Games You Should Be Playing: Orcs Must Die 2 & Torchlight 2

Orcs Must Die 2 Intro Before I dive into the reviews, I want to tell you to stick around to the very end of the post because I have terrific news to share! If you’re a long-time reader of this site, you’re going to be pretty happy…

But first, give me a minute to geek out.

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my latest guilty gaming pleasures and I’ve got two for you that I’m really excited about. First up is a little game called Orcs Must Die 2. I saw the trailer a few months ago, and what I saw convinced me to buy the game as soon as it was released. Orcs Must Die 2 is a fantasy riff on run-and-gun games, but with a twist — players are given a variety of traps to use against the orc hordes. And if that isn’t enough to pique your interest, well, it also has a two-player mode that kicks ass.

There are only two player characters available, a chick-mage and a dude-mage, and they each start with different abilities and traps. The dude has a shotgun/grenade primary attack while the chick has a wand pew-pew/charm attack. Funny; my dude friends all prefer to play the girl, while I prefer the guy. I guess you could say I wear the pants in my bro group. HIGH FIVE! Anyway, while the maps get harder and the waves of orcs get tougher, employing a strategy becomes very important — not just in placement, but the types of traps players purchase, upgrade, and utilize become more strategic, too.

Oh, the best part about purchasing and upgrading your traps? You can refund all your points as many times as you want, so trying every crazy trap available is encouraged. I don’t think there are right or wrong choices, just a multitude of options to fit all kinds of crazy strategies and play styles.

OMD2 Screenshot1

FIRE! FIRE! HEH! HEH!

The game employs a lot of whimsy and humor to keep everything rolling. Just before orcs explode, get shot, or go flying through the air to their deaths, you can often hear them saying hilarious one-liners like, “Game over, man! It’s game over!” And as the story progresses, the banter between the two mages will make you want to continue, if only to hear more.

Creating a two-player game is a cinch if you’re on Steam. Players can simply click on their friends lists to see who’s online and owns the game, and can ask them to join with a click. A window will pop up with the request, and players can click to accept or deny (aww, forever alone). Voice chat is built right into the game, so players can get started without messing with settings and extra chat clients. I suppose you can type, but believe me, you’re going to need those hands free when the waves of orcs roll in.

I am a little embarrassed to say that I became addicted to this game early on and couldn’t stop playing. If you’re like me and insist on playing every level perfectly, this game could very well be your doom. Each level receives a grade of one to five skulls, five skulls meaning a perfect score and one skull meaning you totally suck. There aren’t actually a ton of maps to conquer – a dozen or so, perhaps? I would give you an exact number but I accidentally deleted my high level dude just before writing this post. (I thought I was deleting a different character. Once I realized what I had done… oh God, the HORROR!) But if you’re out there to get perfect scores every time, as you get a little higher in levels, it’s likely you’re going to need to run maps repeatedly to get that five skull rating.

OMD2 Screenshot2

Anyway, completing all the maps on story mode isn’t the end of the game. There is an “endless” mode where each map has waves of mobs that come, each wave getting harder and harder. I thought there was a total of 40 waves for each of these “endless” modes, but on one of them I got to 44. So apparently not. The game also offers a fun weekly challenge, and has started releasing cheap booster packs with additional maps and traps to keep the game interesting for all of us addicts.

If you’re into something that’s cheap and fun and a hell of a rush, I definitely recommend Orcs Must Die 2. It’s only $14.99 on Steam, and booster packs are $4.99. Check out the trailer for a little extra awesomeness.

My second addiction is the dungeon crawler most of us were waiting for with baited breath:

Torchlight 2 Logo

If you don’t hear angelic voices singing while looking at this logo, you’re doing something wrong.

I played the hell out of the first Torchlight, a fun and laid-back dungeon crawler that was incredibly addictive. I found that whenever I wanted something fun and didn’t push my brain too hard, I reached for this game again and again. When the sequel was announced, I was relatively pleased. And then they announced multiplayer.

My enthusiasm went to 11.

T2 Screenshot1

There’s a lot to love about Torchlight 2. It’s evolved so beautifully from its first iteration and I couldn’t be more pleased. We’re no longer bound to one small town. Players are outside now, wandering a colorful and diverse map. The original class offerings are gone, but we are given four new, strong classes to play in both male and female skins. Pets are a stronger, more viable partner than ever — their skills in combat seem to have increased, at least from what I remember, and they still return to town to sell your loot. But what’s more is they now shop for players. Short on health potions? Worry no more. Mr. Meowskers will get that for you.

T2 Screenshot3

But first, he’ll roll around on the ground until you give him a belly rub.

I think one of the truly special features of Torchlight 2 is choice of difficulty levels. The first two levels are incredibly easy — so easy a player has to try to die. Or, perhaps, you’re a very young player. That’s right, the Torchlight series is kid-friendly and now you can play it together, the way geek families are meant to! Kids will love T2. The game is bright, colorful, and doesn’t feel oppressive like some competing dungeon-crawler games. Friendly NPCs have a huggable, Disney-like quality, and player armor has a playful, Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe.

