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A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, May 22nd 2014 Edition

WildStar this, WildStar that.  Clearly, I'm somewhat ensnared by the game, despite it being a theme park WoW derivative in most ways.  Yes, I caved; they have my preorder, and I'm looking forward of the May 29th head start.  What can I say?  I guess I'm a sucker for a telegraphing mechanic that pushes the envelope.
Why do I make such a big deal about telegraphs, anyway?  Well, take a look at this.

Still, in many ways, WildStar feels like a step back from Guild Wars 2.  The quests are back to being no more advanced than they were in World of Warcraft.  The dynamic world event system is not really there, unless you count the amusingly elaborate idle behaviors of some of the NPCs.  All that, and we're back to paying $15/mo again.  On the upshot, at least the endgame activity variety looks quite comprehensive, and this may well prove to be the most meaningfully challenging MMORPG to date (in terms of combat mechanic).

Nevermind.  We both know what you're here for, so it's time I do something productive with my weekend...

A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, May 22nd 2014 Edition

It's been a reasonably busy week on Steam, lots of indy releases, most of them terrible.  Well, if they're not going to try harder, why should I?  My previous categorizations from last week remain:
  • Interesting Tier - Games I actually want to play.
  • Semi-Interesting Tier - A good effort, but I can see why I won't be playing them.
  • Shovelware Tier - Either an obvious cash grab or being made by someone who isn't terribly good at making games.   (Yeah, I know: I'm one to talk).
  • Fossil Tier - This game is over 3 years old, and so, why the Hell am I even seeing it on the New Release list on Steam?
  • Automatic Boycott Tier - For games that are not only over 3 years old, but also marked as released this year on Steam.  Nobody likes being lied to their face, guys.
Here we go!

Interesting Tier

Transistor - Bastion was awesome, and Transistor is basically Bastion 2.0.  This time, you're some voiceless diva singer with a high tech sword in a robot-strewn futuristic dystopia, fighting in the shadows to reach the evil corporate overlords that are ruining everything.  Like in Bastion, environment is key; this game is designed to retell an elaborate narrative continually as you progress through it.  Combat is quasi-turn based; you can freeze time and plan out moves to execute, which is pretty cool.  On word of warning, Transistor about a 6-hour long game, and for $20 bucks I'm going to pass on that.  It'll be an incredible 6 hours though, you can be sure of that.

Fearless Fantasy - The graphics aren't the best, but this comedy action RPG is pretty cool looking in action. Trust me on this: sometimes really cheeseball games can nonetheless be interesting experiences.  The interesting thing going on here is that you have to complete the attacks in this JRPG style game by performing intricate mouse gestures.  Whether or not this is the best implementation of that idea, I like it.  Plus, it's only $7.

Battleblock Theater - I probably shouldn't put such a simple-looking 2D platformer on Interesting Tier, but this game has an excellent pedegree - from the makers of Castle Crashers -  and I get the feeling what we've got here is actually a really solid, stylized experience.  Expect tons of tongue-in-check Internet pop-culture humor.

Semi-Interesting Tier

The Great Jitters: Pudding Panic - It's a port of a mobile game with relatively novel mechanics, it's tough to describe but, from the looks of it, you're basically switching tracks in a haunted house so your little bug-like protagonist can get through to the end.  It reviewed quite well on the iPad, how will it do on PC?

The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II - Is anyone still playing Diablo clones?  Well, I understand the original Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing is largely considered one of the decent ones.  Now you can play this sequel, which looks a bit more 3D than the first.  Maybe I'll get around to it if I can ever commit to finishing Torchlight, an even better reviewed entry into the genre.

