Thursday, May 09, 2013

Great games

Are very often the simple ones.

At least, they tend to be founded on very simple principles which allow for great scope and depth. Those principles when turned into gameplay can't get in the way of enjoying the game, or gamers quickly get frustrated and walk away.

I've bought a little selection of games lately and it may surprise you which has taken more of my time over the past week.

F1 2012 - is a racing game based on Formula 1 Grand Prix. They're the fastest cars on the planet. I left this one aside for a while because I didn't have the equipment to appreciate it properly. Strange thing is though, now I do have a steering wheel for my PC, this game still leaves me cold. It doesn't have the immediacy of Forza on the Xbox or the old Need For Speed games I was addicted to way back.

I suspect it's because it has bits interfering with the gameplay. With the settings I had active, the game was actively slowing me down. The brake pedal didn't do much. I didn't have the chance to do late braking because the game was taking away that ability to make and learn from my mistakes by braking for me way too early.

And that's very frustrating and interferes badly with the ability to enjoy the game. The interface is also far too dominated by console influences.

Napoleon Total War - I was happily addicted to the original Shogun Total War when it came out and have followed the Total War series with curiosity, if not by buying it. It's another split game, where there's a strategic layer combined with a tactical battle layer. The forces at your disposal in the tactical layer are the ones you've built up in the strategic layer.

The Total War series is another which has all the ingredients to make a great game of its type. The strategic layer is full of depth and scope. The tactical layer looks gorgeous with plenty of options for commanding the troops. But ... something doesn't add up with it. Things like having the options for commanding the troops but ending up with them facing the wrong way. Yep, did that in the tutorial.

I'll go back into the Total War series at some point but all the tutorial did was remind me why I avoided getting Rome Total War a few years ago. A game with great promise but that gameplay got in the way of me enjoying it.

So what have I been playing ?

Let's start with the Steam stats. Steam tells me I've spent 32.8 hours on it over the past 2 weeks. Except that isn't over the past 2 weeks, it was all last weekend. In comparison, I've spent 179 hours on I think 4 Deus Ex Human Revolution playthroughs, 86 hours between 2 Skyrim playthroughs (and barely scratched the surface of that game), 33 hours on the latest XCom game (1 playthrough) and the 2 Torchlight games lasted me about 12 hours each before I got bored of them.

In terms of value for money this latest one cost me about £4 on a 75% off sale. So I've already got 8 hours per £1 spent. And I'd get many more too ... I've only played through the main campaign and none of the extra content so far.

So what is it ?

There's a genre of game called Tower Defense. The premise is that overwhelming wave after wave of monsters are attacking and it's up to you to stop them by deploying defensive towers. There's usually a bunch of different types of tower and different layouts to the maps. Each level is a puzzle to be solved. Most games of this type are free to play, although there is the occasional paid version.

The game I've been on is called Defense Grid : The Awakening. I stayed away for ages because it wasn't free to play, which was a mistake as it's actually incredibly good and worth the little amount of cash when it's (often) on sale.

It's fairly typical of the type with a wide range of enemies and enough towers to keep things interesting. It's simple to play but tough to beat. And you get a little extra value from the money by there being a narrator who gives you a bit of context.

Trouble is, a game can be a little too good.

I've been struggling for sleep over the past week. One cause is my skin condition, it's much better but there's still enough irritation that I'll "help" it. I've had better discipline there but when I'm trying to sleep, my discipline is much weaker because I'm not thinking. But the other cause is Defense Grid. I've been playing it in my head while trying to get to sleep. ARG ! It's that addictive and that simple. Here's a video to a walkthrough of one of the levels which will give you an idea of the gameplay.

Verdict on Defense Grid ? So good that it'll kill your sleep. Buy it anyway. I've banned myself from playing it midweek cos you know ? Gotta work ! And I've been struggling to function on the limited amount of sleep I've been getting.

Friday tomorrow - bring on the weekend :-)

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