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[Gamer Diary] What I’ve been playing… June 2012

2012 July 12

This June just gone, I’ve been having fun on a variety of games – but that also means I haven’t finished any of them just yet.  Plus I’ve only had three weeks of the month to play before writing this as I’m moving home, so I expect some disruption.  Nevertheless, I can finally bring you comments on Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (over 6 months after release – soz), alongside Bastion from the Humble Bundle V, which, by the way, ended up with over $5,000,000 raised.  Also: Torchlight and some watching-over-my-partner’s-shoulder of Max Payne 3 (for PC).

I’ve also had a bit of a TF2 revival this month, and that’s been fun, but what more can be said about TF2?  There are no female characters (yet), although there are plenty of female gamers.  I personally haven’t seen much SexistFail in chat but I know it does happen on some servers (you do, however, get a lot of childish insults and obscene ‘sprays’ on some servers).  It’s a fun, team-based game that’s F2P (Free2Play), and Valve just hired an economist to help with the ever expanding Mannconomy and the inter-game economies as they grow further still.  That’s interesting, right?  Plus PYROMANIA has landed.

Screengrab of The Kid from Bastion - small and wide-eyed with white-blond hair.

Bastion’s protag, “the Kid”, looking a bit moody.

To Bastion!  This is a very curious indie title that offers a considerable amount of play-time compared to other indie offerings.  It’s described as “…an action role-playing experience that redefines storytelling in games, with a reactive narrator who marks your every move”.  I’ve heard similar claims before and ended up disappointed, but Bastion really delivers on this concept.  Admittedly, the narrator’s voice does get on my nerves but it really does react to what you do.  I’m sure there’s an inventory of quips and comments that are selected according to specific trigger events in the game but it’s still pretty cool.

The art is lovely and it isn’t just the simple damsel-in-distress format that I have encountered in a lot of other indie titles (LIMBO, Braid, for example), which is a nice change of pace.  Although the main active characters are all male and the one female (so far) has been pretty passive, there’s still a good bit of joy to be taken from this game.  It’s simple enough to grasp and you can make it harder in a variety of ways, so for gameplay and originality it gets a thumbs-up from me.  Unfortunately, if you didn’t get lucky and snap up the Humble Bundle, Bastion as a standalone is £11.49 on Steam but is currently going for under £9 on Green Man Gaming (sort of an alternative to Steam).

The one last thing that I will mention about Bastion is the soundtrack, which is beautiful, and I bring this up because I also want to make a special note of Torchlight’s soundtrack.  While playing Torchlight I am constantly finding myself with the urge to go and watch Sunshine again.  This is because the generic background twinkling of Torchlight often hits some of the same chords or sequences that the piece ‘Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)’ features.  Now, that piece (composed by John Murphy) makes me all soft and wibbly on the inside every time I hear it.  As does watching Sunshine.  But, alas, ’tis presently packed in a box somewhere.

Box art for Torchlight showing a crowd of fantasy characters

Torchlight only features 3 classes and only one gender and set appearance for each… HEY LOOK more boobs that don’t require proper armour; that really is magic.

Music aside, Torchlight (yes, it’s 3 years old, sorry!) is a great little RPG offering.  I have it because I pre-ordered Torchlight II via Steam and got Torchlight to play with in the meantime.  Torchlight II is making some people in RPG land a bit excited after the numerous issues people have had with Diablo III.  The first game is charming, easy to use and offers some features bigger RPGs haven’t, such as sending your pet to town to sell items from your backpack – meaning you’ll end up with a huge surplus of Town Portal Scrolls as you never need to use them!  It does, regrettably, fall foul of the tediously standard female-armour-fail… do all these women seriously have bullet/arrow/sword/magic proof tits and navels?  That’s the only negative so far, but this looks like it might be halfway rectified, at least, in Torchlight II: go and check out the character classes on their site (only one of the 4 female figures has cleavage showing!).

Now for something released in 2012; I know, incredible, right?  Max Payne 3 has amazing visuals, even on low-spec PCs, and great mechanisms for exciting gameplay.  It showcases the new Rockstar engine that will be used in next year’s Grand Theft Auto V; not a franchise I’m fond of, but with this engine, it’ll look stunning and run spectacularly.  Max Payne 3 has kept fairly faithful to the originals and the basic ‘essence’ of Max, which is a relief for the old fans, but offers plenty for those new to the series.

Max Payne 3 has refined and capitalised on the Shootdodge mechanic of previous games

As an observer (not the sinister Fringe kind) to Max Payne it’s a little different to discuss than if I’d been the player.  I was hoping to get my partner to contribute something here, but the house-moving saga has put paid to that plan.  Max Payne does play with some damsel-in-distress themes and always has, but it also manages to twist them around.  Originally, Max becomes an avenging angel, fallen-from-grace figure after his wife and infant daughter are murdered.  He tears up NYC seeking revenge, but finds conspiracies abound, and then his moral compass takes over and he kills all the baddies.

In MP3, he’s given up being a cop and is playing the private security game.  Although the game starts out with the feel that Max is off saving, and I quote, “fallen women” all over again, it swiftly changes tack in the brutal underworld of Brazil and Max, in the middle of an identity crisis, isn’t sure whether he’s a good guy, a bad guy, or a magical pixie putting the world to rights.  I’m not sure if he ever really ‘finds himself’, but he shoots all the baddies and conquers another conspiracy in typical grim, noir style.  The combat mechanics set this game apart and offer a truly varied way of kickin’ ass.  As, I say, the graphics are gorgeous, the engine is shiny and the music is atmospheric (not to mention nostalgic) the whole way through.

Still pretty spry for an old guy: Ezio takes in the view of Constantinople.

Here I am, talking so much about music and mechanics, you thought I’d forgotten AC:Rev, didn’t you?  Well, let me squeeze it in now.  I have yet to complete the game because I’ve been purposefully dawdling in order to enjoy sandboxing in such a magnificent environment.  Constantinople looks great, and you get to train up your Assassins right from the get-go, as well as the usual bits and pieces around the city with added stalkers who occasionally try to stab you right when you’re supposed to be tailing someone.  The main storyline, so far, hasn’t been too riveting, which is a shame.  I’m sure – after I’ve finished unpacking – that I’ll charge through the story and update you all next month.

What else can you expect in July’s end-of-month post?  I’ve got a couple of new games to play with (actually new, i.e. newly released!) and I’m always keeping an eye out for things to play, but summer tends to be time for the blockbuster films until autumn brings gaming back into focus again…

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