevant.
  • My action: Facepalming and wondering how they can get away with this craven misrepresentation without having the book thrown at them.  That's it: I'm boycotting Pyro Studios and Merge Games for being craven weasels.

T.E.C. 3001:
  • Genre: Racing game.  Alas, only that.
  • My take: I like it when Indies try to break out of the box.  Here's a game where you play this robotic-looking humanoid running down a track and avoiding obstacles in a cyberspace-looking background.  Unfortunately, this is a misleading first blush, as a quick look at the gameplay reveals that it's rather simple.  They haven't broken out of any boxes here, they've taken us back into boxes that we broke out of decades ago.  Even the developers themselves can't help but derail into epic wubs and weird camera angles in the trailer.
  • My action: Shoulder on, Indie brother!  Shoulder on, without my money!  Maybe I'll be seeing this game in a Humble Indie Bundle in the future.
NEC New York-New Haven Route Add-On:
  • Genre: Not applicable.
  • My take: A bunch of geography for Train Simulator for the unbelievably high price of $39.99.  Well, knowing there exists people who have basements full of elaborate tiny models to run their model trains on, perhaps $39.99 is a small price to pay.  
  • My action: I'm not one of those people.  I own Train Simulator and a small chunk of additional content for it, but I think it was discounted something like 95% during some holiday sale.  Wait for another one of those.
Technically, this video is the most accurate trailer for what's being offered.
Awesomenauts-Cyrican Vinnie And Total Spike:
  • Genre: Not even a MOBA.  Not even a lightweight MOBA.  It's character unlocks for a lightweight MOBA.
  • My take: It unlocks two characters for Awesomenauts, which is basically a simpler, less ambitious Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game.  Awesomenauts isn't bad, but I think its smaller scope probably makes more vulnerable to players to develop unbeatable strategies.
  • My action: If I wanted to play a MOBA, I'd probably go back to League Of Legends.

Tom's Clancy's Ghost Recon Phantoms:
  • Genre: Cheap escort.  Oh, sorry, I meant to say testosterone-sucking money pit.  Same difference.
  • My take: The good news is that it's free to play and looks pretty high quality.  The bad news is that it's just another Counter-strike clone intent to gouge you remorselessly with micro-payments. 
  • My action: This one looks well-made, but I say that in the same air I would complementing the quality of the guillotine I'm about to be executed on.  Also, it's always a bad sign when they don't want to show any gameplay footage in the trailer.
Warlock 2: The Exiled:
  • Genre: It's tongue-in-cheek because the developers are self-aware about all that 4X Civilization clone competition.  I like that they acknowledged the problem, it means they might be trying to fix it.
  • My take: The original "Warlock: Master Of The Arcane" was the closest thing I've seen to the original Master Of Magic, possibly even more so than Age Of Wonders.  Warlock was basically Civilization 5 (even borrowing much of the GUI elements) but with a lot more focus on the combat and implementing magic.  The sequel of Warlock is mostly just more of the same, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I bet most people will enjoy Warlock more than Elemental/Fallen Enchantress/Whatever-It's-Calling-Itself-These-Days.
  • My action: I liked the original Warlock: Master Of The Arcane.  This game is basically more of the same with a few minor improvements.  Plus, it's only $29.99.  On to my wish list it goes, right next to Age of Wonders 3, awaiting a day I may actually have time to play either.
Mirror Mysteries 1 and 2, Haunted Past: Realm Of Ghosts, Paranormal State: Poison Spring, Voodoo Whisper Curse Of A Legend, Dark Mysteries - The Hunt For The Truth, and House Of 1,000 Doors - Family Secrets
  • Genre: There are 7 hidden object games in that title, all released during the last week on Steam.  Can you find them all?
  • My take: Hidden object games have got to be among the easiest genre of game to make.  Got somebody who can draw well?  Got a programmer who knows how to make things activate when the user clicks on them?  Great, we're in business! 
  • My action: Maybe I'll buy one of these just so I can have a fair opinion on them, but my current impression that they're just a more elaborate version of "Where's Waldo?" is probably correct.
I'd like to reward their honesty about the release date of this next game by posting a trailer here, but the closest thing I could find on YouTube was some German guy playing it.