T2 Screenshot2

Hey, Baby. Check out my guns.

And yet there’s a lot of content for adults to love. For example, I found Chester Copperpot and defeated One-Eyed Willy. (Goonies references, for you young whippersnappers). There are other references, but I’ll not mention them, for fear of spoiling them.

Another favorite feature is that the dungeons are randomized. So, if you want to play every single class, like I do, you can do the same quests and the game will still feel fresh. Plus, there’s lots of loot and secret rooms filled with loot, and more loot. You know, the whole reason I play on the elite difficulty level is because of all the extra loot. Secret rooms with loot galore!

OH MY GOD, I LOVE LOOT!

T2 Screenshot5

This is what addiction looks like. Someone sign me up for a twelve-step program.

I’m having a tremendous amount of fun in Torchlight 2, and I know this is a game I’ll be playing for a long time. It’s $20 through Steam, and I can’t recommend it enough. For additional oohs and aahs, check out the trailer.

Okay, you’ve made it to the end of the post. (Or, you cheated and scrolled down. It’s okay, sometimes I cheat, too.) Anyway, I have two things to tell you. First, thank you all for the love and incredible support when I revealed the cover and first chapter of my coming novel, THE FOURTH CHANNEL. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from you guys, and the feedback I received on Facebook, Twitter, and email was overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting that at all, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Last Friday, I submitted THE FOURTH CHANNEL and the “blurb” that describes the story to Goodreads. If you haven’t heard of Goodreads, it’s a place where readers go to rate and review books, and to meet up with other people who enjoy the same types of books. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you a heads-up on the Goodreads posting until now. I honestly didn’t know what kind of response that was going to get. It’s only been a few days, and so far it looks like over 60 people have marked my book “to read!” If you’re a regular on Goodreads and would like to add the book to your virtual bookshelf, you can find it here.

As it stands, the Spouseditor and I are working our butts off to wrap up this book in the next month or so. I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the date. Again, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. You guys are AWESOME.

But wait, there’s more! The other thing I want to tell you is how much I miss our short stories. I think very fondly of the days when we did the Vote Your Adventure series, but since there are so many of those going around these days, we need a whole new take on the idea.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

Remember Mark Lidstone? He’s one of my writing partners, and started writing zombie-themed Vote Your Adventures right around the time we were working through Site 27, I think. Anyway, after I release THE FOURTH CHANNEL, we’re going to celebrate by doing a collaborative, epic twist on Vote Your Adventure. It’s going to be a battle of the blogs. And I’m going to need you guys, Team Jen, to defeat Team Mark.

Details are coming. Stay tuned. Continue reading

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Dark Souls The tough-as-nails action roleplaying game Demon’s Souls hit the scene in 2009 and has been bitch-whipping gamers ever since. And we keep coming back for more, despite the pain.

The game is set in the fictional realm of Boletaria. A “Deep Fog” has surrounded the realm, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Many heroes have attempted to penetrate the fog but have never returned, becoming trapped within it. And before you say it, of course it’s their own damn fault. What idiot runs into the danger?

Apparently you do. You are the latest brave hero who dares to penetrate the dangers of the mist and rid the land of —

You know what? Forget about all of that. That plot is inconsequential. The real plot is this:

You’re going to die. A lot.

The Demon’s Souls franchise is known for its difficulty. It doesn’t matter who you are or how skilled you are, you’re going to die in new and creative ways. And the penalties make it even more of a challenge: when a player dies, they’re returned to the beginning of the map with all enemies (minus the bosses) respawned. To make it interesting, players also lose a big chunk of health and the souls they’ve collected thus far. To regain the stats, the player must fight their way back to where they died. It’s not uncommon for players to die before they get back to the point of death, resulting in more losses — like your dignity.

This game brings out the best and the worst in you. For example, you’ll teach yourself five new languages just so you’ll have more curse words to scream as you throw your PS3 out of the window. Or possibly as you’re beating your PS3 with a bat in a field, a la the printer scene in Office Space.



Warning: the song played during this scene is not safe for work. Or moms. Yes, I’m talking about f-bombs. If you want to watch safely, make sure it’s muted.

By the time you’ve finished up with Demon’s Souls and moved on to its successor, Dark Souls, you’ll have run out of curse words and will be in dire need of fresh ones. For Dark Souls, I recommend making up your own swear words like “furtymcturdskin” and “shoofoomuckyballz”. Don’t worry about what your neighbors think as they hear the loud shouts and squeals coming from your domicile — they’ll see the rabid foam around your mouth as you’re hanging out of your window, slinging extra PS3 controllers at innocent neighborhood children who, unlike you, have the joy of not knowing the Demon’s Souls franchise. Your neighbors will either understand or be too afraid of your retribution to call the cops.

Angry Gamer

Of course, many say the difficulty and death penalty are what make the game so intriguing. And in my opinion, that’s exactly right. The game knows how to make you feel so low that your achievements are an ultimate high. It’s an abusive relationship we keep coming back to, drawing out the best and worst of our gaming selves. Mostly the worst.

