Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Humble Indie Bundle #4 Is Live!



As it happens, it's the time of sharing, and The Humble Indie Bundle strikes with number 4 and immensely great lineup of games.

For the low low price of 5.00$ (by the time of writing) you get access to these games: Gratuitous Space Battles, Cave Story+, Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Super Meat Boy, Shank and Nightsky HD, completely DRM-free and on Mac, Windows and Linux! You also get Steam-keys for these games, and if higher powers have mercy, also on Desura. If you pay less than the average, you won't get access to GSB and Cave Story+.

What are you waiting for? GO!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No more S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s, I'm afraid

If what RockPaperShotgun and the links and tweets mentioned there are true, it would seem that GSC has closed down, and the production for STALKER2 has been cancelled. It's a sad day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Solium Infernum: Rectification announced! (PC/Mac)

So, there'll be a new free expansion pack for Solium Infernum. Includes lots of stuff, like proper expansion packs should, like new legions, praetors, maptype, and so on. Read more from the Cryptic Comet-blog. http://www.crypticcomet.com/blog/?p=626

Sunday, August 28, 2011

To Reign in Hell - A Solium Infernum AAR Part I (PC/Mac)

Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here!
Hello, and welcome to Hell. I will be your host for tonight, and quite a few nights after this one. Oooh, did I just hear someone ask "what is Solium Infernum, o' good host"? Well, my good friend, let me tell you. Solium Infernum is a turn-based strategy game about Hell. Conquering and reigning in Hell, to be precise. This, however, is not a review on Solium Infernum. This is an AAR, or "after action report", detailing my adventures in Solium Infernum. A review will follow after the AAR is completed. Every part of AAR will consist of 10 turns, which means that there will be around five or six parts. If you are interested or bored in the meantime, feel free to read an excellent AAR from the fellows of Rock, Paper, Shotgun called Gameboys From Hell. This AAR is still being played with some nice fellows from the aforementioned RPS-forums, so don't expect updates too often.

Turn 1

What a handsome fella.
What you see above, is the "avatar" that I will be playing with. Pretty well-rounded by all means, but not excellent at anything. Three charisma will ensure that I will get a steady flow of Tribute cards to keep my game going on, and two cunning means that I can pretty easily raise it to four to gain not only extra order slot, but also some nice tricks up my sleeve. Duke of Hell ensures me some influence in Hell. My public objective is Lust - no reprecussions if I fail to satisfy the objective, and if I do succeed in my objective, I gain lots of prestige, which is needed to win in this game. No perks, as they are often too costly, or when they give me points for creation, the drawbacks are too heavy.

The usurpers to the throne of Hell
Here we see our contestants for the skullthrone of Hell - me, the ever-so-lovely Sythiese the Sordid, Understairs Man, a certain special Jon Irenicus (you can read his AAR of this same game here), The Bored One and Larence. Larence. What kind of name is Larence? For an usurper of Hell, for Abyss' sake! Pfft. He should be called "Larence the Lich" or something like that. Now he is Larence the Guy-From-Next-Door-Who-Stays-Up-All-Night-Playing-Video-Games. Sheesh.


Here is where we start. The red dominion and legion is mine. To north lies The Woods of Suicide, a Place of Power. To south, Sythiese. To east, Jon Irenicus. To north-west, Bored One. I hope that I can reach the Place of Power before Irenicus does - better yet, I hope he tries to take control of some else PoP. Sythiese and Bored One will likely busy themselves with much closer PoPs and just expanding their dominions. I order my bodyguard legion to move forwards, towards the Woods of Suicide, and with the other order slot I have, request Tribute from my lowly minions.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. I started the game as a regent, which means that I get to draw one Event-card, and of all the phases, my actions will be done first. What is an Event-card, you ask? Well, Event-cards are powerful cards which may turn the table of the game completely - such as invoking a crusade against Heaven, or closing the mouth of Hell, which means that nobody can get tribute from his/her minions. What card did I draw? I'm not going to tell, not yet at least. ;)

Turn 3
Where did he get that GOLEM? Damn!
To Abyss with Irenicus. He was faster, and claimed the Woods of Suicide to himself. This is not a good sign for me - I have no steady source of Prestige, which is required for all diplomatic actions (such as demanding resources, which is a prequisite for a casus belli). And on top of all this, I have no chance to reach the PoP next to Bored One's border, since he has blocked my access there. I'm stuck between three great powers, and I am likely the first one to be eaten, if I can't play my way out of this. I decided to place a bid on Haagenti on the Bazaar. Haagenti is one of the mightiest Praetors in all Hell, and is likely to crush any given opponent in a duel. If I can get my hands on Haagenti, I can start extorting Irenicus for tribute and Prestige, which I so sorely will be needing.

Turn 4

Did I already mention that I hate Irenicus' guts? That bastard somehow topped my offer for Haagenti, and now has the mightiest Praetor in Hell. Blast and damnation.