Warhammer 40k: Kill Team - A PC port of a 2011 console title, have you ever thought to yourself that what they really need to do with this intellectual property is to make an isometric 3D action shooter?  If so, your Xenos-infested ship has come in!  As for me, well, I tend to regard Games Workshop products with all the caution appropriate of somebody who would charge me $55 for a pewter figurine.
AntiSquad - AntiSquad looks to want to do for squad based combat what Team Fortress 2 did for arena first person shooters: introduce a cast of quipping characters unleashing zany carnage amidst cartoonish fonts.  Eh, it's probably alright, but understandably the character design of this indy title is not quite as good as Valve's finest can produce, so the whole idea of bringing iconic characters to this genre might not pan out as well as they'd like.

Out There Somewhere - Sometimes, I can read between the lines of a 2D platformer's simple presentation and style, and tell that it's a cut above the rest.  This game gives me the vibe that it's definitely out there somewhere.  The gameplay is old school, but I bet it's a fun romp.

MAX: The Curse Of Brotherhood - There were two gorgeous 3D platformers last week that made the Interesting tier.  This week, we have a gorgeous 2D platformer, which busts it down a dimension, but it nonetheless looks like the developers really know where they're doing.  I do ding it down to semi-interesting because it's about a tiny boy in a big scary world... tell me if you heard this one before; it has become a bit of a cliche.
Turbo Dismount - Stair Dismount was a free web game that garnered a lot of Internet attention for the sheer schadenfreude of throwing a polygon mannequin with elaborate physics simulation down the stairs for maximum damage.  Well, Internet, people's attention is an important commodity, and the return on your investment is a game about doing the same thing with the mannequin being the passenger in a variety of vehicles.  The worst thing for a player to do would be to take this game seriously, it's all about laughing (and sometimes wincing) at a mannequin in misery.

Q.U.B.E.: Director's Cut - A re-release of the 2012 game, I'll give Q.U.B.E. some credit for cool visuals and a wholehearted approach towards physic puzzles, but its mediocre metacritic reviews were probably justified, considering how boring sliding around cubes in a 3D environment actually is.

The Last Door - Collector's Edition - From the looks of things, this is probably the finest in deliberately-retro, 2D, pixel-based, point and click, horror adventure, that you can expect to see... but that description used about five terms that many people can identify as not being something they're interested in. 

Stranded - Oh hey, another deliberately-retro 2D pixel, ect, adventure game.  This one has more dots per inch, at least, and seems to take place with being stranded on an alien planet.  It's no Zack McCracken And The Alien Mindbenders, but it's indie and probably a reasonably decent experience to be had for $8.  Pity about the nondescript name, though... some people just don't want Google to find them, I guess.
I hope no lawyers from Origin get a good look at the character designs for Project Temporality.
Project Temporality - Oh look, another game about playing with time to crate clones of yourself in order to complete puzzles.  Bah!  It seems Steam gets at least one of these every week.  Well, this one looks to have unusually high production values, elaborate 3D Sci-Fi environments aplenty, so I'll at least bump it above shovelware tier.

Wolfenstein: The New Order - This is basically a triple-A game that tries to up the bar of what 3D first person shooters are capable of... without actually being made by the best people in the business, so that's not going to happen.  Personally, I think the way they hijacked the Wolfenstein brand and turned it into a Killzone knockoff is atrocious, but hey, if you want gunplay on an engine that makes you weep from the sheer beauty of it despite the carnage on your screen, that's basically what the developers were going for.  I could give you a link to a screenshot or a video but you might as well just close your eyes and imagine what a 2014 AAA first person shooter looks like, because your guess would not be far from the mark.  Yes, I'm accusing this game of being overwhelmingly generic.

Sweet Lilly Dreams - This looks to be about as good as RPGMaker games get.  It's a JRPG, of course, and has a lot of good looking pixel art, and even the ability to decorate your own in-game home.  Still, at the end of the day, it's still an RPGMaker game: I hope you like low resolutions.

Qualia 3: Multi-Agent - If you have ever thought, "The main thing missing from 2D top-down action shooter games is that they need to take place amongst microorganisms in a petri dish!" then you're probably spoiled for choice right now as everybody seems to be doing that.  That said, Qualia 3 is a real qualia product, I'm sure.