And it’s about to get darker. An online petition signed by 92,000 gamers has convinced Namco Bandai, the publisher of the Demon’s Souls franchise, to make a PC version for the masses. So they’ve taken Dark Souls and souped it up with extra bosses, a PvP system, new maps, new gear, and of course, more death.

It’s a smart move for the company. By now gamers have destroyed their consoles in anger, and PCs are naturally the next money-making frontier. But for gamers everywhere, it’s a terrible idea. No one in their right mind should play it. We all know what’s going to happen once we sit down to play: the game will turn us into crazy people. It’s self-inflicted abuse that only a masochistic moron would entertain.

And before you ask, yes, I already pre-ordered my copy. Can’t wait!

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is available August 24. You can pre-purchase a copy from Steam. If you’ve never tried this series, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, pick up a cheap, used PS3 copy of Demon’s Souls and experience the mind-numbing rage.

Er, joy! I meant joy. Yeah. Definitely joy.

Dark Souls art courtesy of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Official Site.
Angry Gamer photo courtesy of M.H.G.
Continue reading

Games You Should Be Playing: Legend of Grimrock

Grimrock Prologue

Just another day at the office.

It isn’t often that I get really excited about a game, but I honestly couldn’t wait to share Legend of Grimrock with you all. This game has it all: puzzles, maps, mystery, stress, and combat. Essentially, it’s an upscale, adventure-style Myst that could kill you.

It’s awesome.

The premise of the game starts out simply: you and the three strangers you’re chained to are convicted criminals. The guards take you to the top of Grimrock Mountain and toss you in a pit. At the bottom, you and your group must survive a labyrinth filled with puzzles, darkness, and danger.

The game is a throwback to old-school gaming with all the right modern perks. Movement is done with the WASD keys, but turning (with Q and E) is always done at 90 degrees for that full old-school effect. They also made the automap an option. For those classic gamers who remember (and love) using a pad of graph paper and a pencil and hastily sketching out tunnels as you go, just turn off automapping. I didn’t go that route. Though, to be fair, I have forgotten where I parked my car. I’m not saying it happens a lot, I’m just saying it’s happened.

While finding your way through the tunnels, you’ll find numerous dangers — I’m not just talking about the gigantic hostile life forms roaming the halls. You find torches on the way for light. Delightfully, these torches also run out and leave you and your party members in utter darkness. This may sound annoying, but it just added to the tension, which I thought was a nice touch.

Death Snail

Sammy the Killer Snail would like to invite you over for dinner.

The combat isn’t incredibly advanced; you just right-click on each team member’s abilities as they become available. It isn’t dissatisfying, but I wouldn’t say it’s the focus of the game — Grimrock is a well-rounded package. Group members can be dragged and dropped to switch up their order, their inventory panels are accessed with a single hotkey, and fighting maneuvers are executed simply by right-clicking each weapon. I actually like the simplicity here.

The main feature of the game is the puzzles. They start out fairly rudimentary and become a little more elaborate as the player continues through the tunnels. Trap doors, loose stones, hidden levers, secret passages, and the like all bar the passages until solved.

Wall Face

Hey baby, gimme a kiss.

Traditional “hint” buttons are absent, but mysterious messages written in runes on the walls serve as clues — like how to get past this stony visage.

Hardcore gamers shouldn’t be put off by the simplicity, as there is loot aplenty to be found. Awesome loot. Loot for which you might sell your mother.

Magic Loincloth

L33+

I’m kidding. Obviously, the loot gets better the deeper you go. Or keep the loincloth. I’m not here to judge your fashion choices.

I definitely recommend this game. It’s incredibly addictive and has surprises at every dark turn. The ease of the mechanics and maneuverability makes this a great game for teens and up. Also, the price is great for what you get. At the time of this post, the game costs $13.49 USD (retail is $14.99) and you will get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Legend of Grimrock can be found at Grimrock.net or on Steam. Screenshots and a cool trailer can be found at either link. This is a must-buy in my book. You won’t be sorry.

Game Reviews: Amalur & The Darkness II

Girl_Gamer

So many games, so little time.

As you can tell by the date stamp on my last post, I’m way behind on my blogging. What can I say, I’ve been busy. I’ve been working hard on my adventure/suspense necromancer novel, The Fourth Channel, and playing video games. If you’re missing my snark, feel free to subscribe to my Twitter feed. Don’t be afraid to say hi. I love to chat.

I’ll talk about the novel in a few days, as I have some exciting news to share about it. For now, let’s talk about some games!

The gaming world has seen a lot of exciting new releases over the last couple of months. I’ve been avoiding the mainstream games for my reviews (with the exception of my Skyrim review) because I wanted to branch out into quirky, eclectic games that not everyone has seen. But I do play a lot of mainstream games. Today we’re going to do a double-header of mainstream games, so grab your controller of choice and strap in.

