Feb 192013
 

Steam-LogoValve recently announced the launch of their popular digital games distribution platform, Steam, for Linux. This is exciting for open source software hippies like myself, who use Linux as part of their every day computing life.

The client can be easily downloaded via the Ubuntu Software Center (Ubuntu is the recommended Linux distribution for Steam), and to celebrate the launch over 50 Linux compatible games are 50-75% off until Thursday, February 21st.

Now if only I could get a PC worth playing games on…

Oct 102012
 

As you all know, I really like Torchlight II. I had a blast during the open beta test, and when Runic Games hooked us up with the real deal, I knew I was going to have even more of a blast. This review was written before I even needed to start thinking about it. Torchlight II is an awesome game. It is of course, perfect by no means, but Torchlight has taken me for a ride that I never expected from a series of click-happy dungeon crawlers. I’m no PC gaming enthusiast, but Runic Games is a developer that I will be following for years to come. Continue reading »

Sep 112012
 

 

They Bleed Pixels, the first retail release from developer Spooky Squid Games, is a Lovecraftian 2D platformer/brawler that subscribes to the N+ and Super Meat Boy school of thought. The main character, a troubled little girl sent to a school for troubled little girls, finds a glowing book that gives her some unsavory powers and the ability to fight her nightmares, the implied reason she’s at the school in the first place. What follows is a lot of jumping, stabbing, collecting, and of course dying. But is it fun?? Meh. Continue reading »

Aug 082012
 

For the last few months my gaming interests have been shifting away from video games just a bit and moving more towards board gaming. Specifically hobby games like Arkham Horror, Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy, and Dust Tactics to name a few popular ones. There’s a point to that last statement and it will come to meaning shortly.

Endless Space was a game that I never saw coming as I’d been largely tuned out from gaming news. But that’s not to say I would have heard of it otherwise as I think most gamers might not have. Endless Space sort of slipped through the cracks and I was fortunate to have stumbled upon it .

If you’re familiar with the 4X genre – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate –   then you know more or less how Endless Space is going to play out. You start on a planet in your local solar system with a fledgling empire and no idea what’s really out there beyond your home star. Sounding familiar, human? From there on out it’s a mad dash across the galaxy to discover habitable planets, take advantage of the available resources, and protect your borders from competing alien empires. Along the way you’ll research new technologies, encounter aliens species, and either wage galactic warfare or engage in diplomatic relations with your neighbors. This is very similar to Civilization and one of my personal favorite board games, Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy.

The planets that you explore will have different compositions. Common planets will be gas giants and barren rocks. Terran worlds that are naturally life supporting for humans will be less common. There are numerous others to be found and although early on you won’t be able to colonize many of these planets future technologies that you acquire will enable you to exploit some of the less hospitable worlds.

The technology trees are divided in four categories – diplomatic, warfare, applied science, and environmental. While I haven’t explored the entire technology tree I’ve dived deeply into environmental research and I was able to expand across the galaxy pretty effectively. Through warfare I was able to start developing some pretty powerful weapon systems for my ships… or so I thought…

It didn’t take too long for me to realize I had spent way too much time colonizing worlds and exploiting their resources. When the aliens came they arrived in battle ready fleets and crushed any opposition I could throw at them. It was wholesale slaughter – space is a hostile place it seems.  Battles are played out through automatic or manual modes. In automatic mode the battles are decided by the numbers and the stronger force emerges victorious. In manual mode you have a little more control over the subtleties of the encouter as your fleets close distance. You pick from a selection of cards to indicate what you wish for your fleet to do. You’ll pick one action for long range, one for medium range, and another yet for short range distance. So for example one card I play at a far distance will reduce enemy weapons accuracy. Medium distance I might raise up my shields. And up close I go all out blitz with my kinetic weapons. To be honest – the cutscenes are great and it could be argued that the real excitement is watching the battles unfold. Impatient gamers are going to pick automatic mode after the first manual encouter though I suspect.

There are different kinds of ships for the different species you play as – humans have colony ships to establish solar systems outside the home system. Defenders do just as you would assume – defend your colonies from aggressive opponents. Finally scout ships are great for quickly working your way through the galaxy to see what’s out there.

Admittedly I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Endless Space having only tried a couple of species and pursuing a couple different types of victories. While I’ve not won a game yet playing on normal difficulty I feel like I learn something new every time that’s going to give me an advantage in future matches.

With Endless Space I almost feel as though I’m playing something originally tooled to be a board game. Maybe it’s just my recent foray into the world of cardboard but something tells me the person who designed this game brought the idea up for a board game and someone told them, “You’re crazy – this is going to make Twilight Imperium look like a round of Boggle…”. And thus it was born a video game!

