Game Rankings Return

The game rankings is alive again.  With that comes the game comparer as well.   They are ugly and not the simplest to use, but all the functionality is there.

All my old game reviews must be restored before the thumbnails and links can work.  Then I have to figure out how to integrate it with WordPress properly and make it easier to use.

Fighting Fantasy Legends

Fighting Fantasy is a series of single-player role-playing gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The first volume in the series was published in paperback by Puffin in 1982.

The series distinguished itself by mixing Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling with a dice-based role-playing element included within the books themselves, the caption on many of the covers claiming each title was an adventure “in which YOU are the hero!”

Wikipedia

Fighting Fantasy Legends is a role-playing game based on three books from the Fighting Fantasy series, namely The Warlock of Firetop Mountain,  City of Thieves and Citadel of Chaos.

Pros

Being based on books, it is not surprising that the story is pretty good. Each book has its own area, but the game has modified the story to force you to explore other areas in order to complete any one area. Although good, it is still not as good as the likes of Baldur’s Gate.

The music is good.  There are only a handful of tracks,  so they repeat a lot, but it never got annoying for me.

The game feels more like an RPG than the books by allowing you to gain experience and level up. There are no complex statistics or skills to manage. The only things you can upgrade are skill dice and luck dice. Even your stamina (health) does not increase with levels. Upgrading your dice means adding an extra symbol to one of your dice, up to the maximum of three per die. It may not look like much but it does make a noticeable difference when you throw those dice.  This simple dice upgrade system actually gives a good sense of progression.

Cons

The game is very short. It only took me eight hours to complete the three main quests on the easiest difficulty level of adventurer and this was playing with hardcore hero mode(ie permadeath). I died and restarted twice and still finished the game in this short time. The higher difficulty levels must be unlocked by completing the easier difficulty levels, so you cannot even prolong the game by starting on higher difficulty levels.

Progress is automatically saved and there is only one game that can be saved. Every time you start a new game, your previous progress is deleted.

I wish there were more shortcut keys. Except for the space bar to “OK” some of the text and roll dice, all other options must be clicked on with the mouse. It would quicker to have 1,2,3 placed next to the options for selection or something similar.

There is not much in the way of replay value.  Yes, the higher difficulty levels are more challenging and you can configure your character differently to try out different strategies. Unfortunately, the story remains the same and the random events feel the same as well.

Combat involves rolling dice, but other than the first round, there is nothing to do except continually click OK to roll the dice until the fight has finished. There should be an auto fight option to speed things up.

Other Points

The combat in the game is different from the books. The game has swapped the six-sided dice for a whole bunch of custom dice with symbols on them. At the start, every dice only has one symbol on one side and rolling the symbol means you get one point for that roll.

The whole top-down view and animations remind me of the old action game Gauntlet. I don’t know why. Fighting Fantasy Legends moves quite slow whereas Gauntlet is a fast action game.

For a game that is based on books, there is not as much reading as I expected.

Fighting Fantasy Legends is an RPG, but movement is restricted to choices provided by the narrative. This is one aspect where the game is just like the books. More often than not, you will move forward and cannot move back. Having said that, when you reach the “end” of an area, you will have to start that area again to explore previously missed opportunities.

There are three characters to choose from, but it does not make much difference to the game. The most noticeable difference is just having a different character image. Other than that I have only seen one location where the event slightly changed based on your character.

Biases

I have only read one Fighting Fantasy book and that was in the 90s.  I cannot remember the story or even the title of the book.  I do remember not being able to level up in the book, but it was still good fun, even with the constant dying and restarting.

I have completed the game on the easiest difficulty of Adventurer, but I have not completed all the side quests.

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault = MOHAA in the Pacific. The game was released 14 years ago. I played it 7 years ago. It has been given away for free on origin.com a few times. I thought, why not load it up and blast through it again. Sadly, the only thing new I have to say about MOHPA is that it has some problems running on my newer PC.

Release Date:

November 2004.

Pros:

Everything that made MOHAA so much fun is also in Pacific Assault. Graphics are better. Story presentation has improved with a narrated story, better cutscenes and a character with a name. Sound and music are about the same as MOHAA which is great. Fixed guns and on-rails shooting are present just enough to make the game fun without getting too boring. Of course the first-person experience has also improved with more things that can be done.

Similar to Call of Pripyat, there are options to turn off the HUD and crosshairs for a more difficult, but more immersive game.

