Dynasty Heroes Developer Commentary Part 3 Is Up!

Like the title suggests, part 3 of our developer commentary is up.  Check it out…

~RCS

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Nic3Ntertainment Presents: Monster!

Well, I had hoped to get the first video of Monster’s Developer Commentary up and viewable before we released the game, but you fine folks have been waiting long enough.  And I figured I’m not going to get anything accomplished this week because of my birthday, anyway (and the first legitimate day off I’ve had in about a month, no less), so I figured I’d just go ahead and give Monster a birthday release.

MoraTitle

Monster is the story of a fourteen-year-old girl, Mora, who was abandoned by her abusive father at the age of ten.  She is a Summoner, a person with the ability to reach into the spirit realm and manifest creatures of mythology, such as Minotaurs, Genies, Nymphs, and Dryads, to do her bidding.

When the century-long peace on her home continent shatters with the western kingdom of Zapad invading Mora’s home kingdom of Stredni, Mora realizes that her status as a Summoner, which has made her an outcast her entire life, will now make her a beloved hero!  She gathers up a crew of powerful creatures and heads out to stop the invasion and put an end to Zapad’s plans for war.

But with every corpse she casually passes by, she gets one step closer to the truth.  In the end you, the player, must decide who or what really is a Monster.

 

It’s free, so click on the tab at the top of page labeled Monster, or just click on the title image in this post to go to GameJolt and download it.  It’s a JRPG-style game filled with humor, sorrow, loss, and it has a female protagonist to boot.

Monster is a game about a young woman, created by a young woman (my wife, Mimi).  So give it a try and enjoy the story, the fully voiced scenes in the last half of the game, and play through to the ending.

Thanks for coming, and thanks for playing!

~Rich

Mark of the Ninja Review

So I’ve recently picked up the game Mark of the Ninja.  It’s a 2D side-scroller stealth action game.  I know, I know…that sounds like an odd combination, but surprisingly enough it works pretty well.

The story is interesting: You play as a nameless ninja who has been imbued with a series of tattoos that grant you special powers, supposedly at the eventual cost of your sanity and ultimately your life.  You are a warrior of the Hisomu Ninja clan, fighting against the wealthy and powerful Count Karajan who has attacked your clan’s headquarters in the opening segments of the game.

1

The atmosphere is beautifully rendered with a wonderful art style.  It is a mix of child-like neutrality with the wonderfully drawn sprites, backgrounds, and cut scenes; right up until you jam a sword through someone’s throat, that is.

Like this!

Like this!

The stealth kills are cool to watch and have a nifty feature.  You have to sneak up on a guard, click the attack button, and then you have to slide the mouse in whatever direction it says to in order to get a perfect stealth kill.  Pull it in the wrong direction and you won’t kill him before he can call out, bringing more guards your way.

All of the guards are wearing body armor, which won’t stop your sword of course, but they can definitely hold out against more punishment than you can in an open fight.  Not to say that you’re entirely useless in a fight, unlike in the Tenchu series of ninja games; they’ll just gang up on you and brutally rape you with bullets.

Speaking of Tenchu, that particular series has really fallen from grace in the past decade.  The first game was wonderful, the second one was a nice improvement, and we find ourselves at Wrath of Heaven which, aside from the hilarious title if you know a touch of Japanese, was probably the best in the series*.  Unfortunately they’ve made several more since then…and each one seems to be worse than the last.

The folks who make Tenchu need to do something if they ever want to get back in on the ninja scene.  My suggestion would be to sell the rights to the folks at Klei Entertainment who made Mark of the Ninja.

Looking at their website I recognize a game I was actually looking at a few weeks ago called Don’t Starve which looked nifty.  You might know them more from their game N+, which I seem to recall playing a demo of over a year ago on X-Box Live Arcade.

You can upgrade your character to unlock new tools and skills.

You can upgrade your character to unlock new tools and skills.

Oh right, Mark of the Ninja…sorry, a bit of tangential nostalgia for me.  Anywho…the game’s pretty awesome.  The music is atmospheric, when present at all, the dialogue is realistic, and the graphics are superb.

But most importantly, the gameplay is excellent.  I’ve seen some reviews of the game talking about glitchy guards and poor controls…these people don’t know what they’re talking about.  Unless they really ramped up the shit for the PC version and fixed anything that was wrong with the XBLA version?  Either way, go to steam and buy a copy of Mark of Ninja.

We are Ninja, not Motel 6...we will not leave the light on!

We are Ninja, not Motel 6…we will not leave the light on!

My one real complaint about the game is your ‘partner’, Ora.  She is just a useless shadow to follow you around.  The first thing she tells you, aside from squawking at you to wake up, is, “I’m here to help you.  Rule number one: Don’t get me killed!”

If you’re so great that you are leading the friggin’ Champion of Hisomu around, why are you so concerned about me getting you killed?  As great as she talks herself up to be…she doesn’t kill a single person or perform a real service.

I will give her credit that she at least claims she will hold off any soldiers you’ve chased away from the enemy base with a decoy, y’know…should they try to return.  Of course it’s one of those, “If you don’t finish the mission in time, I’ll kill the guys coming back from the decoy, unghgg!”

She looks cool and the actress doing her voice is pretty good (and vaguely familiar).  But she’s just along for the ride, even though she is clearly supposed to be one of the more talented ninja of the clan.  They put her in the ‘Sexy Sidekick’ trope and she actually is more annoying than helpful, since she just orders you around, but doesn’t even knife a single guard in the neck, herself.

Ooo...rainy and atmospheric.

Ooo…rainy and atmospheric.

Sidenote: On the subject of voice actors…if you liked the guy who did the narration for the Penny Arcade games (Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness) you’ll be delighted to know he does a few voices in this game, as well.

There’s really no one set way to play through a level.  You can tackle passage and killing in numerous ways, you can even go through an entire level without killing anyone.  I, of course, am a rather violent person (apparently) and kill as many as I possibly can.

Vengeance will be mine!

Vengeance will be mine!

There’s even an interesting ending that gives you multiple options.  So far I’ve only beaten the game once, so I don’t know what the second ending gives as I’ve only gotten one of them.  The ending is pretty nifty and a bit of a mindfuck, so it’s right up my alley.  The ending also makes my prior comments about Ora change a bit, as she kind of redeems herself in an unexpected way and isn’t just the boastful damsel the game makes you think she is.

There are hidden puzzles and even whole hidden puzzle rooms that unlock these special scrolls that give you nifty, often violent-y, haikus.  Oh, they also give you about a thousand points to your score…but the haikus are where it’s at.

Haiku:

I spent my life’s worth,

On the tortures of women,

So I became Gay.

Okay, their haikus are way better than mine.  Basically…aside from Ora (which, like I said, winds up being not nearly as bad as it seemed at first), the game is pretty awesome and I highly recommend it.  Go play it and find some of the haikus for yourself!

Look for these if you want to find the hidden puzzle rooms!

Look for these if you want to find the hidden puzzle rooms!

~RCS

*Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven is a hilarious title for the game because Tenchu is Japanese for “Heaven’s Wrath/Punishment”.  Therefore the title, in Japanese, would be Tenchu: Tenchu.  And in full English it would be Heaven’s Wrath: Wrath of Heaven!  Just a nifty little observation for you there.

Alan Wake (PC): Update

So I’ve finished Alan Wake’s main gameplay and both of the additional scenarios in the game.  I had spoken in my review the other day about there being a lack reason for replay.

Well I’ve recently had a trip to the oral surgeon for an extraction and figured I’d sit back and relax over a feature I remembered reading about from the options screen: Video Commentary.

Now let me tell you that I love commentary on DVDs and stuff, it lets me watch a movie a second time and learn all about the behind the scenes, cool trivia, and all kinds of stuff about that.

Here’s a clip comparison between the first few minutes of the opening tutorial level without commentary, then with commentary.

As you can see, if you can get passed the fact that everyone involved in the commentary is Nordic (the game’s developer, Remedy, is a Finnish company) and all have accents.  A few of them aren’t too thick, but a few seem to be struggling at times.

All in all, though, it certainly makes me have to change my stance on the replayability.  I love commentary, so I think I’ll play the game again for the commentary.

I’m considering a few possibilities for my next game.  I’m really looking at the Penny-Arcade games, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness.  One reason is that I played the demo of the first game, way back when it came out, and I liked it.  I’m a big fan of Gabe and Tycho in Penny-Arcade, and I’m also a big fan of their creators for the Child’s Play charity and all of the other great stuff they do.

Another reason is because they had a pretty decent bargain going when I looked the other day.  Each game (on Steam, so they’re the PC versions, I don’t know about the console versions of each game) were $7.99 a piece, or $11.99 if you bought them together.  So that saved you about four dollars.

But, apparently to press the issue that the third (and I believe final) game in the series is soon coming out, they’ve discounted it even more.  Each game is now $2.00 and the bundle deal is $3.00 for both games.  That’s about an 81% discount.

So I’ve purchased both of the first two games, and it’s just a matter of trying to find enough time to play them.

~RCS

BTW, anytime I get a tooth extracted I treat my fiancé and I to a trip to the nearby Half-Price Books.  Expect book reviews in the coming weeks, yay!

Alan Wake (PC): Review

I’ve recently purchased and begun playing Alan Wake.  Something about being a writer, playing a writer, searching for a manuscript, and talking about another writer…it just touches me somehow.

Alan Wake, for those who don’t know, deals with a writer going on vacation and his wife is kidnapped and he has to fight what is basically dark-elemental zombies.  All the while he is finding segments of a novel’s manuscript, which he has supposedly written but doesn’t remember writing, which gives you avenues into the mindset and future events of the game.  It’s an interesting touch of foreboding.  It’s survival horror genre, like the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series.  It’s a bit closer to Silent Hill, though, because you’re not playing as an elite SWAT member, you’re just a guy with a flashlight and a pistol.

When Darkness is your main enemy…Light is your only ally.

All in all the game isn’t scary at all, you can only be freaked out by being surrounded and outnumbered by monsters so many times before you look at a clearing in the forest and say, “One logger, two hunters, and a hiker…” only to see them appear from the edges of the screen when you walk into the clearing.  Then hit the next clearing and mutter, “Two hunters, a deputy, and a big guy.”  Oo surprise, one deputy, a big guy and two hikers…ho-hum!

At least Penumbra messed with your mind a bit.  I actually quit playing that game at one point because it depressed me to the point of not wanting to go on (I still need to finish it).  But Alan Wake is kind of, well…boring as far as the scares and mindrapes go.

There’s no shortage of crazy people in Bright Falls, Washington.

Oddly enough I still suggest getting it, if you haven’t.  It has an intriguing storyline, a few really interesting characters, and a pretty cool system.  Although I have to admit once you grasp the intricacies and figure out how to hole-up and pick the enemies off effectively, the game becomes more of a tedious trip from cinematic to cinematic.  But the storyline keeps you going through the tedium, making you almost enjoy the tedium, just to know what happens next.

The game is broken into ‘Episode’ segments, complete with ‘Previously On’ recaps between segments.

All in all, I rate it positively.

I don’t know that it has any replay value, except to collect any manuscript pages you might have missed.

One thing I really found enjoyable about it were the little things…radios scattered about let you listen to some talking and then play a song, too.  TV’s with a funny spoof of the Twilight Zone on them, stuff like that.

All the T.V. segments are live-action.

Not to mention the unnecessarily expansive maps and levels.  You can go for some time in different directions that have nothing to do with the story in the hopes of finding something productive…if you’re willing to risk going off the beaten path and traipsing through the thick underbrush filled with ‘taken’ (the main enemy of the game).

The maps go on for miles at times, even in the misty darkness.

I do like the light-based combat, too.  Illuminate an enemy with your flashlight to remove their cloak of darkness, then shoot them.  It’s nice, although like I said earlier…it gets tedious when you’ve got 4 guys coming at you and you have to illuminate and then shoot each one.  Then you fight another three guys, then another four…and so on.  The game suggests to run when you’re outnumbered, but you are outnumbered 80% of the time in the game and all the enemies run faster than you and have projectiles for sport.  Not to mention the dodge feature really doesn’t work when they come at you from behind, because you can’t see which direction to dodge.

If not for the murderous ‘zombies’, Bright Falls would be a beautiful place to visit.

Anyhow, like I said…get it and play it, if you haven’t already.  It’s pretty cheap right now, I got a copy for $19.99, new (from Walmart, but mine had the PC version for that price, too).

~RCS

BTW, I like the name puns.  Alan and Alice Wake.  A. Wake?  Awake.  The writers had their cheesy moments, for sure.

Jagged Alliance: Pseudo-Preview

I have just recently discovered excellent news.  For anyone who may be fans of the Jagged Alliance series of computer games, apparently BitComposer Games and Kalypso Media have gotten the rights to the series.

As such, they have made a new game which will come out on February 14, just a few days away.  It is a graphically improved retelling of the original Jagged Alliance 2, which I’m perfectly fine with.

It also has a new system, it’s no longer turn-based strategy; it is now real-time strategy.  But you can pause it and issue commands in a tactical mode which lets you assess your squad-members, the viewable enemies, the terrain, etc.  The actions you command your squad members to perform will then be carried out in sequence, you can even link events together, like waiting for someone to shoot before moving ahead to draw a guard’s attention, or having two guys move into position and to pincer an enemy and coordinating their shots to make sure both are in position, first.

It sounds like a really good improvement…sadly my computer’s graphics card seems to be the bane of my existence right now and I’m having trouble running the demo.  So, I’m looking for an improved graphics card and will try to get one in this chittering box beside me very soon.

At that point expect an actual preview about the game and hopefully I’ll get Kalypso Media’s attention and get a free review copy (yeah right).

~RCS

Mount&Blade: Friggin’ Finally!

So, I finally got Mount and Blade: Warband and not only that, but Total War: Shogun 2 showed up on the same day!  Unable to decide which on I wanted to play first, I left it up to my fiancée.  She told me to play Shogun first, so I did.

Little did she realize, both Warband and Shogun are computer games.  She thought she had one-upped me by getting me to play a console game, when in reality they’re both computer games.

So we still have to share the computer so that she can play her Facebook games and play Gaia Online.  So needless to say, I didn’t get to play it at the first opportunity.  She had a bunch of stuff to do in retaliation for being attacked by someone in this little Backyard Monsters game that she plays on Gaia.

I mentioned that her defenses looked a little week and spread thin and that was probably the reason the guy who had attacked her had done so well.  So she decided to hire an Independent Military Contractor to help rearrange her base: Me.

I instructed her on where to put her buildings, arranging her resource-producing buildings in a ring around her base’s central command center.  I told her that the resource buildings will act as the last-line of defense against losing her command center, which basically results in immediate defeat.

At that point we put her long-range defensive towers in amongst the resource buildings, which confused her.  She asked why the stronger and longer-range weapons weren’t put out on the last line of defense where they could shoot at things before they even made it into the facility.

I told her that they could shoot over the things placed in front of them, so the buildings we put in front of the long-range defensive towers, like the short-range cannon towers, will act as a wall before the enemy can take out that sniper cannon tower.

With the towers in place to protect the inner, and outer, buildings of the base…we placed the tertiary buildings such as her monster hatchery that produces monsters and the housing where they are kept (monsters are attack-only, they just get killed when the base is attacked for some reason, rather than defend it), and her catapult to fling monsters at an enemy to attack them.  All things she doesn’t need to rebuild the base if it is damaged, all mostly offensive buildings: If the base is damaged, we can still fix it but can’t attack.  Unlike when I came in where she was screwed and struggling to rebuild the damaged parts to full efficiency.

Then we placed a surrounding wall around all the buildings and put the short-range cannons along this wall.  Unfortunately a cap limit on how many sections of wall you can build left an opening surrounding her housing, making them prime targets for an attack.

So we mined it with a bunch of booby traps.  People will send their monsters in to attack through the open angle and get laid to waste by the covering fire of a cannon, a sniper tower, an electro-shock rail gun kind of tower, and a bunch of land mines.

She has since fought off three attacks with minimal to no damage and laid waste to the guy who attacked her three times, leveling up to the #2 ranking among her friend’s list (she was struggling in fourth and trying to reclaim third place when I started to help her).

With all that done…I started my installation of Shogun at a little after 2 in the morning.  First it installed Steam and forced me to make a Steam account.  Then I had to restart the disc to get it to install the actual game.

