4PM, Where’s your emotionally devastated, alcoholic daughter?

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Roger Ebert was a movie critic who died sternly maintaining the position that video games were not art and never could be considered art.  To be perfectly honest, with all his years of experience with the artistic medium of film, it is easy to see why, nearing 70, he was unable to conceive of games as art.  In an article from his own journal, aptly entitled Video Games Can Never Be Art, Ebert details the reasons, in his mind, that games can never be art.  But asking Ebert, a man in his 60’s at the time who is entrenched in years of film appreciation, is the equivalent of asking a person that adores mexican food to try a fusion cuisine including mexican, asian and Hawaiian styles.  Simply stated, his years of experience in the film industry had Ebert inured against the kind of forward thinking required to take that next step into games as art.  He spends the article calmly explaining why various games are not art, comparing them to Chess and other simple games.  He looks at the game mechanics and trivializes about them without exploring the ideas and the implications of what this actually means about the characters, and the player as a participant.  This would be like me going to a movie and saying “This is just a piece of entertainment projected onto a public screen.  It couldn’t be art, look how fake it is!” while millions of people after watching 12 Years a Slave would be well within their rights to politely disagree.  It doesn’t matter how many accolades and degrees I possess in another, venerable medium.  But this shows the level of his own ignorance, frankly.  This man who achieved lifetime achievements in film and is widely regarded simply could not conceive of games as an artistic medium because they are not relevant to him.  And that is ok, but it makes him and his input irrelevant to any conversation concerning games as an art form.  This article will be one of those discussions.

4PM is a game made by Bojan Brbora that discusses how we deal with grief.  You play a woman, named Caroline, who is on the very last threads of her own rationality.  From the look of the game, it is very clear that she is a heavy drinker.  Everything has a thick, hazy hangover look to it.  Caroline stumbles out of bed with her slow gait and rolls a bottle in the sink, joking about skipping breakfast.  Her life is in tatters, her minimalist apartment is a mess and her answering machine is full of messages from voices brimming with concern.  There are pills and cigarettes on her nightstand, the window is open: everything in her life seems to have a sense of reckless abandon.  When you start up the game, it has a heavy sense of itself with a dark soundtrack.  Even the tutorial leads you to the edge of a tall rooftop where your character blacks out to a scene where she is driving.  It goes black again, you hear what sounds like something hitting a car in the middle of the day on a busy street.  Someone screams and the game starts.

Make cute jokes into the mirror as your own tear-soaked countenance glares back at you.

Make cute jokes into the mirror as your own tear-soaked countenance glares back at you

There are very few ludic sequences in this interactive experience that one might point at and ridicule as non-artistic.  The places where these sequences exist are very feasible, dark and almost humorous.  Honestly, each one evokes a number of emotions for anyone that might have a similar experience.  There is the party scene where you have to find the toilet before the timer runs out and you vomit where you are standing from over-indulging.  Your character dances some and tries to buy another drink, but is flagged by the bartender.  Granted, I’ve never been there, but I have certainly ended a couple nights of drinking over a toilet.  As Caroline stumbles around, the room seems to spin and undulate as the music booms and the haze of the alcohol closes in around her.  I have never felt so claustrophobic in an open setting before.

Go ahead, just puke in the flower pot.  No one will notice.

Go ahead, just puke in the flower pot. No one will notice.

Another sequence features Caroline at work where she sees a few options that suit her better than getting her work done.  She could move over to a personal computer where a fresh game of Arkanoid awaits, or she can sneak a few drinks in from her personal stash of whiskey in one of her drawers.  After playing a little arkanoid and downing my drinks, I am ready to try sneaking out of the office, it seems.  Just don’t get caught by that douchey little prick Keith.  The fucker is patrolling the hallway, making this a tense scene where you realize just how deep into depression and desperation this woman has fallen.  She is ready to risk her own livelihood just to sneak out and have some alcohol.  It is sad and frightening.

As you make your way out to the stairway, you see a man cast you an impassive glance as he continues up to the roof.  Extremely unsettling.  You have the option to pursue your vice to the bar below the office, or pursue the curious man up to the roof.  These choices decide how the rest of your day goes and, invariably, the rest of your life.  Without spoiling too much of the ending, should you go up to the roof, you pick up pieces of this man’s life and discuss with him in an attempt to bring him back from the brink.  I have had a number of friends that contemplated suicide and even had to call the police to intervene on one occasion.  Talking someone back from the edge is difficult, especially when your immediate plans were to just go get wasted during the work day and tap out.

Just think about it.

Just think about it.

Everything about this experience speaks to how video games are truly art.  Perhaps the interpretation of ludic games vs. artistic works is a little undefined, but there is definitely something more to these pieces than irrelevant critics of other artistic media are willing to admit.  The fact is that art evokes emotions and makes you consider yourself in a new lens, one you might not have otherwise entertained.  4PM is a testament to videogames as a method of conveying that level of experience.  Sometimes it is not enough just to see something happen on a screen, because you can walk away from that experience.  I can watch a movie like 12 Years a Slave, be deeply affected by the story of Solomon Northup and be brought to tears.  But in the end it is a movie and I can walk away from that.  Although 4PM is about a woman dealing with grief, it is powerful, not because it challenges anything in society, but because it challenges me.  Because it is an experience that I have, and an experience in which I participate is something I cannot just walk away from.  Such an experience, real or virtual, is one that I will take as a part of myself for the rest of my life.  This experience is 4.99$ on Steam.

The only thing that I really found problematic about this game is, depending on the choices you make and what you do in the game, your ending might differ from the one suggested in the game’s tutorial.

 

Soul Gambler, Faust Reborn

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Every once in a while, someone tries for greatness beyond the scope of their reality.  For the main character of Soul Gambler, Faust, that was never the plan.  Faust is just like every one of you: went to school, excelled at his field, got a reasonable job in a boring position.  Paid well enough to have a good life.  But Faust was bored to tears.  That is, until today.  Until the day where you meet him.  That is the day he learns how to sell his soul.

Faust is the story about a man who sells his soul to get everything he ever wanted.  Soul Gambler is a modern retelling of Goethe’s words.  It would be easy boring as fuck for me to launch into a comparison between the two that might inevitably end with some shallow “the book was better” statements.  Honestly, I have never fucking read Faust.  Probably a lengthy and verbose masterwork of an ancient people that is difficult to relate to and  context whose context and references are enormously difficult to fully accommodate.  This is why I love video games.  We’ve moved past the lives and the times of those people for it to be fully applicable to us here.  What we need is a translation between our language and theirs.  Goethe was a German writer and Faust is a story from German legends but it is not the German I am referring to.  We need a contextual translation of Faust so that we can use it, just as those readers of its day used it, to measure ourselves and consider who we are in a new light.  Soul Gambler is an example of that attempt.  Taking these old stories and making them into something we can feel and which we can use to relate to our ancestors’ struggles.  And now, some titties.

Aw fuck no, I am not listening to any shit you say when your fucking presence makes my office into Cthulu's man cave.

Aw fuck no, I am not listening to any shit you say when your fucking presence makes my office into Cthulu’s man cave.

