Gauntlet 2014

Gauntlet 2014 is a great follow-up to the original Gauntlet.. though a little on the short side.  Like the original, it’s got fast-paced action with plenty of enemies, and there’s also the addition of skill progression and the option to play with friends too.  I love the art style, too..

Gauntlet Dungeon screen

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Betrayer Announced

Indie game developer Blackpowder Games today revealed their debut title Betrayer, an eerie and atmospheric first-person action adventure game for the PC.

Betrayer logo

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Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions

We got hold of an early access demo key to BioWare‘s Mass Effect 3, so instead of getting on with one of the many games I’m part-way through, I fired up the 360 to play.

I’ve not played the previous games in the series, although friends have; so I’ve heard plenty about the various companions in the games.. either for their fighting abilities or lack of, or for the romance options which I think are optional.  In fact, that was almost all I knew about the series, along with knowing about the dialogue choices that affect the storyline, and the ability to carry your character over from one game to the next.

I was surprised to see that players are given the option to choose the mode of the game: Action, Roleplaying or Story mode.

Action Mode means adjustable combat difficulty, and replaces dialogue options with cutscenes, whilst Story Mode enables character customisation and dialogue options during conversation.  Roleplaying mode allows you to customise your character, choose dialogue options and still adjust combat difficulty: this is how the previous games worked, and sounded like a good balance to me.

The next choice was what class to be.. which came down to the mix of combat, tech or biotics I wanted to use.  They all sounded interesting.. stealth, powerful close combat attacks, the ability to deploy combat drones.. but I picked Adept as the ability to fire micro singularities at my enemies sounded pretty awesome 🙂

After that, there were a few other choices for background, reputation and potential psychological issues.. whether you’re an orphan who manages to survive disasters while all around you die, or whether you’re an army kid prepared to risk yourself for your team mates and so on.. I suspect these choices come into play during the story, or influence your available dialogue options.

The first part of the demo sees Shepard being brought to the Defense Committee, who are worried as they have been receiving distress signals, and lost touch with colonies and so on.  Shepard says it’s the Reapers, but the Committee are still unsure, until the Reapers actually arrive on the scene..

The Reapers destroy the building we’re in, killing the Committee, and when we get outside it’s obvious they’re destroying the rest of the city too.

Impressive, massive machines.. 🙂

I followed the Admiral out of the ruined buildings and across rooftops, heading for a landing zone and pickup from the Normandy.

I’m not convinced by the constant aiming.. Shepard only lowered the gun when sprinting, so there was a point where I was running along aiming my empty gun at nothing in particular!  The controls felt great with just one odd bit: running with the A button, then melee with B.. I think that would make running and hitting a bit awkward.. but maybe melee combat only really comes up in closer quarters.  Playing as an Adept, I would probably be using the Singularity and then shooting the enemies trapped in it, and avoiding melee.

The dialogue options were fairly simple: at different points in the conversation, a few options appeared on a little circle at the bottom.  You just pick the one you want, and Shepard says something with the same general meaning.. I think this has little effect on events in the demo, but it’s nice to feel involved.. and in the full game this should mean different reactions and endings depending on what you picked.

The second part of the demo is a mission to collect a female Krogan from a Solarian base.. there’s a bit of drama to start with because the Solarians don’t like Rex, the male Krogan on your team.  Going to get the female, though, requires fighting through Cerberus forces on the way up through the building.

This action was good fun, moving from one area to the next, flanking enemies, hitting them with singularities and using cover.  Cover has been improved from the previous games: you are able to move around the side of some objects while using them for cover, though the game has been designed so that you can’t just pop your head out and kill all the enemies without moving.

Just before we finally got to the female Krogan, a huge mech was dropped into the building..

He had shields and armour to get through, and though I used cover, it didn’t protect me complete from the rockets fired by him, or the grenades thrown by the Agents who appeared to back him up.  One tough, but very satisfying fight.. I ended up moving around the whole map to get some distance and avoid the rockets, as well as dealing with the Agents.

