Monday, January 23, 2012

Limbo Review

This bleak little number is called Limbo. It is a physics puzzle game and it doesn't have much of a story line. In fact, in game you are told absolutely nothing. You just wake up in a dark shadowy forest and completely left alone. You aren't shown or told how to play and you're not told why you're there. Even when you finish the game you're not told anything about how or why or even what's going on. When I looked up the game itself from it's purchase window in steam, all it says is "Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters LIMBO." 

Hm. Enlightening?

WTH? Why am I here?!?

This is the start of the game in the forest you wake up in. Eventually you come upon new locales, from...

A factory.

The rooftops of a city seemingly empty of people.

Caves, including a webbed-up spider cave. :O

There's a few others as well, but I'll let you find them on your own. :]

As you can see, the game is incredibly moody graphically, and it's sound is no exception. It has been the most quiet game I've ever played. There's some ambient sound, such as the sound of flies when you're near water and a constant gentle hum reminiscent of an otherworldly place. It's very well done and I wish more games would make their sound effects and music as effective as this game has. It's also very important to listen for sound queues in this game. If you don't, you'll have a lot of trouble in this game.

Limbo gameplay is pretty straightforward and easy; you move left right up and down with your arrow keys. Hold control and you will interact with an object if there is an object to interact with, such as that crate in the picture above. In this case, I'm pulling a box out so I can climb up it to get to that platform. It's not always this simple however, and not all of the solutions are easy. As you get towards the end of the game, many of the physics puzzles you have to solve require good timing as well.

And then there are the tricks and MANY MANY ways for you to die in this game. For example, int his picture there is a bear trap sitting on the ground in front of me, hiding there. Walk into it and it snaps shut and you're done for. Our intrepid little hero can also drown, die from dropping from moderate (not great!) heights, falling on spikes, or any number of other environmental hazards, from electricity to boulders rolling around.

There are also a few actual enemies in this game. In this case there's a spider lurking behind me waiting to strike. There are also some seeming-humans who set traps and throw spears at you as well. And our little boy is so helpless, all he can do is run like hell. There are also some mind-control larva as well, which force you to walk in a certain direction and then will turn you around at certain points. They add a whole 'nother level of difficulty to a given section and can easily kill you if you don't know what they're going  to do.

Tip for the mind control larva: you can't control which direction you walk, but you CAN control the speed or block yourself with walls or boxes. All you gotta do at that point is figure out where you need to be and how to manipulate the larva into getting you there.

Here's an example of an environmental trap. I gotta keep moving to the right, but this tree is blocking my way. You can definitely see that that tree is going to break, but when it falls, it'll fall right on you. So you gotta jump on the branch holding the tree up, then get out of the way of those spiky branches that'll skewer you if you don't jump back super-fast. From there, you commence your journey. :]

The Good: Atmosphere is GREAT, the way they utilize sound and music is simply the best I've seen in a very very long time, puzzles vary from easy to pretty hard, controls are very intuitive, beautiful in it's bleak, depressing little way

The Bad: The complete lack of story and guidance, the boy sometimes responds slowly which is frustrating, the game is basically the same dark place over and over so if you don't like the feel you will hate this game.

Overall: If you like dark games or physics games, you'll love this game and I suggest you buy; this game was MADE for you guys. If you're not one for darker games, pass this one up. Same goes for action types, you won't like this game either. It's pacing is very deliberate and for the most part it won't get the adrenaline rushing, though a few parts will. I'm thinking of you Mr Arthopod.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Polynomial Addendum

Now I know I said I'd add skill info and strategy to the games I review, but it doesn't really seem appropiate for this particular game as the gameplay seems secondary to the graphics art that this game is really about.

The Polynomial Review

The polynomial is nominally a free-form space combat game. That in and of itself isn't very interesting, but the polynomial animates mathematically to music, everything from the donuts and waves of lights you can see in this picture to complete fractals in other levels. It comes with it's own electronic tunes that range from mellow space-ey feeling to more of a danceable beat. It's incredibly easy to add in your own music as well. Which leads us to.....

...the games menu. You can click on the sound and music tab and drag as many songs as you want into the game, click em on and then play to your own music. Some music works better than others, though. Typical pop or rock music is neat once or twice, but they quickly dull as they are so incredibly predictable. The game was definitely made to be played to either soundscape type music (think delerium or enigma) or to danceable beats. Surprisingly, metal plays incredibly well in this game, especially if it slows down or speeds up a lot.

There are 38 premade levels that are solid and interesting, each with their own quirks. For example, one is a racetrack made of stars, another is a giant fractal christmas tree complete with snowflakes and ornaments. You can also open up a parameter menu from the games main menu and create your own. It's pretty complex, way above my level of mathematical understanding, that's for sure, but you can just poke around  and occasionally make some really awesome, saveable levels of your own.

So what do you do in this VERY pretty music-animated space art?

Well you're supposed to save these little guys. You just run into them and they'll give you a little hp and more power for your engines (so you can zoom around much faster). You gotta pick these up before...

...these guys eat them. They're called nomnoms. They're like updated chain comps minus the chain. That can shoot lasers out of their mouth. IN SPACCEEEEEE. Umm, yeah. So you shoot these guys with your own lasers and pick up the friendly aliens before they eat them, then you jump into a wormhole and go to the next level, trying to leave every level in a few minutes because the level will flood with nomnoms if you stay there for longer than a few minutes. If you do end up staying a while, you risk getting shot down by the nomnoms or clipping one with your ship, killing you which resets your score to 0.

Happily, they added in a feature to let you ressurect where you were killed instead of being sent back to the start space of the level, allowing you to basically just ignore the nomnoms and fly around if you so choose. When I played this game, that's what I found myself doing instead of trying to get a high score like I'm supposed to. The game is enchanting in it's own way and it can GREATLY amplify how enjoyable a song is.

I played this game with a lot of my own tunes and I have to say I had an almost religious experience playing Radiohead - Exit Music (for a film) on the branes level with light show 1 preset on. It amplified the song so incredibly and...well, just go play it with those settings and you'll see what I mean. It was absolutely incredible.

Cost: $10 dollars on Steam. Wait around for a while and you'll see that this game goes on sale periodically for $5 dollars, or sometimes only $2.

The Good: Very easy to just jump into, can go incredibly well with moody music or electronica in general, very customizable if you're into that kinda thing, extremely pretty.

The Bad: Not a lot of depth, I kept finding myself just flying around going ooo over the graphics instead of actually trying to play the game well. The controls take a little getting used to as well. Pop music and rock music are less than compelling when playing the game as well.

Overall Opinion: Not for everyone. I almost certainly wouldn't pay 10 dollars for the game now that I've played it. However, I got it for $2 dollars during a steam sale and I would def buy it for that. Actually, having played it, I would buy it for a few friends too at that price. It's a fun little game that doubles as a musical screensaver, if nothing else.

Bloodlines Champions Review

Gameplay: Bloodlines Champions is a topdown (think Zelda: A Link to the Past) arena-style combat game. There are three kinds of games; artifact, conquest and arena. Artifact is just a fancy name for capture the flag, where conquest is a fancy name for a control point map, very similar to Arathi Basin in WoW. Arena on the other hand is a series of three rounds where you just go to kill off the other team and whoever wins three games first wins and this format is BLC's bread and butter.

To get a game in BLC, you click on what format you want and click search for games. The games internal matchmaker will take 6 people and arrange you as it sees fit. Usually it will try to balance the teams evenly, setting up better players on opposite teams and weaker players on opposite sides as well. However, this doesn't always work out well. Often groups of very skilled players will party together and queue as a team and you can get three rank 20s vs. a handful of rank 5s. Not even a close fight. Thankfully, this only happens rarely.

When you do get into a match, you pick a hero (out of 24) and you try to win best out of three rounds. Each round is timed at 2 minutes apiece before sudden death occurs. It doesn't sound like much, but the pacing of this game is fast and furious and two minutes is more than enough time for the vast majority of matches. When you win three in a row, match is over and you go back to looking for a game. Because of this setup, this game is very, very good for people looking for a quick pick-me-up gaming experience to burn 10 minutes. Very easy to pick up, very easy to put down.