Radical Roach - It's a gross-looking 2D side-scrolling shooter about a cockroach fighting the mutated results of a nuclear holocaust.  Alright, I'll give them some points for having the balls to wrought these abominations in elaborate, slightly cartoony, graphics, even if nobody asked for this game.

Speed Kills - Port of an iOS top-down vehicular combat racing game.  It looks like a fairly good take to a type of game that we mastered making over a decade ago.

Dark Scavenger - A "bizarre point-and-click RPG adventure with a focus on exploration, gaining loot, and meaningful choices."  It looks like it's deliberately weird, you'll meet a lot of really funky looking aliens in decidedly odd environments, but I like the creativity I see on display here.

Frederic: Resurrection of Music - It's basically a rhythm game, which wouldn't be that interesting, but it's there's an hour worth of animated comics that look entertaining, and that does help quite a bit.  Not bad for $6.

Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - There hasn't been a Company Of Heroes game out in awhile, but fortunately, we've still got Men Of War, which is much the same idea of real time strategy in World War 2.  They don't call it "The Last Good War" for nothing.

Qbeh-1 - The Atlas Cube - It's another cube-based action puzzler, like Q.U.B.E., but this time there's a more ancient-magic theme going on, and I honestly think it looks a bit more interesting.

Shovelware Tier

I'll try to make this quick, but feel free to stop reading at any time, as you won't be missing much from hereon out.
  • White Noise Online - Clearly, the key to making a successful Amnesia: Dark Descent knockoff, a game about being scared and alone in the dark, would be to introduce four players coop and give everybody flashlights, right?
  • I Am Vegend - Angry Birds versus Plants versus Zombies without the copyright to any of them, leveraged into a simple 2D stand-your-ground game: yep, it's a shameless cash grab, alright.
  • Gardens Inc. 2: The Road To Fame - A casual strategy game about planting gardens, Steam says its new, BigFish games is selling it for $2.99 with a coupon and says it's 2013 for the "platinum" edition, I'm thinking this game might actually be Automatic Boycott Tier but I couldn't find the original release date to prove it: that shows you how little anyone cares about casual games.
  • Arcadecraft - Wouldn't a game about starting your own video arcade where you watch kids play arcade cabinets all day be great?  Only if you're overwhelmed with video arcade nostalgia.
  • Ballad of Solar - From Alawar, makers of other clicking simulators such as Farm Frenzy 4, comes Balad of Solar, primarily a clicking simulator.  The only way to lose is not to click, and the only way to win is not to play.
  • Panzer Tactics HD - An HD remake of a Nintendo DS classic, it's basically a really pretty version of old fashioned pencil and paper armchair general strategy games.  I wager the Battle Isle and Advance Wars series probably did a better job than this, but hey, knock yourself out. 
  • Inescapable - A Sci-Fi 2D platformer with Super Nintendo era graphics, its appeal has already escaped me.
  • Always Sometimes Monsters - An interactive story game all about making tough moral decisions, the graphics look like something I'd expect to see in some ancient Korean graphical chat program, but I suppose I can handwave that on account of how it's being so overwhelmingly edgy with its contemporary themes.  Pity about that RPGMaker resolution limit.
  • Victim of Xen - Yet another fairly decent showing from the RPGMaker crowd, it's just clique fantasy with decent production values, but I'd still have been willing to give this 2012 game the benefit of the doubt... if they weren't advertising it as a brand new, 2014 release!  If they were a year older, I'd have busted them down to Automatic Boycott tier for sure.
  • Firefighters 2014 - It's a fair bet that this game about directing firefighters is yet another one of those casual-targeting simulation games that look great on the cover of the box but actually plays so bad that you'll want to throw yourself in a fire afterward.