I’m now looking forward to this game.. we’re probably going to get it on the 360 to share, rather than buying a copy each on Origin (yes, it does require Origin on PC).

Mass Effect 3 is due to be published by EA on the 6th March in the US, and the 9th March in the UK and Europe.

Dungeon Defenders

Dungeon Defenders is a Tower Defense Action-RPG game by Trendy Entertainment.. delayed some months, but finally released yesterday.  There have been a few combination tower defense and action games lately, and like the others, there are two phases per round: the Build phase, where you place barriers and traps, then the Action phase, where the enemies come..

Our enemies here are goblins, orcs, dark elves and similar, and they head towards the Eternia Crystal in the centre of your castle, while you use your player character’s abilities to help fend them off, as well as repairing and upgrading your defenses as you go..

There are four classes of player characters to choose from: Apprentice, Huntress, Squire and Monk, each with their own abilities and defenses, and apparently more to come later.  The characters all level up and acquire loot through the game too, unlocking more defensive options and stronger abilities.

The game has a singleplayer mode, as well as co-op for up to four players, and a PvP mode.  We had a few problems getting into the game to start with.. being unable to connect to the servers or each other.. we managed to launch the game around an additional update coming out, but after validating the game files and restarting a few times, we were able to get into a co-op game together.

Starting off, you are placed in the host’s Tavern.. this has a number of other features I’ve not yet explored.  From here, you can choose whether you’re doing a Campaign or a Challenge, and choose the level and difficulty.

For our first co-op playthrough, I took the Apprentice, who specialises in elemental towers and magical attacks.  He starts off with a Magic Missile Tower.. but it wasn’t too long before I was also able to use Magic Barricades.  I’m looking forward to the Fireball and Lightening towers, but I’ll need to level up more first!

The enemies will go out of their way to attack your defenses, but you can repair them, and with enough mana, upgrade them too.

Killing enemies awards mana, and at the end of every level you can open chests around the map, which provide mana as well as various pieces of loot.. armour and weapons.  Loot comes with varying stats on it, and some pieces are class-specific, so as it dropped we shared it out accordingly.. my friends were playing as the Squire and the Monk.

After defeating all waves on the first level, we were able to move straight on to the next level, which had enemies coming from three sides.  We were doing well enough until the Kobolds arrived.. but they explode, and cause rather a lot of damage..

If you are killed, you have a short count-down to respawning.. but if the enemies have reached your crystal, that’s time you don’t want to spend laying on the floor 😉

The three of us were unable to beat the second level on this attempt, but as the characters have levelled up and gained some nice loot, I’m sure we’ll do better next time..

Free to Play Games on Steam

Steam announced some free to play games this week: RPG / MMOs; Champions Online, Global Agenda: Free Agent, Spiral Knights and Forsaken World, and an action game, Alliance of Valiant Arms.  Free-to-play games usually include some sort of paid features.. extra skins, more equipment, or faster levelling.. or serve up adverts or limit the places you can go in the game while free.. so this announcement got my attention..

Champions Online requires payment to play past level 40, which at least allows a good trial of the game, in which you play a hero going up against Dr. Destroyer and his minions.. the game also apparently allows you to customise your own character, but more interestingly, your own customised enemy to harass you throughout your superhero career.  This sounds rather interesting, though.. another game with a big open world?  I need more free time 😉

Global Agenda: Free Agent‘s free version allows all the game’s content to be played, but you can pay to speed up levelling and purchase better gear more quickly.  I actually bought Global Agenda back in March, just prior to it going free, but having the option of adding it to Steam is a nice one.  This might also help me keep it updated, though I’ve not actually played the game recently..

Spiral Knights, is also fully free to play, but as a co-op game, this will require friends to play with..

The fourth MMO, Forsaken World, has races and classes as I’m used to with WoW, but with dungeons where the difficulty scales with the players’ experience, and weapons and gear which evolves and changes.. another one worth a look.

