Iron Brigade

We recently acquired Iron Brigade, a World War I style tower defense-shooter hybrid with mechs and turrets, and a television-based enemy called the Monovision.  I spotted this game a long time back, when it was known as Trenched, because of the developer Double Fine who came up with this game as well as Costume Quest and Stacking during one fortnight of development.  A trademark dispute in Europe resulted in a name change, and a delay to the release: December last year on the Xbox, but only this month for the PC.. and another rather quiet release too.

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Dungeons

During ScampLAN, I tried out DUNGEONS on a friend’s PC.
Dungeons is a strategy RPG by Kalypso Media, where you play the role of a deposed Dungeon Lord fighting his way back to power by creating fantastic dungeons and killing off heroes and explorers who come to plunder your riches.

On the first part of the tutorial, you learn how to navigate by taking your goblin minion through a few corridors, and here, I found turning was choppy and awkward.  Fortunately, I was told the game itself wasn’t so bad.. though the next part of the story had me escape my original dungeon lair, and I found it very easy to lose track of where the Lord was amongst all the details, never mind the place he was meant to go!

So.. starting off at the bottom again, you have a tiny dungeon with nothing much in it.  To enlarge the dungeon and your influence,  you need to convert or build monster pentagrams.. first killing any non-loyal monsters.  As well as gaining influence, you need a source of Soul Energy, which you gather from Heroes!  Heroes enter your dungeon in search of treasure, and build up Soul Energy as they do the things they are interested in.. gather gold, fight monsters, etc.  To get the Soul Energy, you simply attack the Heroes and imprison them, which squeezes the Energy out of them!

As I progressed through the first few levels, I found the difficulty increasing too..

Placing monster pentagrams to increase the size of the dungeon meant I kept coming close to the population cap whilst not quite expanding as far as I wanted in any direction.. and meant the monsters were spread around the edges of the map instead of tactically placed near my Dungeon Heart or treasure.  I also started to get harassed by the Zombie King, who wanted me to ‘donate’ Soul Energy to him almost as fast as I was earning it.. this left me less room to concentrate on the missions at hand and made it more frustrating than enjoyable.

In addition to increasing his influence, the Dungeon Lord needs to earn prestige by building gimmicks.. coffins, braziers and so on.  Apart from using them to entice Heroes along different routes within the Dungeon, they do give a nice bit of atmosphere.  However, at times the requirement for a set amount of prestige meant littering rooms with gimmicks and spoiling the illusion altogether.

I did like the options for levelling up the character and his skills, with three skill trees: combat, improvements or building, but felt the only way to go was improvements.. this would then allow you to leave your monsters to handle invading forces rather than trying to micro-manage everything.

ScampLAN 2

The weekend just passed was ScampLAN 2, with a couple of friends bringing their PCs round to our house for gaming and silliness 🙂

We played a lot of Dungeon Defenders.. which I had a look at last week.  This game has really grown on me over the week..

I’ve now tried out all the characters, but the one I’ve played most has been the Huntress, who specialises in traps and ranged weapons.  I felt she was slow to get off the ground with.. the traps start off with only a few charges and are soon used up.. but after gaining many levels and improving both the traps and the character’s stats, she now feels quite powerful 🙂

When you level up, you can spend your points on stats for the character or for your towers.. I’ve spread my points out between the Huntress and her traps, but another friend has put most of his points into his Monk, making him fantastic in combat but with rather weak auras.  For the characters the three of us developed over the weekend, this worked very well, as it meant the mana could be spent on building and upgrading stronger towers and traps, without getting too close to the defense unit cap.  We got as far as the Servant’s Quarters during the weekend!

Another game we had a turn at was Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.
We tried to play this previously, but thought we might do better if we were in the same room and able to communicate a little better.  However, as in our previous attempts to play, we found barely-visible enemies were able to take us out with ease.. the game is supposed to be about realism and tactics, but if I’m approaching on my belly through trees and bushes, I don’t think it’s realistic to be shot down so quickly by people I can’t even see yet.

I also suffered from a rather random bug, which had my character float up into the air before being thrown back down again.. and of course, taking realistic fall damage.  This happened a few times, but settled down enough to complete the mission.  However, the fun was lacking for most of us, so we didn’t go back for a second mission.

In between the gaming I had a bit more of a poke around with VoxelSniper on Minecraft.
I had a failed attempt to add Zombe’s flying mod.. not quite sure what went wrong, but the game wouldn’t launch.. before I installed VoxelAir, which allows me to jump high into the air and land without damage, or hover above the ground.

