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Yeah, it's the sort of game that you have to handle very strategically as well. The beginning to mid game is fairly easy and in both dev campaigns, the endgame suddenly kicks it up a huge notch. Especially in the first dev game, where you're forced to take along a kinda useless demigod who gets killed all the time.

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Wow, they're really laying the "we added a new hat" promotions on a bit thick these days.

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Wow, they're really laying the "we added a new hat" promotions on a bit thick these days.

It will probably be quite a bit more, but I would be happy with more hats. Can't have enough of those.

250px-Towering_Pillar_of_Hats.png?t=20111215143440

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Policenauts is amazing. I love it. Except for the gameplay portions dedicated to ogling and touching female character's breasts. Sheesh, Kojima, this isn't even a hentai!

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Hahahaha. I can't wait to co-create The Girl With the Dragon in her Cooch with Kojima-san.

The sad thing is, in spite of complaining about those gameplay elements and how dumb they are, I can't help myself but want to do all of them. I'm a horrible boob-liking person.

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Just wrapped up Xenosaga 2. One of the most interesting turn-based RPG battle systems I've played in a while. Much different from XS1. Learning the details of how it worked was a bit of a learning curve and required a little bit of internet consulting, but once I got the hang of it, it was interesting and fun.

Really weird, anti-climactic ending to this episode though. Also two weird things about the end-game:

1) In the final dungeon, there are breakable crystals in the hallway leading up to the final two bosses. If you break these crystals, there are items inside, but also really strong monsters with tons of HP, status effect spells, and hard-hitting area attacks. They flatten your party INSTANTLY, which led me to believe that the difficulty took a stupidly huge spike at the very last second. So I spent hours grinding and grinding. Then I realized, oh, I could just run past the crystals without breaking them. So that's what I did. I just walked casually up to the final two bosses, which were challenging, but not especially difficult.

IN OTHER WORDS: The regular enemies in the hallway leading up to the bosses are a more difficult encounter than the final two bosses (?).

2) The last encounter of the entire game is Rubedo going one-on-one with Albedo. The entire party has fought Albedo 100 times prior to this, and he is always very fast, very resilient, and spams hard-hitting area attacks that can beat down your entire party and make him a real struggle. This is the FINAL ENCOUNTER with Albedo, and he just stands there doing nothing as Rubedo shoots him with a pea shooter for 20 something turns in a row. Then he uses all his strength to hit Rubedo one time, hard enough to take down about 50% of Rubedo's maximum HP, and then without explanation he just falls over and dies..... ? What...?

Time to start up Xenosaga III and get this trilogy all wrapped up! So far here is my overall impression of the series:

Xenosaga 1: The superior RPG in terms of stats, mini-games, quests, and sub-systems. There is more there for an RPG enthusiast to play around with. So many things to level up, so many mini-games to toy around with. The real junkies for this genre love activity books and layers upon layers of systems to progress. A huge economy of various currencies to hoard, accumulate, and spend. The battle system has a bunch of things going on, but as a jack of all trades, it is a master of none. There is a lot there to play with, but you can easily ignore a lot of it (and you probably will). But in terms of the broader RPG, it's superior in every way.

Xenosaga 2: The superior RPG in terms of its battle system. They really overhauled the whole thing and doubled down on some of the original systems key ideas---specifically the concept of boosting and combo attacks. Super fun to play with once you figure out how it works. The downside is that all of the mini-games are gone and 90% of the original systems have been completely eliminated. You can no longer purchase unique skills for specific characters, upgrade those skills, upgrade individual stats, purchase new mech parts, customize your mechs, purchase equipment, or wear equipment. Literally, all of the activity books that RPG junkies love are gone. All you really do is fight, and the upgrades/level-ups are mostly on predetermined rails. All the skills you can unlock are generic and available to everyone in the party. The battle system rocks, but it comes at the sacrifice of everything else sucking a lot more. =\

Xenosaga 3: To be determined.

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Age of Wonders III

This game... is pretty good.

But it is very hard.

I'm only in the second campaign level and I'm already struggling.

The AI is pretty damn smart, and knows how to build up large forces to overwhelm your cities if you leave them undefended.

They make good use of their abilities and command units smartly.

They don't get easily baited into an attack, and the AI constantly tries to flank your best units.

I definitely will need to start the level again and try to prepare better.

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Currently Playing: Mario Kart 8 and 'Indiana Jones: Staff of Kings'

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More Age of Wonders III

The second attempt at the second campaign level went much much better.