The action game, Alliance of Valiant Arms, looks to be another squad-based shooter with teams of 4 or 5 players per mission.  Players rank up as they play; the highest ranked player becomes the Squad Commander, hopefully meaning good players can lead others, rather than a recipe for griefing.. another one I’ll have to rope the guys in for 😉

 

Darkspore

Darkspore is a sci-fi Action-RPG by Maxis Software, published by EA.  The player takes charge of squads of genetically mutated heroes which come in five types: Plasma, Bio, Necro, Cyber and Quantum, and fights to save the galaxy from the nightmarish Darkspore.. a hive mind of mutated creatures which are a result of genetic alteration gone mad.

Tim pointed Darkspore out to me a while ago, after seeing a rather nice trailer.. I signed up for the closed beta and had some fun with the first levels, using a couple of the heroes and messing around with the character editor a little.. though not creating any phallic creatures for which the original Spore was known 😉

I’ve been waiting for this to enter open beta so I could play with friends too, and so I was pleased to see it arrive on Steam this week.  Last night we got together to play the first two levels.. and for once it was me who was running off, using Blitz’s rather cool teleport ability to get right into the fight.

Of all the heroes I’ve tried so far, Blitz is my favourite.. look at those claws!  His teleport ability, ‘Ride the Lightning’, makes up for his lack of ranged attack, and he cuts through enemies fairly quickly.  His shield also comes in handy, zapping enemies who come too close.

During the closed beta, I unlocked Arakna, a Necro hero who collects the souls of downed enemies with one ability, firing them out around her in a rapid burst, where they then explode with another ability.  She would have been my second squad member, but my heroes were reset with the start of the open beta, and this time I decided to unlock some different ones, starting with Vex.

Vex is a Quantum Hero, with time-travel abilities.  The Chrono Blink reminded me of Blitz’s teleport, but seemed to use more energy, and I felt that his melee attacks were rather slow.  I replaced him with SRS-42 the Missile Commander, a Cyber hero who uses ranged explosive weapons.. can’t go wrong with that, huh?

SRS-42’s abilities include a Missile Barrage, which brings down 15 missiles in quick succession on a location of your choosing.. best used on a slow moving target, or on a unit stunned or incapacitated by an ally.  His other abilities are more for self-protection; one removes all status effects, while the other detonates enemy projectiles on-route to SRS-42.

The open beta is available via Steam until Monday 4th April.. I hope to get some more time in on this before it finishes so I can try out more heroes.. and I also want to try out the PvP 😉

The Ball

The Ball is an indie action-adventure puzzle game using the Unreal engine, featuring an archaelogist who gets stuck in a cave and finds a mysterious artifact.. The Ball.  This game started off as a mod for Unreal Tournament.. shows what hard work can do!  Two friends have been playing this game, and both have come back with nothing but praise for it, so I thought I should try it out 🙂

The demo allows the first few puzzles to be played out in campaign mode, as well as trying out Survival mode, where you have to stay alive as long as possible against floods of enemies.

I started with the campaign and very quickly became twitchy, expecting bad things to come shooting out of every corner, or for something to come down from the ceiling and crush me.  I only felt a little better once I found the Ball..

The first few rooms are all about teaching you how to play.. pressure plates for you to stand on, how to use the Hammer, and how to handle the Ball.  There are several jokes in here, but I’m not touching them! 😉

As mentioned, I was rather twitchy while playing this, and the rather ugly monkeys in some of the first few rooms gave me the creeps..
I was being mocked by a friend for this, but I think it’s just as well I was twitchy, because when the first zombies appeared I was quick to fire the Ball at them.

I’d be tempted to get the game, as it’s easy to play, looks fantastic and solving the later puzzles in the demo was very satisfying.. but with all puzzle games, there comes a point where I find myself stuck, leaving it for a while, and then not completing it.. I have enough uncompleted games 😉