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A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, April 30th, 2014 Edition

Lately, I've been feeling less like a gamer on the most diverse gaming platform out there (the personal computer) and more like a health nut partaking of a few good foods because everything else is bad for me.

Currently, The Geldon Diet looks something like this:
  • Minecraft - First-person 3D survival simulation with the easy creative potential of block-based construction and massive community support.
  • FTL - Top-down 2D space survival simulation with a really solid, fluid design and procedural happenstance.
  • Don't Starve - Isometric 2D survival simulator with a gorgeously stylized presentation, rich in Victorian references and supernatural gallows humor.
Klei Entertainment really should have included the trailer with Don't Starve, as it provides a lot of necessary backstory.
 
Do I have a bit of a hangup on procedurally generated survival simulations?  Absolutely, but not without my reasons.  Still, while diversifying between all three games helps their longevity, everything wears out eventually, and I'm left wishing for more...

...so lets see what we've got on Steam since the last time I did this.  Because I don't want it to take eight hours to write all this, and you don't have a half-hour to read it, I'm going to try to keep things brief:

Interesting Tier

Games I might actually be interested in playing, if I can find the time.
  • Child Of Light - Turn-based RPG with side-scrolling adventure segments.
    Made by Ubisoft, one of the biggest and best game development houses out here, controversy about UPlay aside.  This actually looks a bit like what they'd make if they were after doing what made Squaresoft famous: artsy RPG experiences.  This game has shot right up to the top of my wish list.
  • Dark Souls II - Famously difficult third person 3D action combat RPG with the trappings of exploring a dying fantasy world.
    Yeah, it's pretty good, I guess.  I understand there's some porting issues with crashes on launch for a lot of people, but this is still a better overall port job than the original Dark Souls. 

    Dark Souls has become more than a cult classic, it's now a fixture of contemporary gaming.  It's a genuinely well made game with top production values.

    Even so, I think $50 is too much for Dark Souls II.  It's because PC gaming, as a whole, has moved past the days when $50 is considered a reasonable price for its game.  I'll pay $30 for it when it goes on sale, but am considering considering the additional $20 as a tax for people with more money than patience.
  • Blackwell Epiphany - If you like point and click adventures, you could do far worse than to play any game from the Blackwell series.  This indy company has puts together an interesting tale of a woman working with the ghost of a deceased private eye that is easily on par with the best of LucasArts classics.  I recommend grabbing, "The Blackwell Bundle" on Steam and playing through those games first, because the Blackwell Epiphany is the conclusion of the series (I think?).

Semi-Interesting Tier

Games I am almost interested in playing, but I can see why I won't.

