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A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, May 14th, 2014 Edition

This week has been one of much anticipation for Wildstar because, even as much as I know it's just the same old thing and even as much of a craven altaholic I am, open beta has given me a taste of what they have, and it is hard for any other game to compete.  To the developers of other games, a genuinely good MMORPG entering the market is somebody bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.

As much as I'm loathe to praise a theme park MMORPG (because it's an utter waste of a virtual world space when they could be advancing the state of sandboxes for some serious escapism) I nevertheless have to admit that a really well-made theme park experience really ups the ante of gaming.  It's like Disneyworld just built an extension to your house and, for a nominal fee of what amounts to less than your cell phone bill, you can ride all the rides and see all the attractions without having to leave the comfort of your home.  To ignore this offer means you will be spending a lot of time sitting on your home computer, playing tiny games that seem silly in comparison, and trying to ignore all the people whooping it up in your new house extension.
Plus, the Wildstar Flicks promotion rocks, each vignette being awesome to watch.  I love watching creativity on display.
On other hand, should you accept their offer, you know that you're just going to waste a ton of time and money because, while a theme park is a fun place to visit, you wouldn't want to live there.  Making matters worse, you're already bored of most of the activities from the last 20 theme parks you tried to move into.  The smart thing to do would be to sit back and wait 6 months for them inevitably flip the Free2Play switch: no admission fees, just concession stands on every street corner.  Better yet, go play one of the many games that already have flipped that switch and have months or years of post-release improvements to show for it. Besides, it feels a bit wrong to fork over box and subscription price to NCSoft, the evil astronaut-backstabbing, City of Heroes smothering sons-of-bitches that they are.

And yet.... that new theme park certainly seems shiny, doesn't it?  Wildstar might even be the first Western themed MMORPG out there, even though they decided to do it in space, and the MMORPG action combat mechanic has never been so well realized as it is there...

Fortunately, I won't need to decide for another couple weeks, as the preorder head start begins at the end of the month.  As for now, it's time to think about other games; I'm a free man, and consequently it's time for...

A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, May 14th, 2014 Edition

I think releases may have slowed down a bit, because I don't have quite the backlog I did last time.  In the current evolution of this blog feature, I will isolate titles into the following categories:
  • Interesting Tier - Games I might actually be interested in playing, I will provide a little writeup as to why.
  • Semi-Interesting Tier - Pretty good effort, but I can see why I won't be playing them, I will also provide a little writeup as to why.
  • Shovelware Tier - These games are either obvious cash grabs being shoved the market or else being made by people without much talent.  I'll try to keep what I have to say about these games short.
  • Fossil Tier - Games older than 5 years, but are properly dated in Steam.  I'll mention the year and their genre.
  • Automatic Boycott Tier - Games older than 3 years but are advertised as being brand new.  I'll mention the year and the publisher, and what you do with that is up to you.
Within each respective tier, I try to list games in reverse chronological order of when they showed up on Steam.

Right then, lets go!

Interesting Tier

The Last Tinker: City Of Colors - This is a 3D platformer that looks extremely creative and well-realized.  It looks to have a pedigree of equal parts Mario and Zelda, employed to good effect.  Not since Psychonauts have I been so impressed with how a 3D platformer looks, and I'm predicting that the worst thing about this game is that it will eventually end and leave you wanting more.
Lili: Child Of Geos - Another fantastic 3D platformer, the protagonist would seem to be an adorkable glasses-wearing woman who encounters a host of wonderful robots living in a lush tropical paradise.  "If you've enjoyed Zelda, Broken Age, or Psychonauts come on an adventure with Lili!" says the description.  This game is actually made by five senior Epic Games developers who broke out of the AAA paradigm so that they could make creative works of awesome on their own, and it shows.

I'm not really a massive 3D platformer fan, it's a bit of a coincidence that these two showed up in the same week as the most worthwhile of the crop.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure - Not just a point and click adventure, but a Cinematic point and click adventure, where a lot of full motion video scenes are employed.  Me, I think that's a great idea, I have no idea why this genre died out after it briefly flared up with the widespread increase of CDROM devices. 

Two fair warnings, though.  First, they decided to add a bunch of old clips from the early 2000 cornball series at random, which was dumb.  Second, you'll spend most of the game in a 3D walking simulator with graphics that look like they're at least 5 years old.   Still, it's good enough for my wish list.

Ascendant - This is a metroidvania style game, right down to the metroid inspired mini-map in the upper right.  Though my instincts told me it was a contender, I initially did not rank it as "interesting," because 2D platformers seem a bit tired to me. But, having seen it in action, it would seem to be a 2D platformer with good procedural generation and unusually good depth.  That latter point, "good depth," is the best kind of thing for a game to have.  The aesthetics aren't bad, either: on to my wishlist it goes.

Semi-Interesting Tier

Memento Mori 2 - A sequel to a 2008 horror crime drama adventure game that most of us never heard about because it was mostly a European release.  It's a 3D point and click adventure with pretty good models all around, but don't expect Crysis level graphics: the style is contemporary crime drama, everybody looks relatively realistic, in 3D animation sort of way.  I think Telltale Games was responsible for the modern resurgence in point and click adventures, but their games had something important that Memento Mori 2 does not: a genuinely charming appearance.  This game looks more like some kind of modern pop culture TV crime drama show.

Deadly Sin 2 -  A 2010 RPGMaker-made title that received some decent reviews, most of them saying it's not right to blame the platform: you either like old school JRPGs or you don't, and RPGMaker can actually turn out some pretty good products provided the story is alright and there's some actual talent behind them... pity about the low resolution, though.

Fistfull of Frags - It's a Western-themed arena shooter.  TotalBiscuit likes it, and I can see why: it keeps things simple, but not too simple, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the stylized textures or models in use.  That said, if it were anything other than what they're charging for it (and it's free) I can't see a whole lot of people who would bother to play what Team Fortress 2 already did better.

Fantasy Grounds - Fantasy Grounds is not technically a game.  It's a platform for playing tabletop RPGs over the Internet.  It's flexible enough to allow you to create your own games, but I think it's a given that a lot of people are going to use this to import their current pencil and paper classics, whether the developers want to avoid that copyright snafu or not.

Supreme Ruler 1936 - It certainly looks a lot older than it is.  Basically, this is an extremely obfuscated real time strategy game, great for you geopolitics lovers out there, but don't expect an easy learning curve.

The Agent Saga Rover Rescue - Unless you're looking to adopt an abused dog, better remember to include "Agent Saga" on Google searches for this game.  Clearly a ported touch device game, but I have to say that it looks sort of interesting.  I guess it's a top-down game where you control a spaceship that has landed on a planet's surface and is utilizing onboard defenses to keep environmental hazards away from evacuating rovers on the planet's surface.  During play, you unlock all these fun little devices to install onto your ship.

1849 - It looks dated, but it's actually just an iPad/Android port.  It's a city builder that takes place during the California Gold Rush, so you're essentially just building ghost towns.  A novel setting, I'll give it that.

Full Mojo Rampage - There's been a lot of games trying to replicate the success of Diablo by basically building that same isometric perspective fantasy combat game.  Full Mojo Rampage looks to be higher quality than most of them, and has an unusual theme in that you are basically a voodoo shaman with cartoony graphics.  I've definitely seen worse.

Blade Symphony - It's a fast-paced 3D action brawler that has "1 vs 1 sword fighting, 2 vs 2, or sandbox FFA."  The graphics are nice, but the scope is a tad to limited for me; I think if I were in the mood for being a techno-ninja, I'd rather play Warframe, which gives me whole environments full of enemies and better continuity between fights.  However, those two games really don't belong being compared to each other, Blade Symphony is basically a game focused entirely on making sword fighting interesting.

Aerena - Clash Of Champions - An interesting deviation to the MOBA formula, this is actually a turn-based game that involves a series of champion characters employing tactics to win.  "It's like speed chess meets LoL or DotA." Sounds interesting, but my only problem with it is the same problem I have with other MOBAs: I don't really have the time to learn a whole new roster of heroes.  You can also play this on your Android device.

Rise Of Prussia: Gold - Another grand strategy geopolitical game, like Supreme Ruler 1936 above, but this time the setting is during the Seven Years War in Europe.
Subject 9 - On first blush, I was sort of excited about this game, because the premise and presentation reminds me a lot of the Crusader: No Remorse series.  Once again, a top-down isometric viewpoint of one man versus a bunch of baddies in a high tech environment.  Then I hit play on that gameplay trailer and... well, it's just another Sci-Fi Diablo clone, isn't it?  Here's hoping it turns out better than the last few.