What will follow, I think, is this - Irenicus will make demands of me. If I refuse, he will start duel with me (or maybe he'll try to assault my legion). If I succumb to his demands, I lose prestige to the point, when I have no teeth and no power to start any diplomatical initiatives. Isn't this just bloody wonderful? So, I decide to try to hire another Praetor, and increase my tribute.

Ah, yes, the duels. Let me tell you a bit about them. They are a way to satisfy a Vendetta. Vendettas can be claimed if someone insults you, or if someone refuses to succumb to your demands. If you don't claim a vendetta, you lose prestige. If you claim Vendetta, you must accomplish your objectives (such as conquering X cantons or, in the case of duels, winning the duel) to reclaim your Prestige and the same amount of Prestige from the receiving end of the Vendetta.

Turn 5

Did I mention that Irenicus is a huge dick?
Unsurprisingly, Irenicus demands Tribute cards from me. That is all right by my book, part of the game and all that, you know. But then he goes and insults me. Insults. Me. What an ass. So rude. Tchk-tchk. Not very nice, now was it?

My brave toad-warrior
Here is my brand new Praetor, Orias. Ugly as sin, but that's how you get those bloody toadmen. And they do smell quite bad, thanks for asking. Now, he might be able to win Haagenti in a duel, if I play my cards right and luck favors me.
I trust you, my brave toadman.

Turn 6

I refused to comply to Irenicus' demands. This turn Irenicus must decide whether he will let the Vendetta die (quite unlikely), or if he will claim a Vendetta and with what terms.


As we can see, Irenicus has moved his legion away from our border. At this point it would be very, very stupid to assume that he wants an armed conflict. A duel will follow soon, I believe. Nevertheless, I decided to place a bid on an artifact in the Bazaar. Hellfire Ballista.

Turn 7

A beatuy, isn't she?
Hellfire Ballista. Even the name alone invokes a sense of something terrible, something powerful. And by the Abyss, isn't it powerful. Not only does it add +4 to my ranged stat for a legion of choice, but if I succeed to do damage with it, it is effectively doubled. A weapon to fear, indeed. And she is mine.


What else... unsurprisingly, Irenicus decided that we shall meet at the fields for a duel. Somebody has also bought Temeluchas from the Bazaar. A worrying turn, as Temeluchas is the second most powerful Praetor in Hell, when it comes to duels. Hopefully Irenicus didn't buy him, I wouldn't want him to have all the cards. Next, preparing for the duel.
Would you look at that tactic? Sweet mercy.
Like so. I expect that Irenicus will strike with full force the first phase, after which he'll take a backseat, when I'll strike. After that it's just chipping away health. If everything goes well.
The current standings in Hell
As we can see, there's alot in game for this duel. The winner claims all 16 points of prestige, making him/her a poweful player in the game. Loser will be in quite a bad position. I fear the worst.

Turn 8

Damn. I hope you enjoy the Abyss, Orias.

Orias has been defeated. He was of no match against Haagenti. I'm in pretty weak position now - only one point of Prestige, and no means of increasing my Prestige. I am one of the least influential beings in Hell now. Hopefully that will guarantee me some peace until I can figure some way out of this mess. Hopefully.

Turn 9
Go to Hell, Irenicus. Oh wait.
Irenicus taunts me. What a dick. Also, Larence the Guy-From-Next-Door has brought some demands against me. 3 Tribute Cards. Since we share no border, he is most likely prepared for a duel. I think. I have very little Tribute as it is, I don't think I want to give Larence any of those. You can stick them up where the sun won't shine, love.

Meanwhile, I will try to stock up on Tribute, to increase my stats and gain me some extra order slots. I need them desperately.

Turn 10

Testament of Tyrants, property of The Bored One
The Bored One, my dear neighbour, has conquered the Testament of Tyrants, a Place of Power. As it happens, it lies just next to border of Sythiese the Sordid. This might prove to be interesting. Conflict between the two will follow rather soon, I believe. And if I play my cards right, I can benefit from it greatly. Better keep an eye out for those two.


Larence now has grounds to claim a Vendetta on me. I fully expect him to do so, unless he plans to let it die and see me begin harassing Irenicus. Very, very, very unlikely, so I'd better stock up for a duel. And, this is the last turn to set my threat list.


Here is our current standings. I decide to leave my threat list as it is - Irenicus will most likely be the one who I will face in the field of combat, and I have no doubts that I might battle everyone else - Larence seems to be the least likely candidate, even with his current demands on me.

Oh dear
A little surprisingly, it wasn't Irenicus that leads the statistics, but Sythiese. He has a horribly, horribly strong bodyguard-legion. Even though one could win it in the ranged-phase of combat and deal some damage, the legion's comeback on melee and infernal would be horribly, horribly strong. Better keep that in mind, I don't want to risk combat against that beast.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) GamesCom video

A video featuring some gameplay and background for an upcoming Silent Hill-game for the upcoming PlayStation Vita-handheld console. Now, Silent Hill is my one favourite game series, so I'm just going to list things the game will apparently have, judging from the trailer. You know, to save you the horror of watching it, or many angry words I have.

  • Co-op action dungeon crawling action
  • "Scare rooms"
  • No psychological horror
  • You create your own character
  • Puzzle-solving

Dark Souls: Bartholomew Trailer (PS3/X360)

So, apparently they released a new trailer for Dark Souls at Gamescom. Looking good there. I've already got it preordered.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Witcher 2 2.0 (PC)

Didn't play/buy The Witcher 2 on its release? Or maybe contemplating about doing a rerun, like me (sorry about that, folks!)? CD Projekt Red has announced The Witcher 2 2.0, which seems to be pretty much the same as The Enhanced edition was for the first The Witcher.

What it includes is renewed tutorial system (face it, the original tutorial was horrible), new difficulty Dark Mode with some items and themes (and a competition, should you be the first one to complete it, you'll win a prize). Another new mode, where you must fight waves of enemies. And includes all 9 DLC packs. Oh, and it will be free. Take a look below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lollipop Chainsaw announced (PS3, X360)

Okay, this has to be one of the weirdest ideas for games I've seen in a long time. Then again, it's Suda 51, which explains a lot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Extra Credits quits Escapist Magazine

Apparently there is some drama going on in Escapist Magazine, considering the show Extra Credits which discussed all sorts of interesting topics. It would seem that Escapist has failed repeatedly to pay Extra Credits (puntastic!), and as such Extra Credits will leave Escapist Magazine.

Here is a thread to forums, which has quite good summary on what has been going on. I'm going to quote both sides here, so... walls of text inbound. You have been warned.

Edit:/ link got broken during the night, should be fixed now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hitman: Contracts (PC)

Free to use in any way, btw.
Go crazy.
So, I was stupid and didn't take any pictures while playing trough this, so you'll just have to bear through this wall of text. Sorry for those of you who come here because of all the magnificent pictures, here's a picture I drew just for you guys. It's an elephant riding a skateboard.

Now then, where was I... yes, Hitman: Contracts. It's the third game in Hitman-series, where you play a bald guy with a barcode in his neck assassinating people. One has to wonder how nobody ever suspects anything, him being big, bald, always wearing leather gloves and having a frickin' barcode tattoeed on to him. Artificial stupidity, indeed. If you haven't played any Hitman-games before, let me just say this - if you plan on playing all the games, start with Codename 47 and then just work your way up from there, it's pretty hard to go back to the old games after the masterpiece that is Blood Money. As stated above, the objective of the games is quite simple - you usually have to assassinate a person or few in quite elaborate ways, and then leave the scene in one piece. When I say assassinate, you may think of Assassin's Creed, which is a little false image, though playing it like that is also possible from time to time, but more often this means things like dropping a chandelier on the target, changing a prop gun to a real gun, using a sniper rifle and so on. You'll usually have to wear disguises to get around places, as civilians aren't allowed to go everywhere. When disguised, one should proceed with caution and act according to their disguise - it would be quite strange to see a guard carrying a bag of meat around, for example.

So, let's start then. Contracts is quite a solid effort, and I only encountered one bug during playing the single player campaign, which forced me to cheat my way to Silent Assassin-rank. It doesn't seem to happen to everyone, though, so that's a good sign. The AI is much better than in Silent Assassin or Codename 47, and doesn't see through your disguise as soon as you take one step into wrong direction. There are some stupidities and miracle-sights every now and then, but they are tolerable and rare. Graphics are, I'd say, quite good for a game from 2004, though there isn't any widescreen hacks that I know of. Gameplay is solid, and even though you aren't supposed to go through the game guns ablaze, it's quite fun to do so if your cover gets blown and you just can't be arsed to reload. Oh, did I mention that your saves per level are restricted according to your difficulty? I found this solution quite odd, but on the other hand, it works quite good and lays emphasis on taking notice of what is important. Soundscape is superb, and it's quite a shame that Jesper Kyd won't be composing music for Hitman: Absolution. He also did musics for Assassin's Creeds, though I think he was better at Hitmans. Anyways, good composer.

It should be noted that even though the game is usually mentioned to be stealth-action game, it's more of a puzzle game, even though quite morbid at that one. I'll break down how you play levels usually:

  1. Open up the map, find the targets and places of interest
  2. Take notice of the guards' movements as well as target(s)' movements
  3. Investigate what you can under your starting suit
  4. Gain a disguise to investigate more
  5. Decide your preferred method of killing the target
  6. Kill the target, and make your way to the exit
And here's the thing, there are usually multiple ways to kill your target, though in Blood Money the freedom was amped up to the second power. For example, you could kill your target in one of the following ways - drown him in the swimming pool, poison his drink, lock him up into sauna and increase the heat to cause heart attack, shoot him, strangle him, beat him, drop a chandelier on him, place a bomb on his suitcase and so forth. It's just beatiful.

All in all, it's a good game, but Contracts is greatly overshadowed by its sequel Blood Money. It's a nice touch thoug that Contracts has some remade maps/missions from Codename 47. Took me back in time, and also the fact that the levels are now better was really nice. So, in conclusion - if you haven't played Hitman-games and are interested to play, this is as good to start as any. If you have played other Hitmans, Contracts is more of the same goody stuff you've come to expect. And speaking of goody, what do you think of Absolution, will it turn OK or will it be a horrible disappointment?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Team Fortress 2 will be free to play "forever" + Meet the Medic

So, apparently the super-duper-mega-hyper-popular shooter TF2 will be f2p from now on, supported by micro-payments only (if you wish to call 7,5€ for a hat "micro"), according to pcgamer.com and Develop. Interesting turn of events, but this was speculated for some time already.

Edit://
Also, Meet the Medic is out now, and I guess F2P is now officially confirmed. See the clip below or from YouTube straight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dragon Age: Ultimate Edition (Xbox 360)

So, I think it's about the time I finally sum up my thoughts about Dragon Age: Ultimate Edition, which contains both critically acclaimed Dragon Age: Origins (86 on Metacritic for X360, 91 for PC) and its add-on Dragon Age: Awakening as well as all the DLC released for the games. Made by BioWare, you can pretty much predict which kind of games they are - party-based story-driven RPGs. The PC would've obviously been the much better platform for these games, but due to lack of good PC at the time, I went with X360 version, so let's start our journey to Thedas.

Gameplay


As said above, this being a BioWare-game, it's more than natural that the game is party-based and somewhat tactical RPG. Dragon Age: Origins was touted to be a return to the old-school tactical RPGs, and I'd say it manages to do it rather well, although the character classes could've been balanced far better - it's not too uncommon to have a mage that can tank better than a fighter, takes absolutely no damage and can pretty much one-shot most of the enemies with one well-placed Area of Effect-spell.

There are three character classes (warrior, rogue, mage) in the game, as well as three races (humans, elves, dwarves). Every race can be of any class (except dwarves, who can't be mages), and every class has four specializations from which two can be picked in Origins. Awakening adds two more specializations to each class, and characters get to pick two more specializations by the end of the expansion.

There are lots of nice stuff hidden in the game, which you might not notice at first, such as if you are able to freeze an enemy, there are certain spells that, when casted upon frozen enemy, will kill him instantly. This can also be achieved by warrior and rogue scoring a critical hit on the said enemy. Things like these (known as spell combinations) are very nice depth-adders.

Origins also has a very nice thing, called Origins (*gasp!*), which are determined by your character's race and class. Mages only have a Magi-origin, but otherwise every race has two possible Origins from which you can choose. These serve as an introduction to the world and setting in general, and also as a tutorial. Very nice idea and execution also.

I have to go back to balance, though - if you are playing on Normal, the game will probably become way too easy if you play with two or three mages in your party, because Mages are Thedas-equivalents to heavily armed Panzerkampfwagens. I've heard that the PC version is a bit harder, and as such things might be a bit different, but on consoles Normal is way too often too easy.

On consoles, there is only one camera angle, behind your character, whereas on PC you also have isometric view. It's a shame that it isn't on consoles too, because it would've helped greatly in some fights, when getting an image of what is going on is very hard. Anyway, it's not too bad on Normal difficulty, but it's still a shame.

Plot

The plot, to be honest, isn't really great. It's pretty generic "collect an army and defeat the ancient evil". However, the small details that have been placed in the rather generic setting are what make the game far better than it would otherwise be. The world includes anything you'd expect from a generic fantasy setting - elves live in forests, humans in cities and town, dwarves live in the mountains and underground. Awakening actually has, in my opinion, more interesting story than than Origins, because of sentient Darkspawn, smaller scale of map and interestingly varied locations (you can actually see the sea!).

The story, in it's basis is, that you become a Grey Warden, either by volunteering to them or being recruited. As a Grey Warden, your mission is to protect Thedas from the orc- I mean the Darkspawn, and kill the Archdemon which leads Darkspawn hordes during Blights. During a big battle shit hits a fan, a treason happens and most of the Grey Wardens are killed - except you and Alistair. From this point on the world opens to you (through hubs, there isn't free roaming like in The Elder Scrolls), and you are free to do main and side quests as you see fit. The main quest series is rather boring, but most of the side quests (when they aren't "Kill X enemies of type Y" or "find me X items Y"-type) are very nice and add lots of depth. The main quest series include the two most boring segments I've ever had the displeasure to play through - The Fade and The Deep Roads. Both of them suffer from the same fault - they are far too long, with far too little interesting to do and both have too much combat without any real meaning. At least on PC, you can mod so that you can skip The Fade, I guess you can even skip The Deep Roads.

There are some choices every now and then to make, which should influence the outcome of the story - except they really don't, and even the touted "grey and grey" morality is really lacking, except for a few points where it's actually pretty brilliantly executed, and at few points you can actually lose your party members permanently. In the grander scheme of things, most of your choices bear little to no influence in the story. Still, when it does, it's very nice. And as you finish either the game or the add-on Awakening, there is a recap of what you did and how it influenced the world.

Visuals


Game's visual style drives towards realistic style, and I think it manages to do it pretty nicely, and the game looks good even on X360. The colour scheme, however, could use a bit of brush-up and more colours, as most of the world is pretty brown, which makes most of the game such a boring thing. The forest, however, is green and I actually think it's one of the best parts of the game. Not much else to say.

Overall


So, I've played Origins through three times and Awakening once, as well every DLC. Most of the DLC is rather worthless, around one or two hours of hacking away enemies, though Soldier's Peak and The Stone Prisoner (which comes[came?] for free with new copies of the game) are the best ones, Soldier's Peak including some actual story and Stone Prisoner including the golem-companion Shale.

Dragon Age isn't a game I play for the story, as it is quite boring. It isn't for the effects of your choices either, as they don't come even close to Witcher's effects. It isn't for your companions, who are for the most part quite one-sided and boring. No, I play it for trying different builds and just having a good time smacking enemies around while testing my tactical thinking. If you like RPGs because of story and world instead of tactics, you can get a one fun run through the game, but I doubt you'll come back for another.

Friday, June 10, 2011

E3 -11, Day 03 (kinda)

Okay, I'll be honest with you.

I have absolutely no idea what happened at day 3 of E3. No idea. Nada. Zero. There didn't seem to be anything even remotely interesting and new, mostly just videos of games that we already know that are coming and so forth. So, let's turn the tables. What did you think was the best of E3 this year? Most interesting, ideas, concepts, all that stuff.

EDIT:
So, here's something from RockPaperShotgun. It's mainly about PC gaming, but of course even they cover some multiplatform games. Take a look.

EDIT2:
And Ars Technica also.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 -11, Day 02 [Wii U]

Wii U. Neat. Picture from Ars Technica.
So, what's the big news in E3 this year? Well, Nintendo has yet again stolen the show with Wii U. Read this article from Ars Technica to learn a bit more about it. It looks really interesting.

And continuing with Nintendo... 3DS seems to be getting LOADS of interesting games. Like what? Mario Kart, Luigi's Mansion 2, 3D-remake of StarFox 64, Kid Icarus Uprising and a new Super Mario.

I've fallen behind the times, but I'll be checking Konami and whatnot as soon as I can, and can be arsed to. Also, I will update this post as soon as I can.

Monday, June 6, 2011

E3 -11, Day 01

So, a quick recap of what's been going on in E3 so far:

* Minecraft will be coming to XBLA
* New Fable
* Halo: Combat Evolved remade, also new Halo trilogy
* Kinect-support for Mass Effect 3
* Some new footage on Skyrim
* SSX stuff
* Need for Speed: The Run footage

* Ico and Shadow of Colossus will get a 3D-treatment, meaning you can play them in real 3D glory. Neat!
* the same treatment will be coming for God of War: Origins-pack, which features Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus from PSP
* Both will be coming this September apparently

* Some new material on Prey 2
* Seemingly lots of new material and footage of Battlefield 3. Looks really good, I tell you.
* Some new material on the new Tomb Raider
* Far Cry 3 is up and coming, going back to a tropical island.
* Dust 514 from CCP (the developers of EVE Online) will be PS3 only. Closed beta will start at the end of the year, release is in Spring 2012
* Sony NGP now has an official name: Vita. According to Ars Technica"The WiFi-only version of the device will run users $249, while the 3G model will cost $299, which puts the handheld in direct competition price-wise with Nintendo's 3DS."
* There will be a new Sly Cooper-game. Nice!

Let's see what else comes up, I'll be updating this post every once in a while.
Fixed the strange background-colour bug.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Witcher 2 patch 1.2 comes out 03.06.2011

So, a new patch is coming out with free DLC (yay!) and loads of fixes and whatnots.


There's one curious note though:

  • 17. Islamic–themed and similar textures have been deleted and/or replaced
What does this mean, why, and where were these things? Oh well. 
Full patch notes follow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CDP Summer Days - EA + GOG, Witcher 2 on Xbox 360

CDP Summer Days stream is on (not anymore!), I'll keep notes what is coming up. And pictures, of course.

TW2 gets all the pre-order bonus DLC released... for free.
Five new hairstyles for Geralt.
TW2 will be released for Xbox 360. End of this year

GOG:
EA is the new publisher, Wing Commander: Privateer, Dungeon Keeper, Ultima underworld. No Syndicate now, though. :(

Nor System Shocks. Shame.



For some reason GIMP wont let print out anything else than this, so, well, here you go. I'll try to get the other screenshots working.

Screenshots 'fixed', now you'll get a glimpse of my everything oh no.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Metro: Last Light Announcement Trailer

So, Metro 2033's sequel has now an announcement trailer. Quite artsy, but hey, why not. I'm looking forwards to Last Light, how about you?

And the song in the trailer is Portishead, btw. Nice choice.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Witcher 2 patch removes DRM

So, The Witcher 2 received patch 1.1 has now been released, and it removes DRM from the retail-versions of the game (such thing that I have). It's also said to increase your framerate by 5-30%, fix lots of bugs and it will make you popular among ladies/lads. Well, maybe not the last one. But nice anyway. Grab it from here, or if you bought it from Steam (or any other self-updating DD-service) it should update automatically.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Witcher 2 - Assassins of Kings (PC) (First impressions)

So, I completed my first playthrough of TW2 last night. In short - it was a damn fine game, maybe even better than the first one (your mileage may vary depending how you felt about TW1). Combat mechanics have been changed radically, and the legacy of NeverWinter Nights and Aurora Engine is gone, giving room to a much more action-y and faster combat. And with that, the combat is now also far more lethal, requiring you to pay attention to your surroundings and the tactics. Reminds me in a way of Demons Souls, which is good. The game looks fabulous, writing was brilliant and music very good. If something is to be complained, it's that the "tutorial" is rather brutal and you will probably die multiple times on the first playthrough, as combat isn't really explained to you and enemies will rape you if you don't know what you're doing.

More thorough thoughts in summer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amnesia - Justine general release

Amnesia: The Dark Descent received a free DLC called "Justine" during Valve's Portal 2-ARG. Now, it is released for everyone. Yay!
"On April 18 Frictional Games joined Valve to celebrate the release of Portal 2 and wrap up our collaboration which has spanned the last few months. During this period we have worked with not only Valve, but an entire range of talented independent developers, to give gamers a unique gaming experience. Together we created a massive Alternate Reality Game which spanned 13 Steam games, as well as plenty of internet forums and publications, and the real world. Frictional Games' main contribution to this game was a DLC called Justine and truth be told, it plays pretty damn well even without the other stuff.
Justine has now been repackaged to survive in the outside world and we are happy to announce that we are giving it away to all owners of Amnesia for free. Turn off the lights, put the headphones on and play another story produced by the original team, the multiple IGF award winning, Frictional Games.
But, there is more..."
Read the rest from their site - preorderers of Amnesia receive the soundtrack for free, and there is also some short-stories included in the update. Hurray! 

Summer -11

So, I'm rather busy now so no new reviews till summer. What you can expect in summer:

  • The Witcher 2
  • Dawn of War 40,000, maybe also DoW2
  • The Sims Medieval
  • Hitman Contracts/Blood Money
  • Dragon Age: Origins & Dragon Age: Awakening
That's all for now.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mass Effect 3 Screenshots

So, a Russian website has posted some new Mass Effect 3 screenshots. Looking pretty nice there. I haven't yet finished ME2, because I'm still waiting for GOTY-edition with DLC. But still, one of the big names in current RPGs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Personal data stolen from PSN

Bad new, I'm afraid. It seems that hackers have stealed your personal information from PSN, though your credit card information may be safe. Seems as if things are going from bad to worse for Sony.

Minecraft modding API

As it seems, Minecraft Modding API will be free of cost, but instead of API in the sense I understand it, it is access to the very source code. This will of course be way better than the current situation, but I can't help feeling that this is the lazy way out and does not really help that much when it comes to mods breaking down every update. But, I may be wrong, we'll see.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Portal 2 (PC) (single-player)

So, Portal 2 came out a little while ago, preceded by Valve's promotional ARG, in which 13 indie games were on sale on Steam and received extra content and crypted messages and all that mumbo jumbo and whoop-de-doo and promises that the game could be released earlier (well, it did, if I remember about 7 hours earlier than destined release time). But all this aside, what was this anticipated game like?

Please do note, that all following is written solely on the basis of single-player campaign


Gameplay
Portal 2 is a sequel (GASP!) to a little 2-4 hour puzzle game, that was released alongside Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and its two episodes in a nice gamepack known as The Orange Box. The gameplay mainly consisted on playing with portals, through which player could go. Say, you place one portal on your living room's wall and the other to your bedroom's wall, you could walk through the living room's portal and you'd be in your bedroom. And you can take stuff with you through the portal, which makes things a bit more curious. And, even further to make things more interesting, your inertia would be conserved when you go through portal. What does it mean? What goes in fast, comes out of the other one fast. So, the original game was played pretty much through these concepts, plus lasers, of course. And robots, that try to shoot you, but since they can't move, they could be easily knocked down and so on.

