I realised recently that I’ve not done an actual decent sized piece of games journalism for a while now. That made me sad, but what with exams and such, I don’t really have the time to write a full piece right now. Instead, I’m just going to briefly talk about the games I’ve been enjoying recently, and why.
I hope you’re in the mood to be rambled at!
Okay, in no particular order:
Taking the best bits of a venerable online FPS (the original Starsiege: Tribes came out in 1998, don’t you know) and bringing it bang up to date, Tribes: Ascend has become my go-to online shooter for the last few months.
But what makes it so good is just how fast it is. Speed is the thing that separates Tribes from your generic Battle Call of DutyField: Reacharound 2012 or whatever. A good pathfinder (light assault class) could be whipping through the enemy defences and grabbing the flag at around 300 km/h. Even the hard-hitting but slow moving heavy classes can get up to a decent lick, given enough momentum. Every class has a jetpack, and a pair of frictionless ‘skis’, which allow them to use the curvature of the ground itself to pick up speed, and maintain it in the air. The basic rule is, if you’re walking, you’re doing it wrong. There are 9 different classes, with plenty of room for customisation within those, so there’s bound to be at least one that gels with your particular playstyle.
Tribes is fast, exciting and, best of all, it’s completely free to play. While it is possible to pay for ‘Tribes Gold’ and XP boosters to help you unlock the kit you want, it is equally possible to jump into a game with a completely vanilla loadout, and do just fine. Within a few hours, you’ll have racked up enough XP to unlock a few new guns, so don’t worry about being left in the dust.
If you’re tired of the same old online FPS, and are after a fresh multiplayer experience, this might be just what you’re looking for.
Yeah. I know. What is there to write about Minecraft that hasn’t already been written, and by keyboards far more eloquent than my own? Nevertheless, I’ve been playing this quite a lot recently. For a while now, I’ve been playing on a little two-man server with a friend. We’ve got a nice little kingdom in the making, and we’re currently working on a grand palace, atop a valley-spanning bridge, from which we can admire all that we have created.
Honestly, this is the best way to play the game. If we weren’t doing this, I doubt I’d be playing Minecraft at all. My single-player worlds all end the same way – I’d usually run out of steam once I got a few diamonds stocked up; I just couldn’t see the point in building impressive structures when there’s nobody to show off to. In what is effectively co-op, however, there’s always someone there to share your creations with, and having someone else working away in the same world means that there’s always something new to discover. In multiplayer, the joy of construction is fresh once more.
I might do a proper in-depth post about our little world once it’s nice and ready to show off, so stay tuned!
Legend of Grimrock
Yes, another old-style-game-but-modern-now, Grimrock is based firmly in the very first dungeon-crawling CRPGs – Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, and other such games that I was literally terrified of playing when I was a kid. My dad liked them, though, and on that basis I decided to pick up Grimrock. And, you know what? It’s not half bad.
The main thing it takes from those most venerable of classics is its tile-based nature. You can only move forward, backward, left or right, meaning that getting wedged into a corner by a group of enemies is a genuinely terrifying, claustrophobic experience. And it’s not like you have the luxury of a turn-based combat system to plan your next move – combat in Grimrock is in real-time, and at times it can be really hard. You’ll have to use every trick in the book to survive, like baiting your enemies onto a trapdoor, then hitting the switch to drop them onto the next level.
Legend of Grimrock is a throwback to my childhood, when games were bastard hard, enemies were scary as hell, and Freddos were 10p each. If you miss those days, I heartily recommend a trip to Mount Grimrock.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
This is an unusual one, to be sure. To be honest, when I first heard about it, I was sure it’d be absolutely awful. A full-on subscription based MMORPG, in the World of Warcraft style, just as WoW itself is very quickly becoming obsolete. Equally, the idea of continuing the story from the absolutely astounding Knights of the Old Republic series, predecessor to games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, in MMO format seemed like utter lunacy. That said, I’m now a good three months in to my subscription, and I’m still loving it.
See, what SW:TOR does differently is in its storytelling. In WoW, only about one in ten people actually bothered to read the quest text describing why you were there and what you were actually doing – everyone else just read “Kill 10 angry badgers” and got on with it. TOR avoids that by having every bit of quest dialogue fully voiced, with the same level of detail as any Mass Effect sidequest. Combine this with a fully unique story for each character class, and what you end up with is essentially eight new KotOR games, all at once.
Honestly, it doesn’t always work. Some of the side-quests can get a bit repetitive, especially when you begin to recognise your character’s “generic” conversation responses, and see just how many corners have been cut there. And it’s true that the WoW-style hotkey MMO is on its way out. But, for the most part, TOR is an engaging experience, not to mention a fantastic achievement for Bioware. Yes, it’s a ‘traditional’ MMO, but it’s pretty much the perfect, distilled form of the genre. Haters gonna hate, but I’m still subscribing.
Buy The Old Republic here - I also have a few 7-day trials to give out, drop me a line if you want one!
There are a few other games I’ve played, but not really enough to give a solid opinion on, like Gotham City Impostors, Botanicula, Fez, I Am Alive and oh so many more, so I might revisit this format for another round-up at a later date.
For now, happy gaming!