A few weeks ago, Alan Edwards posted a comment here on the blog asking for my review on Kingdoms of Amalur, a new RPG (role-playing game) that was released with much ado. I aim to please and you know I take requests (requests, anyone?) so I agreed. This game was released with a lot of hoopla because it has mega-nerd-celebrities Todd McFarlane and R.A. Salvatore attached to it. Before the game’s release, industry insiders and gaming professionals were coming out of the woodwork, proclaiming Amalur as “better than Skyrim.” And that’s when I smelled bullcrap.

Kingdoms_of_Amalur

Bullcrap: like bull$hit, only much more potent.

Kingdoms of Amalur starts with the typical prologue, catching us up on what happened in the world of Amalur thus far. And I have to be honest, within the first five seconds of the story I was really confused. I thought I took a wrong turn and ended up in some low-rent Lord of the Rings knock off. We’re told about fate and destiny and some evil elf unlike all the other elves — powerful and aggressive. But then in the very next shot, it shows him with a bunch of other evil elves acting powerfully and aggressively. So he’s really not as unique as they’re making him out to be. But I got the gist of what they were trying to say: bad guy is bad.

After that strange prologue, the story switches to us, the intrepid protagonist. Unfortunately we’re not that intrepid to begin with, because we’re dead. The game opens with two dwarves tossing our corpse down a trash chute.

Luckily for us, we spring back to life… but we’re buried in a pile of rotting corpses. So if we weren’t totally dead before, we’re about to be, thanks to a bunch of disgusting diseases that are festering in the mound.

Intro 4

Worst bed and breakfast ever.

After we dislodge ourself from the corpses, we’re led through the training area. Truth be told, the training area is spectacular and focused. The game moves quickly along the path while keeping you curious about what’s happening around you. You gather that the tower above (and the Well of Souls that resurrected you) is being invaded by bad guys, and you’re on a path to intercept them. You know a big fight is coming and, as you run through the tutorial, you can’t help but be excited about it.

Amalur_Well_of_Souls

The Well of Souls. Oooh, pretty.

The end of the tutorial results in a fun, quasi-challenging boss fight. The gnomes who brought you back from death are all killed and the Well of Souls is destroyed. You are the only survivor of the attack, and the head gnome sacrifices himself so that you can live. (Thanks, Dude!) You are the only evidence that the Well of Souls worked, and it’s your quest to, um, go out into the world and… uh…

You know, it isn’t entirely clear what we’re supposed to be excited about after that.

Amalur_Screenshot

Hi, guys! What's going on? Oh. Nothing, huh...

The most focused and exciting storyline happened inside that tutorial and, upon being shoved into the world, there’s really not much to do except interact with a few NPC’s and pick flowers for trade skills. The point of the game really seems to be lost here, and so did my interest. Because so many insiders and professional game reviews called this the successor to Skyrim, I expected a lot. And maybe that’s where this game went wrong, because Skyrim is an open world, where the player can find exciting things anywhere and everywhere they go. Many players avoid Skyrim’s main quest line completely. In Amalur, I was let into the world, and found myself languishing in sandbox hell. There was absolutely nothing to do except delete the game from my computer.

So that’s what I did.

If you’re interested in checking out the demo for yourselves, you can download it for free from Steam. (Warning: you will need to set up an account.)

The_Darkness_II_Logo

Try this one on for size.

I’m really excited about this next game as it’s the first FPS (first-person shooter) I’ve reviewed here. The reason this is a big deal to me is because it’s generally perceived that FPS and girls don’t mix. I don’t know why. Stereotypes persist, I guess. And it’s probably true that more guys than girls play and purchase FPS games. I suppose an FPS could be off-putting because it’s challenging. FPS games involve hand-eye coordination and, discouragingly, it’s not always something a person is immediately good at. Being truly good at an FPS often involves practice coupled with a desire to be a better player.

Or, at the very least, learn how to be pwned with dignity. If there is such a thing.

That’s probably a big turn-off for most people in the digital age, when the majority of folks just want to come home after work and turn their brains off. Maybe that’s my problem. My brain never shuts off.

But back to the schism between girls and FPS games. FPS games are also associated with testosterone-infused military themes, and I wonder if that doesn’t turn girls away from them. Maybe girls need to be introduced to other styles of FPS, ones that star believable female characters. I’ve played the military-themed games (the Call of Duty series, for example) and I do find them enjoyable, though they aren’t my favorite. I typically prefer a fun science fiction or paranormal romp.

Hence The Darkness II.

The story is based on a popular comic book series that follows Jackie Estacado, the Don of an Italian-American crime family. This game is a sequel. In the previous game, Jackie’s true love, Jenny, was shot and killed right in front of him. Jackie’s never gotten over it. He’s also host to an ancient evil entity called “The Darkness.” The Darkness has been around since before heaven and earth. It is wholly evil. When Jackie lets The Darkness out, he changes into a demonic beast-looking thing with two awesome demonic tentacles. Let’s call them Billy and Bob.

Oh, wait. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to come up with clever names. How about “Ricky” and “Francisco”?

Demonic_Whip_Things

Guess who's coming to dinner!

What, you don’t think the one on the right looks like a Francisco?

I really love idea of this game. It’s the kind of thing I wish I had come up with. Seriously, a hitman who is the host to pure evil? I don’t know who thought that up but I want to give them a medal.