I am not sexist, I just needed something to break the preachy rant.  Faust really is every man in this game, though.  At least every modern man.  We’ve all gone to school or had some kind of training.  Maybe we didn’t all graduate at the top of our class, but the majority of us ended up at the “good enough” category of workplaces, and less at the ones they advertise on the fucking brochure.  We’ve all felt the grinding tedium of everyday monotony, and for the British, that’s ok.  For the rest of us, we need some fucking flare, some life, some action.  So Faust gets to meet this old gypsy woman that cuts him with a fucking dagger.  This enables Faust to slice off portions of soul life a loaf of goddamn bread reserved for his very own private dream sandwiches.  He uses these metaphorical sandwiches to mold his reality and make whatever he wants happen.  For 10% soul, you can find your own soul mate!  For 30% you can be strong and sexy as an athlete!  It gets a little obnoxious as every time you look into something with a reflection, his reflection appears and tries to convince him to chop off pieces of soul to buy a new pair of sneakers or something.

The gameplay in this is similar to pretty much every fucking Final Fantasy and Bayonetta in that it really requires is one button.  Where it differs is that you have to select with the mouse, so it requires a little more effort.  But that is ok.  This is about the story, the characters and it is really not that long.  There are also none of those pesky game obstacles to slow you down, so I got through this whole game in about 1.5 hours.  Granted, the more observant have already called my bullshit because they located the stats at the bottom of the page.  Let me make that bigger for you ; ).

Charism, huh?  I thought that was the worship of arbitrary indoor furnishings..

Charism, huh? I thought that was the worship of arbitrary indoor furnishings..

So there are some RPG elements in this game: Health, Manipulation, Intelligence and Charism(a).  These stats actually have an effect in-game as well.  If you have high manipulation, you can use your jedi powers to make people tell you things you want to know.  High intelligence lets you out think stupid people.  High Charism(a) lets you charm your way out of some shit.  Overall you can look at these as chat modifiers.  You will generally end up in the same place every time, but these stats let you choose some new boxes or open new opportunities through discussions.  Another stat that will appear in the lower left corner of your screen is your soul.  It shows you, in percentage form, how much of your soul you still have left.  The more the better, trust me.  Without revealing too much you have am epic showdown at the end, and how you choose to spend your soul decides how you do in the epic showdown.  Even for those with no concept of the source material, it should go without saying that being frivolous with your soul makes this game end badly for Faust.

Good Lord!  She tattooed my liver!  That's the last time I pay a hooker in Belfast!

Good Lord! She tattooed my liver! That’s the last time I pay a hooker in Belfast!

One thing that really got me in this game was the terrible use of English, but the developer of this game is based in Brazil and has an option for English on the main site, so they don’t English too well.  More’s the better, honestly.  What was supposed to be a dark and mysterious tale turned into a quirky dark comedy about a guy with a tattoo on his liver, or something.  There was also some serious gypsy magic in this one, too.  This is a good game for the experience.  It really can’t even be called a game, either.  It’s an interactive experience.  These guys call it a PlayComics game, but it’s an interactive experience.  And it is well done, too.  Despite the broken English, the dialogue flowed together really well, which is an accomplishment considering this is the equivalent of a “choose your own adventure” novel.  It really highlights why games can’t really give you total freedom because every last step outside the boundaries has to be programmed in.  This game takes what equates to a dizzying tangle of dialogue possibilities and brings them all back to the same storyline points elegantly.  The music is also enjoyable in a cafe, but if you are into that sort of thing, you can download it, too.  The best part about this game is that it is only 4.99$ on Steam.  6.99$ with art and soundtrack.  If that hulking second dollar figure is too daunting for you, there is always the option to get the DLC later, which includes the music and art.

Of all the things that bother me about this game, nothing frustrates me more than the possibility that it will be passed off as just another indie game on Steam.  This game has a lot more to offer the standard gamer than just art and relation to a piece of literature.  It has a soul of its own that it tries to grant you in the process of playing.  It makes you think about things and weigh yourself in a new light, and that is the purpose of art.  To affect you deeply enough that you carry a piece of it with you.  I just want to know why the woman that is your soul mate carves the symbol of chaos into your chest to protect you.  Fucking whatever, I don’t know what kind of love-pain rituals Europeans are into these days.

Huzzah!  This is my 50th article!  Time to Celebrate with a giveaway!  I will be linking this sentence to the details shortly.  Stay tuned!

Black Ice, Warning: Incoming Game!

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Remember those days when we imagined all the different ways that life would be different inside a computer?  Any male product of the 1990’s would remember Reboot: a show whose name is invoked, intentionally or not, when an old series gets updated and made dark and gritty.  It was about the denizens of a cyberworld inside a computer where things were fine and happy until some jerk decided to play a game.  If that were the case, my computer’s inside city is a post-apocalyptic nightmare ruled over by the churning wheels of a citizen-rending machine known only as Steam.  But before all that happy-go-lucky bullshit there was a guy who envisioned a world destroyed by cybernetics and supercomputers.  Where the ultra-wealthy elite do as they please with the world, ruling from corporate arcologies where they look down and see an infinite sea of light reflecting the scintillating beauty of the stars above.  This vision of the future, as seen in Bladerunner and Shadowrun, is called cyberpunk.  Black Ice takes place in the minds of those called hackers, and it is a love letter to that vision of a future age.  Garrett, the developer behind this game, shared some of his own thoughts on the inspiration driving this title.

Black Ice was inspired by many things, but mostly Neuromancer by William Gibson and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I wanted to experience the hacking as described in Neuromancer, but I also wanted to find cool loot and blow stuff up.  I think it’s obvious that I took a lot of inspiration from Diablo 2 and Quake 3, but I also looked at things like the Android: Netrunner card game and older games like the original Rise of the Triad. I want you to feel dread at what’s going to come out of these servers, to risk it all for the potential of awesome loot. I want you to feel great because you found an awesome ability combo and are wrecking servers that used to give you trouble. I want you to feel OP.

– Garrett, Developer, Black Ice

Jacking into the Supermesh can be a bit overwhelming at first, since you start the game at level 0.  The game is far from perfect right now, but it has a good thing going.  Check in options that you have the tutorial activated your first run.  It will give you an idea where to start, level you up and secure you some first-level loot as well.  But after running the tutorial once make sure you don’t have it active anymore, or else it will run every time you play.  Irritating.  Sure, in most versions of a cyberpunk future you are dealing with a massive computer network cybercomplex known as “the matrix”.  Gibson used it, Shadowrun uses it, the Matrix used it: at this point the matrix is an irritating trope, so I am glad someone saw fit to call it something a little different.

Towering cybernetic arcologies etched with fluorescent dreams and backlit by scintillating points of data

Towering cybernetic arcologies etched with fluorescent dreams and backlit by scintillating points of data

Once inside the supermesh you will see block after block of fluorescently lit data archives.  These are the servers.  Each one is owned by a company or organization and each one holds a dark secret and terrible power, and you can read about them on their little terminals.  But don’t get too distracted; there is a lot to get a hold of.  Each attack you possess costs you RAM.  Think of RAM as stamina in other games: every action you take aside from pressing ‘wasd’ costs RAM.  Sure, your RAM replenishes but how quickly depends on your talents.  You also have a health bar, experience and an actions hot bar.  You can slot actions into your left/right click and numbers 1-5.  You will also be able to slot abilities into spacebar and shift.  While I went with the age-old gaming medium of shift to run, space to jump, you will certainly have options open as you can slot any ability anywhere.  You could have 6 different types of lasers, an icebreaker and a rocket pack and play the whole game that way.  Your arsenal depends on your hacking style.

