Thursday, March 25

Some Gaming Updates

PAX East is coming up this weekend! I’m looking forward to the premiere of Get Lamp and seeing Jonathan Coulton. I’m somewhat worried about overwhelming demand for the shinier panels and events, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the spirit of all of this, some short films about my recent gaming:

I had a whole lot of fun with Dragon Age: Origins, both in the gameplay and — surprising to me — the roleplaying. This is the first time I’ve ever played a game where I made up my own backstory for a character and tried to stay true to it. (My character’s primary motivation in becoming a mage was to learn how to turn into a bear to get back at the kids who used to pick on her.) I haven’t yet finished it (stuff got in the way) but I’m in the end game and am eager to finish it and then start over with a new character, a dwarven noble I’m basing on Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. I’m also eager to play the expansion. And eager to play Mass Effect 2. Might need to delegate some of this.

Uncharted 2 was amazing, a masterpiece by masters at the top of their form. Rick likes it, too. I’m going back through for treasures (might be able to platinum this one), and also playing co-op with friends (well, so far “friend”) whenever I can. Want to do more of that. Please seek me out on PSN (I’m OldMainstream) if you’re interested.

I had fun with Heavy Rain. Pretty good story and surprisingly immersive gameplay. They were incredibly successful at conveying both effort and action though the button prompts. Holding down buttons in an awkward order is actually very effective at making you feel the difficulty of, say, opening a glovebox when injured and upside-down. Getting the timing right during fights really gets the heart racing as well. My first playthrough gave me a nearly–mega happy ending, with enough that went wrong to make me feel like it was a real story. I’m going through again for trophies. It kind of breaks the magic of the branching narrative, but, hey: trophies.

A panel by Susan Wu at SXSW got me to try Ohai’s City of Eternals on Facebook. I like a lot of the philosophy of low-comittment gaming and I’m somewhat interested in the social side of things, but the actual gameplay of this one didn’t do anything for me. The fights were just too long, tedious, and then repeated too often, except for the ones that didn’t scale and just killed me instantly.

I am, however, now very into Mafia Wars. It’s excellent at dosing out 5-minute bits of play several times during the day, with some good set-collecting mechanics and just enough helping out (and being helped by) your friends. I’m nevertheless disappointed that the game rewards and encourages having an unrealistic number of “friends” playing it as well. No, I’m not going to friend strangers on Facebook just to grow my “mafia.” I’ll just have to make it through with me and my four real-life homies. And I’m not giving Zynga any cash.

I tried FarmVille to see what it was all about. It’s a paint program with a farm theme that wants you to give it money. Couldn’t get into it. Sorry farmy neighbor friends, you probably won’t be getting any more gifts from me.

Even worse are the Facebook city-building games. I tried two that I saw ads for. Was hoping for SimCity Lite. Got FarmVille except that you don’t need to even grow things.

Cait’s frustration with the jankiness that is SimCity 4 got her to try a game of Civilization IV that I advised on. We had a lot of fun and now I’m back interested in Civ, playing a bit of Revolution on iPhone and DS and looking longingly at the Civ 4 box. I’m ashamed to admit, though, that I’m a tiny bit reluctant to play it due to lack of achievement / advancement support. When I finish a game, what do I have to show for it? (Other than hours of fun. And, it’s not exactly like an achievement or finishing a story in a game is really something that can be considered “shown for.”) But I guess I’ve become a person who needs Goodreads in order to justify books. I am totally crazy excited about Civilization Network. Sid Meier, take me away!

Trying Zombie Farm on Jono’s recommendation. Even though it is FarmVille + zombies, by being an iPhone game its T-friendliness might endear it to me.

Playing games? Especially free ones you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments.