Ben: As we approach the end of the Steam summer sale, it’s time to examine your potentially long list of purchases and wonder what you were thinking (unless you managed to resist the temptation. If so, congratulations!). I made a few questionable decisions but overall, I’m very satisfied with the moderate additions to my gigantic collection. If Steam libraries were bank vaults, I could probably deep-dive into mine like Scrooge McDuck.
Anyway, games! We played them.
It was about a week ago that I started see the name “Faerie Solitaire” being tossed around. No one using the name seemed to be doing it with a great deal of respect, and I mentally categorized it as “Facebook-style card game” and moved on. It was a few days later that my friend Jake tried to drum up a conversation about the game. When I admitted ignorance to what exactly the game was, Jake tried for about two seconds to explain what the game was, then gave up and simply gifted me a copy of the game.
As it turns out, it was exactly what I expected. It’s simple variant of Solitaire with classic free-to-play mechanics like earning currency, unlockable upgrades, and an incredibly basic story justification for the action. The kicker is… it’s not F2P. There are no in-app purchases at all, no DLC, no way to spend more money that the initial $2.50 cost of admission. It’s simple, compelling (bordering on addictive) gameplay that is definitely at the casual end of the spectrum, but the complete lack of greed on display really makes me happy. A solid recommendation if it sounds enjoyable- unlike most casual games, it’s not an F2P trojan horse, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! Extra Crispy Edition
You know, when we finally get to the end of the year and get to do the first ever Scanline Media Game of the Year Awards, it’ll break my heart that I can’t give Cook, Serve, Delicious! anything, since it came out in 2012. I adore this game. I adore it. I’ve written about it before, but part of what makes it so magical is how it takes my 9-5 and turns it into a completely enjoyable experience. To get me to come home from my job as a cook and then boot up my computer to become a virtual cook is one hell of an achievement.
It also makes my imagination go… well, not wild, but it certainly reels at the possibilities. What the game does, it does so well, but there is so much more that could be done. Restaurant themes. Separate menus for different times of the day. Seasonal specials. Fluctuating market prices. Prep work. I feel like indies don’t tend to do sequels, but I want a CSD 2 so baaaaaad. The potential digs at me like a knife. Maybe someday.
DmC: Devil May Cry
On the best of days, “character action” games and I don’t get along. They ask me to master a complex array of weapons, combos and defensive maneuvers within the first few levels, and laugh in my face when I crumple under the staggering challenge. Though the Devil May Cry series is the granddaddy of this masochistic trial by fire, DmC turns a new leaf by taking things at a comparatively leisurely pace. It gave me the time I needed to familiarize myself with each weapon and tactic, though Ninja Theory introduced the new concepts fast enough to keep me on my toes.
I still get the buttons mixed up from time to time, and I’m hardly the most efficient Dante, though I’ve made great strides toward truly learning a formidable fighting system. Instead of dropping me onto the crowded floor of a swanky club, DmC had the smarts to send me dancing lessons beforehand. Who knows? If I work on my gunplay and punches, I may just become the smoothest Nephilim in Limbo.
This also happens to be the best version of Dante as a character. I’ll duck out now before the shoes start flying.
I don’t know, I liked Patronizing Big Brother Dante from DMC4.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Jumping from DmC to Metal Gear Rising made me confident that I could hold my own, but I was sorely mistaken. From the very beginning, Platinum Games expects me to wield my cyborg ninja like a master surgeon, slicing and dicing the right vitals to turn my adversaries into replenished health and a bigger bank account. Sadly, my clumsiness with a sword and baffling inability to dodge incoming attacks (!) leaves me in a pile of scrap metal more often than not. I shoot the TV an angry glare as my comrades melodramatically mourn me.
To make matters worse, the game even taunts me and my weaknesses! I needed the hand of an officer to unlock a gate, but since I wielded the right analog stick with the accuracy of a toddler slicing a cake, the plan failed in record time. My superiors were clearly baffled by this warrior who couldn’t properly chop limbs, and as they dressed me down over the radio, a potent cocktail of anger and shame shot through my mind. It’s an awful feeling, and if I don’t evade it the next time I boot Rising up, I might just throw in the towel.
Bullets for breakfast. Had I not gotten BF3 for free through PSN Plus (okay, that’s not technically free, but you get what I mean) I would likely have never picked it up. Having played it now, that hasn’t changed. I don’t know that I would pay money for an experience like that.
It doesn’t seem like a bad game, and indeed I had a fair bit of fun playing it. But it seems like there were a lot of really questionable design decisions made. The team sizes are so huge that not only do you not feel like you can’t win by yourself, you feel like you can’t accomplish anything by yourself. You can go on a ten-kill streak, capture two flags, and shoot down a helicopter, and it has zero effect on the battle, because one man is so insignificant in the grand scale of BF3. Developers always assume bigger is better, but there is a point where it just makes the player feel useless.
The community is garbage, which may not be the developer’s fault but it does make the game hard to recommend. The higher level players have a huge advantage over starting players, having vastly superior weaponry in addition to their knowledge about how to play the game. Many of the maps are way too big, leaving you out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do far too often, and vehicles are just not fun to fight. The fifth time a tank just rolls up and blows you away in a single shot, with nothing you can possibly do to fight back, you’ll be strongly tempted to rage quit.
All in all, one hell of a big-budget swing and a miss.
I like Battlefield 3 more than Colin, but its community manages to thoroughly sabotage that appreciation again and again. Its obsession with player-bought servers has filled the browser with dictatorial admins hell-bent on subjecting others to their whims. Almost every Rush server is modified to force defenders into an unwinnable hole, giving attackers almost infinite respawn tickets and stacking the team with top-level players. If you manage to dodge that particular sinkhole, the server admins will often find another way to shove you to the ground. I was permanently banned from one server because I had the gall to shoot down the enemy helicopter he was piloting.
It used to be easier to find games that weren’t thoroughly ruined by cheating admins, but since launch, EA has dialed down the number of official dedicated servers to the point where finding a vanilla match is a luck of the draw. Instead, stalwart players must deal with hosts that act like abusive MOBA bridge trolls. Even with a brand-new Battlefield 4 on the horizon, BF3’s “inmates run the asylum” stance makes me hesitant to grab it. Developers would do well to take heed; this is how you ruin an online game.