Sang-Froid–Tales of Werewolves

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Sang-Froid is a game I picked up from Steam this week, on the recommendation of a friend. It may be the most Canadian game ever written (sorry Bioware), and tells the story folktale-style of  two brothers who have to save their sick sister from a variety of baddies including wolves, werewolves, demons and The Devil.

But that’s not why I have been glued to it for the last couple of days. The game itself is a riff on Tower Defence, but after setting up your various traps around the brothers’ cabin in the woods, the game switches to third person as you head out into the werewolf-ridden night with your trusty axe and rifle to bag yourself a few baddies. And of course, you get to interact with the traps you so carefully laid earlier, luring wolves under the hang trap or into the wolf traps, lighting your bonfires and hoping to grab the odd headshot with your (very slow and awkward to load) rifle.

I feel as though I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg. There are items you can find to help, and abilities you can learn as you level as well as new traps.

So if this sounds like your kind of thing, I recommend taking a look.

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Torchlight 2 Pre-Purchase

Throwing their hats into the pre-purchase ring, Runic Games have Torchlight 2 up  for pre-purchase on Steam for $20/£14.99; release date is “Summer 2012” and the perk you get for pre-purchasing is a free copy of Torchlight (which you could gift to a friend if you already have a copy).

This is so much of a better deal than any of the other pre-purchase ‘offers’ I’ve seen recently, such as Guild Wars 2 (woo ‘free’ access to beta weekends) or Diablo 3 (no actual bonus for pre-purchase), and gives you a complete game to play while you’re waiting for the release that I’d give props to Runic for thinking things through.

If publishers want me to shell out money up front, these are the sorts of lines they should be thinking along.

Valve does that gamification thing RIGHT

cube ardyn@flickr

Anyone out there looking forwards to playing Portal 2? Been following the Valve ARG/ countdown?

Then you’ll know that when the timer was up, a new timer started and players were encouraged to help GladOS boot up more quickly by .. playing games. Not any old game, but specific ones, from Steam.

Here is Kotaku’s take on the whole thing. Is it just a big marketing scam to encourage punters to buy the Potato Sack bundle of indie games? Well, yes and no. You see, if you already own any of those fine games on Steam and boot it up, you’ll see that you have been given a free extra Portal themed level.

I don’t even want to buy Portal 2 on release (as I said in the last post, I can wait a few months) but I have been happily trying out my free Portal levels in Audiosurf and Defense Grid Awakening, both of which I picked up ridiculously cheap in Steam sales of the past.

Haven’t earned any potatoes yet (I think) but it was fun, they’re both cool games that I hadn’t played in awhile, and I’m charmed at the free stuff, and I’m now following the release schedule for a game I have/ had no intention of buying. As far as gamification goes, you have to be impressed.

I think Valve have done a cracking job with this one, even though I can see how if you didn’t own any of the (awesome!) indie games in the pack, you might feel pressured. Plus it isn’t as if they weren’t going to release Portal 2 anyway – it really isn’t required for anyone to play these games unless they want to.

SWTOR, GW2: A game trailer is not a film trailer

You know that you have seen a really good piece of game hype when your reaction is not, “Ooo, pretty,” “I want to see more of that,” “great music, I’ll be humming that all night,” or even “I wonder how they’ll balance that?” but instead, “I want to PLAY that!”

It’s a very visceral reaction. It can be illogical. It can be unexpected. But to me that’s how a game trailer should be different from any other kind of trailer. Sure, interest me in the world, the background, the story, and the mechanics. But if I don’t end up thinking, “Yeah! I want to play that!” then it hasn’t hit the spot.

Bioware released a new trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic last week to show off some of the combat moves in the game. I think it’s a fascinating trailer to watch because the graphics are not exceptional. There’s nothing unexpected in there and no real indication of how the game will play. Very likely it’ll be a minor adaptation of current MMO mechanics. You’ll press buttons and use cooldowns. Even the fights they they showed were fairly predictable: jedi with a lightsaber, some cool acrobatics, dual wielding, a cool bit with a big gun, someone casting lightning bolts like the emperor in return of the jedi, some flashy tech gadgets and yet … when that trailer came to an end I thought “Hell yeah! That looked fun! I want to play that.”

The current MMO player is exactly who they are trying to attract with this trailer. They’re showing that their game will offer your favourite current combat type. You like dual wielding? How about dual wielding lightsabers? You like ranged? How about a massive gun? Whatever you like right now do not fret because the SWTOR team thought of YOU.

