It wasn’t until after I had been playing for a while that I learned that NIS America’s latest publishing effort, Clan of Champions, is actually part of a series of sorts. I was told by a fan of the series, since the game itself makes no effort to acknowledge the fact. I’ve never played any of the “Gladiator series,” and to be frank, Clan of Champions hasn’t done much to motivate me. Continue Reading
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
You know, I’m not going to lie; I don’t understand the appeal of trains. In a world where we have planes, sports cars, and Segway scooters, RailWorks has somehow managed to captivate a target audience with a title that’s so to-the-point, it’s hard to ask for more. Train Simulator 2013 doesn’t screw around. You control a train.
As a veteran of Train Simulator 2012, I’ve conducted my fair share of trains. Too many trains. I just enjoy watching them accelerate to send them flying into space by hitting a stationary object, but there’s mission-based gameplay that requires definite finesse with the train’s controls to take your unlucky carriage of goods and travelers to a digital destination.
The menu system in TS2013 is vastly improved over TS2012. In 2012, you had to launch this weird application to launch the game first, which required the .Net framework installed, so it was not exactly as easy as double-clicking an icon and plowing your way through the day. The 2013 release could be a little easier to navigate (can’t easily find a track based on map anymore), but the cleaner interface is definitely appreciated.
The game is also pretty generous at letting you know when you’ve completed a step in a mission. It doesn’t, however, hold your hand when it comes to getting the ball rolling. You’re expected to know when to unlock the breaks, when (and how) to gain momentum, how to drive a train backwards… and my arch-nemesis, how to change tracks.
If you’re expecting to see trains jumping on sweet ramps and pulling 360’s, you’re going to be very disappointed. Train Simulator 2013 is fantastic at what it promises, although there is a slight learning curve for the cabooses among us.
[review title=”Train Simulator 2013″ pros=”Trains, trains, and… uh… DLC. With trains.” cons=”Controls are a little tricky, in-depth commitment to trains required.” verdict=”Not for everyone, but neither is Halo.” score=90]
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE TRAIN ACTION TO BE HAD!
As luck would have it, we actually have a copy of Train Simulator 2013 to give away! If you want to win a copy, all you have to do is draw a picture of a train and send it to email@example.com. The entries will be reviewed by us here at RoboAwesome, and whoever has the best-looking train gets a copy on Steam! Entries must be received by October 8th, 2012, so get those crayons and your scanner ready!
I’ve always dreamed of the day when a haphazard stranger approaches me from a back alley and offers me an affordable gaming option that would put me on top of the leading scorers. When I heard of The MiniStick, an accessory for any PC or Mac that offers 50% higher scores, I couldn’t resist. Any opportunity to surpass my greatest accomplishments would not be an opportunity that I would want to miss.
So what is the MiniStick, exactly? It’s best described as a hinged nub that gets velcro’d to your keyboard. After you permanently modify your keyboard with the industrial-strength latch and hook pads, you are to go into your Keyboard options in the Control Panel and change some settings there. Attaching things to your keyboard and changing system settings for higher scores? Well, if it’s what I have to do…
Let me start by saying that anyone who spent more than $10 on a keyboard should probably just stop reading now. I keep spare keyboards on hand, so I was able to test this without harming my Logitech G510. In fact, once you get your hands on the package, you’ll see where they suggest putting the joystick…
I play a lot of PC games, and probably less than 5% actually use the arrow keys. Therefore, I chose a more traditional route when I installed my MiniStick.
Positioning the adhesive on the W A D keys proved to be a pretty optimal setup. The joystick is hinged, so when you pull back, a plastic fin presses down on the rear key (S), allowing a very true-to-arcade feel. Unfortunately, that same arcade feel is the MiniStick’s own demise.
Keyboards were designed years and years ago as an analog input method for information. With PCs exploding in popularity, the ways keyboards are built has changed. We went from heavy metal clicking internals to plastic membranes that shoot a serialized signal to the computer to convey a set of keys being pressed. As time progressed, the way we played games did as well. As keyboards don’t have 360° input, we adjust our playing style accordingly; we aim a mouse and go on. A mouse only has so many buttons, though, so it’s difficult to restrict one hand to movement and the other to accuracy.
So with that in mind, I fired up Team Fortress 2 and tried it out.
When you start playing a game, you realize very quickly how dependent you are on the rest of the keyboard. Unless you get one of those crazy 12-button pointers, you’re going to use your “gotta move” hand to also jump and crouch. The MiniStick doesn’t care. It just sits in the middle of the keyboard, omnipotent and proud, while your feeble hand reaches to the lowly space bar while using the tips of your fingers to hopefully guide you in the general direction you’d like to do.
It feels awkward. However, I did find myself having a bit of success with classes I ordinarily don’t play as. By not being able to focus on moving, I picked up a sniper rifle and simply strafed back and forth into cover while lining up my hand that didn’t feel like it had to attend a special school for the slower hands.
Score increase: YES
I found the same formula for success in most FPS games that I chose. Therefore, I decided to try the exact opposite. Racing. I jumped into TrackMania Nations Forever.
What the heck is TrackMania? It’s a free racing game. You can make tracks. You can play online. And, as I found out the hard way, you can’t really customize the keyboard inputs, as this is one of those few games that uses the arrow keys.
This is when I found out just how strong that Velcro that came with the stick really was.
First thing I learned: it sticks like a champ, until it comes time to relocate it. The adhesive magically disintegrates and leaves the pads useless, meaning you’re left to your own creativity to get it to work.
A little glue and some patience later, I gave it a shot. The clumsy joystick was my own downfall here; it’s borderline impossible to accelerate and turn with this thing.
Score Increase: NO
Even in the best-case scenario, you’re probably playing an indie side-scroller that only uses left and right. In that case, I could see the MiniStick being practical. If you’re playing games like that, though, you probably paid more for the MiniStick ($9.99) than you did the game.
[review title=”The MiniStick” pros=”Looks cool, very retro feel.” cons=”You’ll suddenly remember why you don’t own a real joystick.” verdict=”Spend the money on a box of tacos instead.” score=33]
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
After taking a few days to give Valve a chance to get some of the bugs worked out of their newest masterpiece, Team Fortress 2 introduced a new game mode which enabled you and five of your friends to team up against a horde of soulless robots whose primary objective is to drop a bomb in your base. In an effort to keep the game mode fresh, there’s two ways to play: Boot Camp, which is a regular pub server, or Mann Up, where you play (pay, actually) on a Valve server. The Mann Up mode is infinitely more difficult, but you are rewarded for completing a mission with loot, and all of the missions with legendary weapons.
So what do you need to get into the robot mayhem? Well, you need Steam and Team Fortress 2. Both are free. Playing MvM is easy–it’s literally a button when you start the game. Click it and go.
If you want to get in with the riches, you’ll need to purchase “Tour of Duty” tickets, currently going for 99¢ in the Mann Co. Store, with the Surplus vouchers going for $1.99. Hypothetically, if you and your group of mercenaries want the maximum amount of loot, it’ll cost each of you around $18 for 42 random drops and a rare skull-catered weapon. Of course, those 42 drops may include rare hats and new MvM-inspired gear, so it’s not a total loss.
Mann Vs Machine is a pleasant change of pace. It’s nice to be on a team and not have anyone inform me of what they did to my mother last night, or ask me about my sexual ambiguity. If you’re looking to make some friends, this may be the gamemode for you to get started with. Note: this is not for the faint of heart; this definitely requires some skill.
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.
[review title=”Endless Space” pros=”Deep gameplay and well balanced strategy elements to satisfy any 4X fan” cons=”Uninspired tutorials and some difficult mouse clicking here and there” verdict=”One 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.” score=”90″]
At first glance, it seems like Wadjeteye Games’ and XII games’ retrofitted point and click adventure title Resonance wears its influences on its sleeves to the point of detriment. From the get-go, other than the slight indication that something in the game world is dangerously amiss, Resonance looks and feels like a better-looking but still low grade Monkey Island coattail rider. Like a dummy, I even put playing the game off longer than I probably should due to a severe lack of interest. For that, I must apologize to you, the game, the people that made it, and even myself. Once it gets going, Resonance shifts gears from what seems like a silly sci fi story to an intriguing mystery with high stakes, shocking twists, and sobering consequences. Other than a few cumbersome pitfalls, it also has some pretty neat gameplay innovations as well. Continue Reading
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
PC gaming owes a lot of its legacy to Blizzard, and particularly to the Diablo franchise. In the latest iteration, the journey to New Tristram is just as hellacious as before since Diablo 3 claws itself a place in your psyche… and wallet.
Diablo 3 is a return to the tried-and-true formula of its predecessors but with a few quirks. You start the game by choosing your class and sex, some other mild customization options like your banner, then you’re thrown into the game after a brief story synopsis.
Once you start pounding the legions of demons into a pulp, though, you start to feel like you’re being guided into how you choose your characters’ skills and upgrades. Well, that’s because you are. Blizzard, by default, suggests a way to spec your perks and abilities. You have to go into the options to enable free choice about how you build your avatar’s life. This option is extremely helpful if you’re new to the franchise, but let’s be frank: we’re not new. We’ve been waiting on this game for over a decade now. If they would have asked you before-hand if you’d like a hand, I’d be cool with that. Clumping everyone together in a “Better safe than sorry” category without any insight about having to go into the options to actually play how you want is definitely bothersome.
Speaking of bothersome, let’s talk about that always-on DRM. I understand why Blizzard thinks this was a good idea, but a lot of people, myself and every single person I know playing included, have been kicked repeatedly during the first 48 hours of launch due to “emergency server maintenance.” This is the same company that runs World of Warcraft; they know what to expect at a game launch. If I’m plunking down $60 for a PC game, I want to be able to go home, put the disk in my computer, install it, and get carpal-tunnel the hard, earned way. Instead, the servers would go down for hours at a time, returning an error when you go to sign in. Single player is affected, and that right there is a tragedy.
On the plus sides, however, the game is a lot of fun. There’s nothing more satisfying than laying the smack-down on waves of zombies spewing from dynamic environments as you loot and plunder for magical treasures to ruin the days of many a demon. Also returning are the nostalgic pains in your mouse-hand from left/right-clicking your appendage into oblivion. In fact, I think Blizzard could be doing the world a favor by forcing you to take breaks while they “maintain” their side of things.
Also emerging in Diablo 3 is the auction house. One of the most sought-after additions to the franchise, the AH supposedly allows you to sell in-game items for cash. I found out how to sell something for gold, but the cash option eludes me until it comes out on May 22nd. I’m so glad that Blizzard has incorporated cash trading into a game that doesn’t use your authenticator, unlike World of Warcraft and StarCraft 2, which both require it to log into the game. Note that WoW and SC2 don’t have cash markets. I’m hoping that’s coming in a patch soon, otherwise we’ll be reporting to you soon about the first case of stolen identity via demon-hunting.
In the grand scheme of things, what did you really expect from Diablo 3? The game is heavily plot-driven, so out of courtesy to you, I’m avoiding talking about that. It’s an isometric dungeon crawler where things look nice and die fancy. It just needs a bit of polishing before I call it “life-changing.”
[review title=”Diablo 3″ pros=”Fresh story, unique skills, and combat in a familiar style” cons=”In its current state, certainly feels more like a beta test” verdict=”Classic fans won’t be let down. Everyone else, however…” score=74]