Last time I wrote “Personal Log” it was the end of 2009 and I wrapped it up in my post from more perspectives. Year 2011 was a good one (again), I started in a new job in January, our daughter Barbora was born in January – but even with these obligations (job and family) and a lot of additional work on Java Simon I still managed to play games. And to my surprise – quite a lot. 🙂 I’ll talk only about single-player games because I can’t engage into any serious multi-player with all the children around. 🙂
So let’s start with the previous Christmas sales on Steam. I bought Mass Effect 2, King Arthur Pack, Railworks (now updated to Train Simulator 2012), Dragon Age: Origins, Crysis Complete, The Ball and Burnout Paradise. I even new I may not play some of them, but for the gamer it would be a sin not buy it when it’s so cheap. 🙂 I want to play The Ball just because it’s made by Hourences and the team of other great mappers/modders who had been around Unreal engine and Unreal Tournament quite some time – and the game is original too.
In the last few years Mass Effect may be my favourite franchise – it’s a great shooter and I even forgot it’s RPG. Not that I have anything against RPGs – on the contrary – lately I played more RPGs of various types to my own surprise. I stopped playing other games and first I had to go through Mass Effect 2 (twice, different gender, different specialization). While you don’t exactly save the galaxy in front of the whole council (dead or alive ;-)) like in the first part, the continuation is probably more epic on the whole. Not that I didn’t have any gripes about the game, I can’t remember them now – but I can remember how great the game was. As I remember the VI announcing another customer in line from the first part I still have vivid memories of quite a lot of scenes from ME2. This game flows well and it’s getting bigger and bigger towards the end. If you like sci-fi RPGs (or even shooters and can survive a few dialogues) then this is an absolute must-have. ME1 was great, ME2 is greater, with less annoyances, more variability in scenery, more subplots and one really nasty boss at the end. Fun factor 5/5, frustration 0, length just right.
King Arthur was the game I spent the start of the year with (after ME2 that is). I was really surprised with the blend of the Heroes M&M turn-based strategy (on a map that reminded me good old Defender of the Crown) and RTS battles – this all spiced up by simple text-based quests and some economy. I was really surprised how playable the game was. In the middle of it I thought I will loose because opponents’ knights (heroes) started to be very strong while I underestimated the power of some spells, but somehow I managed to outmaneuver them in the end. If you like strategies, try it. On the RTS battlefield it’s often about you knowing how to play around key areas and you may destroy a few armies with a single one. Maybe hard-core players would object, but I – casual nearly-ex-gamer – appreciated this concept. Fun factor 4/5, frustration 0, length quite long as expected. Typical “just one more move and I’ll go to bed” game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a bit difficult story. I had troubles to save single player games originally – I even wanted to play cracked version because of the stupid Windows Live service. But I figured out the offline profile feature (hidden in an unbelievably stupid way) and then I started to play. Another serious issue – no way to change controls. I’m ESDF guy, I touch-type too. WASD drives me crazy and when I want to press 1, I always press ` (key to the left) – well… because I touch-type! Not to mention that one disabled guy told me how missing controls customization can render the game unplayable for them. But back to the game itself. The story, visuals and all was quite reminiscent of Bioshock (both Unreal 3 engine games, by the way). I liked special tactics Batman can use, detective mode, gargoyles, visuals – this all was very good. You were really in the middle of Batman’s story with may heroes I didn’t even know. 🙂 Boss fights were interesting, each of them a bit different. If you had any problem, game gave you some hints – I liked this as I’m less and less hard-core player and more and more a casual one. However here and there you played with different camera than over-the-shoulder and it made controls even more difficult (some boss fights mostly). You could take it as a minigame though. For one reason or the other I wasn’t so sucked into this game in the end, but I finished it after a few breaks (a few months mostly). Fun factor 4/5, frustration 3 (Windows Live + controls + camera), length just fine for me (progress meter counts also riddles, so you may probably end around 60% if you don’t care for the riddles). Recommended? Why not, but I don’t plan playing Arkham City.
In the middle of the year I suddenly got a strong need to play Half-Life 2 again – with both Episodes too, of course. As scripted this FPS is, it is simply great. Even the second run. I realized how many scenes in this game are simply so great. The river, first gravity-gun practice, “We don’t go to Ravenholm”, blocked bridge, Nova Prospect fight while waiting for Alyx, all those striders, Overwatch Nexus, Citadel… all of it! And then the Episodes – reactor hot-fix, run away to the station, fleeing the city, jumping over a broken bridge, Alyx down and up again, ambush in a homestead and amazing finale of the second episode. Without making any choices, without any active dialogues, the story is just great and I think I’ll probably have to go through it some other time again. Not to mention that it has great commentaries too – these just underline how well-thought this game is. Fun factor 5, frustration 0, length just fine – I even consider the main game quite long for a shooter, but I bet it’s short for others. 🙂
I was nicely surprised by Anomaly Warzone Earth. Simple, arcadish, and as goes with turret defense – very addictive. The concept of playing against the turret defense is smart, it is spiced up with a lot of specific details on particular maps and while this game was shorter in overall, it was also cheaper as it is no AAA title. Still the production was surprisingly good and the whole game is just smooth. Worth a few bucks for killing a few evenings, really. Fun 5, frustration 0, length could be longer, but OK.
Frozen Synapse on the other hand was too much for me. You have to dedicate more time to this game, it’s not good for a casual player I’d say. I expected some kind of Laser Squad I remember from ZX Spectrum (or the horrible port on PC) – but then – I had much more time (and much less games) back then. However the concept is interesting but without going for a multiplayer it’s probably not worth it. Fun factor 3 (single player), frustration 0, length – no idea.
And then there’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I played Morrowind before, but after some time I just gave up. Maybe I chose more boring class, but I guess different class wouldn’t change my mind. Oblivion is more or less like Morrowind – but more fun. Both these games are BIG. A lot of locations, a lot of characters, a lot of quest. However I lost my goal after some time. Oblivion is far better from this perspective than Morrowind, not only because it’s newer. But still – after shutting a few Oblivion gates I started to loose my focus, I didn’t know where to go and what to achieve in this game. This game is very good and having less other games and more time I’d probably play it (and maybe I’ll return to it). System is better than in Morrowind, a bit simpler, leveling goes more naturally, movement around the world map is faster – this all makes the game great. But when I compare it with games like Witcher and Dragon Age Origins (which I’m playing now though I hardly started the story) it’s easy to get lost here. I like RPGs that lead the player a bit (or more) – Witcher, Dragon Age, Mass Effect – these are much better in this aspect. For Oblivion the fun factor is 4, frustration 0, length was too much for me. 🙂
However, there is one easy way how to try a lot of games for little money. Wait a year or two and buy it during holidays sales if you’re not sure if you really want it. I remember buying Unreal Tournament 3 in metal case for quite a lot of money for my taste – and I was utterly disappointed by the game (though I loved UT99/2004). That’s why I hate to give anything more than 30 for a game I’m not sure of. Having Dragon Age 1 with all of the DLCs (another reason why to wait a bit) for 20 is much better deal then. I rather spend a lot of money on a lot of games risking I’ll not play a few of them than spending even more money on a few ones, half of them probably more or less disappointing.
And what were your favourite games in 2011? 🙂 Let me know, anonymous comments are allowed as well – as always.