Doctor Who Series 10 Review

July 13, 2017

There is a new review up for Series 10 of Doctor Who.

Northgard Impressions

June 27, 2017

Northgard is a new RTS that is currently in Early Access on Steam. I used to play the Age of Empires/Age of Mythology games back in the day. But since those days I haven’t really fallen into a new RTS. Northgard caught my eye with its Viking/Norse aesthetic so I decided to give it a try and so far I’m not disappointed. It is a solid Early Access experience.


Being Early Access, not everything is available. There is no campaign yet. I haven’t played any multiplayer games but I hear there isn’t much to multiplayer yet. So I stuck to the single player matches.

In Northgard you play as one of several clans. Currently there are four clans available: Clan of the Wolf, Clan of the Stag, Clan of the Goat, and Clan of the Raven. Each gives you different starting and fame bonuses. Which clan you choose will also affect what advancements you can buy with Lore.





The game has four main victory conditions: Domination, Fame, Trade, or Wisdom. There can also be map specific conditions, such as one of the maps I played where you had to find and conquer Yggdrasil. The victory conditions have goals related to their theme.



You start a match with a Town Center and a few Villagers. Your Town Center will generate new Villagers depending on your Happiness rating, which can go up and down depending on various factors. In Northgard you don’t generate different units like you might in other RTS games. Instead you assign your Villagers to different buildings where they become different units.

A default Villager does two things, forage and build. If you want to have some military units you need to build a military building and assign Villagers to it. I want a couple of Warriors so I build a Training Camp. Once the camp is complete I can assign Villagers to it, turning them into Warriors.

Northgard’s mechanics keep you from just spamming a giant army and attacking the other players. Each building has a max number of Villagers you can assign to it. You can upgrade this number a couple of times but as it stands now you won’t have armies of 200 units or more roving across the map. I actually like this because it maintains the feeling of a smaller scale Viking society.


The game also has several mechanics in place to make sure you don’t just focus on one aspect completely and ignore everything else. One of the mechanics I really liked was the seasonal rotation. During the winter you don’t want to do anything but survive really. There are three resources: Happiness, Food, and Wood that are always in flux. Your current population will be consuming food and using wood to maintain buildings. During the winter the consumption of these resources are heightened. Your military units will also have a harder time fighting outside of your territory during winter. This constant need of resources by your population means you always need to make sure you have enough as your settlement expands.


The map is split up into areas you have to colonize in order to build anything or use any of that area’s resources. Gaining new areas is important because each area can only support a certain number of buildings. Areas will often have enemies you have to defeat in order to colonize. These enemies can be things like wolves or draugr. You can also find ruins, Lore Stones, or more mythical challenges like a group of Jotun. Enemies will also sometimes wander into your settled areas, so you’ll want to always have a couple of military units around.


You advance your technologies by spending Lore. You generate a minimal amount of Lore but can generate more by discovering or building Lore Stones. The technology tree is pretty simple at the moment. This is something I hope they expand on as they continue to develop the game.


Some final thoughts. Happiness functions like it has in other games. Make sure you have enough resources for everyone, be careful about over population or not having enough houses. Also do nice things for your Villagers. You can build Breweries in order to help with Happiness or throw feasts. Having positive Happiness increases production while having negative Happiness decreases it.


One thing I hope they fix is the inability to return Villagers to their default state. Villagers in their default state are the only ones that can build or forage. Once you assign them to a building you can only assign them to another building. This lead to a couple of times where I had Miners standing around after depleting a mine because I had nowhere else to assign them. I could have had them foraging or used them as my builders until I had a new mine for them.

I’ve been pretty satisfied with Northgard so far. The beats of the gameplay are steady. I never felt like I had to rush to prepare for an unseen attack of overwhelming forces. But I also didn’t feel like I could get away with being lazy and not pay attention to anything. The game strikes a nice balance that way. Northgard looks good so far and I look forward to the finished game.

Conarium Review

June 20, 2017

There is a new review up for the video game Conarium.

Games to Get Your Fright On

October 31, 2016

In honor of the end of the Halloween season and the horror spirit in general I’ve put together a list of recommended horror video games to play whenever you’re in the mood for something scary. This is a personal recommendation list so I’m only including titles I’ve had a chance to play. This means there are some noticeable absences. The most prominent being any of the Resident Evil titles. I’ve only played a little of Resident Evil 5 and from what I’ve played I wouldn’t recommend it. There also no stealth or escape horror games like Outlast as I generally don’t play a lot of those kinds of horror games. This list isn’t meant to be a best of the best or the be all end all or even an exhaustive list of every horror game I’ve played, it is simply meant to be a recommendation for some of the horror games I found enjoyable. Others are welcome to chip in the horror games they found the most enjoyable. The list starts off with horror adventure games and progresses towards more action oriented horror titles.

Sanitarium

Sanitarium is bit of an older title but still highly playable. The game starts with “Max” waking up from a coma after a car accident. You start the game with no memory of who you were or what happened but you slowly regain your memories as the game progress. Themes of family, loss, obsession, and greed are at the core of what is driving the events of the game. You drift between reality and imagination as Max tries to figure out what is happening and why. The artwork and scenery in this game are beautiful and really convey the horror and strangeness Max is going through.