If you get incapacitated you can bandage your wound and call for a corpsman to heal you. They do not always make it to you, so life and death depends on where you are and where your mates are. There is also a limit to the number of times you can be healed.

To accompany the cutscenes there are nice archival video footages from history. The pre-rendered and game engine cutscenes are already good, but the full motion video sequences makes it even better.

There are supplemental documentary type videos about the USMC, The Pacific War and the game.

There is also a pop-up facts feature which when turned on, displays snippets of facts as you play. It can be quite distracting, but at the same time it can be interesting.

On the harder difficulty levels, the game feels very realistic. A couple of hits and you are down. You can bleed to death. It reminded me of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. somewhat.

Cons:

There is a problem with viewing pop-up facts with pause. Sometimes during a cutscene, the game would just pause for no reason without any pop-up facts. The continue key for pop-up dismissal also would not work. I had to press pause on the keyboard to continue and the cutscene would get skipped. I am not sure if this problem was present in older PCs as I have only noticed it on my current Windows 10 PC.

The game does not run smoothly on my newer Windows 10 PC. Every 2-3 minutes the game would pause for about 1 second and the HDD light would be on. I definitely did not have this problem on my older Windows 7 PC.

Sometimes the CTRL and ALT keys would stop responding. A quick fix is to ALT-Tab out of the game and then back in. These are the default keys for crouch lower and aim through iron sights/scope.

Cutscenes do not display properly in wide screen. The main game playing part displays OK.

Invisible walls are in most first-person shooters, but in Pacific Assault it is extra annoying. Trying to hide among the trees is made extra difficult because the invisible walls are so close to the main path.

Other Points:

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault is a very linear FPS, much like MOHAA before it.

The AI for your team mates have vastly improved since MOHAA. They do not do all the work for you, but at least they learnt not to stand out in the open to get shot.

Your team mates are invulnerable. They will get shot and go down, but they never die. I am unsure whether to flag this as a bad thing or a good thing, because at the higher difficulty settings, you really need their help.

There is a tutorial which is appropriately placed in the bootcamp level, but it comes after the prologue level. It is good that the tutorial teaches everything, but you have to get past the prologue first.

In one level, you pilot a plane. The flight model is very simple so flying with keyboard and mouse is manageable. Being an IL-2 fan though, I found the whole sequence a waste of time and wished I could skip it. Others may find it more fun as it does add something different to the whole running on the ground and shooting.

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.2, Director’s Edition of the game.

The online servers have been taken down and I have not had the opportunity to try Pacific Assault on LAN. So, I have no idea what mutiplayer is like.

I completed the game on hard difficulty. Strange thing is I was only given the completion medal for medium difficulty. I do wonder whether this medal downgrade was due to my changing the settings to turn off the HUD.

I really liked Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, so it’s no surprise that I like Pacific Assault as well.

I also really liked S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat.

DRM:

Uses SafeDisc.

A serial code must be entered when installing the game.

The Disc must be in the drive to play the game.

Patches:

1.2 – Patches version 1.0 to 1.2. Set check point saves in version 1.0 works after patching to 1.2, but any in between check point saves get reverted back to the previous check point save.

Minimum Requirements (as stated in the readme.txt):

  • Windows XP or Windows 2000
  • 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium IV or AMD Athlon processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 3D video card with 64+ MB video memory which fully supports DirectX 8.1
  • At least 3.0 GB free space on your hard drive for Standard Edition, and 4.5 GB free space for Director’s Edition.

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips:

To skip the intro ads for Intel, THX and EA, create a new shortcut using mohpa.exe, then add +set cl_playintro 0 +set ui_skip_eamovie 1 +set ui_skip_titlescreen 1 to the shortcut. Found this from here.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Space Hulk: Deathwing is a Warhammer 40,000 first-person shooter that puts you in the shoes of a Space Marine donning Terminator armour. March through narrow passages as well as grand hallways as you shoot, burn, slice and smash your way through a space hulk infested with Genestealers.

Pros

The Special Missions section is the single-player skirmish version of randomly generated missions available in multiplayer mode. On the plus side, it does add something extra to do if you have finished the single-player campaign or you just feel like hammering xenos outside of the campaign. Your exploits also contribute to getting upgrades for multiplayer. Unfortunately, there are many minuses to how the Special Missions section was implemented (see cons).