You can jump rather a long way up.. and when I came down, I was surprised by the crazy number of mobs which had spawned!

I found an interesting bug with VoxelAir too.. after being killed while hovering, courtesy of a few Skeleton Archers and a lack of care, I respawned still hovering.. floating upwards in fact!  Using the “/give” command simply dropped a new feather at my feet, out of reach.. a friend also tried to give me a feather but it also landed out of reach.  In the end I used “/kill” a number of times and eventually spawned close enough to a feather for it to pick up.

Next up will be forming a nice piece of flat land for a huge project.. more later 🙂

With four people and a reasonably couch to take advantage of, there was also some console gaming.. though we found a distinct lack of co-op games allow four people on one console.  So many games boast “2-4 player co-op”, but don’t specify that this means two people on one console, and two on a second console.. annoying.  We tried Call of Duty: Black Ops.. we wanted the Nazi zombies, but only the arcade mode allowed all four of us to play.  We had a couple of runs on that, with me claiming the top spot for one run!  Red Faction: Armageddon failed us, as did Rainbow Six Vegas.. so we ended up shooting each other in Halo 3 which entertained us for a while!

Hunted: Demon’s Forge was picked up at the start of the weekend too, and we attempted some co-op in pairs.  We all found the game surprisingly hard, though Tim and Jason attempted to play without going through a tutorial first.. masochists!  I think the game would be a lot easier if you were able to carry more than one health vial each.. we also found the game punished deaths by sending us a long way back each time.  I’m looking forward to playing the game by myself at some point soon, too.

Another game which made an appearance over the weekend was Gears of War 3!
I hadn’t yet finished Gears of War 2, but the copy of #3 will be going home with Jason at the end of the week, and Tim wanted to start some co-op, so we’ve been playing through it anyway.. on hard!

So far, I’m loving it.. though noticing a few changes! The world has been destroyed by the Hammer of Dawn, and the enemies now include mutated Lambent creatures.. I’m noticing a huge change from the graphics of the original Gears of War as well, with the character models all being far more refined.  Good changes all round.. and still a great game, as far through as we’ve gotten this far! 🙂

DC Universe Online – A Very Quick Look

When I first heard about DC Universe Online, and especially the option to play as a hero or villain of your own design, I was rather interested.  However, after my experiences with Aion at that game’s launch, and poor customer service by their developer, I was reluctant to splash the cash on this game till it dropped in price, or unless friends got into it and were sticking with it for a while.

A friend bought the game, and played for the first month, but then didn’t carry a subscription on after that.. however, while at ScampLAN he discovered he had been given some free time on the game, and he kindly let me have a bit of a run around 😀

I decided to play a Villain, so here’s Arcady: a crazy dual pistol-wielding loon, with Illusion as her Power and Flying rather than Acrobatics or Super Speed.

The first missions had me escape Braniac’s ship, learning how to move around, interact with objects and fight..  I found the keys a bit odd to start with, and ended up flying around while I was only supposed to be walking 😉

Once in Gotham, I went to help sow disorder and chaos for The Joker.. starting by fighting the cops who attacked me while I was trying to find my way to the first mission.. more fool them 😉

As I had picked Illusion, the first ability I got was Psychic Blades.. which fire three spinning blades to attack enemies in their path.

Combat was rather easy, and I liked the effects.. I did tend to get carried away though, as it was so easy to do, and the cops spawned quickly, often near enough to aggro straight onto me.  Completing most of the quests led straight into others, without the need to go running back to a quest giver or even travel too far, which was great.

I didn’t explore as much as I would have liked.. flying certainly made it feel easy to get around without being interfered with.  However, there were quests to do and more abilities to pick up.. so I failed on the exploration front this time.

Entering the warehouse for one mission, I encountered Catwoman, who I ended up helping in a fight against The Huntress..

I thought this was rather cool 🙂
Letting players fight alongside known powerful characters rather than simply following orders from them makes you feel like you’re actually quite powerful in your own right, which is rather appealing.

Afterwards, I was let inside the Funhouse, which featured huge rolling balls that, contrary to expectation, didn’t crush and kill me!  The Funhouse turned out to be some kind of bonus-level.. there were various presents laying around for me to collect, with either money or costume items inside.. and it did look rather cool although a little disjointed from the rest of the game.  I’m used to bonus levels belonging to arcade games! 🙂

I guess it’s more in keeping with The Joker’s crazy mentality to have you go running around through a building full of bouncing balls and bombs to get your rewards, and more interesting than simply being handed it invisibly during dialogue with an NPC.