I played much more cautiously. Ensuring my territories were backed up with armies before expanding, exploring, and "extraditing" the other cities of my enemies.

Eventually I was merely toying with my enemies (it was 3 vs 1) as I eventually gained most of the map. (expanding and moving out TOO early gives you waaay too many undefended cities, so its good to make sure you have an solid army or two onhand to defend these new positions you get given)

Needless to say, summoning Horned Gods pretty much put the icing on the cake of my victory.

(I eventually had like 5 full armies surrounding each city as I conquered it)

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Courtesy of the steam summer sale:

Strongbad's Cool Game For Attractive People is a point-and-click adventure that doesn't have a very compelling story (it doesn't even really have a story), but the draw here isn't the story or the puzzles, but the jokes! And man it does not disappoint. Homestarrunner hasn't done anything new in YEARS (not counting the april fool's tease), so it feels so good to sink my teeth into some delicious homestarrunner humor that I have never before tasted. It makes Homestar/Strongbad feel new again, and I love it.

Valdis Story is a beautiful game to look at. The combat is good, but the controls are just a liiiiiiittle less responsive than I'd like out of a fast-paced action game. With an action game of this speed, you'd expect to be able to react quickly and---most importantly---cancel out of actions to quickly redirect into other actions, much like you can do in games like Devil May Cry or Dust, but Valdis has two control problems:

1) Some animations/idles seemingly can't be reliably canceled out of, so you might for example have to wait for your character to entirely exit the guard-lowering animation before performing another complex maneuver. This makes the action feel almost perfect, but also slightly clumsy due to some hiccupy quirks with animation priority and/or un-cancel-able actions.

2) One of my BIGGEST pet peeves with action games on the PC is when the programmers don't code it in such a way that an action mapped to a particular button can only be executed again if that button has been released since the last time the action was executed. So many PC games don't do this. And the result is that if you, for example, press the jump button but don't release it, instead just holding it down, your character will just repeatedly jump jump jump jump as long as the button is being held. Or if it's the button to a cast a spell, if you hold down the "cast" button, your guy will just cast cast cast cast until your mana runs dry. In some situations you WANT this (e.g. firing a rapid fire gun). But in a lot of cases you absolutely do NOT want this. In some cases it just results in the player jumping when they didn't mean to, or wasting their mana by accidentally casting a heal spell twice when they only meant to cast it once. I don't claim to know a lot about programming, but I've tinkered enough that I feel like this is a super obvious clunkiness problem that should be super easy to fix, and yet so many games don't bother. Maybe it's more complicated than I realize. Maybe some people actually LIKE when this happens? Something I would frankly find baffling? Anyway, it's a huge pet peeve with PC games and, to my chagrin, Valdis has it.

But otherwise it's absolutely gorgeous and I'm having a good time. I do wish that the horizontal dash were a little more traditional and didn't required you to tap down (or---when in the air---to ground pound) before every dash, but I'm learning to deal with it.

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A friend of mine gifted me Astebreed. It's Japanese indie game that sort of plays like what would happen in Treasure made a Zone of the Enders game. Which is to say, it's pretty awesome!

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Valdis Story ...otherwise it's absolutely gorgeous and I'm having a good time.

I think they did a phenomenal job considering the game was made by two people(outside of music and sound effects).

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Valdis Story ...otherwise it's absolutely gorgeous and I'm having a good time.

I think they did a phenomenal job considering the game was made by two people(outside of music and sound effects).

I won't withdraw my criticisms, but I have to agree.

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Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.

It's... HARD.

Yup!

I got to the final level in that game on old-school mode.

And trust me on this. The rest of the levels had NOTHING on the difficulty of this final part.

It is insane, and it might make you cry if you get that far.

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The Castlevania levels had me swearing profusely. The others I've been able to cope with, but the whole 'only see a small portion of the screen' gimmick is absolute bulls**t and has caused me SO many deaths it's not even funny.

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The Castlevania levels had me swearing profusely. The others I've been able to cope with, but the whole 'only see a small portion of the screen' gimmick is absolute bulls**t and has caused me SO many deaths it's not even funny.

The boss on the Halloween level is the most frustrating part to me. (So many lives lost to it)

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Had another go Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.

Got all the way to Boo!Haunted House and died.

It's THAT level. That's the worst of the main set.

But damn even if I HAD gotten past it, the FINAL LEVEL just decimates what's left of my extra lives.