I have completed all 9 chapters in the single-player campaign and I reckon the story is quite interesting. I guess it should not be a surprise since the developers got Gav Thorpe to work the plot. Although good, it did feel a bit short. Maybe expecting Horus Rising is too much as it was more like The Wolf of Ash and Fire.

The best way to introduce the story is to watch the introduction video.

The sounds are awesome. The guns sound powerful. Whacking with your fist or sword gives a very satisfying contact sound, even when hitting walls or railings. The ambient sounds and that of the Genestealers also sound awesome.

Although the Space Marines do not speak much, what little speech the game has, does sound very good.

The graphics are Warhammer 40,000 wonderful. Your fellow battle-brothers, the enemies, the space hulk interior, the details on weapons, the exploding sparks from your Power Fist when you pound a Genestealer into oblivion – everything in the game looks awesome.

The levels are very well designed. Although not open-world, they are quite large and you have to figure out how to move through the space hulk maze to get to your objectives. It is not all narrow corridors either. There are big halls, engine rooms and everything else you would expect inside derelict ships of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.After 41 hours of Space Hulk: Deathwing, I only just realised there is no music in the game! This realisation amazed me as the game has such a strong Warhammer 40,000 atmosphere, all without the use of music.

Cons

The game tends to randomly crash to desktop with fatal errors when playing campaign missions.  This happens both in single-player and multiplayer.  I have not encountered the error with special missions yet.  Playing roughly half campaign missions and half special missions, the crashes have happened around once every ten hours of game time.  It would be interesting to see if the game crashes roughly every five hours if I only played campaign missions.

Multiplayer is a lot of fun… if you can find someone else online. Even on weekends, there are very few people playing online.

It also doesn’t help that multiplayer games do not have drop in/drop out AI replacements like Payday 2. I am sure more people would host multiplayer games if the AI buddies start with you when no other humans are around. Right now, it is just you, alone, by yourself until another human joins your game.

There is no difficulty setting for Special Missions and as far as I can tell it is just plain hard. This could be due to my being at a very low level with hardly any upgrades. Regardless, it is not fun to just keep dying in order to upgrade your character.

Another minus is you only get 2 AI buddies so your team is short by 1 member compared to playing multiplayer. Your AI buddies also work identically to the ones in the single-player campaign which severely limits how you can arm and use them. It does not make sense to me why the AI apothecary only has limited heal uses AND can only heal 1 person at a time when a human apothecary has unlimited uses with a cooldown timer and can heal an area as well as individuals.

According to the Steam timer, I have only played 17 hours and I have already finished the single-player campaign. I did play on the easiest difficulty of disciple and although I was not exploring or relic hunting, I was not rushing through the game either. This 17 hours also included dying quite a bit, playing a few multiplayer games and some special missions as well. There is no denying, the single-player campaign is very short.

Sometimes special HUD overlays get stuck permanently. The perk/buff is no longer in effect, but the overlay just stays on the screen. It will only disappear if you quit to the main menu. The extra stuck clutter is most annoying when you have just started a multiplayer game.

There is the bug where sometimes when a chapter is completed, the speech would stop working. Restarting the game would fix the problem, but it is still annoying.

Other Points

You cannot see your own feet! Space Hulk: Deathwing is one FPS that has a good excuse for not being able to see your own feet. The game is like a Space Marine in Terminator armour simulator. The armour is so big that it is constantly blocking your view of things.

I had to think long and hard as to whether to put the teammates AI as a con. In the end, I decided not to place it as a con. It is true that your AI teammates are not autonomous for most things. So, healing anyone automatically is out. Opening, closing and sealing doors are also out. One thing that they are very good at is killing xenos, at least on the easier difficulty levels. The other thing they are good at is following your orders. Order the apothecary to heal and he will. Order the heavy weapon specialist to seal a door and he will. Order your troops to move back from the horde (ie go to a position) and they will. Although not the smartest teammates in the world, I do think they are one up on the AI of Payday 2.

Within the game, the single-player campaign story is presented via mission briefings, audio dialogue, ships’ logs and psychic vision scenes. Most of the time is spent walking around and beating the bones out of Tyranids though, so if you are after a strong progressing narrative, Space Hulk: Deathwing is NOT for you.

Character upgrades in the single-player campaign are attained by performing certain actions in the game like finding relics, making melee or psychic kills and hacking stuff. At the end of a chapter, you are given fervour points to upgrade your abilities.