As far as balance goes, there are certainly some heroes who are weaker than others and others who are stronger, but the overall balance is amazingly good. You can take nearly all of the heroes and make them work. That's a big plus in my book. Shows you the designers cared about quality when making the game.

There are currently 24 heroes in BLC. If you're playing the free-to-play version, the game itself picks 4 random heroes, one of each class (tank/healer/ranged dps/melee dps) every day and you are allowed to choose any one of those to play for that day. Tomorrow the lineup will be different. It can pick the same hero day after day, but it doesn't do that very often. You unlock one bloodline permanently for free for doing the tutorials.

Cost and Fees: BLC is a free-to-play microtransaction game. That is, anyone can download it and play it for free but there are things you can buy if you want. The thing that leaps to mind first are the bloodlines aka, the heroes themselves. They cost $5 dollars apiece for permanent availability. There are other things to buy as well, such as different looking weapons and costumes for your heroes. They have no impact on the game itself, they just look neat. Or ridiculous, such as thorns christmas tree uniform.

Yes, he's wearing a santa suit. They're all fairly cheap transactions, around 5 dollars or less. While you play the game, though, you get a currency called blood coins. Every game you win, you get a lot of coins. Every game you lose, you still get some coins, though only about half as much as if you win. Blood coins are used to buy almost everything you can buy with money, the exception being certain weapons, titles and costumes. Again, none of these affect gameplay itself.

Now you might be asking how long does it take to save up enough blood coins to buy a 5 dollar item in the shop? The game gives you incentive to play every day by doubling up to 400 of your blood coin earnings each day. That means for the first 5 or 6 games you'll make double. Doing this every day, it will take you about a 12 days to get enough blood coins to get a new bloodline. You can make this faster by playing more than the 20-30 minutes a day to get your bonus, or by getting achievements. At first you get tons of achievements very quickly, so you'll get your 2nd permanent bloodline very very quickly. After that it's 12 days or so of milking the bonus coins for you! A well-balanced system in my opinion. Don't you hate those games that give massive advantages to paying players? I know I do.

The Good: Fluid graphics, easy to pick up and put down, controls are simple and intuitive, able to unlock all almost all content through gameplay, good party game, thought-out pay system, (potentially) free! Also, unlike a lot of free games, this one doesn't bombard you with ads or force you put spyware/adware type things on your computer. That's worth noting too.

The Bad: Steep learning curve, occasionally bad matchmaking system, demands a lot of time to unlock everything by in-game play, not too many game modes, no offline play.

Overall Opinion: Pick this up! It's a great game for being free, it's microtransaction system is balanced and reasonable and the gameplay is smooth.

Quick Update

Somewhat unsure of what direction to go with this. Now I'm thinking I might want to review games as well as posting helpful tips. Perhaps I will do both, as I'm sure there's a market for both for indy games. Of course, once I get more followers (and believe me, I was pleasantly surprised to see I had any at all) and people start asking for things, I'll try to give that. Still in the development phase right now, and the getting-known phase. Will keep working on content before I start trying to generate traffic though. No point in getting people to look at me if there's no content is there? Course there isn't.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BLC - The Igniter

The igniter, a ranged-class character from BLC. He's creepy and likes to play with fire. Um...yeah.

LMB: The igniter throws a fireball that does good damage. Refreshes your ignite if one is present on the target. Good energy gain.

Your bread and butter; a long ranged ability with a short cast time. It's .4 secs long.

RMB: The igniter throws three fireballs in a row, each doing moderate damage and knocking the target back. Ignites anyone struck as well. Good energy gain.

A useful ability when you're not being targeted as it has a slow charge up time and an even longer channeled time. However, once you're channeling out those fireballs, you do a LOT of damage. More importantly it ignites the target, causing them to take 30 damage every 3 secs for 12 secs, which you can easily refresh with the LMB.

Z: The igniter channels a beam of fire, igniting anyone struck and doing massive damage over 4 seconds.