Another neat aspect to this game is that it introduces quad-wield. Most games are dual-wield, where you hold a gun in each hand (two guns, hence the “dual”). In The Darkness II, you get to control two guns, but you also get to control Ricky and Francisco.

Quad_Wield

Come at me, bro.

Depending on what kind of abilities you purchase, Ricky and Francisco can rip, slice, and dice better than a Slap-Chop. They grab objects and throw them, impaling or slicing foes, and they can perform different finishing moves that restore health, give extra ammo (incredibly handy), grant a temporary shield, and more. And mostly they’re just fun to hang around with.

The game starts out at a restaurant where Jackie is attacked almost as soon as he sits down at a table. It turns out that the hit came from a group called “The Brotherhood,” headed by an evil bastard who wants to siphon The Darkness out of Jackie. Of course, The Darkness has a mind of its own, and would much prefer to stay inside Jackie. The Darkness shows Jackie a vision of Jenny’s soul in hell. The ultimatum is clear: Destroy The Brotherhood and capture their siphon, or The Darkness keeps Jenny’s soul.

Get shootin’, lover boy.

I completed the game on “Hitman” mode, which is just below the highest difficulty setting, and it was mildly challenging. Two of the bosses gave me a little bit of trouble. Overall, I found it fun to shoot, chop, slice, beat, rip through… I’m not able to complete games that often, so the fact that I finished this says a lot. I think the key is Ricky and Francisco. The more I used them, the more fun it was. I’m looking forward to going back and playing it on the hardest mode, “Don.”

If you want to check out The Darkness II, you can see the video trailer and demo on Steam.

Don’t let the challenge or the violence deter you from playing a first-person shooter. Who said girls have to be all sugar and spice, anyway?

Have you played either of these games? I’d love to know what you thought of them in the comment section below. Or is there another game that you’d like me to review? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Controller Girl photo courtesy of Girls Are Made From Pepsi. Continue reading

Games You Should Be Playing: Realm of the Mad God

RealmoftheMadGod Grab your Rubik’s Cube and your Wham! cassettes — Realm of the Mad God is going to feel like a frenetic blast from the past. A friend of mine spotted it in the Steam catalog (or “catalogue” for our Canadian friends) and said I should review it. Since I take requests, I agreed to check it out. Plus, it’s free. And I know how much you guys love free.

Oh wait, that’s me. I love free!

Realm of the Mad God is an MMO (massively-multiplayer online game) so you can play it with your friends — and about a gazillion other people. You can chat and you can group. You can even make a guild. All of these features are nice, however, I guarantee you won’t be doing much chatting. In fact, you’ll be lucky to find a half second to loot. Realm of the Mad God is a shooter. It’s fast-paced and, if you want to survive, you won’t stop moving.

The best way for me to describe this game is this – if an Atari 2600 and EverQuest got together, Realm of the Mad God would be the product of their union.

Atari+Everquest

You World of Warcraft whippersnappers have no idea how good you’ve got it. Everquest was like walking uphill in the snow both ways while being constantly bludgeoned from behind and paying $10 a month to have it done. And we LIKED it.

You start out as a level 1 wizard. (Of course I named my character “Dorktastic.” I’m surprised that you’re surprised.) There are no other class choices to start. From there, you shoot and adventure your way up.

If you can.

There are plenty of random creatures of varying difficulty running around the large maps, and they shoot a lot of projectiles. Hence the need to keep moving. And if that wasn’t difficult enough, the map has obstacles that you can actually get stuck on. Realm of the Mad God doesn’t make it easy; this isn’t like other video games where you run through trees and buildings like a ghost.

RotMG_screenshot3

Death by tree.

And then there’s the death penalty. If you die, you’ll go right back to where you started at level 1 with newbie gear. It doesn’t matter if you die at level 5 or 50. You can be level 1 in no time flat. The game intends to kill you a lot. In fact, in a recent welcome message from the game developers to all the new Steam players, they said:

Please note that you will be dead soon. And it will hurt.

Is it weird that I got a little excited by that?

The game does provide you with a quick escape route. If you find yourself in hot water and need to evacuate, there is a small white button above your health bar that you can click and instantly be teleported away from danger and into a safe zone called “The Nexus.”

If you miss your chance to evac, you’re back in Noobville, population: you.

Should you manage to level up, other classes will become available. Once your wizard makes level 5, the priest class is opened. If you get a priest to level 5, two more classes are opened. And so it goes, with the requirements getting more difficult as you progress.

Class_Tree

There are no traditional quests in the game, but you won’t miss them. The action is fast and furious so you won’t have time to think about it. Killing bosses is the rough equivalent to completing quests and these varied encounters appear all over the map. Small indicators will appear on the edge of your screen, pointing you to the nearest one so you can seek and destroy.

Or be destroyed.

EvilChickenGod

Clucky turned to the dark side, and now he must die.

You’ll also come across random dungeons that you can enter. (They’re supposed to look like little brown caves, but they really look like little brown turds.) Inside the dungeons are more quest-like bosses.