  • Croixleur Sigma - "High speed hack and slash action" as only the Japanese know.
    Anime school girls beating up on monsters and each other in an shiny magic arena.  If you can't get enough twitch, this might be a decent enough game, but I like a little more depth.  I would not be surprised if this is a port of a Japanese game released 5 years ago.
  • Nicolas Eymerich - The Inquisitor - Book 1: The Plague - Remorseless catholic point-and-click adventure game.
    The graphics are a bit dated, the gameplay seems a bit kludgy, and it's probably not all that fun to play.  But, I admire a game with a compelling narrative that takes its source material seriously.  You play a badass inquisitor who gets to ram God down the throat of demonic infiltrators: bonus!
  • Fairy Tale About Father Frost, Iva and Nastya - Cell-shaded point-and-click adventure game with the most generic name ever.
    A late-2000 game, looks like it was intended to compete with the King's Quest series, but was released at a time when even King's Quest itself was considered defunct, so nobody even noticed it.  A fairly mediocre entry into the genre.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - AAA Superhero movie spinoff game.
    It looks like the developers took more than a few hints from the success of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and I think that's a good thing.  But this current Spider-Man franchise it's based on makes me too sad to want to play it.  The sad thing is that they're nailing the look, Spider-Man has never looked more like Spider-man, but then they gut all of his narrative potential with terrible stories.  It's like doing an excellent impression of somebody just so you can make them look bad.
  • Daylight - Procedurally generated yet seamless 3D horror game.  Really?
    Daylight is a bit of a mess, they were unable to work out the technical kinks in the idea before release.  But I have to say that the screenshots look good, it's the first released game powered by Unreal Engine 4, and I'm quite encouraged with what they almost accomplished here.
  • Slip - "A fast paced side scrolling platformer featuring a two-color, swap mechanic."
    Because a two-color swap mechanic was what side-scrollers needed to stop being boring?  I think not.  If you've played Ikaruga before, you know where they got the idea. Narrowly evades pablum tier due to being hard (as platforms typically are) and having a fascinating looking blocky parallax backdrop.
  • Battlepillars Gold - A "tug of war" game involving stylized cartoon caterpillars.
    In this game, you can spontaneously spawn caterpillars armed with various weaponries and try to go rightward, ever rightward, on the screen.  I understand it's a pretty good port of an iOS game.  I like the style, it's a funny little game, but is it fun?  Well, I guess that depends on if you like "tug of war" games.
  • Farsky - Sort of like Minecraft, except underwater and without world deformation.
    I like the premise of Farsky, but from what I gather it's still rather unfinished.  It's technically sound enough, but there's not a whole lot to do.  Still, if you like the idea of sea diving and just want to spend all your time underwater, building a home for yourself, collecting the bounty of the sea, and fighting off the occasional shark, this is your dream game.
  • Canyon Capers - "A retro style platform game" - Because we haven't had enough of those lately.  It looks like the developer put a decent amount of effort into it, but the genre is so over-saturated that it's an uphill battle to seem anything more than overwhelmingly standard.
  • Arche Blade - Yet another entry into the Korean PC bang online brawler genre, flashier and more 3D than many.  Free to play, pay to win... next game, please!
  • Spice Road - "A town building, social and economic simulation game full of original challenges."
    Somewhat city building, somewhat trading game, this 2013 game looks like it's about 5 years older than it is due to choices in its GUI design. 

    Spice Road seems to be made up of two layers: city building on one layer, trade between cities on the other.  Player reviews have generally been quite positive, even if Spice Road fell beneath the radar of bigger name reviewers.  It very nearly ended up "Interesting Tier" for me, but the only review I could find on it convinced me otherwise.
  • Depths Of Ear: Knossos - "A Greek-themed, 1st Person, Roguelike stealthy action-adventure where you play Theseus out to kill the rampaging horror the Minotaur."  A great premise unfortunately ruined by a shoddy execution of broken gameplay mechanics.  It's being panned rather badly right now, and that's a shame.
  • Out Of The Park Baseball 2015 - Sure, it might seem silly to make a big deal out of a game about managing your own virtual baseball team, but it turns out Football Manager is consistently one of the most played games on Steam... more people are playing it right now than Team Fortress 2!  Me, I'm not much of a sports fan, but hey, some people might enjoy this.
  • Trials Fusion - "...the gold-standard platform racer for the next-generation of gaming."  It's performing stunts on motorcycles, get over yourselves.  Still, it's reasonably well reviewed, Ubisoft knows what they're doing, so you could probably enjoy this if you're into that idea.
  • Heroes Of Steel: Tactics RPG - Turn-based combat RPG.  Heroes of Steel looks a bit kitschy, but I think the developers know what they're doing here.  You roll up a party of four heroes and take them through an elaborate dungeon, battling their way to victory.  I'm reminded heavily of most of the games Spiderweb Software makes, but this is a slightly different take to it.
  • Rogue Shooter - I don't want to dump on these guys, this is clearly a game made by some enthusiasts for fun, they're actively goofing off in its design, it doesn't take itself seriously.  But, if I'm judging Rogue Shooter (and I am) I'm going to tell you that marrying roguelike procedural generation to a first person shooter is not enough by itself.  Most important is the actual gameplay, and Rogue Shooter doesn't do anything else that Wolfenstein 3D didn't do better in 1992.

