Game of the Week: Dark Souls

posted Jun 8, 2013, 6:18 PM by Rowan Jackson

Game of the Week: Dark Souls

It was a rare day when Demon Souls came out, a truly new moment in modern gaming. It was simultaneously pure nostalgia and next generation fear. At the time I really didn't think we would get a second one, and the thought that the sequel would be better was just preposterous.

Yet Dark Souls exists. You can play it right now, and with Dark Souls 2 on the way you probably should.

Game of The Week: Battlefield 3

posted May 13, 2013, 5:09 PM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated May 13, 2013, 5:59 PM ]

Game of The Week: Battlefield 3

It's weird that no other shooter has tapped into what it is that makes Battlefield so great. There's this overwhelming sense of orchestrated chaos that draws you in. With Battlefield 4 on the horizon I can't help diving back in. The game is infinitely improved by a good squad, and a sense of acceptance that you will die so very very much.

I'm of course only talking about the multiplayer.

Beta Impressions: HAWKEN

posted Dec 14, 2012, 4:11 PM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 18, 2013, 7:08 AM ]

Beta Impressions:

There's something wrong with Hawken, and it's difficult to pin down.

The game has mechs (or giant robots, however you want to see it) but they don't move quite right. Sometimes they have friction, sometimes they float. The game has gigantic guns, but they don't sound or feel like you're firing them. There were moments where I wasn't sure if any of my weapons were actually working even though I was holding down both mouse buttons. A disconnect between the player and the physicality of the world can work wonders, it did for the MechWarrior series, but when your game so closely resembles a standard shooter there are certain expectations.

The levels feel cluttered and their immense scale detracts from the robots themselves. It's possible I haven't seen enough levels, but it seems intentional. Adhesive Games has obviously tried very hard to differentiate its product from the classic BattleTech deluge. The over-mechanized world is slick and visually rich, but doesn't always serve as the best play field.

That said, Hawken has its heart in the right place. It's fast paced, and quite unforgiving combat breaths life into the weird constructs that you throw around the levels. The limited dodge and simplified weapons system make it resemble a heavy Halo more than an FASA Title. The gameplay boils down to quick bursts and clever conservation. Most importantly you constantly feel vulnerable.

The real money/fake money combination that works so well in League of Legends suits the upgrade system and, provided they don't lock out too much content, it should produce a rewarding advancement track. I'm defiantly going to keep my eye on this as it develops, and pop in for its instantly satisfying Team Death Matches.

Did I mention the concept art is freaking beautiful?

Sort of a Review: Journey

posted Apr 3, 2012, 10:00 AM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Apr 3, 2012, 10:06 AM ]

"Playing games has become a footrace between integrity and capitalism."

sort of a review journey
I got the time to sit down and play through Journey the other day. I wish more games where that short.

I used to really look forward to 60-100 hour games when I was fifteen, but these days they make me feel like a horrible person. Hello there old friend, you have so much to show me but I’m going to ignore it all or I won’t be able to play your three competitors that also released this week. Playing games has become a footrace between integrity and capitalism.

So fight the power by playing a brief and beautiful painting. Oh wait it sold super well too, oh well.

Journey is like a distilled game. It takes all the experiences you would remember from a full 10-20 hour adventure and condenses them into a brief drifting wonderland. It also succeeds in that rare arena of mixing macro and micro control schemes, something that games in general have really struggled with of late. (Here’s looking at you Prototype, and perhaps more relevantly, Arkham City) You feel as if sliding down a 300 foot dune and hitting a single platform is as smooth and simple as taking a few steps.

My brother pointed out that the game as a whole is the best use of friction in a long while.
st. elmo's wire journey
This is dead on to me, and as you progress through the world you really get a sense of how you move over and through things. You feel the response from the ground you walk on in the controls in a quite an immersive way.

The story was also well executed, and a pleasant surprise. I expected it to be more abstract than it was.

Go enjoy this great example of game art if you haven’t already.

One of the main reasons I can't wait for Guild Wars 2

posted Feb 5, 2012, 7:47 PM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 7:38 PM ]

 Daniel Dociu Guild Wars 2 iceberg shipSo Guild Wars 2 is set to change MMOs forever, from the way they play to the way they're priced. (If it doesn't mess some tiny detail up and go down in internet flames) Who knows, it's possible we may even get to play it this year.

People have talked at length about all the game's systems and blah, and its art has got a huge amount of press too thanks to the insanely talented Daniel Dociu.

But I'd like to remind everyone that we don't only look at MMOs for hundreds of hours - we also listen to them. That's why we all need to be paying attention to this man.

Jeremy Soule is composing the music for Guild Wars 2 and that is good for everyone and their earholes. Because this is the man responsible for this:

And yes the other two more famous ones as well, fine.

But seriously look at the list. This man has composed some of the greatest RPG soundtracks in the history of gaming. The man did Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, and of course the first Guild Wars series. He was also responsible for the only decent part of Dungeon Siege.

So to recap:

Let's just say we won't be muting this MMO and listening to South Park instead for quite some time.