The only curious exception so far is the lack of any pet class. I wonder if a more active use of NPC sidekicks will just mean that everyone effectively has pets.

The Guild Wars Manifesto

We are still mid-election rush over here, so it’s certainly the right season for a manifesto. Arena.net have opened the floodgates on the Guild Wars 2 information with a new blog and a new design manifesto.

This is another document that is aimed at current MMO players. Read it with the thought, “like your current MMO but better” in the back of your mind and you will get the full hype effect.

Main points:

  • It’s an enormous, persistent, living, social world
  • You fill out a biography at character creation time that defines your background and your place within the world.
  • GW2 tells story by allowing the player < to >adventure with key characters, by presenting him with moral dilemmas <…> and by having him live through world-changing events
  • With GW2 <…> you can just naturally play with all the people around you
  • When someone kills a monster, not just that player’s party but everyone who was seriously involved in the fight gets 100% of the XP and loot for the kill.
  • worlds can compete against each other, through the mists that separate them, for scarce resources that benefit an entire world. ((I think this means some kind of server vs server competition))
  • So much of traditional MMO combat is rote and repetitive. <…> we’ve put a huge focus on strengthening our combat, giving the player limitless choices, and providing the thrill and joy of being in combat.

The combat discussion isn’t easy to sum up in bullet points. One of the great strengths of Guild Wars is the combat system. Each character has a large selection of abilities, but must select only 8 before leaving town and going out to adventure. You can freely change which 8 you want any time you are in a town. So players are encouraged to adapt their skills towards each encounter. There is a lot of choice. And this is something arena.net plans to build on for GW2.

There is more on the combat system and skills, if you are curious to delve more deeply into the design.

Again, reading through the documents leaves me keen to actually play the game myself and try it out. I wonder if I am some kind of easy sell with these things … and I’m staying tuned to the GW2 blog to hear more about their plans.

If this talk of Guild Wars mechanics has intrigued you, Steam is having a sale on GW at the moment. You could either get the whole trilogy and start from the beginning, or do what was recommended to me and just grab Nightfall.

So what did you get in the sales?

I was strong. For almost all the way through the Steam and GoG Christmas sales, I eyed the bargains on offer and resisted the urge to buy. But on the last day I succumbed to Defense Grid: The Awakening (it’s a tower defense game, I’ll write more when I’ve had more time to play) — for the knock down price of £1.25.  I’m looking forwards to spending more time with the game, my first impressions were great.

Anyone else pick up any bargains in the sales? How low does a price have to be, or how good does a sale have to get to draw your attention to a game you might otherwise have ignored?

Chilling out with Osmos

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Longasc recommended Osmos to me when I was writing about looking for chilled out games last weekend. So in a spare moment I downloaded the demo. Ten minutes later I was drinking herbal tea and decking the cat with flowers while lying in a darkened room with The Aphex Twin playing on Spotify.

Osmos is beautiful. You are a point in space, floating lazily on a sea of calm. A trippy ambient soundtrack complements the sense of immersion. If you enjoyed the first stage of Spore then you have already seen a similar concept. The goal is to propel your blob around the screen and to absorb or avoid other blobs. But out of this simple premise, a very elegant game has been built.

As you can see in the screenshot, your cursor grows a small tail in Osmos. When you left click, your blob is propelled briefly away from the cursor’s tail. It moves by ejecting a small amount of matter from itself. So you can choose to move very slowly and conserve matter, or more quickly at more cost. You can absorb any blob that is smaller than yourself. Larger blobs are dangerous and must be avoided. If left to their own devices, the other blobs will end up drifting into each other and forming larger and more dangerous blobs. So although the game is relaxing, you don’t want to hang around for too long.

The game plays as a series of challenges, each with its own screen. Some challenge you to grow and absorb a particular blob, others to become the largest blob on the screen, and others to avoid specific blobs. There are screens where all the blobs are orbiting a huge fiery ball, and others which include tides in space which affect how you manoeuvre.

A few of the screens I tried were almost stressful in comparison to others, and I find that a failing in a game that strives so hard for a chilled out vibe. Even there, you have some options to slow down the flow to give yourself more time to think and this is a game where taking things slowly is rarely a bad choice. But aside from that, you can’t really go wrong here for £7 if you enjoy this type of laid back puzzle game. (Thanks for the recommendation, Longasc.)