Each of your attacks and abilities is governed by a talent.  This is like the character sheet for your standard RPG, but this one is a bit more extensive.  There are a lot of things to consider while you are running the supermesh. You have your hacking talents ( hack speed, hack time, hack range) which govern how you attack servers.  Increase your hack speed to speed up your hacks.  Decrease your hack time so there is less time on the clock when you start the hack.  Increase hack range and you get a larger playing field.  Now, when you hack a server, you run up to it and activate your icebreaker.  Why the fuck is it ice?  What is with all the fucking ice?!?!?! Is it cause the ground is light blue like ice or something? No.  Fuck no.  Those playing Shadowrun are aware that each server deploys Intrusion Countermeasures to detain or kill anyone trying to gain unlawful access to the data on the server.  Your icebreaker lets you tunnel into the server and gain access in a matter of seconds.  In the meantime, you have to deal with Black Ice, the ICs designed to kill the operator.  These are what you shoot, nuke and destroy in the game.  You main enemies.

Your next series of talents are what I have dubbed your general talents (Movement speed, Loot Find, RAM, Health) these let you do various things, mostly self-explanatory. You want all of these increased as much as you can get them.  Some items increase your RAM incrementally or by a percentage, each is displayed separately.  Your next round of talents will be your combat talents ( attack speed, accuracy, critical hit chance, weapon damage, weapon range).  Again, all self-explanatory.  The last round of talents are really just secondary combat talents (Damage returned, chance to pierce, drunk projectiles, knockback power, homing, chance to ricochet, damage reduced, chance to colorize, RAM returned).  A lot of your talents cannot be increased by level, so watch what items you slot.  You don’t want to give up an icebreaker that has a nice range if you really need space to move!

When you see this fucker you better run.  It's a shark that fires missiles out of its jagged-toothed mouth.

When you see this fucker you better run.  UFO shark is gonna shoot you with missiles!

Some points to consider while leveling up.  While having an ass-load of RAM is good, some abilities will reduce your RAM by a percentage.  This means the speed you’ll run out of it will not change ever.  So the best stat to level up if you want a good bit of RAM every time you hit that button would be RAM return.  This will increase the rate that your RAM bar refills.  There are a lot of talents in this game, so don’t be afraid to experiment with each of them.

Personally, I did a lot of experimenting with ways to play this game.  For example, nothing is more annoying in battle than being unable to find the attack you want right before some cyberweb crawler leaps at you and takes you out.  This is frustrating.  So I arranged my abilities and weapons so my attacks would be easier to access.  In order to activate my icebreaker, I have to hit 5.  Essentially, I cannot hit that button by accident.  Your supermesh cybercity will be arranged so that a level 300 server is just next to the level 80 server I want to hack.  If I am finishing off the target server and accidentally attack the level 300 server just next to it, I might get my bits scrambled before I can exit the hack range.  I have had my bits scrambled a lot, and every time that happens you lose bitcreds, in-game money.  So placing my icebreaker in a tough to hit spot helped me stop doing that shit.

Another fun fact you might notice while playing is that you can crack multiple servers simultaneously.  This helped immensely when I was level 50 – 70 and was getting bored.  Cracking one server at a time is a slow leveling process, and you have a long way to go until you can attack your final server, the aptly named Finality, Inc.  It is the giant silver server guarded by a roving warship of doom, called a S.H.A.R.K. and topped with a spinning cybernetic skull.  Can’t miss it.  Anyway, being able to take several servers at once gave me the ability to level fast as shit.  I got from level 51 – 80 in a matter of hours; each server provided a healthy boost of around 1000 exp.  Activating several servers simultaneously allowed me to create a giant Venn Diagram of death.  Pure magic.

Enemies in the red, orange, blue field are assholes that don't like video games.  I nuked them with a logic firebomb.

Enemies in the red, orange, blue field are assholes that don’t like video games. I nuked them with a logic firebomb.

However, I still wasn’t leveling fast enough.  I got frustrated and went to the store to sell a fuckload of goods.  After cracking a few hundred servers, you inventory gets a little full.  So you go to these giant solid-colored store servers.  I hadn’t bought anything until level 47 and boy was I surprised when I did.  I realized that I could buy some crazy missile attack that allowed me to blow up anything in sight. I also got a secondary, slow-firing shotgun attack that fired missiles instead of pellets.  That shit hurt a lot.  Now I was cracking 2 servers twice my level.  At my best around level 50 I was able to take down a level 110 server and a level 160 server at once.  Anything more than that and it gets really dicey.  These attacks even let me take on the dreaded sharks, and that got me even stronger weaponry, since Finality Inc is a level 500 server.

Now I am pushing level 99 and I am able to take on three level 150 servers at once, but I generally just take a level 175 server and a few smaller ones with it.  An important factor to note in server crashing is that when you attack more than one server at once, each server’s ICE will attack the others.  This means that if you grab a spam server, all the other ICs will be bogged down trying to fight the little guys.  Most other servers will kill off a spam server for you, and you can just watch.  Granted, you would normally get experience per kill.  If ICs kill eachother, you get nothing for it, however, you will still get the exp when the server goes down and the loot inside.  But this means that you can use two or three larger servers against eachother, but be careful!  Each server is killing each server and any IC not engaged in combat will lock into you if close enough, so it is best to keep within the range of enemies you can feasibly take down.  I still shy away from servers at the upper 200 levels.  Utilize these tactics well and you will turn all your enemies into a neat little pile of cybernetic death confetti, just make sure not to get your bits scrambled in the process.

It's like a party for you imminent demise! YaY!

It’s like a party for your imminent demise! YaY!

Black Ice is a great game, but it is in pre-release status, so it is far from perfect.  It has a modern-classic feel to it, though, and will definitely get you back to reading some Neuromancer.  It is available on Steam right now for a cool 9.99$.  Not bad considering it is a good time.  At the moment you’ll be plowing through servers like you’re some kind of bit drinking data vampire after a camping trip in the Australian outback, but it is a lot of fucking fun.  My favorite thing is standing on top of a server, looking out and seeing the ghostly outlines of the numerous servers I’ve crashed.  Sometimes destruction is its own form of creation.  This is another game that includes a photo-sensitive mode designed to aide those suffering from light-sensitive seizures that still want to enjoy it.  For those that care, this one is firmly planted in my favorites on Steam.

I was driven up a wall by one thing in this game, and it wasn’t the web crawlers.  The thing about this game that got me so frustrated is the distinct lack of anything.  It is a lot like being in an actual server: lights, a droning noise some soundtrack but there is no life!  Can we have the game elements of this one already?!  I mean I don’t want to go trade war stories with Mr. Rodgers or anything, but when I am cracking servers just to have someone to associate with, you know there should be a little more variation.  Whatever, maybe I can just go hang out at Finality, Inc.  Live every week like it’s shark week!

Viscera Clean-Up, Engagingly OCD

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So this is what it’s come down to.  Viscera Clean-Up detail is a glorified janitor simulator in early access, but don’t close the screen yet.  You’re not exactly wiping some kid’s puke up off a tile floor or mopping up piss.  You are the guy that cleans up after the events of other video games and tragic events, but this seems to be made by a people who are disenfranchised with the world in general and are used to monotonous, soul-crush jobs.  Like the British.

