Thoughts: Wolfenstein – The Old Blood

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It’s been a little difficult to find the time and motivation to write recently so posts may be somewhat more infrequent over the next couple of months. 

When you say the words “expansion pack” to me, the things that immediately spring to mind are the classic expansion packs in the RPG and strategy genres. Yuri’s Revenge, Throne of Bhaal, Lord of Destruction — it’s a list that stretches on and on. Given the great success of the idea here it’s easy to forget there was once a time when the FPS expansion pack was just as popular, starting with basic Doom WADs and continuing on through the Quake and Half-Life expansion packs to Call of Duty: United Offensive, which was the last really high-profile one. FPSes have since experimented with episodic content and smaller bite-size chunks sold as DLC, but while the RPG/strategy expansion pack concept lives on thanks to the sterling efforts of developers such as Firaxis and Blizzard, first-person shooters have pretty much discarded full-on expansion packs as a decidedly old-school idea.

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Thoughts: Crypt of the Necrodancer

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You’ll probably have heard of Crypt of the Necrodancer already; it’s a “rhythm-action roguelike” with a pun name so terrible it loops all the way back around to awesome, and which got a lot of positive press when it came out on Early Access around August last year. The concept was interesting enough that I broke my Early Access rule to try it for a couple of hours, but while I was pleased to see there was a lot of promise in the core mechanic of moving your character in time to a beat the amount of actual content present was a little bit limited, and so I left it to what I assumed would be a protracted period of Early Access limbo. However, developers Brace Yourself Games have shocked me by actually bringing Necrodancer out of Early Access a mere eight months after it first appeared on Steam 1 and pushing it to full release last week. Unlike its Early Access phase this is something that’s gone almost completely unremarked upon by the gaming press at large (or at least the parts of it I follow), and this confuses me, because this finished version of Crypt of the Necrodancer is the best roguelike I’ve played since Spelunky.

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  1. This is the equivalent of breakneck development speed for an Early Access title.

Thoughts: Shadowrun Dragonfall

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I’m coming to Dragonfall rather late. Originally a stretch goal for the original Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter campaign, Dragonfall was first released as an expansion back in February 2014.  I did play it at the time, and got about halfway through before burning out, something I’ll blame on it coming out a little too hot on the heels of Shadowrun Returns for my tastes. Even then, though, I could see that Dragonfall was a significant cut above the game it was supposed to be expanding on. Partly this was because Harebrained Schemes had had time to fix most of the bugs and technical limitations I complained about in my original review, but mostly it’s because they — gasp! — also took the opportunity to iterate and expand on the structure and mechanics on their second go around. Harebrained obviously knew they had a winner on their hands because they took the additional time to polish Dragonfall up, overhaul the interface and bulk out the weaker areas of the expansion so that they could release it as a standalone game. And the resulting Director’s Cut is very good indeed.

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Thoughts: Pillars Of Eternity

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Pillars of Eternity is a game that’s trying to be too many things to too many people.

To Obsidian, it’s a chance to prove themselves; after years of putting out bugged/incomplete titles because of publisher interference, they can finally show what they can do when developing a game with their own funding on their own schedule. To the gaming world at large it has some sizeable shoes to fill as a spiritual successor to the old Infinity Engine games, a Baldur’s Gate 3 in all but name.  And to the people who backed it on Kickstarter, and who have been waiting the best part of three years for the game to be finished, there were a lot of promises made. Strongholds! Cities! A 15-level mega-dungeon! All things that would require a lot of time and effort in order to do properly, and since Pillars of Eternity is also the most successful game Kickstarter that’s actually going to be released it’s fair to say that Obsidian must have been feeling the weight of expectation a little bit.

Given that, is it really any wonder that they’ve ended up playing it safe?

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Thoughts: Sid Meier’s Starships

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Sid Meier’s Starships . It’s not a name that sounds particularly promising, is it? Sid’s a fan of pithy one- or two- word titles, and he’s used them to great effect in the past. What else would you call a game about the progress of human society through the ages except Civilization? They are usually appropriately descriptive; in Railroad Tycoon you play the part of an 1830-era railroad tycoon. Even the simplest ones were jazzed up by the addition of an exclamation mark: Pirates! is a little muddy as a descriptor, but you can at least tell Sid is very excited about it and thinks you’re going to have a lot of fun playing it. ( And he was right. ) Even the worst of his games, Railroads! , was saved by the exclamation mark and by the fact it did somewhat signal the transition from meaty business sim to playing with a virtual toy railway set.

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Thoughts: Homeworld Remastered

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The Homeworld Remastered Collection is a packaged rerelease of space strategy classics Homeworld and Homeworld 2. I didn’t like Homeworld 2 the first time around, and so this is largely going to be a review of the remastered version of the first Homeworld.

Gearbox strikes again.

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Thoughts: Hand of Fate

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With the recent surge in popularity for both the virtual card game and roguelike genres, the only really surprising thing about Hand of Fate is that it’s taken this long for somebody to come up with the idea of fusing the two together.

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