The Whispered World Special Edition - 2010 point and click adventure game.  No, tacking "Special Edition" at the end of the name does not make you exempt to the automatic boycott tier, but I'll overlook the fact that this game is being marked as a new release because this is actually a pretty original game that didn't get a whole lot of attention the first time around. 

Shovelware Tier

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition - If you never played a game in this series about mystical Eastern warriors singlehandedly beating down armies, then you're in for a treat.  For the rest of us, it's the eighth game in the series, this is a lackluster port of a 2013 console game, and they had the audacity to tack all that extra junk on the end of the title: three great ways to demote yourself to shovelware.

Coma: Mortuary - Another 3D game about walking around with a limited light source and spooks galore, sometimes the calls of, "If Amnesia: Dark Ascent can get attention, so can we!" are more deluded than others... they already are planning on selling this as the first part of a trilogy.

Chronology - "A platform-adventure game about time traveling," I don't think it does better what Braid and The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom already did, but it's more, I guess.

Coldfire Keep - An iPad import, on the PC Legend Of Grimrock did it better, as did Might And Magic X, but there's always this if you still want more.

The Culling Of The Cows - Like Redneck Racers from two weeks ago, a moonshine-swilling hillbilly ends up being utilized as camouflage to cover a crappy game: this time, it's a side-perspective zombie shoot em up that doesn't even bother to scroll.

Mana Crusher - This game is so casual that the Bejeweled formula was deemed too difficult, and then they added a host of wizard-themed beany babies as the characters... I think I lost 5 IQ points just watching the trailer.

The Impossible Game - Think I Wanna Be The Guy, except without any of the charm, and graphics so minimalist that nearly everything is either a square or a triangle... but at least there's a level editor!

Swipecart - I sort of like the nerd factor here, but there's probably nothing this game does that Happy Wheels didn't do better.

Bound By Flame - Apparently the developers noticed that Dark Souls was being commended for its punishingly hard combat and vivid fantasy environments, but missed the part about the combat being tight and interesting.

Empress Of The Deep: Song Of The Blue Whale - Hidden object game.  As I write this, it's only 50 cents at 90% off... a fitting price for these kinds of games, I'm actually going to buy it so I have a frame of reference for hidden object games.

Empress Of The Deep: The Darkest Secret - Seeing how this is a 2010 prequel to the above, I bought this one too, setting me back an entire dollar for the both of them, and beat this one in under 3 hours... apparently hidden object games are puzzle games in the most basic form whose most interesting thing is this dramatic plot they drape over it.

Theatre [sic] Of The Absurd - Another 2010 hidden object game by, no surprise, the same developer as the two above games.

Back To Life 2 - A simple top-down shoot-em-up involving being a "beneficial cell" making its way through a body.

Fossil Tier

Al Emmo And The Lost Dutchman's Mine - 2006, Point and click adventure.  (It does technically have some new improvements to it for the Steam edition, "reworked 2D animated cut scenes and a new voice actor for the protagonist.")

Iron Storm - 2002, First person shooter.

Descent Freespace - 1998, space fighter.  This game belongs on the automatic boycott list because whatever assholes are running Interplay throught it'd be fun to put a 2014 release date on it, but you know what?  Nobody has made a better space combat game than this, it's been over a decade and Volition Inc's Descent Freespace series is the best space combat game there is.  So, okay, I'll at least bump this up to Fossil Tier.

Warrior Kings: Battles - 2003 stand-alone expansion to a 2002 real time strategy game.

(On second thought, the next time I do this, I think I'll go ahead and make the fossil tier 3 years or older.)

Automatic Boycott Tier

World Of Subways 3: London Underground - May 2011, Aerosoft.

Wildlife Park 3 - April 2011, bitComposer Games.

Age Of Mythology: Extended Edition - October 2002, Microsoft Studios.  The 2014 extended edition "adds Steamworks integration, Twitch support, an enhanced observer mode, native HD widescreen and improved water and lighting," but you know what, it's still the same game, so I say giving it a 2014 release date is still wrong.


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