Ultimately, this game is just like building a puzzle.  You are given a big mess to organize, and piece by piece you work the mess down to an easily manageable pile and then finish up.  Now, starting this game is a bit of a chore.  You begin and blood and guts litter the floor, are painted on the walls and the entire scene is a very “modern art in rouge.”  You have several very fucking important machines that help you get your job done.  First, there is the Slosh-o-Matic, dispenser of buckets full of water.  Then there is the furnace, it is the disposal method of choice for viscera both human and alien.  Then there is the What-a-Load container machine, which disposes containers marked with the “biological hazard” symbol.  And finally, the vending machine, which provides access to all manner of useful objects.

This game provides the all-too-realistic experience of being a janitor fitted with the cheapest mechanism for cleaning available in futuristic times.  By all accounts, you should have access to a fucking auto-cleaning zapper mechanism!  But the most high-tech device you have is the Muck-Guyver, which provides a radar “ping” that beeps faster and in a higher pitch the closer you are to a “mess.”  Way too many times have I finished cleaning up a section of a room littered with the remains of a scientist, used the Muck-Guyver and the region still came up hot.  I look on the ceiling and curse the gods, realizing that the some of a victim didn’t fucking reach the floor.  At which point you have to stack a bunch of boxes, or whatever environmental detritus you have available, and scrub the goddamned ceiling!

Your main “weapon” is a mop, so the Slosh-o-Matic isn’t just a funny little feature.  It is your main support element.  And don’t even think for five fucking seconds that this shit is all user-fucking-friendly!  Every time you hit the dispense button, there is a shot you will get a bloody body part instead of a bucket of clean.  This means it will drop out and splatter fresh blood all over the ground and the machine.  I like to imagine that this is because the machine is really a teleporter, and a careless technician just lost an arm or something.  A slosh-o-matic is necessary, though, as your mop gets dirty through usage.  You can only mop a heavily-soiled section of the floor for five mouse-clicks before you start just spreading the muck around, so you have to get a fresh mop bucket and rinse the mop.  One dunk only, though!  Your mop buckets will get soiled, too!  Dunk your mop in that and you will just be smearing a fine paste over surfaces leaving a trail like a snail on its period.  And watch your goddamned step!  Knock over a bucket containing ANY level of grime, and you will have just poured out a mess all over the floor again.  Prepare for agony.  My wife came in worried about me only to find I knocked over another fucking mop bucket!

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Dirty mop? Spilled bucket? This might end with suicide.

 

If your buckets get dirty, too, how the fuck are you supposed to clean for a protracted period of time?  In this space-age setting your company has resorted to the most sensible and fiscally responsible means of disposing of things: setting them on fire.  Apparently the Joker was right, everything does burn!  Even steel buckets full of fucking water!  Now, this is a little silly, but once you have mopped up enough blood and such to get to the bullet cartridges and organs lying in the open, how can you get them to the furnace reliably?  Why, you simply put someone’s assorted remains into a yellow bio-hazard bin and burn them, of course!  Bins are pretty sizable, too, and seating most of two people comfortably.  But be fucking mindful of your goddamned surroundings!  Have a bloody stub sticking out of the bin?  You will smear blood on anything it might touch.  Considering the fact that doors in this don’t open wide, you will end up scrubbing walls and doors a lot, too.  And don’t be that manly man that has to cram eight people, a thousand bullet cartridges, five soiled knives and a take-out box into one fucking disposal bin.  That shit will cost you!  Things inside the bin will get heavy for you and you will drop that shit.  Even if the bin isn’t that fucking full and you are hitting shift to go slowly!  Run with organs and you might as well paint everything red.

One thing that this game encapsulates entirely too fucking well is frustratingly tedious tasks.  So you have disposal bins, eh?  Here is a floor littered with a bazillion mother-fucking bullet cartridges.  Pick them up one at a time.  Scientists in this ripped apart by a blood-thirty alien?  Intestines will be scattered around like someone spilled oodles of noodles and you have to pick it up one greasy meat-tube at a time.  Then there are the distances they go to make this a challenge.  Aside from organs pouring out of the bin or bucket dispensers, should you step in a pool of blood, you will track blood everywhere across mom’s new carpet.  There is nothing more frustrating than realizing you just tracked somone’s DNA across your freshly-mopped floors.  And then there is the detail!  Yea, sure, anybody can scrub a few tiles and punch out, but if you just run through and opt-out of spot-checking your work with the Muck-Guyver, you’ll miss something.  One element I discovered was that sometimes blood will run into the fucking grout in the tiles!  And you’ll have to scrub that separately from the rest of the pool!  I am just grateful they don’t force you to go in there with a brush and scrub it out by hand.  Holy fuck!

At the top of the bin, Chad was really getting a-head!

Spacious enough to fit the extremities of several researchers comfortably!

Cleaning up the organs or dead researchers is only the fun part of the job, though.  You’ll find yourself cleaning up crumpled papers, soda cans and other office debris.  There are also other menial tasks to achieve, such as refilling wall-mounted medkits.  I mean, what research facility is complete without the easily-accessible medkit designed for dressing alien claw-wounds?  To this end, the vending machine is a must.  Of course, not all facilities are outfitted in anticipation of epic fight-scenes.  Some places are just dimly-lit and have naturally dingy textures.  In such situations, the vending machine will provide lanterns!  Of course, knock these fuckers over too many times and they explode leaving scorch marks all over the floor.  Vending machines will also offer any number of useless shit, such as pizza slicers and “wet floor” signs.  Granted, I think you get docked points if you don’t put down the signs, so yea.

This game isn’t without its flaws.  Sometimes you’ll have an arm that will get jostled so bad in a disposal bin that it clips through the bin, painting anything it touches.  The bins are the source of a number of issues, as over-stocking the bins causes things to jump around in there like a bunch of nitrogen atoms under pressure.  I also found these strange “phantom pegs” that appear on the electrical cords for your appliances.  At first you might not see them, but if you splatter blood on them, they show up, sometimes only partially.

I guess this is more respectful than just dumping it all in the garbage somewhere.

I guess this is more respectful than just dumping it all in the garbage somewhere.

Aside from being the type of game a serial killer would jack off to, the most irritating thing about it is.. uh.. well I’ll tell you after I spend another 3 hours scrubbing out the toilets and transferring the wasted toilet paper left on the floor to a disposal bin.  Yea, it really is that much fun.  What kind of psychopath has fun in this, do you ask?  Anyone who gets satisfaction out of gradually turning a hopeless situation into an operational facility ready for the next batch of squishy and ethically-irresponsible researchers.

Craft the World, Dwarven Shenanigans

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Dwarfs have always been the fantasy race I love the most.  Long friends, strong hearts and a love of drink and mead!  And this title is full of all the best parts.  Battle bad guys, collect gold, dig mines and build to your heart’s content.  This cartoony game will keep you crafting to the last!  Another title in early access, yes, but it is a good time!

I’ve already placed time into previous plays in this game, but with its recent updates I feel it’s nearing a completed state and deserving of discussion.  The first couple times I played it, I was quickly diced to ribbons, so I recommend restarting until you have a little bit of an elevated platform above your surroundings.  Trust me, when night falls you will be glad you did!  Upon start up, you have one dwarf that warps in through a portal, proving they are descendants of an alien race.  You cannot move your stockpile nor your portal, hence the restart need to relocate your spawn.  Once you have a suitable location, you just follow prompts and missions.  These missions give you exp points, which help you to work toward levels.  At each level, your holdfast gets another citizen, but be careful to keep them alive.