In multiplayer and special missions, upgrading is completely different. When you complete or fail missions, experience is awarded. Get enough experience and you level up. Upon levelling up you get renown and a random freebie to upgrade your character. Upgrades can also be bought with the renown you earn.

Ammo is unlimited. It is a good thing too as the hordes of Genestealers just keep coming. The real challenge comes in the form of when to reload your weapon or to use a different attack type.

There are no manual saves for the single-player campaign. Your progress is saved at checkpoints which include activation of the Psygate. In a way, the Psygate activation can be used as a manual save, but there are only a limited number of activations available for each chapter of the campaign. Only your last 9 saves can be reloaded. Your progress is also saved at the end of each chapter.

Biases

I have been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 since Dawn of War.

Payday 2 is the only other co-op multiplayer game I have played and I enjoyed that game a lot, both in multiplayer and single-player.

The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians

A first-person, party based, grid-based, real-time, very heavy tactical combat based RPG dungeon crawler that focuses on using each character’s ability in the most effective way. Although it is a real-time game, movement is grid-based and there is an active pause feature that should be used for giving commands to your troops.

Pros

Many aspects of the game’s difficulty can be adjusted. There is the usual how much damage the enemy does or how much health they have. Then there are the helpers with options like enabling auto-mapping before you find the magic map or whether you want auto pause at certain times. I cannot remember another game with this many options for tweaking the difficulty level.

The puzzles in The Fall of The Dungeon Guardians are quite clever. There is no hand-holding or even hints as to what to do. Eagle eye observation is also required for some puzzles. Many times I have passed an area and did not notice that key thing that was required for a puzzle.

In general, I hate puzzles, but I was quite impressed with how they were presented in the game. Most likely I will get stuck and start reading walkthroughs though.

The controls are very easy to use and the whole game can be controlled entirely with the mouse alone. For people like me, there are plenty of shortcut keys and they are fully customisable as well.

The music sounds nice. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of tracks so it does keep repeating. The good thing is, it does not grow annoying with time.

The graphics look very nice. It is not the best, but it still looks very nice. The animations are fluid. The lighting gives a nice dynamic effect to monsters as well as the surroundings. Objects and the environment look well detailed, although the number objects seem a bit sparse.

Cons

There is plenty of loot to collect and upgrade your party with, but there are no shops or people to buy and sell with. It makes sense because you are in a prison dungeon, but also makes the game more boring.

The characters feel very bland. There is banter between them, but they say the same thing over and over again just using different words. Every now and again they will say something useful, but overall their conversations act more like sleeping spells.

Despite the myriad of options to tweak the difficulty of the game, there is no option for monster respawning. The developer did say that they wanted players to think tactically rather than being able to grind their way to higher levels to defeat bosses, but the side effect is, backtracking to explore missed areas becomes very boring. Inspired by Might and Magic, but also more boring than Might and Magic. There are options for so many other things, why not monster respawning?

Other Points

For an RPG, The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians has a reverse difficulty progression. Most RPGs get easier as you level up and so you can explore more areas. The areas you have explored tend to get easier to deal with. In this game, areas already explored become downright boring and new areas are more difficult to get through at your higher level than the previous areas at a lower level. And this is not including boss fights.

Biases

I have never played any of the Legend of Grimrock games.  I probably would not have played Fall of the Dungeon Guardians either, but it came in a nice bundle so I thought why not try it out.  Maybe one day I will try out Grimrock too.

I am one of those rare RPG players that did NOT like Eye of the Beholder.  I found it too difficult when I played it years ago.  But I am a big fan of active pause like in Baldur’s Gate and Star Wolves.  Sure enough, I think active pause is what made Fall of the Dungeon Guardians more enjoyable than Eye of the Beholder.

Rolling Reviews

Time to get back to reviewing games (since I already play them) .  Time is also the issue.  Just don’t have the time to play the games enough to write full reviews in good time.  Let’s try rolling reviews.  As I play I will write whatever comes to mind at that time for that thing.  Over time it will build up to be a complete review anyway.

Another plus for the rolling review is, years later I may return to a game and find something new and update the review.  Games get updates, why not game reviews too?

The framework is ready.  I just hope this site holds together as I have overloaded the standard WordPress stuff in every way imaginable.

My old reviews from the Posidyn Games Information Base will also be returning, albeit in a very bare bones form.