This shares a cd with RMB on the igniter, but both are used somewhat similarly. This ability is very good for igniting entire teams, but it doesn't do the massive damage it's tooltip suggests unless you can keep the beam on them the entire time. Sadly, that's very had to do. Still good for setting kids on fire.

Q: The igniter selects a place on the ground, 1 sec later, it explodes in firey destruction causing moderate damage and stunning anyone in the aoe. Low energy gain and cast time of .6 secs.

A great ability taht can be used at long range as well as medium range (as shown in the picture). Good for stunning heals or getting melee off your back (you can't hit yourself or friendly targets, so just put it down and stand in it to get em..

Space: The igniter disperses into fire balls of DOOM and teleports to a chosen location, burning anyone who may be standing near his impact point. Low energy gain if striking an opponent.

You use this to chase and to run away, as needed. You're super squishy as an igniter, can't let those dps hit ya. ;D

E: The igniter instantly throws a fireball that does moderate damage, knocks back an enemy and locks the next ability they attempt to use. Very high energy gain, long cooldown.

This ability keeps those pesky melee out of your hair. They come zooming for you, slap them with an instant-speed E and get some distance. You can also use it to disrupt others with cast times or to protect a friendly target who's getting beat on.

X: The igniter throws a bouncing fire (up to three times) that does low damage, slows them, and locks all cooldowns.

Basically an uh-oh cooldown to protect yourself or an ally from imminent death. It doesn't lock cooldowns for long, but hopefully long enough for you (or them) to get out of an incredibly bad situation.

R: The igniter turns himself immaterial (and thus undamageable) and after a few seconds, explodes dealing low damage to any enemies nearby. Low energy gain.

This is one of your abilities to buy you time til spacebar is available to kite again or E is available to get people off you. It's not very good as far as damage or worth goes, so only use it when you need those extra seconds to use one of your better abilities.

F: The igniter's ultimate, he turns himself into a living fireball, burning everyone along it's path for massive damage. Leaves a fire trail that burns anyone who stands in it after it's finished as well.

An insanely strong ultimate, especially if you can get two or more people inside. Even after you nail them for heavy damage, if they stay inside it they take even MORE damage. One of the better ults in the game.

Some igniter tips:

Abuse ignite. It's an incredibly strong damager if you can keep it alive with LMB. Don't be afraid to use Z to set people on fire to get it started either.

If you're not being focused. Make liberal use of RMB and E to knock back enemies targetting your allies as well as to ignite them. You are SUPER dangerous if ignored for this reason.

Try to combo out with your abilities as you have a ton of synergy with yourself. For example, once you get a feel for how far E knocks back, knock back someone and then put a Q aoe on top of where they will be after the knockback. Then set up a RMB and ignite them! Nomnomnom. The igniter naturally combos very well with itself.

Fighting an igniter:

DON'T ignore them and let them freecast. They can and will tear you up if you do. They only have spacebar as a real out. E and R are only a temporary reprieves. Force them to teleport, then get to them and tear them to pieces. Igniters have very low hp and are easy gibs if you push through their cooldowns.

When the game has gone longer, be very aware of his ult, as it can instantly win the game if you are positioned poorly. Watch this little guy. He's vicious.

BLC - The Spearmaster

The Spearmaster. He's real good with his stick of his. Poke poke. He's also really good at killing you with said stick, lets jump right into him. 

LMB: Slash. A melee-ranged attack that hits for moderate damage.  No cooldown.

While it looks like it can potentially hit more than one person, it can't. It's your basic go-to damager that does decent damage and builds up respectable energy. 

RMB: A thrown spear with a rope attached to it. Does light damage and grappling hooks you to whoever you hit with it. 

This is a great ability that you will use quite often as a spearmaster. Even at range he is an immediate threat because you can close even large distances VERY quickly upon landing this ability. It also generates a LOT of energy, which is great. 

Z: Does slightly more damage than RMB and instead of you jumping to your opponent, your opponent gets dragged to you. 

Great ability to use when you need to stop someone from casting and also to put you in position to create some pressure. Nail em with Z, stun em w/ Q and go to town!