And because I'm link happy today, here's a more hands on example:

Indie Game Marathon

posted Jan 26, 2012, 6:12 AM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 7:39 PM ]

Sort of a review

Limbo, Braid, & Bastion 

I decided to sit down and catch up on some of the bigger name indie games that I'd missed out on due to being sleepy the past two years or so. So the first two are old news, Limbo and Braid. These games have been out for ages but they made a bit of a splash, and I thought I'd give them a look. The third is Bastion, and to be honest if you haven't played it yet (It came out some time in 2011) you really should get off your ass. But we'll get to that.

I first played limbo over a year ago when I noticed my brother had grabbed the demo on the 360. It's since gone on to be award winning and awesome, but I'll always remember it in that afternoon cool in a curtain drawn lounge with a jumpy friend.

limboThere's something magical about that first moment you die in the game. Some may be clever bastards and dodge the bear trap; but most won't. In essence Limbo is a game about expectations, from start to finish. It's about being blindsided by violence and disassociating yourself from the boy.

In a less ethereal sense it's about jumping over boxes and shit.

If you've seen anything from the game at all then I don't need to tell you how good looking it is. But the part that really amazed me was the sound design. A sparse soundscape of isolated nature and machine, the bare minimum to create the scene. But the follow through and the filtering - every echoing footfall or rising hum chills, but never fully frightens. As its name promises, the player floats through the game, worried but never scared, because there's some kind of acceptance to be found in already being lost.

If I had to compare my experience of playing Limbo it would actually be very close to playing Prince of Persia - you know the colorful one where a school girl saved you anytime you stubbed your toe. Though they are obviously very different games, their gameplay flow sparked something similar in me. It has to do with the death system that invites you to experiment. When you apply that to a platformer you get interesting results, a kind of untethered freedom. Though this isn't unique to these two games, it does really lend itself to the way they play.

It's difficult to speak about Limbo without ruining it since it's made of such charming, tiny, moments. Most people who will ever play it already have, but still.

I had been recommended Braid on many occasions. Understandably so, it's a smart and eloquent game with big questions and even bigger answers if you're vigilant. What I hated about Braid was that it didn't quite pull that off.

The core of Braid is magnificently solid. Each world has its quirks (The one that goes backwards when you walk back and vice versa can go fuck itself.) and the controls are tight. The puzzles are wonderful and imaginative and will have you super pleased with yourself, or stringing up your ethernet cable noose. The music is touching and smacks of wonderlust, hell I'm listening to it right now. Yet at its heart, Braid is trying to tell a story, and unfortunately at that it fails.

You can argue that it's meant to be open ended and metaphorical, and of course it is. The developer even said so. But there is no excuse in all the world for blocks of text the size of forever. There are a hundred ways to not do that. Which brings me to my next point:

I'd always wanted my life to have a soundtrack, then MP3 players became what they are now and that became a reality. Having just finished Bastion, my new dream is to have a gruff old man talk at me every time I pick up a pencil or open a door. It's intoxicating.

Bastion is a great game in an old school sort of way. None of this newfangled, "Oh, I have one outstanding and innovative feature but don't look at the cracks." Bastion is that total package of a realized vision.

Music, writing, art, and gameplay all mesh seamlessly. I wanted to hear everything spoken and sang. I wanted to see every tile of every area. And most importantly for a good isometric brawler - I wanted to try each weapon and special move on a slew of interesting enemies.

This is not to say Bastion doesn't innovate, ho boy no. It has a modular difficulty curve through an idol system and a uniquely engaging self building/breaking world. Also, every moment of the game is narrated in a way that doesn't get annoying or boring at all. It creates a strange kind of stream of consciousness playstyle. You find that your actions are yours, but you blur the lines between enacting the tale, and being told.

Also it's longer than I was expecting.

Go buy it if you haven't. Shoo.

ADRIFT Development blog 1

posted Jan 23, 2012, 2:02 AM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 7:40 PM ]


You can find the first little musings on ADRIFT over Here.

Much more to come as I get stuck into this project.

As if your Soul wasn't Dark enough.

posted Jan 11, 2012, 9:52 AM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 9, 2012, 1:00 AM ]

Dark Souls is a fantastic game. Demon's Souls was too. They taught you the most valuable lessons games possibly can - that death is as unavoidable as the freaking tides, and grown men still cry. The only thing wrong with both of them was that they were attached to my hand by a cinder block called a console controller.

The petition to get a PC version has like 60,000 signatures on it now which is pretty cool. Go do your part even if you couldn't give a rat's ass, because we do. Though we all know these things never go anywhere.

If you don't know Dark Souls, or even if you know it well, enjoy watching this:

New Year Resolution

posted Jan 8, 2012, 3:31 PM by Rowan Jackson   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 7:40 PM ]

I'm currently working on two small indie projects in the new SDK for the CryEngine 3. Both are first person, and both feature no weapons or HUDs of any kind. They aim to be a few hours long each and differ wildly in tone.

I intend to keep them visually distinct through colouring, filters, and lighting while their texturing and models will remain simple. I'm doing all the modeling and animation myself in Maya.

I've set up their respective pages: After and ADRIFT

Much more will be added including concept are, videos, possible Alpha and Beta versions, and eventually the finished product. Both games will basically be large mods for Crysis 2 until the SDK has a decent compression tool for making stand-alone projects.

The games will of course be available for free.

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