It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of another two weeks. So let’s drink to the last fortnight and have another for the next. Here’s what’s On Tap!
The Elder Scrolls Zzzz: Skyrim
Developed by Bethesda | Published by ZeniMax | PC | 2011
For some reason over the weekend I felt like getting into a big fantasy RPG that was less grimy and melancholic than Dark Souls 2. So I fired up Skyrim, knowing it’s a good choice to play “for a while” without ever intending to make much progress. I never actually finished Skyrim back in the day – I never got very far in it to be honest. I played for a good 70 hours and found them pretty enjoyable, but it’s hard to maintain focus in that game. Over time I drifted away, and once I was gone the complaints I had about the game sort of festered. They’re manifestly worse when playing with a 360 controller (Bethesda: don’t include options to remap the buttons if you have no intention of allowing anything other than the defaults to work), and Skyrim’s basic fault remains: it’s boring, especially compared to what I’ve been playing. But no one can be unimpressed by Skyrim’s vast scope and panoply of moving parts. It has many shortcomings, to be sure. But it’s a world you can visit for a while, wander about and have an adventure, then leave, no questions asked and no expectations to return. —Steerpike
Developed and Published by Photon Productions | PC | 2014
This is one of the games I backed on Kickstarter, and one of the first to reach “release” status. Forsaken Fortress is a great idea that needs a lot of work; Photon released it way too early. It’s very buggy, offers little guidance, and is generally unpleasant to play, so I don’t recommend that you scamper out for a copy. Still, Forsaken Fortress will be worth watching, assuming they iron out the kinks. It’s an isometric scavengtrategy base-building sci-fi ARPG: collect a bunch of people in a postapocalyptic world, build and improve a base, manage resources and personnel, deploy and control tactical squads adventuring in the wasteland, and ultimately rebuild your society. There is essentially nothing about the previous sentence that is not awesome. The game, however, is currently far from awesome, and even if it contained more awesomeness it’d have some serious catching up to do if it hopes to compete with Undead Labs’ brilliant State of Decay. I’m going to give Forsaken Fortress a few weeks on the back burner, hopefully allowing Photon to release some desperately needed updates. Stay tuned for impressions when I think it’s fair to give them. Right now this one’s running on potential only – a historically unreliable fuel source. —Steerpike
Developed by Ironhide Game Studio | Published by Armor Games | PC, Android & iOS | 2013
About a month ago I went to Crete and took a few books and my tablet with me. I spent almost the entire flight there trying to do one of the Iron Challenge levels (on hard) on Kingdom Rush. Sure, I could have used the items I’d purchased from the shop using the gold I’d accrued from so many failed attempts but I wanted to do the level without the aid of screen-wide nukes, freeze spells, convenient sticks of dynamite and cash bonuses; I wanted to see if it was even possible.
And it was. It was a puzzle solved by deploying the right towers in the right places; selling and upgrading them in the right order; adjusting the right rally points and summoning meteor showers and militia at exactly the right times. But this success came at a price: I have very little desire to play any more tower defence games.
It could just be Kingdom Rush. It could be my insistence on beating every level bare knuckle simply burning me out. It could be my interest naturally waning, after all, I’ve spent enough hours over the years with TD in various guises, from the transcendental Immortal Defence right through to Plants vs. Zombies. It could just be a temporary feeling, I dunno, but it’s there. –Gregg
Developed by Jean Philippe Sarda | Published by Noodlecake | Android & iOS| 2012
One of the things I love about Android gaming is that amongst the mountains of shit on (and off) the Play store, there are gems to be unearthed. Micro Miners is one of those gems. I have no idea how I discovered it, perhaps I was idly perusing the very hit and miss ‘Recommended for You’ list curated by Google’s robots or a ‘Users Also Installed’ list for one of my favourite games. Who knows. All I know is that Micro Miners is essentially Lemmings meets Dig Dug, with lots of frantic carving of tunnels using your finger (or whatever appendage you usually use to interact with a touchscreen) so your little miners can chip away at pockets of silver, gold and coal. Naturally there are all sorts of hazards from explosive gas and drillers, to death worms and lava, not to mention the impending doom of the slowly scrolling screen. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about take a look at this trailer. For a preposterous 54p it’s a remarkably sharp and charming little game. –Gregg
Developed by Evolution Studios | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment | PS3 & Vita| 2012
MotorStorm RC is perhaps best described as Micro Machines with slightly bigger cars (remote control cars) and dubstep, wub wub. What makes MotorStorm RC so compelling is the way that it goads you with other players’ better times, specifically your friends, and specifically for me, Mat C’s. Cue lots of trash talking and snatching of 10ths, 100ths and 1000ths of a second to beat each other. ‘You embarrassed Bumhead1867 on “Plane and Simple”.’ Suck on that Mat. –Gregg
Developed by Media Molecule | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment | Vita| 2013
It’s not exactly short and it’s not a particularly great platformer either. Well, it might be short if I could stop photographing the gorgeous world and its strange inhabitants with the natty in-game SLR and its numerous lens and filters. I’m only half way through Tearaway, and while I’m certainly enjoying it, it does feel a little thin mechanically beyond its very cool (and thorough) use of the Vita’s many inputs. Fundamental stuff like the camera can be a pain sometimes, often switching position unpredictably or getting trapped behind things or outright refusing to budge across so you can see where you’re going (I’ve literally walked out of view a number of times, sometimes dying); the platforming as a result can suffer from this. The collectibles are numerous and quite tedious to hunt down so I’ve not been worrying too much about those, however, some of them allow you to download papercraft models of certain characters, creatures or items, which is really sweet. More than anything though, it’s the way the game breaks the fourth wall and pulls you into its world, narratively and literally (using the Vita’s technology), that impresses me. I’m really intrigued to know where it’s going, what with the protagonist’s quest being to deliver a message to me. What’s the message? I have no idea yet. –Gregg
Guns of Icarus Online
Developed and Published by Muse Games | PC | 2012
Yes, I’m back in the skies. Guns of Icarus Online hit its peak popularity since launch over the weekend beating its previous best of 2800 concurrent users (in August last year) by 1100. Hurrah! That’s good going for such an esoteric and, to some extent, low profile indie multiplayer game that’s over a year and half old. Well done chaps! –Gregg
The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 3 – “In Harm’s Way”
Developed and Published by Telltale Games | PC | May 13, 2014
With every new episode of the current season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I find it harder to sympathize with the perspective that it’s more of the same. I mean, technically speaking, yes, Season 2 is fundamentally similar to Season 1; but the storytelling is so well done, the beats so intense, that I’ve never cared that the formula itself remains unchanged. These have always been games about the story, not the gameplay, and the story continues to hit where it hurts most. -Dix
Star Wars: Empire at War
Developed by Petroglyph Games | Published by LucasArts | PC | 2006
Largely because I’ve got a My Idea of Fun brewing about a different Star Wars strategy game, I found myself poking about on Steam to see what I could get. Empire at War was an attempt at an RTS/4x-lite. I only played a little of it when it came out, despite it looking pretty awesome on paper: space and ground battles were both in real time, they were tactical, based on what you brought from the galaxy map (rather than burdening the player with repetitive base-building, which I generally loathe), and for the time the graphics looked pretty okay. It was also one of the first returns to the era of the original trilogy after the glut of prequel trilogy games, and includes vessels from both eras. Still, it just doesn’t feel that great. It doesn’t quite gel. Space combat feels okay, but ground combat feels a bit more tacked on and poorly realized (and it looks a good deal worse), and the almost 4x elements just don’t cut it to make extended play compelling. -Dix
What have you been playing lately? Let us know in the comments!