After this, I think I may still get DCUO if it ends up in a Steam sale.. I think I could play through enough content during the included month’s game time to be satisfied, though long-term I’d be unlikely to play without friends in the game to go with.

Completing Duke Nukem Forever

We rented Duke Nukem Forever via our LoveFilm subscription a few weeks ago now, and the plan had been to play it through fairly quickly and return it.. however, we’ve been decorating the house, and we had ScampLAN, so it’s taken until this weekend to actually complete it.

As I’ve been playing, I’ve thought back to the demo.. I think it’s possibly the first time I’ve come across a demo which did the game so much harm, spoilers aside at least.  Based on the demo, I just wasn’t going to bother, and if not for the option of renting, it would just have been skipped.  I still think the humour, and Duke’s one-liners, are a mixed bag.. some of the lines are great, but some are repeated so often that they’re just annoying.. I got thoroughly sick of the swine and pork chop lines by the time I was half-way through the game.

The game is actually a decent length though, in this era of short singleplayer campaigns, and there have been some fun, varied sections.  Running around in the burger bar as tiny Duke, using spatulas to bounce around was quite funny, and I rather liked the ‘Gears’ section, though not the fight with the Octababies afterwards, capped with a full-sized Enforcer which I had to kite round boxes.. low on ammo and finding the Freeze gun a bit disappointing.

Driving around in the truck was fun if not particularly unique.. and forgiving of my usual driving style as the thing can be flipped if crashed 😉

I was also very happy to come across the Holoduke again!  This gadget came in very handy on the rooftop as well as setting off some nice memories of Duke Nukem 3D multiplayer, all those years back.  I’m sure he was stationary back then.. this one moves around 🙂

The Octabrains proved to by my worst enemy through the game, resulting in many deaths in the Forkstop level, as well as on the crane segment of the Generator Room.  On the Forkstop level, I found I had to run around destroying boxes and throwing barrels into the water, all while under fire from the pigcops, so that the Octabrains couldn’t throw them at me.. and when it came to the first encounter with the Octaking, I was annoyed that I needed to hide while my Ego regenerated, thanks to only just surviving the Octabrains before.

The second encounter with the Octaking was better, as I had plenty of pipe bombs to deal with the Octabrains as well as the Devastator to knock the King down quickly 🙂

The second to last chapter had me blowing up Hoover Dam, and a slightly tricky underwater section where I constantly felt at risk of getting lost.  The boss at the end of this level was the Energy Leech.. which was dubbed the Sea Penis, for obvious reasons!  This fight was a little frustrating due to the requirement to keep going back to the airbubbles between firing rockets or gathering ammo.. it ended up feeling too repetitive by the time I’d downed him.

I enjoyed the mad rush through the rest of the level as the water rose, despite having to take a few odd turns.. I was looking for ladders to escape, and finding none, which is rather similar to how Tim found it.. but the trick was to just run!

The last boss fight was the best of the game.  After a cutscene in which I was given back Duke’s golden pistol, the Cycloid Emperor appeared.. in a nice open space, so plenty of room to fight in.  My RPG was ‘donated’ by the first pigcop to appear, and ammo was provided by more pigcops until the third phase of the fight, when a supply crate is dropped.  When the Assault Commanders appeared, I did worry that the game would throw all the different enemies at me in turn.. but thankfully it didn’t, and it kept the focus on the Emperor.

Right at the beginning of the fight, Duke threatens to piss in the Emperor’s eye.. on defeating him, Duke carries out his threat, via quicktime!  So the game starts and ends with pissing.. unless you count the extra little scene after the credits, where Duke mentions running for President.  Insert smutty remark about debauched Presidents here 😉

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable is another in a long line of experimental mods for Half Life 2, with a narrator guiding the player through the story.. the author of the game recommends that people play before reading about it, so.. go play first, as this post may contain spoilers 😉

Stanley is employee #427, whose job consists of pushing buttons as instructed, when instructed, every day.. until one day, there are no instructions, and no other people.  The narrator provides the direction, and he says that Stanley goes to the employee’s lounge..

After leaving the office, I was presented with two open doors.. the narrator said that Stanley goes through the left one. I disobeyed..

The narrator commented on Stanley having gone the wrong way, and said that he therefore turned left at the next available opportunity.. of course I carried on going the wrong way, which resulted in the narrator talking about how bad Stanley was at following orders.. and that he then decided to punish himself!