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Started playing through The Witcher 2 a while ago. I couldn't get into the first Witcher, but 2 is pretty cool. Also been playing through the Blackwell games, which are all pretty great.

Aside from that, playing through Conker's Bad Fur Day for the first time. It's really bull shit and frustrating and it's one of my top ten 3D platforming games now because it proves that video games are art.

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The first Fallout. I've only dabbled in CRPGs in the past so this is a bit of a learning experience for me. I've looked through some guides on recommended builds and perks so I don't make a terrible character, but I'm going to try to stay away from guides as much as I can other than that.

New Vegas was my first Fallout game (and I loved it and played through it multiple times), so I thought it would be nice to go back to the beginning of the series and see how it started, work my way through, and eventually get around to playing Fallout 3, which I've been putting off for a long time.

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Jazzpunk

It is an extremely unusual game and I honestly don't know if it is good or if I enjoyed playing it...

It is essentially the Stanley parable on extremely trippy drugs the humour is very unusual and has a weird style of humour...

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Started playing the new Tomb Raider yesterday and was somewhat cynical about whether or not I'd like it, but I was glad to find that I was MOSTLY wrong to be cynical. Mostly.

http://cdn2-www.craveonline.com/assets/uploads/2013/03/tomb_raider_header.jpg

First, here are the things about the new TR that make me b*tch and moan:

1) RAMPANT QUICK TIME EVENTS: There are a sh*tload of QTEs, especially in the first couple areas of the game. The entire intro area is practically a series of consecutive QTE events. To make matters even worse, we're not even talking about the overused God-of-War style combat QTEs. We're talking about the notorious Resident Evil kind where you get a button cue in the middle of a cutscene and if you miss it you die and have to watch the cutscene over again. Is this REALLY still even a thing? This idea is well over 10 years old, and I don't remember people liking it very much back then. This aint no Heavy Rain. Get off my lawn with that crap.

Now, some people will say, "But Tomb Raider games have used these in the past". That's true. But first of all, they did it a couple of times. This game uses more QTEs in the opening sequence than all of the PS2 tomb raiders played back to back. These QTEs are rampant. And just because they did it before doesn't mean that it was a good idea then either.

Fortunately, while there are still some QTEs in the latter half of the game, they do taper off and become more rare. Thankfully.

2) LUKEWARM XP SYSTEM: On one hand, I can see some fair arguments for putting in the XP system. It can be used as a way to encourage more exploration of the environment and gives more value to collectibles in the environment if those items have XP values tied to their discovery. But on the other hand, you get XP in this game for some stupid stuff. You literally receive XP for watching cutscenes. While I love "teh rpg elerments" and don't disagree with their being added to the game in principle, I just don't think the arguments here are strong enough. The older games managed the same thing without reference to experience points. Did you collect all 10 of the hidden artifacts/relics in the first area? Good job, here's a shotgun upgrade. There is no difference between that and assigning a 10xp value to all of the hidden artifacts/relics and making the shotgun upgrade cost 100xp. It's the same thing. While it's a little unfair to say that's exactly what is going on here, that is what it mostly feels like in practice to me. It's nice, don't get me wrong. It just feels unnecessary. Don't go in for a penny if you're not in for a pound.

3) QUESTIONABLE LOGIC: Lara Croft is supposed to be super smart, but she makes some decisions in this game that call her intelligence into question. For example, if you were on a ship, and it snapped in half like the titanic, and both broken halves of the ship were sinking into the ocean, including the one you were currently on, what would be your escape plan? Lara Croft's escape plan in the opening cutscene of the game is to STEP 1: GET AN ADRENALINE RUSH. Check. STEP 2: BECOME A SURVIVOR. Check. Queuing up Destiny's Child on my iPod. STEP 3: JUMP OFF OF ONE HALF OF A SINKING BOAT ONTO OTHER HALF OF A SINKING BOAT THAT IS ALSO SINKING. Wait, what? Why? And then she doesn't make it and dramatically falls into the water like Ooooh noooo! But really she probably just should have jumped into the water in the first place.