  • World Of Guns: Gun Disassembly - This game terrifies me.  First, because it's a free game that anyone can download in order to practice disassembling, assembling, maintaining, and firing 96 different weapons, and that's a bad combination when put in close proximity to the average misanthrope to frequent the Steam forums.  Second, because I'm pretty sure the developers can't afford the licenses from the gun manufacturers required to model all these guns so intricately.  Either way, somebody's in danger of getting shot, and I hope it's nobody I know.  Anyway, I doubt it's all that much fun to play unless you already have a fixation with modern implements of death.
  • Muffin Knight - TotalBiscuit was saying this is an inferior version of some other game.  Whatever, it's a cutesy casual puzzler, which is about as welcome in my hardcore gamer eyes as cataracts.
  • Pretentious Game - Yes, you are.  Basically, it's Thomas Was Alone again, a game about extremely rudimentary shapes representing people doing things on a 2D plane as a platformer.  It's probably not as good this time.
  • Ascend: Hand Of Kul - A PC port of a mediocre 2013 XBox Arcade game I guess it's decent enough if you can't get enough third person fantasy combat.  Judging by the trailer, there might be some God Of War style quick time event fights with gigantic bosses in there.
  • Retro Game Crunch - This game basically sets out the prove that making 8-bit games is so easy that they can make seven 8-bit games at once and crunch them together into the same product.  I expect each game will be significantly better than those in Action 52, but that's not saying much.
  • Paradigm Shift - I certainly wouldn't shift more than a pair of dimes for this game, which looks like a horror game from 90s, but is actually a recent PC port of a mobile device game.  It seems to have deliberately grainy scenes and a simple inventory, and probably plays vaguely like Myst without the full motion video segments.
  • Drakerz-Confrontation - A cool gimmick, it's a collectable card game that (optionally) uses a webcam to scan cards as you place them, which then spawn monsters on what the webcam is seeing on your monitor screen.  It's about as close to a real Yugioh Duel Disk system as current technology has, but here's the problem: you'll have to buy the cards.  Collectable card games are expensive, I'm keeping as far away from this one as possible.
  • Legionwood 2 - This RPGMaker-created game looks a bit simpler than many of them I've seen, right down to the stock textures and default stats.   I doubt the creator put as much effort into it as his contemporaries.
  • 100% Orange Juice - If you ever wonder what people mean when they say, "Kawaii Desu!" then give this game a play.  This board game is so heavily saturated with kawaii that you'll wake up in the middle of the night screaming.  Only hardcore otakus need apply.
  • Chompy Chomp Chomp - It's a top-down action game where up to four people control cute little monsters who eat everything they run across and eachother.  The description says it's for "people of all ages," but I think most people have outgrown this kind of game before they're out of gradeschool.
  • Rage Runner - Here, you drive straight down a trench at high speeds while avoiding barriers.  I honestly cannot imagine a more rudimentary game, but hey, it's in 3D!  Looks to me like somebody was learning Unity and decided to finish up a quick game with what they learned.
  • Shiny the Firefly - "Shiny the Firefly is a challenging platform adventure game... master trials, solve puzzles and use stealth" yeah okay, we've got, like, 500 of these.  This one is probably in the top 25% in appearance, but is sorely average in terms of gameplay.
  • The Treasures Of Montezuma 4 - Ladies and gentleman, a casual match-3 game.  Need I say more? 
  • Them-The Summoning - Match-3 not casual enough for you?  How about a hidden object game?!  Oh, but this one is edgy because it involves a murder mystery and supernatural forces! 
  • Orc Attack: Flatulent Rebellion - Oh God, why did you have to make a game about orc flatulence?  Okay, basically this is a simple 3D action game that you can play coop with others, everybody plays an orc, and they're going for a certain World of Warcraft-like appearance to everything.  Happy?  I'm not.
  • Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren's Call - a 2013 hidden object game, one of the newest ones I've seen on steam.  Hey, this one has a scantly clad mermaid, how bad can it be?  Well, I'm not paying $8 to find out.