Your dwarfs do everything from mining and building to fighting and fishing.  They gather resources, too, but you have to deliver all their orders yourself, making this a fairly active title.  As you gather resources, you’ll get missions to start crafting things, and making new items is always a good idea.  That’s how you’ll get armor and weapons!  You also level up to get a smithy for advanced projects, furniture and building pieces.  With these you can make some nifty living quarters for your dwarfs.  One of your early missions also grants you with this bearded totem-face.  That is what tells you how good their standard of living is, which is bullshit since the bastards are demanding as fuck!  They need all stone walls and secured doors, hand-carven beds and the finest food cooked in the finest kitchen.  But they build it all themselves (albeit under your strict direction), so I guess they deserve the satisfaction.

Creepy wall face watches you sleep.

Creepy wall face watches you sleep.

As you can see, you won’t be starting off with five-star accommodations, but you work up to it.  This fancy hole-in-the-ground establishment took a good hour in real life, a couple days in game, to create.  But you really don’t get much time to wallow in the luxury of mud-lain floors.  Soo enough you get to deal with all kinds of assholes.  Actually, every night a parade of skeletons and zombies come walking toward you, since dwarf is apparently a pungent and delicious dish, and bust your door down!  Not to mention ghosts start swarming all over your stockpile, and if you leave the stuff out too long, it get stolen by goblins.  Yup!  Little green shits, too!  At some point after the third or fourth day, you’ll have a tribe of goblins spring up nearby, and where the skeletons use their shields to boost each other over terrain, goblins build ugly little stick platforms.  So, it is in your best interest to build weapons and armor as quickly as you can.

In order to get all the materials necessary to move away from beating your enemies with logs while wearing lumber-plated chest armor, you need metal.  Sure, you might have to buy some materials from the Ogre Store to grease the wheels at the start, but coin is not easy to come by, so it’s not the best long-term strategy.  Dig deep and you’ll find nice-sized deposits of iron, gold, silver and even mithril!  If that gives you a bearded little chubby, then you’re playing the right game.  This one is all about getting materials and making shit with ’em.  Of course, it’s not all gold, gems and berry sprinkles.  Leave a mineshaft abandoned without lighting, you’ll find it over grown with snapping plant-life.  Or maybe you’ll unwittingly spawn on top of a colony of psychotic fire-ants with a taste for leathery dwarf-flesh!

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No, seriously, that shit happened to me!

You may also have noticed the skeleton timer up there, too.  When that timer runs out after a good 45 minutes, all hell breaks loose.  Alongside whatever other nocturnal terrors you cope with regularly, hell sends a warming party to drag you down into the pits of fire with them.  Often a boss will come through, too.  And walling off that side of your home won’t do shit, either.  They’ll knock down doors, tear apart your ground-hatch; shit, they’ll dig through a stone wall to get at your sweet sweet dwarf meat.  So the only recourse is to forge your way to victory.  The above images, by the way.  Those are from the first world in the campaign mode, and it’s on an easy difficulty.  I have yet to get past it, but I am sure the next realm isn’t exactly a picnic in happy-land.

Along the bottom of your screen is the hotbar.  You’ll be placing furniture, door, torches etc. out of this tray.  Equip is how you get your dwarfs to wear their armor (as if the marching onslaught of demons wasn’t all too inspiring) and craft is where you craft.  The crafting menu is pretty minecraft-esque, and you drop materials into various coordinations to assemble pickaxes, maces and everything else you can’t dig out of the ground.  Of course, you just have to click on items in your stockpile to learn how to make them.  Of course, blueprints of new items will appear in there depending on how far through the crafting tree you progress.  Technological advances are separated into various types, typically designated by the primary material used to make the items.  Moving up through the tree lets you go from sleeping on a bed of leaves to lodgings fit for a king.  Not to mention increasing dwarf inventory size with back packs, making better foods to keep them fueled longer and healing them faster when they go to sleep.  Aside from just the inventory size, each dwarf can learn different skills related to dwarf tasks.  cooking, logging, climbing, swimming, hunting; you name it, there is probably a book about it.  If there were female dwarfs, I might be scared what other books might get dropped.  Good thing each dwarf is cloned by our alien gods.

Of course this is a developer manor, but I don't have all the time in the world to dig stone.  That shit is heavy!

Of course this is a developer manor, but I don’t have all the time in the world to dig stone. That shit is heavy!

Good for a return game after you get bored with a title you’ve been waiting to play for a year and a half, this one is always a good time.  It gets a little frustrating at times, but the message is always the same: this is all about a good time and freedom.  And after you build as far as you can?  Just move on to the next world.  Face greater challenges, fry bigger fish, make bigger castles.  Whatever your cup ‘o’ tea, just make sure you defend the little dwarfs, cause as stinky as I imagine they are (you sure as fuck can’t build a bathtub) listening to their shrieks and watching their ghosts drift away is a little heart-breaking.  Especially after you spend all that time and randomly-dropped occupation books to customize each dwarf.  And for only 15$ on Steam, you can have your very own dwarf colony.

Many things bring forth my ire, and in this the little shit gets annoying.  The dwarfs are like the ones from Lord of the Rings with a touch of Snow White’s infamous seven.  These guys can make some bitchin’ armor and weapons, but as cool as they look, they sound like adorable, dirty, stinky teddy bears.  Seriously.  They say ‘ow’ when they fall down from climbing trees.  They grumble and bumble and talk in Sims-style chat bubbles.  But that’s ok.  Just wait until it’s night and they’re asleep.  They’ll learn why Maxis won’t let me play the Sims anymore.  Just wall off the exits and put tapestries over the firepits and voila!  Instant dwarf roast!  Of course, even if fire mechanics in this game were advanced enough to do that, they would be the ones placing all the tapestries and walling themselves in like kool-aide sipping cultists complicit with the totem-god in their own mass suicide.  O, well.  You can’t torture all helpless little creatures under your command.

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville, Post-Apocalypse Mayorship

RebuildlogoEver wondered what it would be like to take the place of Rick Grimes or the Governor?  How would you run things differently? What policies would your band of survivors have to get accustomed to?  Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a series that allows you to decide just that.  Lead your rag-tag band of survivors to take back the city from the dead.  Fight the ravenous hordes, train your people in various skills and work to bring back the world of the living amidst the hordes of undead.

Developed across two previous titles by Northway Games, Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a title that I have been following for a couple years now.  This latest incarnation is by far the cleanest version of the game, but because it is an early-access title, it is not without its issues. So don’t say you weren’t warned.  Where previous games, available in browser or on iOS platforms, drove for a more serious tone with a soundtrack out of a horror movie, Gangs feels more like a video game.  Rather than the realistic portrayals of survivors featured in Rebuild and Rebuild 2, Gangs uses vector graphics to portray its heroes.  Personally, this makes it a lot easier to detach myself from them.  If Rico Simms goes out for food and comes back holding his intestines, I will be more likely to just bury a hatchet in his head.  No worries.  That guy was annoying anyway.  Though the characters are now a little more toony, this has allowed the developers to make the town itself look altogether better.  Where before you had some simple doodles, now you have a more detailed and gritty map.  Granted, sometimes the map feels more like a page out of “Where’s Waldo?” but that makes it fun and slightly nostalgic to pan the view and looks at your surroundings.  One more major add-in for the city itself in Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville were rivers and coastlines.  This way you can reimagine that famous trailer for another run-of-the-mill zombie-smashing RPG at E3 2014.  Did you like this map? Good.  Save the seed and you can regenerate it every time you play or take a random seed for endlessly replayable apocalypse action.