The sequel, of course extends on these principals, so everything that was in the original game is still in and a lot is added. These include such things as springboards (they send stuff flying), different gels/paints (blue paints make stuff go bouncing, orange lets you move really fast, and if you paint wall white, you can place portals there) and pull/push streams and solid light bridges(!). These offer a very large repertoire to create mind-bending puzzles.

Well, as in puzzle games things usually go, you start with a few basic things and start to build up to them to create harder and harder puzzles, and so is in Portal 2 also. The thing is, usually you should go with this ever-increasing difficulty/tricks to keep things fresh, but Portal 2 stumbles in this from time to time, not too often though. Sometmies I just went mad when I couldn't find a way to progress, and it was something as simple as "jump pretty high from here", as if difficulty was suddenly reversed.

Visuals
The game has a really, really good visual style and runs great on older machines even though it looks rather good. Animations remind me often of Pixar-movies, and that is a compliment. The game is nice to look at and most of the time, visuals give you a good clue what is your target.

Level design
The game (still) takes place in Aperture Science's research facilities. A lot of time has passed since original Portal, and vines and other plants have grown all around the facility. The first third or half takes place in these areas, and is pretty much the best areas of the game, so when you play the game, do take your time and look around to find all kinds of neat hidden stuff.

Then comes the chapters 6-8. Oh boy. Somebody dropped the ball here, and hard. What was a leisurely puzzle game, becomes a frustrating pixel hunt with repetive puzzles. I could've tolerated this, but it was absolutely horrendous and I spent about half of my playing time stuck on those chapters. To make things worse, the environment is really, really bland and boring ruins with pretty much nothing to see.

Writing
Portal 2 isn't really heavy on the story, but it has more of it than original Portal, which introduced us GlaDOS, the murderous and testing-obsessed AI with sarcastic comments. In Portal 2, GlaDOS has somehow lost most of her/its charm and turned just really hateful with very little (good) sarcasm. Luckily, around midpoint of the game her/its writing gets better and it's actually nice to listen to her/it.

Of course, Portal 2 introduces two other characters - Wheatley, the well meaning joke-cracker AI and Cave Johnson, the long since passed away founder of Aperture Science. Though Wheatley tolds jokes constantly, it is unfortunate that they rarely really hit the spot. On the plus side, the worst jokes aren't all that bad, but aren't really great either.

Cave Johnson is introduced around the midpoint of game (chapter 5 or 6 if I remember correctly) and he simply has the best writing in the game, cracking really good jokes and being just a manly man. He is never seen beyond some paintings and portraits, and his voice comes from old recordings that play as the player makes his way through old rooms of Aperture Science facility.

Main gripes
Portal 2 is a good game, without doubt, but I'd like to address some of my main annoyances.
1. Loading screens
There are loading screens between every room, and they aren't those barely noticable loading screens from Half-Life 2. No, these take the whole screen, and really break your immersion. And it is really bad at the first third of the game, when rooms are small and simple, and you spend about 1/3 of your time watching the loading screen and 2/3 of the time playing. Luckily, later on, the loading screens get rarer and rarer. But still, I can't wrap around my mind, who thought that it was a good idea to put a loading screen in the middle of an intense chase. Really.

2. The middle part of the game
It has the best writing (thanks to Cave Johnson), but on the other hand, the level design is the worst found in the game. If it were merely ok, I'd just shrug my shoulders and move on, but no. It is absolutely horrendous. Old gray walls everywhere and very, very little indication where to go. A game that has held you from hand to that point and then just throws you out with no point to go is rather bad thing, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary, but I didn't find pixel hunting and repetive puzzles good.

3. The length
It took me about 6 or 7 hours to complete the single player campaign. Not really long, when you think about it, and I spent about 2,5-3,5 hours on chapters 6-8. If you don't get stuck there, 5-6 hours will probably be rather close to how long the game is. And by saying game, I mean single-player campaign, there is also co-op campaign. When I get the time, I'll give it a shot.

4. The menus
The menus are for some reason really unintuitive to navigate with mouse, and I found myself cursing when I clicked the third time off and got an explanation what anti-aliasing does instead of setting it. Luckily I didn't need to spend a lot of time there, so the menus are a very small offender.

Overall
It's a good game that has some noticable flaws - okayish writing, loading screens bloody everywhere, the absolutely horrendous middle part and short length of single-player campaign. If I'd have to give it a 'score', it would be probably a solid 8 out of 10.