Fossil Tier

I wonder if I should put Fossil tier above Shovelware tier.  After all, these games aren't necessarily bad, they're just old.
  • A.I.M. 2: Clan Wars - I seem to recall this 2007 vehicular combat game made a positive splash among the few people to try it when it first came out, but it didn't really catch on.  Better luck this time, guys.
  • Perimeter: Emperor's Testament - A 2006 expansion to the Perimeter, a game which briefly made real time strategy interesting again by introducing the idea of shielding areas by providing pylons with power.
  • Blade Kitten - A 2010 2D platformer with a 3D appearance, I haven't heard anything particularly bad about this game, other than it's just a 2D platformer with a 3D appearance.  The protagonist is a not-quite-legal catgirl, so they've already got the money of all the otakus in the world.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon: Deluxe (1999) and RollerCoast Tycoon 2: Triple Thrill Pack - These 2D isometric theme park simulations are pretty good, all things considered.  Some would say they're even better than the fully-3D RollerCoast Tycoon 3 that has been out on Steam for a few years now.
  • Fiesta - A Korean MMORPG released in the sates in 2008 and probably in South Korea a year or two before that, it's far from a cutting edge reflection of what MMORPGs have become.  But it's free, and look at how short those skirts are and, oh my, are those girls wearing bunny ears?  Clearly, Onson Soft knew their audience.
  • Toribash - Like Turbo Dismount, Toribash is all about seeing physics simulated polygonial people in pain, but this time the method of pain infliction is a one-on-one fight where you have to learn to control them... expect it to be a bit like playing CLOP at first.  I have no idea why Steam is showing this 2006 game as a new release, I'm pretty sure it was already on Steam years ago.
  • Panzer Elite Action: Gold Edition - Drive around in World War Two tanks and shoot things.  The texture work holds up pretty well, considering its age, but I doubt this game does anything that Toy Soldiers did not do better.  For that matter, you could play Battlefield Online, a Free To Play game, and get a better experience... well, except maybe for the company you'll meet.
  • The Flower Shop - A 2010 visual novel style game, it's mostly a pretty standard entry to the genre: invest your time every day in certain ways to bag the girl of your dreams.  However, there's also a gardening sub-game involving planting and harvesting crops.  This is on Steam, so don't go expecting this visual novel to be an eroge
  • Freddi Fish 3, Pajama Sam 3, Spy Fox 3, Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, ect - The deluge of old Humongeous Entertainment point-and-click adventure games continues to creep onto Steam.  Honestly, these games are probably pretty good... if targeting gradeschoolers.  Bear in mind that even the newest of them is still from around the year 2000.
  • Millionaire Manor - Wherever could this 2010 hidden object game take place?  Perhaps a domicile belonging to some comfortably well-off individual?  Surely not.
  • Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches - A 2008 Myst-like game.  Move from scene to scene and hunt those pixels!  Honestly a hidden object game is probably an improvement on this basic mechanic.
  • Sudokuball Detective - This 2009 game knows what Sudoku really needs: it needed to be stretched over a ball!  What's Sudoku, you say?  Oh, if only you were still living in 2009, you might actually know.  It's a game about putting the numbers 1 through 9 on a grid in such a way that they don't conflict with each other vertically or horizontally.  It certainly occupies the mind... in ways that are in no way remotely constructive.

Automatic Boycott Tier

  • Dehon Monsters Challenge Circus - If I'm seeing year 2008 trailers for this game, it's not a 2014 game.  You can do better than misdating your games, Strategy First.  The game is a pretty bad Diablo clone.
  • Vault Cracker: The Last Safe - There's 2010 walkthroughs out for this hidden object game, I think it's safe to say it's dated incorrectly.  Once again, whoever Strategy First has uploading their games to Steam has dropped the ball.
That's that.  There was a lot of games last week, and writing all this out took longer than I was really prepared to invest.  Well, if you like it, give it a like, tell your friends.  If you don't like it, tell me what you would like.
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