From dismal winter to decrepit post-apocalypse, the styles really inspire the creeping depression of being the last people on Earth.

From dismal winter to decrepit post-apocalypse, the styles really inspire the creeping depression of being the last people on Earth.

Gangs of Deadsville also features other players.  In Rebuild 2 you had the possibility of running into a gang called The Last Judgement Gang.  They would frequently harass the colony, attack, steal food and generally provide villains for the player.  As your colony grows, it eventually becomes evident that you have to deal with them, and this culminates in a final showdown of epic proportions.  In Gangs, you get to deal with other factions.  As of yet, the only interaction I’ve had was with this russian guy named Gustav.  He always comes by and tries to get my people to gamble away precious resources, buy hookers and accept food loans.  That guy is more of an annoyance, really, but if you piss them off enough, their faction comes crashing in guns-blazing.  This isn’t the only other faction, but it is the only one I have met so far.  You can also run into enemy NPC colonies that basically end up battling you for dominance.  Instead of having a typical cut-and-dried enemy, now you have a real us vs. them feeling with a battle for survival with a group of people you might have been best buddies with in another life.

When I started Gangs of Deadsville, I was given the standard options: make a character, pick a profession set town parameters.  As I clicked through the random name generator, I noticed a few fun monikers I might take on.  Among them were Johnny Dangerously, Arma Geddon and James Tyberius  Kirk.  Clearly the character I was concocting was a man of honor.  As if that didn’t make it obvious enough, the selection of former occupations is spectacular: politician, Police Officer and Doctor are fairly well coveted in the real world, but more realistically, you can choose to play as a Retiree or a Shop Clerk.  Each occupation starts your leader off with an item and a bonus quality, which makes them unique.  Being clever and dashing, I chose the Shop Clerk occupation, which made scavenging easier and got me better deals when bartering and trading.  And of course, started me off with the tool most favored by shop clerks worldwide: a crowbar.  I would have pick a backpack or a flashlight, but shop clerk comes with a crowbar.  I mean, I am not disputing the realism of a game where you spend your time fighting zombies, but every self-respecting gamer knows that the crowbar is default weapon of the scientist.  Jeez.

Reminds me of where my in-laws live minus the mindless, brain-eating hordes.. but then again, they do live in Jersey...

Reminds me of where my in-laws live minus the mindless, brain-eating hordes.. but then again, they do live in Jersey…

Each survivor has their own story involving things ranging from baking and homelessness to gardening and shoulder-lizards.  As your people level you will choose news perks for them, skill enhancements, equipment etc.  Equipment becomes important, too.  While your main source of food should start off angled toward farming, you will still need to avidly scavenge for weapons, tools, ammo, fuel, building materials and an array of other goods that are hard to come by and expensive to purchase.  And with other factions and colonies searching for the same goods, you need to move fast.

But dedicating your people to one set of tasks constantly will leave other areas of your colony neglected.  There are 5 classifications that survivors fall into: defender (red), leader(blue), builder(green), scavenger(yellow) and engineers (purple).  Each of them play an integral role in the sustenance, expansion and strength of your colony.  Sure, everyone likes to kill zombies, but not all your survivors are good at it.  Send a builder out with a hammer to kill zombies, and he can get small groups, but as the numbers of walking dead rise, they will only be able to support the real fighters.  Likewise, an engineer might be able to lend a hand with manpower when expanding the colony into new sectors of the environs, but he is much better suited in a laboratory.  This is where the leader of the town comes in handy.  Sure, you might be a shop clerk, but you are a special shop clerk.  You are able to use your leader for any task and level him up in all skills, while your other survivors only level in their specific skills.  Of course, that makes it so that you are the only non-drone in a colony of ants, but as long as you address them with titles and call them specialists, they shouldn’t rise up in revolt.  I mean, doesn’t “Rage Specialist” sound so much better than “instrument of my own vengeance and violent will”?  Yea, I know, has a sort of ‘I respect your autonomy and special snowflake-ness despite the fact I control your every action’ feel to it.  Just what you need in a leader of men and women.

Cause you also need to keep those fuckers in high spirits, too.  Now the aforementioned hiring of hookers is a good way but costs food and the dignity of many people involved.  A better option is to renovate a nearby bar or church and let your people spend time there.  They can also do ‘time off’ missions in their quarters, but hanging out in a run-down apartment complex is only fun to a point.  There is more to life than seeing how many birds you can hit with your spit from above. Trust me.  Another neat feature of this game are the random events.  People show up at your gates, animals might attack, someone might find a fucking raccoon in the goddamn shed.  Whatever, the odd-ball and.. uh.. RANDOM fucking nature of these events adds a tangential factor to the game, making it feel like it takes place in a real and changing world.

Now, there are zombies in this game.  Did I mention that? Ok, good. Pay the fuck attention.  Now, when the game starts you have a few straggling zed-heads, which are easily dispatched by your survivors, builders, scientists, defenders alike.  But as you progress, your people, who presumably haven’t showered since the fall of modern civilization and can be smelled in the next state over, attract zombies like North Koreans to a bulgogi buffet.  Thus, the zombies start to shamble toward you in ever-growing numbers like the rotting parade of stank-sniffing gut-munchers they are.  This means you need to seriously amp up your game if you don’t want to end up as fertilizer.  Zombies aren’t the only way to die, though.  Go ahead, rely on scavenging as your main food source.  Your people will die THE DAY AFTER YOUR FOOD RUNS OUT!  And your people might die on a mission, get caught up in a random event or just catch a mother fucking fever.  Still more neat mechanics exist, like the ability to switch between real-time and turn-based strategy.  Seriously, the problem is choice!  So reach out, expand your reach and get that technology research moving!  Did I miss that too?

So as you expand you will encounter labs and drive-in movie theatres and other neat shit.  Now, you could ignore the messages and subtle hints, but as you move your game along, you can even get technology up and going again.  Like, refrigeration, movies, PORN!  Christ’s sake PORN man!  Is there a more noble cause to reach back into the annals of knowledge left by the ancients?!  O, yea, there is also the ability farm more efficiently, build better walls, kill zombies more effectively, but shit, man, who doesn’t like to watch other people fuck on film?  It’s purely for research.. and morale.. and stress relief.. or something..

All-in-all, this game allows you to live the fantasy of leading people to salvation through a gurgling masses of horrifying flesh-suckers, and Sarah, the developer, has done everything to make this a title worth your time and money.  The best part is that the game is still coming out with more content.  I mean, that is good news to me!  It means that if the game’s state bothers you, come back to it in a few weeks and there should be another update to explore.

"You, there!  Peasant!  Throw yourself in front of those zedheads so I can escape." You'll miss the days of just 'tripping the fat guy'

It says “kill 5.651153016444607 massed zombies”.  Documentation of the last fucking time I ever let the engineering team go on defensive maneuvers.