DungeonTurd

Someone forgot to use the bathroom before leaving the Nexus.

What I like the most is that this game rewards grouping. This is done loosely and simply by proximity. Killing monsters while having other players in your immediate area will add a big experience bonus, and the more players, the better. But even if you find yourself out on your own, you’ll be so occupied with running around, fighting random monsters, and getting neat new loot that you won’t care either way. This is a terrific little game that I especially like to play in short bursts of about 20 minutes or so. (The quick evacuation really lends to that play style, as I can get in and out of an area in an instant.)

As long as you aren’t sent into a rabid foaming rage after dying and being sent back to level 1, I recommend this game. It’s fun, it’s fast, and, despite the misleading, 1980’s graphics, it’s a challenge. But if you aren’t a skilled gamer, don’t be discouraged by that; the difficulty level can be modified by hanging out in different areas. Take it easy by the ocean or head into the deep wilderness. Or somewhere in between. It’s totally up to you.

Realm of the Mad God is available on Steam, or even in your browser. Check it out. You’ll love it… if your stay in Noobville doesn’t cause you to throw your computer out the window.

Stay tuned for more! Next week I will unveil the February Sci-Fi Pinups! In March, I’m hosting another epic showdown between two hotly-contested science fiction hunks. Subscribe to my site via RSS. The link is on the sidebar. Continue reading

Game Review: Forsaken World

ForsakenWorldLogo

Online role-playing video games are like relationships: sometimes you’re serious about one, sometimes you play the field, and other times no one really strikes your fancy so you’re between games.

I’m currently between online games, so I decided to look around and see what was available. I want to be entertained yet I don’t want to commit, so I was specifically looking at free games.

The Editor suggested Forsaken World. It only has a 66/100 score on Metacritic, which isn’t terrific, but it’s free. And I love free so I gave it a whirl, just for you.

So let’s get some of the bad news out of the way: Whether you wish to play a male or female avatar, it really doesn’t matter — you’re going to end up playing a chick. You say you prefer macho-looking avatars? Go ahead and pick the male avatar, but I guarantee he’s going to look like a chick because everyone is incredibly feminine. Even more bizarre is that the template for their female models is Britney Spears.

ItsBritneyBitch

It's Britney, bitch!

Kind of creepy, actually.

There are a lot of interesting classes and races to choose from. Some of them are pretty standard, such as the warrior, priest, mage, and rogue classes. They also have a vampire class, a hunter class that deals in guns, and a bard class that plays a certain combination of chords that will result in buffs or damage.

For our review, I played the vampire class. I had high hopes for playing a vampire. I imagined gritty slayings and ass-kickings. Lots of black leather. Think Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. Sadly, I didn’t get that. I got this:

NeedPantsPST_1

Uh...

Honestly, this is the typical style of dress for most female avatars in the game. I believe I named her appropriately.

What I like about this game is that players are given a full set of equipment early on. When NeedPantsPST originally appeared in the game she was wearing some very basic level 1 clothes with no beneficial stats. But there was a box in her inventory. I clicked it and got two things: A new box to be opened at level 5 and a full set of armor, which you see above.

Every time a box is opened, the player receives a new one to be opened 5 levels later. It gives you something to look forward to: presents! Who doesn’t love presents? Okay, so it wasn’t the badass armor I was hoping for, but I was only level 1. In many other games, finding upgraded armor and weapons can be a bit of a chore. In this game, they’re throwing it at you. I don’t want to waste time looking for upgraded armor pieces, I’d rather be doing something on the battlefield.

Speaking of the battlefield, as soon the armor is equipped, it’s time to run out and get your first weapon. The game doesn’t adhere to vampire lore as well as you might have thought:

EquippedCross

I'm so confused.

I didn’t burst into flame, so I figured it was time to start questing. This is where things got interesting: the game employs auto-run. Avatars can either be controlled by the keyboard or by clicking on your map or the landscape. The avatar will run to wherever you’ve clicked. And it gets better. Green text will appear in the quest log. By clicking on the text, the game will auto-run the avatar to wherever the goal is. Once the avatar arrives, the player can then gather, kill, chat, or whatever they’re supposed to do, then click the new green text and auto-run back to turn in the quest.

QuestTest

Laziest. Gaming. Ever.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this method of travel. But soon enough, I started to like it. I felt like I was getting so much done and I could multitask — if I clicked on the map or my quest text, I could get up and do other things while my avatar was running. It was amazing how efficient the game felt.

Within the hour, I was level 10. That means I was able to go through two more free boxes and get upgraded armor. Honestly, I was super-excited about getting new armor. What my avatar had on was ridiculous and I was ready finally to don some ass-kicking gear that would protect me in battle.

NeedPantsPST_2

My armor is shrinking.

Armor problems aside, I eventually was able to reach the level where I could hang out in instances with friends – level 15. Sadly, none of my screenshots saved. To sum it up, it was pretty simple as far as newbie dungeons go. Experienced dungeon crawlers may not care for it as well. I wonder if the dungeons get harder as the levels increase. It was definitely a dungeon for people who were short on time and just wanted to hang out, kill monsters for a few minutes, and get some armor upgrades.