Pablum Tier

Games that basically are after casual gamer wallets, trying to fish people in with gimmicks but not having much real gameplay to them.
  • Escape The Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh - Hidden object game.
  • Escape The Museum - Hidden object game.
  • Adventure Chronicles: The Search For Lost Treasure - Hidden object game.
  • Farm Frenzy 4 - Clicking simulator masquerading as a farm simulator.   There are hundreds of excuses to click things in this obvious touch game import.  For the chickens alone, you click the eggs they lay to collect them, click the egg mixer to mix the eggs and make them more valuable, click moles to stop them from stealing your eggs, and so on.  I will say one good thing about Farm Frenzy 4: the graphical presentation is extremely well done.  For a game that focuses on just one screen, I've never seen so much loveliness.  I'm genuinely considering buying this game despite myself... I guess it might have a sort of Diner Dash appeal.
  • Redneck Racers - The gimmick here is to take a racing game and to have rednecks on tractors doing the racing.  It's a lousy Mario Kart knockoff, obviously, they don't have the budget or inclination to make anything more than that.
  • Rabbit Hole 3D - This game reads chapter 1 of Alice In Wonderland to you while pilot a dot through the words.  It's just slightly short of modern art but, as a game, I can't see the appeal.
  • The Promised Land - "A casual strategy game for the adventurous at heart"
    This 2012 game narrowly avoided going on the automatic boycott list by misreporting its release date. It's basically a simple city builder game, and hardcore gamers have probably played something deeper in the Anno or Settlers series.
  • Chip - "an isometric puzzle game with robots" - Have you ever played one of those games where the goal is to get a laser from one square to its destination square by aligning mirrors?  Chip is basically the same idea, extrapolated so far down the line that you can now customize the destination of the laser as an adorable robot that can be dressed up in accessories.
  • Hotel (Collectors Edition) - It's not a hidden object game, but this point-and-click adventure is so simple that it might as well be.
  • Clockwork Tales: Of Glass And Ink - Hidden object game.
  • Viking Brothers - I've looked at videos of this game, and I'm still not entirely sure what I'm looking at here.  I think it's supposed to be some kind of casual city building game, but I'm just seeing a lot of clicking. Unsurprisingly, it's made by Alawar, makers of the Farm Frenzy series, another game about a lot of clicking.
  • Evopollution - "A business strategy game that incorporates the environment into the game."  This game looks like Dune 2 if you removed everything that made it fun and replaced it with environmentalism.  I didn't create an "Awful Tier" list, but this game would belong on it.  
  • Abalone - It's the PC version of a board game I never heard of.  Looks like a variation on Chinese checkers to me.  A port of an Android app.