The oh-so-calmly delivered commentary about my ruining the story, insults about my ability to follow instructions and the direction to go and punish myself had me crying with laughter 🙂

When the lift arrived, I missed the fact that there was a choice to disobey again, and went up as instructed, to face my punishment.. and mocking from the narrator about being stupid enough to actually get into the trap too 😀

I decided to behave on the second run, but when I came to a set of stairs to go up, I went down.. and then round and round until Stanley went mad, collapsed and died, only to be discovered by a woman who served as a pointed comment about not finding out what the story was about as you didn’t follow instructions!

The third run had my obedience right up until the very end.. I came across the generator room where the player is told about the machine controlling all the employee’s feelings, and causing them to do what they’re doing.. much like how a game controls the players’ feelings and actions 😉

Right up at the top of the room had the option to engage or disable the failing generator.. the blue pill or the red pill.. I made my choice and was rewarded with freedom, or at least entry to an outdoors area 🙂

As it’s still ScampLAN, the guys also tried out the game afterwards, and both disobeyed the initial instruction to go through the left door, though maybe influenced by my comments..

They were more disobedient than me, and went down a floor in the lift, to be faced with the choice of doors again, and with more disobedience being shown an room made of skybox and dev_textures, before being put into an empty Half Life 2 map, with the narrator throwing a few insults about Stanley being fat, ugly and really stupid, bad at his job, and addicted to drugs and hookers:D

When I downloaded the mod, it came with a text file of author commentary, which was preceded by a note saying not to read anything before playing the game itself.  Apparently most people take the left door on their first playthrough.. so I guess we’re a little more delinquent than most!

The author also lists Dear Esther, which I played and loved a while ago, and Robert Yang’s Radiator HL2 mod, which I’d not heard of before but is now in my download queue 🙂

Multiplayer Awesomeness with Bulletstorm

With four of us here at ScampLAN, it proved the perfect opportunity to try out some multiplayer Bulletstorm.

Anarchy Mode basically consists of setting up as many skillshots as possible between members of the team, to kill waves of enemies.  Solo skillshots apply as expected, but if two or more players work together to create the skillshot, it becomes a Team Skillshot, and earns more points.  This requires a little more communication.. or at least having players who care more about setting up skillshots than trying to get the most individually.. therefore, best played with friends 🙂

This was a lot of fun, with new skillshots being discovered during play.. such as Tug-O-War, for Leashing another player’s Leashed enemy.  This skillshot was apparently added at the request of the community, which I think is a good move on the part of the developer 🙂


(Screenshot from Ripten.com)

Some enemies appear with a specific Team Skillshot to achieve.. such as the Meatspin skillshot, which is earned by kicking the enemy into the rotating doors in the corner of the Grand Central map, or the Midnight Express, for kicking an enemy into the path of the train as it flies through the station.  These were harder to do as the enemy often appeared far away from the required location, but still worth going for based on points.

Echoes is the other multiplayer mode.. though this is more of a beat-your-friends’-highscore kind of mode.  Echoes are small sections from the campaign with plenty of enemies and loads of opportunities for skillshots.. the more skillshots, the more points.

As friends have already got decent scores, if I want to get to the top of our boards, every enemy needs to be taken out with a skillshot, and as many unique skillshots as possible, as only the first few uses get a high reward.  They’re all fairly quick to play through, though, so I should be able to fit them in somewhere! 🙂

ScampLAN

Instead of going to Multiplay’s messed up i43, we’ve gone for a smaller, friends-only LAN at home.. in our newly decorated lounge 😀

So far we’ve mostly played singleplayer games, with the guys nagging me to complete Crysis 2.. which I’ve now done, though I was shown up by Ali completing both Bulletstorm and Red Faction: Armageddon in two days!

The demo for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine made an appearance too..

Yay for lots of dead Orks!  I found the first level harder than the second, with many retries of the last room.. the big Orks were a bit painful.  The second level was much easier as the Jump Pack meant that for quite a way, all I needed to do was land on enemies to kill them 🙂

This game is now on the wanted list.. along with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Gears of War 3..

I’ve also tried out DC Universe Online, but I’m not going to rush to buy it.  Although what I played was quite fun, I think the appeal may run out after a while.. from what I’ve heard, there isn’t a lot to do at max level, and unless I had friends playing too, I can’t see that I’d want to run around doing the same thing too many times.  Maybe if the game turns up cheap..

We’ve also picked up the DLC for Borderlands, as it was cheap on Steam.. though we now have to get on with our game sometime!