Another aspect I like is that the maximum size of a group is three people, so it’s not hard to put a group together. I was easily able to wrangle The Editor and one other friend into coming with me, and it was a nice, friendly, low-key time. With metal lingerie.

NeedPantsPST_3

What the crap?

Folks who are looking for a game that feels efficient and only needs about 30 minutes per sitting may enjoy this. What might get a little confusing is that the game has a “kitchen sink” mentality, where there’s just way too much that a player could be doing. I’ve played quite a few characters to level 15 or higher, and I still couldn’t tell you what all is going on in the game. Aside from crafting and daily quests, there are a million different kinds of faction and reputation to be gained — to be honest, I don’t think any of it really matters.

If you’re interested in hanging out in a technicolor, low-key game with friends for 30+ minutes, this is a fine game to adventure in, as long as you ignore a lot of the extracurricular stuff. If you don’t have friends to adventure with, there are plenty of people who want to get to know you. You just have to be open to them.

EmbraceYouGently

Or not. Soloing is fun, too.

If you’d like to give it a try, Forsaken World can be downloaded on Steam. Chances are you won’t totally love it, but you won’t hate it, either. This game can be played for short spurts and still give you a sense of accomplishment. Forsaken World is NOT for hardcore or experienced gamers unless those people are looking to be amused for about 10 minutes. This is casual gaming that got a little out of control with options and a focus on armor sets and costumes. (Yes, the game has costumes. No, I couldn’t bring myself to show them to you. It’s too horrible to even contemplate.) Continue reading

Games You Should Be Playing: Skyrim

Skyrim Logo
I play video games. And yes, I am a girl.

I’ve been playing video games since the day my parents brought home an Atari 2600. My brother and I made forts in the den, rolled out our sleeping bags, and played Pac Man all night long. From that day on, I was hooked. The fact that I became an avid gamer at such a young age still astounds me because my parents have always been technologically challenged. Case in point, they only got cable television five years ago.

Get with the times, Dad. Internet TV’s where it’s at.

There’s a widely held misconception that women don’t play video games. That’s crap. I have a lot of cool female friends (who aren’t ugly toads, virgins, and/or live in their parents’ basement) who play video games. We’re rare, I’ll give you that. There are few things funnier than being the only girlfriend who is invited to the boys’ all-night gaming party.

Don’t worry. I’ll bring the beer and kick your ass.

As times have changed, I’ve noticed more women are open to video games but they don’t know what to buy. Girls want different things in video games than boys do: We want to feel rewarded early on, we want to be able to play for shorter spurts and still get things accomplished, and we want an avatar who isn’t a gross exaggeration of our sexual features. Most importantly, we want to kick ass, too. But games are generally marketed to men — how will we know where to start?

Let me help.

Skyrim In-Game Banner

Skyrim is a game that would have caught your eye in the store or with online ads, except that their logo shows a big hairy man surrounded in mist, clad in armor, and covered in dirt. And maybe all the boys get excited about a big hairy, dirty dude. I don’t. So I went and made us an avatar that we might be a little more excited to play:

Awesomesauce

I named her “Awesomesauce”. No, really. That’s what I named her. She shoots fire and lightning bolts from her hands. In fact, here’s a shot of her lighting everyone on fire! Sadly, that includes the guy who is helping her escape. I was still working on my aim:

Awesomesauce Lights Everyone on Fire

Is it warm in here?

And in case you’re wondering, my level 20 warrior is named Pumpkin. She kills dragons. Bad ass.

In Skyrim there are lots of races and you can choose to play either a male or female character. What’s funny about the character creation is that there are a plethora of customizable options — one could spend hours creating a custom avatar, but in the end you’re going to stick a big hat on their head and you’ll mostly be looking at them from behind. So don’t waste too much time on it.

The game starts out in this long, exhausting sequence where you discover you’ve been captured and are being sent to the chopping block for execution. As you get down on your knees and the axe is lifted, a dragon shows up.

Dragon!

Hi! I was just wondering if I could borrow a cup of sugar?

The dragon starts breathing fire all over the town and, naturally, no one is concerned with you anymore. You get up and run for it. This is where your story begins.

If you haven’t played a lot of video games and you’re worried about your skill level, let me assure you: modern role-playing games have implemented systems so that you always know what to do. If you have a quest, an indicator will float above someone’s head so you know to talk to them. If you are on a journey, a map indicator will tell you where to go. In that regard, Skyrim is no different. So if you’re an experienced gamer or a novice, Skyrim will help you along.

In the screenshot below, you’re still a prisoner and need to escape the town and the dragon. Notice the indicators above both doors (yellow circles are mine). Here, you have a choice to make: escape with the soldier or with the resistance.

Choice: Enter the Keep

Two options! Compared to games of old, this seems like a lot! Back in the day, games only gave you one choice! (And get off my virtual lawn, whippersnappers!) But to be honest, this is as restrictive as Skyrim gets. Once you leave the town, you are given the opportunity to continue the game’s main quest line…

…or you can forge your own path.

