Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Behind The Times Gaming

Here we are, in the second month of 2013, and I've not posted a single thing in...a long time. A lot has happened in that time, and I'm still deciding on which things are actually relevant to this blog. There was a big trip to Disney World (relevant, and I'm almost done organizing the noted to write about that experience); contract work (not particularly relevant to this blog nor terribly interesting); lots of baking (including one cake that that made me tipsy after one slice); holidays (too late to be relevant); DIY house projects (possibly relevant); book reading (definitely relevant); and lots of gaming (always relevant).

Looking back, I last left off shortly after Retro City Rampage was unleashed on the masses – much to the joy of nerds who like old gaming “in-jokes,” and much to the chagrin of anyone who wanted to play a game for an hour without getting bored. It's a good game, and rather fun, just for short periods.

Since then there have been a ton of game releases, the yearly Steam Holiday Sale, and even some great deals from Amazon. If you're looking for previews of upcoming games, look elsewhere. This is Behind The Times Gaming, where you will read brief reviews of games I've been playing for months (well since last November, at any rate), and couldn't be arsed to write about out of sheer I-don't-give-a-damnery.

Payday: The Heist

Get together with friends. Rob banks, take hostages, and avoid local and federal authorities. After refusing to play with others since the days of Quake II, this game made me realize how much fun it is to actually play with others to cooperative reach a common goal.

Blades of Time

For the love of everything you enjoy, do not get this game. I'm not just telling you avoid buying it, to not acquire it under any circumstances. It's like playing the movie Sucker Punch but without any of that story baggage to dag it down. Add to that terrible voice acting, horrible mechanics, and zero sense of world building, and...well, you pretty much are left with Sucker Punch: The Game.

Borderlands (the first one)

It's an FPS! It's got Diablo-esque looting! Tons of weapons! Heavy nods to the Mad Max movie franchise! Plus great art design and simple mechanics! There's nothing to hate about this game!

Mark of the Ninja

Do you remember Ninja Gaiden on the NES? Mark of the Ninja is that games modern, fun-loving relative who doesn't believe in unforgiving physics.

Ace of Spades

This seems like the voxel version of Team Fortress 2. I took a risk on this one, and wound up fairly disappointed. I'm just not seeing the charm.


It tells a story of a zombie-infested world. Visually, I enjoy this game, however “always be running” is not the most appealing format.

Droid Assault

I would call this a spiritual successor to the old Robotron 2084 arcade game. I like the visuals, the music, and the frenetically-paced levels. Kill everything!

Party of Sin

This game had a very promising concept: As the Seven Deadly Sins you must fight through Hell. The major drawback is in switching between characters, which cannot be done as simply as tapping a shoulder button on a controller. This tends to halt what would otherwise be a fun platformer.

King's Bounty: War of the North

Sort of a cross between Heroes of Might & Magic, Neverwinter Nights, and Warcraft 3. I've been having quite a bit of fun with this strategy game.

Endless Space

Do you like grand strategy? Do you miss games like Starflight? Do you like outer space? Do you want a game where the developers stay very involved and fix problems to deliver the most enjoyable experience to the players? You owe it to yourself to get this game and set aside (at least) one evening to lose yourself in its extremely deep gameplay.

Risen 2

Do you like pirates? Do you like role-playing? Do you like open-world games like GTA, but wish for something that wasn't in a modern city? Apart from being poorly optimized and the VERY janky mechanics (and stilted conversations), Risen 2 is...okay. (To be fair, I was spoiled on fighting mechanics by the time I started playing this, but I will get to that a little later.)

Sleeping Dogs

Over the past two years, I've come to enjoy non-Rockstar open world games, and Sleeping Dogs may rank at the top of my list. Set in Hong Kong this game is beautiful and full of action – from hand-to-hand combat, to high speed chases, to...karaoke. Taking cues from anything Chow Yun Fat starred in prior to 1998, Sleeping Dogs will gladly indulge your every violent whim (and desire for some sweet, sweet karaoke). You must own this.


Defenders of the Ancients 2, or DOTA 2, is a multiplayer on-line battle arena game, akin to League of Legends. (I can hear the rebuttals from players of each title starting to rise, and having played both, I can safely say if you distill both, they are very much the same.) I can see the appeal, and with the proliferation of invitations, I think even the neighbor's cat plays this game. However, after a few hours, I can safely say this game is not for me...yet.

Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy

If you've enjoyed RPGs from the late 1980s and beyond, then you will probably enjoy how this game breaks down the experience into its elemental parts (exploring, fighting, talking, gaining experience, etc.) and then tosses a time limit on top of everything. The game is frantic, very enjoyable, and a great way to kill a few minutes if you don't have hours to invest into a larger game full of cutscenes and useless tutorials.


It took a while for me to pick this one up, but the game felt like it could have been straight out of Heavy Metal. Platforming, puzzles, space pirates, and space truckers. Definitely worth $5.

Anno 2070

The last few iterations of Sim City left me cold. As such, I've shied away from any city building games for a few years now. When SA Goon and Steam buddy Kragger99 gave me this as a present for the holidays, I loaded it up, opened a nice cold beer, and sat down to play. Past the basic tutorial and very well-thought out skill trees, Anno 2070 has such deep gameplay that – 9 hours after I started – I realized the day had flown by, my beer (the one I'd opened right before I started playing) was still full and now warm, and I needed to shave. Since then, I've put many hours into Anno 2070. If you like city simulation and strategy games, get this – but only if you're willing to sacrifice any contact with the outside world.

Iron Brigade

Another fun co-op game from the folks at Double Fine (Stacking, Psychonauts, etc.). Playing this as a single-player game is not entirely disappointing, and playing with a friend is even more fun. Just when you think the game is starting to get too predictable (close to the end of the first chapter), the game throws you a twist and you look at the game with renewed interest. The only major drawback to playing this (single or multiplayer) is not being able to skip the cutscenes – even on missions you've already played.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

My first exposure to Scribblenauts was for the Nintendo DS. It was a quirky game in which I had to think of ways to solve puzzles or fight battles by using words. Scribblenauts Unlimited is really no different in concept, except it has a much larger world and equally larger vocabulary. It's a very fun casual game.


I never played this before its release on Steam (gaming, for me, is really tied to unlocking achievements, these days). It's a match-3 (or more) like Bejeweled, but there's a twist (because there has to be). You must kill monsters, upgrade weapons, research potions, and lots of other things on the top third of the screen. You do this by matching combinations of tiles on the bottom two-thirds. I'm sure you'll find a lot of mixed reviews, but for a game to play simply to pass time, 10 Million was a lot of fun.

Binary Domain

Another great gift from an SA Forums Goon. Binary Domain could easily accompany The Second Renaissance from The Animatrix. Humans take on robots in this duck and cover shooter. If anything, you need to play this game to hear the lines from one of your teammates, Big Bo.

LEGO Lord of the Rings

A fun game (as the LEGO games usually are) with a large open-world map and tons of things to discover. The initial play through is quite linear, but with all the humor that the LEGO team brings to the table and the convention of an epic story told through tiny bricks, LEGO LOTR is great for casual stints as well as long gaming sessions. The only drawback was that when I finished the game, I found myself wanting to play Lord of the Rings Online to continue my LOTR gaming fix.

Wizardry Online

If you've ever played any of the older Wizardry games and liked what made them unique, then Wizardry Online is not for you. It looks like a generic MMORPG, and is just tedious (provided the servers aren't bogged down). All of the lore is gone. All the colors (except shades of brown) are gone (presumably to take up residence in interesting games), and the sense of fun is (I'm guessing) a premium download for platinum subscribers...or something. Anyway, Wizardry Online is not worth the time or hard drive space.

Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition

Back in 2010, a good friend introduced me to Demons Souls. I played for a while, met the first monster, and died. I stared at the screen, caught somewhere between wanting to smash the television and curling up in the fetal position. Dark Souls is no different. Unlike many difficult games that simply don't enjoy being played, Dark Souls is very happy to have you enter its world, and relishes every single opportunity to leave your corpse on the ground. This is not a game you rush through. The game punishes stupidity and impatience. The game mechanics are fantastic and the visuals are beautiful. You are thrust into a world where you are constantly learning and discovering new things (or perhaps this is because I didn't bother to read the instructions), and it pays to tread lightly and go over old ground to see if anything new has revealed itself. Remember then I mentioned earlier that I can't really jump into games where the main character has to fight other people/monsters because I'd been spoiled by combat mechanics in another game? Dark Souls is the game that spoiled me.

Whew! A lot of games up there, and looking at the 2013 line-up, there are even more to come. As I get caught up on my own backlog, I'll probably review individual games at length, rather than hit the reader(s) with a bunch of quick reviews.

In the meantime, if you want to get the scoop on the latest releases, without hearing the same lines that other reviewers are spewing, check out Shot Gaming for concise and funny reviews - and subscribe to their YouTube Channel!

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