Above you will see an excessively accurate detail of how many massed zombies those guys were fighting.  Evidence of the only thing that truly angers me about this game.  Bugs.  Of course, this is a PRE-RELEASE title available on Steam through the combined auspices of Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter.  But that does not make it any less fucking frustrating when you have a memory error appear on your screen after about an hour and a half of non-stop gameplay.  I mean I can’t even fucking binge-playon my favorite goddamn game!  If I want to waste HOURS of my fucking time murdering zombies and micro-managing my people’s lives, I want it to be uninterrupted by binge-halting errors.  The base game is $14.99, but fuck that.  Don’t do that to yourself.  You WILL love this title.  Just spring for the extra 10$ and get the deluxe edition.  You can even download that AFTER you decide whether you like the base game or not as it is listed as DLC!  This DLC will bring you some neat art and such later, but will also grant purchasers 5 extra professions, each with their own unique item.  So, you’ll be cursed with more fucking choices!  And if you’re into that whole ‘instant-gratification’ thing, the DLC ‘deluxe’ version will also give you Rebuild 1 and Rebuild 2 in all their formerly browser-embedded glory.  That way you can formulate your strategies on the earlier (but by no means easier) games.  So go on Steam, and throw 24.99$ at getting this title moving.  Its end state will be a title to make Sid Meier jealous.  I mean, seriously, that guy is probably like making a title called Sid Meier’s Zombies! Too late, ya bastard! Too fucking late!

You can find more from Northway Games here, follow the development of the Rebuild Series here and check out another title by this development family here.

Rust, Naked and Scared Shitless

Rust

 

Garry Newman, the same person at fault for Garry’s mod, is the brains behind Rust, another in the line of games that wish they were Minecraft.  But where in Minecraft there is some sense of decency and still an air of fun for fun’s sake, Rust plunges you naked and screaming into a world that suffers from griefer syndrome.  Before I go off on the playerbase, the game itself is actually quite fun, for a pre-release.

First, you start naked, and who doesn’t like to be naked.  At least it is fun until the sun goes down, then you realize what this game is all about.  If a game about digging in the ground and building is called Minecraft, a more appropriate name for Rust might be Mancraft.  Aside from a free-flailing dangle-down, your inventory includes a rock, a torch and some bandages.  Of course, the bandages don’t heal you, just stop bleeding.  So when you are randomly spawned and an asshole with a fucking pistol chases after you shooting for kicks, your best defense is to fucking run for cover.  I recommend loosing him among rocks, but he’ll still get you with a shot or two.  The bandages help there.   So once it gets dark, you’ll say “Good thing Garry gave me this torch!” but that shit is like herpes, keep it to yourself or someone will cut your dick off.  Take out that torch, O, naked wonder of human deduction, in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness and what do you become?  A blazing goddamn beacon of newb-dom.  If you have the presence of mind to try gathering resources upon being thrust into a new world, as nearly no one fucking does, you might have some resources, and that is all the reason most people have to cut you open.  For the rocks you were keeping in your bunghole.

So, it should come as no surprise that God’s own multi-tool, a fucking rock, is the most useful thing you begin the game with.  By all means, swinging this rock becomes a sort of divine experimentation when you begin as you try to gain resources.  Look in your crafting section and you might see things you can make and things you need to make them.  Rocks and wood are among the most necessary base materials.  Now, for wood you just hit the rock on trees.  If you find a wood pile, even better.  But when I was looking for rocks, I felt like Christopher fucking Columbus exploring the Atlantic ocean: lost as a cumshot in a snowstorm.  There are TONS of fucking rocks around, especially near the mountains, so you might try harvesting them.  Those are, however, scenery and you are running out of time.  So it is a rock-bashing experiment until you realize which rocks you need.

Do you really need to ask me how it's hanging?

Do you really need to ask me how it’s hanging?

So, if by some fluke of merciless fate you spawn during the day time and you were blessed with ample time to figure all this out and get the necessary resources, you might just be able to survive.  Did you go looking for food too? O, yea, forgot to mention that.  You have a hunger bar that depletes over time, and the more active you are, the faster it goes down.  So that shit goes down but fast when you start just about fucking anywhere naked.  Basically, unless you lay your ass down and prepare for death, your health bar depletes faster than you realize.  Now aside from the locations where prepared food can be found (and those are usually camped by tuna-eating lunatics with hatchets hoping for the last chocolate bar on Earth) you have to take that rock, which is a more reliable inanimate best friend at this point than the companion cube, and chase down chickens, pigs or deer.  Should you be the asshole undaunted by the challenge of running around in the open naked whacking deer with a rock, you find the reward is… chicken.  Wait, what?  Yes, everything you kill provides, for the moment, little, raw chicken cutlets.  Eat up! And promptly spew your guts out, because somebody just had to make it realistic and give you salmonella poisoning!  I swear to god, people – including me – are paying money for this.  So, once you have your materials and chicken, you can build a little campfire and get cooking.  It’s a good thing they didn’t include stomach grumbling noises for all the players on the island or it would sound like you were constantly being stalked by ninja whales.

By this time, it is likely the middle of the night and you have died at least three times.  Aside from hunger and salmonella, which is shown above by the green health bar, you will get cold.  At the time being, campfires are the only thing that can warm you up with torches and furnaces expected to do this as well in later updates.  At night is when the scary things come out.  During the day you have bears and wolves to contend with.  Originally it was zombies, but the devs thought this enemy was just too played out.  So they went the realistic route and make it so that you have to outrun bears and wolves that will maul you to death, slobbering over the idea of gnawing on your femurs.  The scary things I am referring to are the other players.  And these assholes are relentless.  I have played a number of servers that advertise their friendliness to noobs and ‘outlaw’ the killing of nakeds.  This just amounts to bandits not killing you on sight every time.  Sometimes they will see you, follow you a bit and then kill you.  And I have run into groups of players that rove and hunt noobs and still others that just kill whoever they feel like at that moment.  It’s like a page out of The Lord of Flies without the little boys.  That would end in rape, given the mentality you’ll regularly see.

But that really is the fun of the game.  That and building houses out of foundation and wall segments.  You can customize your own little mansion on a mountain, craft a rifle and start taking potshots at people wandering by.  You’ll probably be killed by someone doing just that during your first days.  Survival against all odds.  Every once in a while, as if the game wasn’t brutal enough, an airplane flies by and performs an airdrop.  This makes me laugh.  It’s as if civilization knows were here and, not only do they not care, but they are throwing finite amounts of supplies down at us and watching the battles ensue.  Did I mention areas are randomly irradiated? Yep, usually around where there is pre-packaged food.

just wait 'till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

just wait ’till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

So what pisses me off the most in this game?  Aside from everything else in this game that makes no fucking sense ever again, one thing that stands out are the visuals.  They developers put a lot of time and effort into making the game pretty.  The trees are variegated enough that you feel like you are in a  forest.  The grasses look like fields of gently-waving grass.  I mean, everything looks very very nice, so you get that ‘beauty of nature’ fix before dying a brutal death at the hands of almost anything within sight-range.  It’s like somewhere above the trees you can hear a melody soft and sweet that is clipped short by the gunshot travelling through your skull.  One of the most frustrating things about the game is that it is multi-player only.  You have to go find a server and deal with it.  There is no ‘remember your first game of Rust’ discussions on the Rust forums.  That shit reads like  a PTSD support group.  The benefit, however, is that all servers are using the same map.  No procedurally generated randomness to contend with here, so if you find a great place to build your house, you can fight over the same beachfront property with other people on another server.  Ain’t life grand?