So how do I feel about Endless Space? It may very well be one of my top games of the year. It has a great theme, solid strategy, and epic space battles… even if those battles are number crunches above all else…

If I had to cite anything negative about Endless Space it would be the tutorials. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are useless they don’t do a great job of teaching you how to play the game. You end up just click on random stuff and it tells you what it does. I like a game of this complexity to help lead me by the nose early on until I get the hang of stuff but the tutorials here. So the tutorials aren’t going to impress anyone. Also the mouse clicking action is really temperamental. You have to click in exactly the right spot for some objects which makes the learning process all the more difficult. Once you get over these poor design elements and know how to play and know where to click this game really opens up and starts to shine.

Endless Space is a PC game available through the Steam service for $29.99 and while it’s listed as an independent strategy game it feels just as well put together as any game out there. If this game were being published by EA or Firaxis you wouldn’t even know it was an indie title. I am very hopeful that the devs take away what they’ve learned from Endless Space to craft a sequel that improves upon this new and exciting series.

Endless Space

ProsDeep gameplay and well balanced strategy elements to satisfy any 4X fan
ConsUninspired tutorials and some difficult mouse clicking here and there
VerdictOne of the best strategy games to come along in a while. Play this with a pair of headphones and just space out. The best game you've never heard of. Improve the tutorials and the mouse response and it's damn near perfect.
Rating
90%

Steam Summer Sale is live!

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Jul 122012
 

The seasonal sale on Steam has started today!  Most of the games in their library have been discounted, so if you’ve had your eye on a game, now would be a good time to add it to your wishlist.

However, due to the influx of users, they will be experiencing a few errors over the next week or so…  When I try to connect, it tells me that certain games aren’t available in my region, for example.

You know, I was thinking about moving to Canada anyways...

What games are you going to try and nab for cheap?

Ys Origin | Review (PC)

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Jun 062012
 

The PSP is gasping for breath on its deathbed, and the Vita hasn’t quite established itself as a vehicle for sales yet. Where can smaller franchises like Ys go that, while storied and popular in their own niche, can’t quite afford to take leaps of faith? The answer is Steam. Our friends over at XSEED Games have finally done what would’ve made sense a while ago and brought the Ys series to a platform in which it has the potential to reach many more gamers. They first tested the waters with the original version of Ys: The Oath in Felghana (Previously released in the form of a PSP port), and have followed that up with Ys Origin, a game that has never seen North American release before. Continue reading »

May 222012
 

DRM makes me sad. Very sad. Especially when it manifests itself as an unavoidable roadblock between me and my potential enjoyment of a game. Yes, I’m not so subtly referring to Diablo 3. Forcing me to be tied to Blizzard’s clearly unstable servers, even when I want to play single player, is a joke. Even worse are the new reports of item and account theft, showing that whatever is supposedly being accomplished by this draconian security measure, protecting the accounts of gamers surely isn’t it. Luckily for me and my soap box (It is a very nice soap box by the way), my dungeon crawling woes have been answered by the fine folks over at Runic Games, in the form of a weekend beta test for this summer’s upcoming Torchlight 2. After playing nonstop for several hours and sleeping in embarrassingly late, I’d like to take a moment to share with you all why this game is just so damn cool. Continue reading »

Mar 132012
 

Publisher XSEED Games has announced that it will be bringing the legendary Ys series to PC via steam, starting with the release of Ys: The Oath in Felghana on March 19th, and Ys Origin following on a yet to be announced date. Ys: The Oath in Felghana will have a price point of 14.99. XSEED brought Otah in Felghana to the states in the form of the enhanced PSP port in 2010, but this release will be the original 2005 version of the game from developer Nihon Falcom with added Steam functions such as achievements and cloud support.

“People have been asking for Falcom’s great catalog of PC games to be officially made available in English for a long time,” said Jun Iwasaki, President of XSEED Games. “To start our new publishing arrangement on Steam with two standout entries from Falcom’s action-based Ys series, one of which has never been made available in English before, is an ideal situation for us, and we are excited about the future possibilities.”

Ys Origins has never before been released in English, and operates as a prequel to the story of the first two games, focusing on the Twin Goddesses and the Black Pearl. It is also the first game in the series to not include the series’ staple protagonist, Adol Christin.

Humble Bundle 4 is out!

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Dec 132011
 

Today, the Humble Bundle returned with a new iteration with more amazing games you can nab for a great price.

For any price that you name, you can pick up DRM-free copies of Shank, Super Meat Boy, NightSky, Jamestown, and Bit.Trip Runner.  Beat the average price, and you can score Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles too!

All of the games are available on Steam as well.  Did I mention they’re cross-platform?  Mac, PC, Linux… everybody wins! You can even choose how your money is divided between the developers, the Child’s Play charity, or the Red Cross. I highly suggest grabbing a copy of these before the sale’s over!