Scratches

Scratches is a slow burn of a game that builds up the atmosphere and tension and leaves you there. You play a writer who has taken up residence in a secluded home with a dark and mysterious past. You’re supposed to be utilizing the seclusion to focus on your work but become distracted by the scratching in the walls. Finding out what is causing the scratching and exploring the house’s history consumes your time. The sounds and visuals do a really great job of setting the atmosphere making for an eerie experience.

The Cat Lady/Downfall (Remake)

The Cat Lady and Downfall, developed by Harvester Games, overlap a lot in terms of themes, visual style, and plot so I’ve included them both here in one entry. And both are fantastic and both should be played.

You play as Susan Ashworth in The Cat Lady, a woman who just committed suicide. She is brought back to life by the Queen of Maggots and tasked with killing five people, five parasites. Along the way you befriend a woman named Mitzi, who has cancer. She is hunting someone known as the “Eye of Adam” who convinces people to commit suicide. Together in your hunt for the Eye of Adam you face off against the twisted individuals you are supposed to kill and their horrors.

In Downfall you play Joe who takes your wife, Ivy, on a getaway in an attempt to salvage your marriage. Waking up after your first night in the hotel you find your wife missing prompting a hunt for her. Along the way you are confronted with plenty of horror and emotions regarding your feelings about your wife.

The plots of both games are largely independent of each other but there is some overlap. Joe and Ivy make an appearance in The Cat Lady. While Susan and Mitzi play a major role in the final scenes of Downfall.

Both games are presented with beautiful artwork and scenery that emphasizes the grotesque horror that is presented to the player. The music and sound effects in both games are also really fantastic. The sound effects bring the uneasiness of some scenes to a whole new level. And the rock tracks peppered through both games helps set the mood for some of the more intense moments. Both games are filled with supernatural horror but it is all grounded in real issues and emotions concerning depression, suicide, anger, revenge, grief, guilt, lust, love, and self-loathing that makes the horror all the more real and personal.

Murdered Soul Suspect

Murdered Soul Suspect is more of a gothic horror compared to the other entries on this list. You’re a detective who is killed while investigating a series of murders in Salem. You come back as a ghost in order to investigate your own murder and to ultimately catch the killer responsible for the other murders. The game is short and there isn’t any replay value. The combat against demons is also simplistic. The gothic feel, investigation mechanics, and ghost mechanics provide an interesting change to your normal gaming experience. So, if you’re in the mode for something a little more gothic and a little less chest pounding terror inducing I’d definitely say check this game out. Though due to the shortness of the game and lack of reply value it’s best to get it on sale.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

Fatal Frame 2 does a pretty good job at scaring the ever-living shit out of you. The game should at least unnerve everyone a little bit. You play as an adolescent girl who has lost her sister and must explore an abandoned village in order to find her. The village is filled with ghosts that will either help or try to kill you. The only weapon you have to defend yourself with is a camera. And the better the shot, the more damage you do to the ghost. Fights are rarely fast and are often tense and slow as ghosts slowly work their way towards you. The ghost designs are really terrific providing some nightmarish imagery. Everything in this game’s design works to create a sense of dread and fear and that stays with you through the whole experience.

Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2, the game that introduced me to horror video games. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Simply put if you haven’t played this game go play it. The story is one of love and grief fueled by guilt. Most of the monsters are a reflection of the main character’s own demons. The creative use of technical and design limitations of the time along with Lynchian moments and broken characters help to create a truly freighting experience. The controls and graphics may be dated but I would argue that game still holds up as one of the best horror gaming experiences out there.

Alan Wake

Alan Wake puts you in the role of an acclaimed author who is suffering from writer’s block. In an attempt to relax and maybe break through the block Alan and his wife get a cabin on a lake. But something is trapped in the lake and tries to use Alan as a way of freeing itself. The game has an interesting combat mechanic that requires the player to use light in order to successfully damage the enemies. The episodic format of the game provides a nice pace to the narrative of the game. The soundtrack for this game is really nice and the game contains one of my favorite fight scenes in a game.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Condemned is a brutal game that places you in the role of Ethan who is investigating a murder. You are shortly framed for the murder of two officers. In your hunt for the true killer you confront and learn more about the madness that is gripping the city. The highlight of the game is the visceral combat system that leads to adrenaline filled desperate fights against vagrants and other horrors. Condemned is another game that has some interesting investigation mechanics. This is a game that will keep your adrenaline pumping as you wade through its darkness.

The Suffering

The Suffering is a great horror title that despite the amount of action and giving you a physically strong character to play, manages to keep the same feeling of horror that survival horror games often do. It accomplishes this through good atmospheric level design, monster designs that draw on the horror of capital punishments, and tying a lot of the themes and elements in the narrative to real life horrors such as domestic violence, torture, abuse, and cruel executions

Mirror Image Review

October 30, 2016

There is a new review up for the book Mirror Image.