Dug Up Corpse Tier

Games that are over 3 years old, might have been okay in their time but are now just dated.
  • 7.62 High Caliber - 2007 game, 2008 if you count European releases, it's a Russian-made clone of Jagged Alliance.  
  • Brigade E5: New Jagged Union - 2006 game, it was the game in the same series that came before 7.62.
  • Street Racing Syndicate - It's a racing game whose choice of window draping is that you're doing illegal street car racing.  A 2004 game, it was mediocre even then.
  • Realms Of Haunting - A 1996 game involving a lot of Wolfenstein 3D-like combat inter-spliced with full motion video cutscenes, basically an interactive horror movie.  It looks like it would have been awesome to play... back in 1996, when it was originally released.  I'm reminded vaguely of Lands Of Lore: Guardians Of Destiny - same sort of idea, probably actually a bit better.
  • Millennium - A New Hope - Another RPG Maker classic.
    If you can't get enough old school JRPGs, thank goodness for RPG Maker, it's made it possible for a lot of people to make them who otherwise would not have.  From what I hear, this is one of the better-made examples.  They seem to have an actual artist on staff.  Indy game of the year... for 2009?  Whoops, this game was on the wrong list, down to Dug Up Corpse Tier with you.
  • Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy - A 2007 game, it makes use of panoramic views of exquisite rooms as you pixel-hunt for things you need to advance.  This one might actually get away with being so dated, as it's not like we've come up with a better way to do this kind of game since then... well, I suppose the computers now are capable of actually rendering these rooms in real time.
  • Mashed: Drive To Survive - The funny thing about this 2004 combat racing game is that the top-down view makes it look a bit like you're playing with toy cars.  It was reviewed slightly positive back in the day, now it's painfully dated.
  • Warrior Kings - Fairly good looking real time strategy game, but wow, how dated this 2002 title is now.  It was probably after Myth's crown, but who even remembers that series anymore?
  • Rocko's Quest - From what I gather, this isometric platformer was never good, not even in 2003.  At least the graphics are kind of neat: stylized cartoony enemies abound.  Furthering my disappointment, this game has nothing to do with Rocko's Modern Life, the Rocko here is some kind of wandering barbarian warrior.
  • Baron Wittard: Nemesis Of Ragnarok - A 2011 game that is more horror themed, but aside from that you can pretty much take everything I said about Nostradomus: The Last Prophecy and apply it to this game. 
  • Jagged Alliance 1: Gold Edition - Bad luck for Brigade E5 that the game they were trying to make a better version of actually re-released on Steam in the same week.  What can I say about Jagged Alliance, a 1994 game?  Well, it was a squad based combat game that was pretty good and gave us something to do after X-Com got us interested in the idea.  Is it dated now?  Yes, it's super dated, but it's still a classic.
  • RC Cars - A 2003 racer involving RC cars.  Looks capably done, it had mixed reviews back in the day, but I want to dock them a few points for putting a woman falling out of her bikini on the front page of the title.  Way to get a cheap buck.
  • Ascension To The Throne - A 2007 "turn-based strategy game with RPG elements," it utterly fell under everyone's radar.  From what  I've seen of the strategy, there's nothing here that wasn't done better in the King's Bounty series.  However, this game also has isometric adventuring segments which remind me, painfully, of Ultima IX.
  • UFO Aftermath - Funny enough, in the last "Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases," I mentioned UFO Afterlight was the best in the series of X-Com clones made by ALTAR Interactive - third time's the charm.  Well, Aftermath was the first game in the series... it's pretty awful.
  • Borderzone - "A role-playing action with a complex non-linear storyline."  Basically, Borderzone is Gothic, but much worse.  I'd call it a Russian knock-off, but actually I think Gothic was originally a German game, so that apple would not have fallen far from the tree.
  • Konung 2 - A 2004 isometric top-down game involving controlling a party of heroes.  Looks like a Baldur's Gate clone.  Is it any good? Apparently not, it reviewed abysmally.   Judging by Steam forum traffic, it's also a bit buggy to try to get it to run on modern systems.
  • Vangers - A 1998 game, Vangers is a really weird, but in a good way.  Did you like Autoduel and wanted a top-down open-world vehicular combat game?  This game gives you that... albeit in a world where everybody has mutated into buglike abominations that are depicted with clay animation and talk in word salads.  If that wasn't weird enough, the actual gameplay is a floaty affair, you're driving around a voxel-based world with actual contours but always looking down from above.  Your vehicle can, and will, get stuck in folds in the terrain, and you can actually fling yourself several screens away with a bounce button.  If you endure it long enough, the weirdness becomes somehow endearing.  If you can stomach a 800x600 resolution, I highly recommend Vangers.
Funny enough, while I was doing this list, all the stuff on my "Automatic Boycott Tier" of games that were over 3 years old but had the wrong release date listed on them actually received a proper release date.  This is good news: it might mean that somebody at Steam has actually been hired to do fact checking.

I managed to get this list done inside of 4 hours this time, still too too long for my liking. Next time, I'm skipping anything that had an original release of over 3 years ago unless it's actually worth mentioning.

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