Spacebar: Spearmaster goes invisible for a few seconds and becomes immune to all strikes and also gets a speed boost. Unfortunately, you do almost no damage for the duration. No energy gain on use. 

This is an intensely good ability because it allows you get in up close and personal, slam down some damage and when the other team decides to focus you, can spacebar and get the hell out of there. It's also very useful for catching opponents running away in conjunction with RMB. Another use that is sometimes missed is that it can avoid your opponents strongest abilities. Have a glutton ult coming straight for you? Spacebar and laugh as it does absolutely nothing.

X: The spearmster dashes toward the cursor and slashes everyone in range there. Locks cooldowns on everyone you hit. 

While locking all cooldowns (all abilities are unavailable for use) is great, it only lasts for 1.5 secs. Situationally incredibly powerful, such as the aforementioned screwing up a healer, but often better to leave alone. 

Q: Q for a spearmaster is a very wide-arcing slash that does moderate damage and stuns everyone within it's 180 degree arc. Slight energy gain.

Great ability that I often use on cd, though sometimes it's better to wait so you can get multiple people, or catch a healer in a bad spot to create more pressure on their team. Amazing ability that should be used often. 

E: The Spearmaster throws a bouncing shuriken that does Good/Moderate/Low damage to up to 3 targets. Very low energy gain

Great ability to use on packed up people as it will hit all three. Also very useful on two targets because it will bounce back to the FIRST target if the second is in range of him when the second target is struck. Downside is it's range is medium, requiring you somewhat close. It's worth using in melee range though if ppl are packed because it's damage is quite high. 

R: The Spearmaster assumes a Kunju stance, which will negate the next attack and cause the spearmaster to reappear behind the attack and slash him. IN THE FACE. Moderate energy gain (but only if someone hits you during it).

This is the spearmasters protection ability. It can also be used as a ghetto gap-closer as well. Between spacebar, R and the stun from Q, a well-played spearmaster can be an INCREDIBLE pain to do damage to. 

F: The spearmaster spins round and round for several seconds doing MASSIVE damage to everyone in it's area of effect. The spearmaster is immune to all slows, ccs and debuffs for the duration. He can still take damage though. 

A somewhat lackluster ult that hits many, many times. The weakness is that to do good damage it needs to hit multiple people many times. Most competent players will teleport out or find some way to avoid the damage (such as an enemy spearmaster using space) to avoid the damage. That being said, if you can get into that rare situation when all 3 of your enemies are together....this ability will win the match in a heartbeat.

Some spearmaster tips and tricks: 

You are NOT a tank, do not go in there hacking and slashing and spammnig F whenever it pops up. You are incredibly easy to kill if you just go charging. 

Weave in and out of combat, stun up an opponent, hit them and get out. Try to take as little damage as possible and pressure when you know you can get away with it. You're very very mobile as a class with 3 abilities to move around the map quickly. Abuse this. Try to spear yourself in, Q them into a stun, strike them with a LMB, then use E on them if there's someone close to them, and weave out, if it looks good, RMB yourself right back in and do it again. Weaving in and out makes you harder to predict.

Disrupt healers. You were made to give healers headaches with THREE abilities that will cancel their casts. Even if you don't kill them, you can put their healing way behind schedule by not letting them do what they want. 

Try to avoid tanks. While you can definitely kill one, your abilities are better suited for squishier targets, especially ranged and healers. Tanks can disrupt you and cc you something fierce and if they can catch you unable to react with your defensives, be prepared to be punished for a lot of damage. And with your low health pool, that's something you just can't have. 

Try to avoid chasing people on foot. Use RMB and R to close the distance. Not only is it damage (and energy gain) but it makes harder to predict where you're going to be. Speed and agility is key to this character. 

How to beat a Spearmaster: 

As counterintuitive as this sounds, ignore him unless he blatantly comes into easy killing range. Kill off his team, then kill him.

As a healer, just try to be as far away from his as possible; a good spearmaster WILL disrupt the fuck out of you and mess your healing up like whoa.