Can you spot the socio-pathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

Can you spot the sociopathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

All-in-all, it’s definitely worth playing, especially for the $20 asking price on Steam.  It’s a bit of a niched game that caters to the “minecraft isn’t realistic enough about survival” crowd.  Weird that such a deranged genre would arise from such a harmless source material.  Well, as harmless as any source-material where zombies chew on your bones at night.

Divine Cybermancy, Ineffable Confusion

edc

 

This indie title has a lot of potential, which is sadly unrealized.  Strap yourself in because this is going to be a non-stop rage-fest from start to finish.  First, the things I liked.  The RPG/First person combo.  You have an inventory, you level up and your skills are based on stats.  You can take skills to become a psyker, a cybermancer or a guy with a big fucking hammer that squashes things. You can shoot holes in everyone.  You can research new weapons and other things useful to your missions.  Killin’ dudes, too. I love killin’ me some dudes.  I actually haven’t seen a game that blends killin’ dudes with RPG aspects well since Dark Messiah: Might and Magic. The graphics are pretty alright, too.

So what is all the rage about?  Well where do I start? Story. That seems like a good place to start.  This game seems to be what happens when a game made by people foreign to the english language make a game and are forced to hastily translate it for the Americans.  Admittedly, the tutorial videos showcase something that looks like it could be either french or latin. But that is no excuse for the aphasic dialogue and strangeness in peoples’ mannerisms.  Then there are the archives!  After the initial mission there is the objective (?) to go looks through the archives and get an idea of what the fuck is going on.  Admittedly, this would be the best place to start in a normal RPG-esque shooter since it would be nice to have an idea what is going on. No. FUCK no.  That shit must’ve been written by someone profoundly enlightened by the mystical qualities of numerous drugs, cause it is barely intelligible. Seriously.  And I get the feeling that these archives are supposed to be the collective knowledge of this “EYE” group.  It amounts to a nonsensical series of events that don’t seem to stream together and are explained in the vernacular of a retarded college student.  Commas are in weird places, syntax doesn’t match up and there is no guidance as to which terminal one should read first.  Sure, all the guys walking around brandishing badass weapons and shiny armor seem to allude to some well thought-out decision making and a neat back story, but that just doesn’t come through. Two of the terminals seem to be crappy science fiction written by a grammatically inept, anti-social high school student during study hall.   This is about a guy named Shinji who seems disillusioned by the super-individualism of his society and listens to spiritually-oriented radio stations.  Also, he scoffs at the drive for space exploration.  Later he attacks a couple in the park after they finish a date.  He might be in wolf-form here, but that is never explained clearly, just vaguely referenced.  He cuts a guy’s throat then rapes and beheads his woman.  ALL OF THIS is just a backdrop for what seems to be a possible invasion by aliens(?) of a nebulous and spiritual nature.  The other two terminals relay information about the timeline which seems kind of cool, but again is hampered by the syntactical grace of using a sharpened rock for fucking brain surgery.  The console that tells you current events directly references ‘you’.  As in the main character.  And it is done in such a way that it seems they took what was supposed to be on the back of the game’s case.. or maybe in the instruction manual.. and just slapped it in the archives.  All very pretentious and mysterious in a distracting “what the fuck am I reading” way and less in the cool mysterious way.

So, storyline completely fucked ass-backwards, I realize there is a drone with a video of me telling myself some shit I forgot.  Most of it, again, makes little to no sense. O, yea! Cause he directs me to the fucking archives for elucidation. Fuck that guy.  I wanted to buy some guns and realized that I’d need to level up mah skillz to get the desired weapons.  No big. Do the work, get the toys.  At some point I spoke to some guy that I think was an important dude.  His name was Nimanah.. or Shivrama.. sounded like something out of the Bhagavad Gita.  He basically told me that he was working against my mentor and suggested that we’d be killing him later.  For a group of people that seem to vaguely want you to be stealthy, this guy was subtle as a cinder block.

The weapons seemed to work well, I mean, the guns shoot, the swords slice.  Fun fun fun. I cut off a guy’s head by accident, too!  I power attacked some guys in the sewers and they just flew apart like crash dummies. That was pretty neat.  There is also a resurrection system. You seem to start with 10 rezzes and a sword stuck to your body somewhere. Seriously.  I ditched my starter sword for some dual katanas (What?! I wanted to dice the bad guys up like chilli and fries!) only to discover that I could still switch to that weapon.  That weapon which I no longer had on me.

...to see my giant shiny, gold penis?

…to see my giant shiny, gold penis?

So after making plans to buy some guns and cyber tech, I go to the Commander Rammalammadingdong pictured above to start the mission.  In the mission, I meet this guy that berates me for not being stealthy (seems a common form of greeting for these pricks at this point) and, after some clumsy conversation boxes, he tells me all the objectives in the nearest three zip codes. Did I mention that these goddamn things don’t disappear after you fucking complete them? Like you are starting a collection of floating glowie waypoints, or something.  I then creep along this gangplank and am seen and shot at by enemies. Then more enemies.  Pretty fucking soon it seems like the ENTIRE FUCKING PLANET has come out because they saw a gunfight on the news.  Federals and random thugs chase me down like they have a pact to kill me and then duel it out.  Oh, did I mention this game is racist as FUCK against white people?  No, really.  In a world of spiritual people whose armor and names seem to be a vague conglomeration of Middle-Eastern, Indian and Asian cultures, the enemies, called FEDERALS, are white and wearing either nazi storm trooper armor with officers sporting what appears to be the garb of imperialism-era soldiers.

So after slaughtering droves of aimless fucking morons with guns I hacked a bit.  Hacking is fun.  It is a duel with a cyber enemy for control or destruction.  If you lose a hack this big annoying fucking thing comes across your screen.  It flashes purple, red and green, changes expression from angry/happy to laughing and generally tries to give the player a seizure, but does its job of reminding you not to fuck that shit up again.  Seriously. And that shit sticks around for a long fucking time, too!  It certainly makes for interesting gunfights, though. Heh heh…

Quake with epileptic fury!

Quake with epileptic fury!

 

Generally, I would tell anyone considering paying the $9.99 for this on steam to save their cash.  This game is what happens when someone has an awesome idea to weave Warhammer 40k influences into a Shadowrun campaign.  Weird, super-religious protagonists and a dark cyberpunk world.  This game dreams big and rambles unintelligibly.  It wanted to be something neat, something memorable.  It wanted to break boundaries and shatter expectations.  It ends up roaming the streets muttering to itself and wrenching its mangy hair as on-lookers cross the street to avoid it.  Its delivery feels rushed as hell and could’ve been so much more than the shitbox that it is.  This game seems to have a cult following, though, and if you are into bizarre worlds with rambling story-telling and shitty mechanics, then this is for you.  I wish I could get my money back, but that isn’t happening.  I played this game for a total of about 3 hours, 2 of which was spent reading garbled english.  The rest was spent shooting dudes, which is fun, but there are many much better games for that.  Avoid this at all costs.  If you disagree, fuck you.  You’re probably one of those underground hipster assholes. Fuck…