Then, in the first area of the game, the captain radios you and tells you to move toward his location on the island. Lara is like, "sure, I'll move toward your location". Here's the first bit of questionable logic: she's talking to him on a radio, but she has no idea where he is. He doesn't have a tracker and she doesn't have any tracking equipment. She just called him on the radio and he said, "Come to my location" and she said "Okay" as if she knows where that is. Huh. Okay. And then it gets weirder, because she just got finished fighting for her life to escape a subterranean death cave. While she was down there, she was tied and hung upside down in a room literally filled with corpses. She was impaled, she was burned, she was assaulted, and several times she was almost crushed by falling rocks. BUT SHE MADE IT. She escaped and is now back on the surface. She just needs to find the captain. And then she decides, "Maybe the best way to get to him is by entering this iron bunker that was suspiciously left open by someone and then descending into this bottomless black murder hole that is SURELY not at all like the death cave that I moments ago just barely escaped." She explains this by casually remarking, "Maybe this is a way through." A way through what? YOU ARE ON THE SURFACE. THE CAPTAIN IS ON THE SURFACE. JUST WALK TO HIM. But no, this is clearly the best strategy.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter and no one is going to care anyway, because video games, but all the same.

4) VERY LITTLE TOMB RAIDER STYLE PLATFORMING It's in there, but it's mostly NOT in there. The new tomb raider is much more about the stealth and combat. It's just an action game. But the most classic thing about tomb raider, the thing that makes tomb raider what it is, the tomb raider trademark, is significantly downsized. The game is still good, so you'll be enjoying yourself too much for this to dawn on you right away, but it's true. It's still in there, kind of, but it is spread VERY thin.

(continued)

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(continued)

Here are the things that are awesome.

1) I love the bow. You have the pistol, machine gun, and shotgun as in the classic TR games, but now you also have the bow. It can be used to make stealthy and silent kills, which you will almost always want to do. But many areas of the game also have dangling targets you can shoot to complete incidental "challenges" for small XP rewards. (Up to you whether or not you want to do these. You can get the same amount of XP from just shooting three deer, which is easier.) There are also some objects you can shoot strategically. For example, if you use your bow to shoot a lantern hanging above an enemy's head, he'll catch on fire and die. Etc. The bow is great. I almost never use the guns except in situations where stealth is impossible. (Note: stealth sometimes is impossible, so count on it.)

2) I love the torch. You now have a torch you can light to illuminate dark passage or set things on fire. Sometimes you have to burn piles of rubbish to get it out of your way, and sometimes you burn wooden crates or hanging caches to get at whatever is inside of them. At first you can only light your torch on other fires in the environment, but later you find a flint that you can use to light it wherever you want. It's a great feature for a game about raiding tombs, and it's the sort of thing you'd wish had been in earlier TR games.

3) Various atmospheric touch ups. The torch adds so much bonus atmosphere to wandering through the tombs already, but I love all the new things they've added as well. The wading through shoulder-high water while trying to keep the torch held above water. The bits where Lara has to squeeze through narrow passages in rocks/walls. The locations in some tombs where it is so dark that all you can do is hold the torch and slowly walk as you try to find your way back to light. All the various little things that make it a little more Indiana Jonesy.

4) Base camps. I guess these developers really like Dark Souls and wanted to put Dark Souls bonfires into Tomb Raider in pretty much exactly the same way. I like the Dark Souls bonfires, too. So that's cool I guess.

5) The combat is great. It starts out leaving something to be desired, but once you "level up" enough to get your melee attacks and counters, and you have multiple weapons at your disposal, it's good. In many ways, I think all the QTEs you get in the early half of the game are just compensating for all the combat abilities that are being kept from you until later by the new XP system.

Again, I don't think the XP and leveling up was entirely necessary, and it largely feels included just for the sake of having rpg elements, but the absolute worst thing I can say is that it merely feels unnecessary.

CONCLUSION

I was worried that I was going to be upset about them treating Lara like a rag doll and turning TR into torture pörn. They kinda sorta go there in a few places. (The impalement bit at the start of the game feels incredibly gratuitous in its presentation.) But they don't do it as badly as I expected. Honestly, their trailers for the game make it seem a lot worse than it is. You can probably chalk that up to out-of-touch publisher f**kery.

At the end of the day, it's a really good game and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I'm a little sad, though, that it doesn't really feel like a TOMB RAIDER game. I mean, it's a great action game, and you do go into tombs, and they are wonderfully atmospheric when you do, but a tomb raider game has always been about a combination of James Bond and Indiana Jones. Okay, so they decided to scrap the James Bond aspect and replace it with a normal girl struggling to survive. Okay sure.

But the Indiana Jones stuff isn't even really there in the same way either. No booby traps. No climbing all over environments like a monkey person. There is climbing, but it's not, like, TOMB RAIDER climbing.

It's a GREAT game. But it's also more of just an action game. It's a great third person action game.

But I wish it were more of a tomb raider game.

8.5/10

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