Aggression: Europe Under Fire:
  • Genre: Looks like a combination of Risk and Real Time Strategy with some decent-looking WW-II themed visuals.
  • My take: Well, it's a 2007 game, but at least they're being honest about that this time.  Judging by the screenshots, It's a toss-up as to whether or not the implementation is as good as Company Of Heroes.
  • My action: I'm going to guess, "Probably not, play Company Heroes, it's better."
LEGO The Hobbit:
  • Genre: Platformer with a built in floozy.  Sorry, I meant to say "stud collection mechanic."
  • My take: Traveller's Tales' LEGO games are better than you might imagine, as they put an admirable amount of effort into injecting humor and a respectable treatment of the IP into every game.  That said, the formula is basically the same for these games, and there's been a lot of them.  Kids will enjoy the gameplay, adults will enjoy the humor, and they both will have only a sketchy understanding about what the other sees in it.
  • My action:  Sure, I could buy LEGO - The Hobbit at $30 right now, or I could just wait until some other Travellers' Tales LEGO game goes on sale and get the same experience.
Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut:
  • Genre: Broken-ass space combat action game.
  • My take: This is rather hilarious.  They re-release Strike Suit Zero (which was largely a kludgy space combat action game with elaborate visuals) in hopes of garnering some more bucks, slap the name, "Director's Cut" on it, and fudge the implementation so it's a bug-ridden mess.  So now it looks like the "Director" is basically a guy who had really low standards of quality.
  • My action: I bought the original months ago and still haven't got around to playing it, so there's no reason for me to buy a buggier version, even if they were classy enough to give an 85% discount to people who already own the original.
Avoid - Sensory Overload:
  • Genre: Audiosurf.  Oh, sorry, that's not a genre, that's the name of a game.  Well, it's still the most accurate descriptor of what we're looking at here. 
  • My take: How to describe it?  You pilot a vehicle that can only move left and right on a 3D isometric view that is constantly moving forward and try to avoid running into the wrong things.  Meanwhile, the level is being generated from the music files you provide.  Are you surfing the audio?  Are your senses overloaded yet?
  • My action: If Avoid is basically another take on Audiosurf that mixes things up a bit by adding some more gameplay elements, I'm not sure a purchase is required.  I already own Audiosurf, and I don't think a few gameplay elements are going to change my mind about not wanting to play it right now.
The bad news: There's no trailer for this game.  The good news: Jim Sterling bravely recorded crucifying himself by trying to play it.
Munich Bus Simulator:
  • Genre: Casual Job Simulator
  • My take: In theory, Munich Bus Simulator and Demolition Master 3D are very different games.  Funny how you can read what I had to say about Demolition Master 3D and it describes this game perfectly.
  • My action: Pointing and laughing.
Motte Island:
  • Genre: Truly original indy horror game
  • My take: It's a horror game that eschews zombies in favor of more insectine horrors.  Bravo!  Looks like it's mostly a top-down survival game with some rudimentary first person shooting sequences.  This is not the most technically advanced game out there, but I still bet it will be one of the most interesting games you've played this year.
  • My action: I'm not going to play it because horror games are scaaawy.
Evolution RTS:
  • Genre: Real time strategy like you wouldn't even believe.  It's so real time strategy that I bet they imported the sand straight from Dune 2, grandaddy of the genre.
  • My take: It's a free, open-source RTS game.  I can't pan that because, even if it turns out to suck, it didn't cost you a dime.  Just eyeballing it, I'm going to say it inherits mostly from Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander.  Not a bad premise.
  • My action: I already own Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander, so if I've a hankering to play this kind of game, I already can.
Super Motherload:
  • Genre: It's "mother lode," you illiterate bastards.  Oh, sorry, I meant, um.. side-scrolling action game with accumulation mechanics.
  • My take: For those who don't know, Motherload was one of the most popular Flash-browser games that involve a side-view mining game where you dig down, recover minerals, upgrade your rover.  Very addictive, but there's not much to it if you think about it: you're just getting minerals in order to get more minerals.  Super Motherload is bascially an attempt to turn that skeleton into a credible game. 
  • My action:  Honestly, it's probably half-decent.  This would go on my wish list if I wanted to play this kind of game.  If they turned it into a split screen competitive game, as the trailer would seem to indicate, I really have no interest in it.
Halo: Spartan Assault:
  • Genre: A top-down action game based on a wildly popular first person shooter series.  Go figure.
  • My take: Spartan Assault is based on Halo, Bungie Software's runaway success series whose love in certain circles was fairly well captured in the Awesome Reach flash animation.  I guess they got tired of making first person shooters because this one is a top down action game.  Ironic that they'd try to escape the monotony of a tired genre only to make a game based on an even more tired genre, isn't it?
  • My action: Meh.  I thought Marathon was more interesting than Halo.  I got bored of this kind of game around the time of Ikari Warriors.
So there you have it.  I think I need to work on brevity some more, but I think I've accomplished what I set out to do here.  Next time I set out to do it, I think it'll be on a day off, because this ended up cutting into the time I had off after work waaay too much. 

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