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Just some brief thoughts an a couple games I picked up recently when they were on sale at Good Old Games.


I missed this when it orignally came out in 2001, but after watching the quick look video on GiantBomb and seeing that it was 40% off (not any longer) on, I had to pick it up. What sold me on the game was learning that there are two sets of campaign missions: one focused on combat and one focused on economy. I’m generally bad at combat in RTS games and tend to turtle, so the notion of  having a whole set of missions where the primary focus is base-building is very appealing. I put a couple hours into the “Free Build” mode, and can say that even with the outdated graphics and interface this certainly hits all the right “build-a-castle-and-run-a-medieval-economy” buttons. If that sounds intriguing, it’s worth it even at the full price of $6.99.

Arx Fatalis:

This was 40% off on GOG at the same time as Stronghold and is another game from the early 2000s that I missed. A little research made it clear that this was a spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld in many ways. It was also apparent that a number of serious bugs, and a lack of production values, held this back from reaching “Classic” status. Fortunately the developers, Arkane Studios, have provided an impressive amount of ongoing support for the game. They released a patch and the engine source code in January of this year. The patch adds support for modern widescreen resolutions, anti-aliasing, and other fancy effects. Having only played a couple hours I don’t really have an opinion on the story yet, but it does allow an impressive level of environmental interaction (Want to cook the ribs you picked up off a rat? Just throw them in a campfire!) and having to use mouse to draw runes for spellcasting is very cool (if a bit finicky).

Stay tuned. I may actually post about games released in the last 5 years!

I was going through some of my old games when one particular disc caught my eye: Deus Ex. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of preview coverage and discussion about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so this is no surprise. After installing the game, grabbing the multi/single-player patch, and setting up the DX10 renderer, I was ready to jump back in to one of my favourite dystopian futures.

As I hadn’t played the game for about 7 years, I went through the tutorial to re-familiarize myself with the various systems and controls. I was certain that I would make it through the last section with all my limbs attached, but of course I was a little too close to the TNT when it went off… Fortunately for me, so was the security bot. I sheepishly dragged myself to the exit and hoped that Dr. Reyes had a couple legs to spare.

Now to start the game proper. I am immediately transported back to late 2000 when I first played this with barely any more information about it than what was on the box. Cyberpunk? Check. Grand conspiracy? Check. First person? Check. Sold. After the introduction is over I immediately put 9 millimeters of lead in the back of poor Corporal Collins’ head. Unfortunately, since I forget to throw the body in the water, my “brother” Paul notices and opens fire. He takes 3 rockets to the face before I’m cut down by his spray of semi-auto fire. Reload. This time I chuck Collins’ body in the ocean and Paul is none the wiser.

What follows is 30 amusing minutes of multiple reloads before I get a handle on the shooting and remember that on Hard, J.C. can’t take many close range shots to the body before expiring. I do manage to finally kill every NSF grunt I find, save Agent Hermann, look in every nook and cranny, and convince the NSF leader to talk. During all of this I am constantly impressed with the expansiveness of the Liberty Island level. The vegetation and other details may be a lot more sparse than modern games, but the variety of ways to approach a situation and the interplay between all the gameplay systems more than makes up for this. There are also so many doors to unlock, computers to hack and air vents to crawl through that it’s easy to look past some blocky level design and blurry textures.

This leads me back to Human Revolution, and whether or not I think it has any hope of achieving the unique blend of elements that makes the original a classic, while appealing to modern sensibilities. I have seen much discussion about the effect 3rd person cover systems and scripted takedowns will have on immersion, but I feel that is a far too literal focus what makes a game immersive. It is about more than if the camera is placed inside a character’s head or slightly above and behind their head.

Does the game provide the information I need to evaluate how to effectively approach a situation? Am I able to resolve a situation in a variety of ways? Does the world provide a strong sense of place and cohesion? To me these are the more important questions to ask than if the game is viewed in 1st or 3rd person. Fortunately, from the preview coverage (Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Eurogamer) and gameplay video I’ve seen, the answer to all of these questions looks to be a very strong “Yes”. Of course as Hamlet said, “The play’s the thing,” and the wait to get my hands on the next Deus Ex is nearly unbearable.

To occupy my time while searching for my homeworld I’ve played many video games and would like to share my thoughts on them. I have also found much joy in computer programming and have started a “game” that will provide an interactive account of my search. Any 2d artists looking for a project are welcome to contact me as my host body does not allow me the manual dexterity to produce quality artwork.