It told me the installation would take 29 minutes.  So I spent some time with my little wifey woman reading Black Bird with her, and then went back to the computer just as it said to put Disc 2 in.  I switched discs and it told me it would be another 19 minutes…so I bothered my sweetie-pie a little more.

Finally it was all done and I tried to start the game, at which point it told it had to download an update and it would take 11 minutes.  So I let the wife play her little Backyard Monster game again for a bit while it downloaded in the background.

By the time everything was said and done…it was a quarter ‘till four in the morning.  I started the game up and only then realized: Nope, I’m in more of a Warband mood, anyway.

So…at about five after four in the morning, I installed Warband.  That took about fifteen seconds.  Then I went to bed…maybe tonight I’ll actually get to play something.

~RCS

Mount & Blade: Redux

Once again, I have purchased Mount&Blade: Warband, this time from Amazon.com.  Along with it, I also purchased Total War: Shogun 2.  I loved the first game and a revamped and improved edition is just up my alley.  Hell, one of the big reasons I wanted to upgrade from the regular Mount&Blade to Warband is because of a Samurai mod for Warband.

We’ll see how well these two attempts work out and we’ll see which one gets here first.  My money’s on Shogun, because I’ve already gotten the shipping confirmation, but it’s still too early to tell for sure.

~RCS

Penumbra: Update

Forgot to mention this a while ago, but I got the patch for Penumbra!

Okay, the patch worked wonders…Penumbra: Black Plague is actually playable and looks decent.  It’s still not as good as any game you’d see today, but it was made about 2008, I believe, so that’s sensible.

Penumbra’s not bad, but at the same time it’s not great.  Considering I’m told that you can get the whole series of games for about $20, I’d say it’s definitely worth it, though.  If you like games with old-school physics puzzles or you like real survival horror, these games are for you.  If you thought that Resident Evil (the first one) would have been cooler if you didn’t have a gun or a knife, then you’d probably love this game.

That being said…I’m not one of those people.  Even so, I still like the game, although it’s mainly for the storyline and particularly for the hilarious commentary from your split-personality, Clarence.

There’s just something about winning somewhat of a boss fight by hiding out, sneaking past the monster, and locking him in a room by himself behind a door he can’t break down…only to be followed by Clarence suggesting you celebrate with, “…some nice relaxing cyanide.  I think I saw some Anthrax around here somewhere, too, y’know.”

I’ve taken a break from the game for a day or so, because I’m not much for the horror puzzles, but the game does definitely mess with your head.  There’s just something about a split personality that can control your sensory functions and tricks you into hallucinating by hiding doors or creating fake walls or making you think you’re fighting an infected creature, only to find out it didn’t even exist.

That being said I plan on continuing the game after my brain recollects itself and gets into puzzle and sneaky-mission mode again.

~RCS

That and my wife asked me to stop playing the game while she slept, she can’t take the nightmares the creepy atmospheric music creates for her.

Mount&Blade: Refund

I can hardly believe it!  I complained to the seller that sent me Penumbra: Black Plague instead of Mount&Blade: Warband (because they sound so similar, after all) and you know the crazy thing?  They didn’t ask me any questions, no clarifications, admittedly no formal apology either, but that’s okay.  Why am I okay with it all?  The man who has a list of companies he hates on his flash drive so that he can always remember if there’s anyone in the world he doesn’t want to do business with, even if he suffers from trauma-induced amnesia.

Because they didn’t fight me about it, they didn’t even ask me to send the wrong game back.  They just refunded my money and let it go.  And I’m okay with that.  I may even break Penumbra open and give it a play through.  I wasn’t that interested in it when I received it (naturally) or even when I read the box.  But when I described it to you fine people as a mix between F.E.A.R. (a series of games I really like, especially the first one) and Alan Wake (a game that sounds like a game I would like, even though I’ve never had the luxury of playing it), I thought about what that meant…and decided I kind of wanted to play it.

Not right now though, I still have a new copy of Mount&Blade: Warband coming.  I shall update on when it comes…or if it takes too long and I start playing the copy of Warcraft III: Battle Chest Edition that I got from the Walmart clearance bin yesterday.

~RCS

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