No, really. That’s not just a tagline. The world is immense and open. There are dungeons, towns, quests, stories, books, trainers, guilds, giants, monuments, treasure chests, etc. in every direction. In fact, you should forget all about the main story and do whatever the hell you want. Just pick a direction and start running. You’ll bump into fifty other things to do. Skyrim dungeons are so different from one another that you’ll never get bored. There are times when I feel as if I’ve entered the ruins of Atlantis, or I’m Indiana Jones in search of lost treasure. As you go, you’ll increase your skills and level up. You could decide to be a warrior mage or a thief who wears heavy armor so you can take a beating in combat. The talent trees allow you to customize your character any way you want.

It’s called an open world, and they mean it. You could become an assassin AND a notorious thief AND a hero AND a skilled tradeskill master AND a bard…

Vampirism

…and apparently a vampire. And I’m not talking the kind that sparkles. I should probably get Awesomesauce to a shrine and get this fixed, but I’m curious to know what will happen next — which is the most exciting aspect of Skyrim.

The bar for open world RPG’s has been raised. Girls, if you’re looking for a game that you can sink your teeth into from time to time, pick up Skyrim and create your own tale.

Your boyfriend can go get his own damn copy. Continue reading

Part Three Results: The Mark

Ballot BoxHey! Why didn’t you guys tell me that I had forgotten to post my favorite votes for the part two results of The Mark? I knew I had forgotten something, but it didn’t occur to me until a couple of days ago. To make up for it, this week I will post both.

A double-dose of votes. I love it!

But first, the results for Part 3. This week, I kept you in the poop for a little longer. It just wouldn’t have felt right taking you out so soon. You also met a friend… who wasn’t very friendly.

A (Right & up the ladder): 12
B (Left & toward the voices): 5

And now for the best votes! Here are my favorites from Part 2:

mirwyn: Well crap… (ba-dum-bum)

Hey, somebody had to go there.

Estelle: Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh….

Good response. Deep. Thought out. The mind of a tactician…

Zug: Come on in, the water’s fine! B it is.

You sound way too excited about being immersed in poop. I’m almost beginning to think this little plan has backfired!

Great job all around, gang. And now for my favorite LOL’s from the votes on Part 3:

Mark Lidstone: Sh*t and blood. Reminds me of the time I ate at this really sketchy Thai spot.

Nice. I LOL’d.

Gene Lempp: Get the rest of the team together and then at least there are a few more people available to die before me! grins

That’s the spirit!

Jesse: I’m picturing the scene from Rambo First Blood 2 where he emerges from the mud…

To be honest, I did picture the same thing — although wouldn’t the smell give us away? LOL I have to admit that I’m a little concerned with that detail now.

Thanks for your votes! Glad everyone’s having a great time so far. Tune in on Friday for Part 4! Continue reading

Playing Godville

Godville Logo

Reminder: The next Vote Your Adventure begins on October 7! New to the site? Read The Relic and Site 27.

Who remembers Progress Quest? Anyone? It was a fun, free game where all you had to do was create a character and read. That was it. Progress Quest literally played itself. The human participation was observation only. The text game would run on its own and a small blurb at the bottom would tell you what silly things your hero was fighting and looting and what bizarre items they had equipped on their person. The game was funny and had quite an underground fan base.

Progress Quest now has a fun successor: Godville. The idea is similar, though slightly evolved: each person creates their god name and a follower. The follower (or hero/heroine) runs around on their own, accomplishing quests, fighting things, gathering money and items, and prays to you. They even collect bricks of gold with which to build you a temple. All this, and they do it all on their own. As they run around, you can read in real time what they’re doing to level up and revere you. It’s so silly it’s entertaining.

Hero Diary

When your hero has filled their bag with 11 items, they head back to town to sell — and buy exciting new equipment, if possible.

Equipment

The difference in Godville is that you, the player, now get two whole buttons to play the game with. You can either encourage or punish your follower. This will ultimately affect their personalities. If you punish them a lot, they’re mean and evil, but they deal more damage in battle. If you encourage them a lot, they’re kind and heal more quickly.

At level 7, your hero can have a motto. My heroine’s name is Pink Cupcake, so her motto is “No sprinkles!” (I don’t like sprinkles or sparkling sugar on cupcakes. Their texture with a creamy cake and frosting/fondant topping is off-putting to me. …What? Why are you looking at me like that?) Anyway, PC’s personality is gentle but I’m thinking she needs to deal more damage. I may have to make her evil.

At level 10, you receive a notice that your character has the possibility of interacting with other heroes in the world and may have to fight them. You can also elect to send your heroes to the arena, where they fight an actual hero. If you lose the match, you lose all of your inventory (not your gear) and your money. If you win, you get a gold brick, which goes toward building you a nice big temple.

Phat loots, dude.

If you’re looking for a free game that’s mindlessly entertaining, I suggest you head on over to Godville and register an account. It’s also available for iPhone and Android phones. I strongly recommend it for your phone over the web app.

News from the Battlefields Continue reading