No screenshots because I can't find where they were saved. But I believe Google can help you to find videos and pictures of the game if you're interested to see more.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Amnesia - The Dark Descent: Justine (PC)

So, Amnesia got an expansion as part of the Potato Sack-Valve ARG-thingy. It's not really long, but you can get it for free. At least on Steam it was automatically updated, I don't know if that's the case if you bought Amnesia straight from Frictional Games. But, let's cut to the chase. Is it any good?
Still not for children.

Why, yes it is. I'd say that it is overally far more scary than the whole of Amnesia itself (maybe excluding the prison). This time you don't play as Daniel from the original game, but as a woman who wakes up in a strange dungeon with a sight of a creepy monster and sharing the cell with an eerie gramophone of sorts, and a voice telling you that there's a trial ahead. What follows is a Saw-esque horrorshow, where you can either kill or save three persons.
You poor bastard, if only
you knew what's gonna happen
There's only one monster in this 'episode', and he wasn't in the original game. Oh yes, it is a he, and a human, which, in my opinion, makes him only more scary. There's nothing quite as creepy as trying to stay hidden and listen to him yell "I CAN HEAR YOU. I WILL KILL YOU BITCH". The reason why he yells that is revealed during the episode, and the story altogether is rather nice, though the ending is, to say at least, nonsensical.

Oh yes, the episode also features permadeath, meaning that should you die at any point of game, it's game over and you must start over. You can not save at any point of the episode, but as the episode takes about 20 minutes to one hour to complete, it is allright and makes the atmosphere all the more oppressive.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nintendo's new console

So, it seems that Nintendo will present a new console at E3, which should be more powerful than Xbox360 or PS3. Seems a little weird direction, as lately Nintendo's consoles haven't been real powerhouses when it comes to specs. Might turn out interesting. As long as it has lots of good games, I'm all for it.

And hey, Amnesia got a little expansion pack on Steam the other day, I've completed it. I'll post my short thoughts later.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amnesia - The Dark Descent (PC)

Oh god, here we go
So, pretty much everyone and their grandmother have heard of Amnesia, the allegdely most horrific game in existence. You have probably seen some hilarious videos on YouTube about players losing their, um, self-control while playing the game. Taking place in Prussia some time around 1830-1840 in an old, worn-down castle it has a great setting for a moody adventure. Made by a Swedish company known as Frictional Games, who are known from their previous Penumbra-games. So, how does Amnesia fare?

Gameplay


Disgusting
As you might know, there is absolutely no means of combat in Amnesia. Well, not for you at least, the enemies can easily tear you to pieces. So, what do you do? You stick to the shadows and if that fails, you run as fast as you can. Penumbra-games had a good physics engine, and so does Amnesia, so you can pretty freely pick stuff up, rotate it as you wish and throw it around. Most of the puzzles revolve around this, much like in Half-Life 2 of the Penumbra-games. Puzzles include stuff like opening and closing vents, placing gears to their places and so on, nothing too complicated. While in darkness, you gain a slight 'night-vision', but it isn't all that good and fancy as you might think, but it really enhances the atmosphere.

As said above, your only way of self-defence is hiding, but this has a catch - should you linger too long in the shadows, your sanity will lower, and if it hits rock bottom, Daniel (the main protagonist) is only able to crawl on the floor. Loss of sanity has other nice aspects too, such as hearing voices and making it harder to hide from monsters. And oh yes, should you look directly at monsters, you would lose your sanity and fast. Sanity is restored by remaining in light and progressing in the story. If there is no light in the area, you can use one of your precious tinderboxes to light a torch or you can light up your lantern, which uses even more precious oil. Health can be lost by, you guessed it, getting hit by enemies and other nasty stuff. Health can be restored by progressing in the story and also by using rare potions.

Poor Agrippa
Though some players have said that they constantly ran out of oil and tinderboxes, I noticed that by the time I reached the end, I had a full lantern + 9 extra refillments or whatever they are called and around 30 tinderboxes. But on the other hand, I never use anything unless I really have to.

Atmosphere


Hiding didn't work so well
The game's atmosphere is at the beginning pretty lame, as it resorts way too often to "BOOOO A DOOR OPENED BY IT'S OWN" or "BOOOOOO A MYSTICAL WIND"-tricks to scare the player. Also the soundscape seems a bit monotonous and only distracts. However, both of these aspects only get better as you progress in the game, as the scares get rarer and rarer and the soundscape starts to blend in well. And overally, the game has clearly taken a lot of influences from Lovecraft.
Things aren't looking too bright

The worn-down castle of Brennenburg is really, really moody and offers a good place for horror story, however, I really liked more Penumbra's setting as it was more 'realistic', or should I say, more immersive? But still, finding a naked body in the morgue is one thing, taking a vaccine from the said body's blood is a whole another thing. It's things like these that make the game feel creepier than your average horror game - you are forced to take some actions to survive, and they really feel immoral and disgusting. And oh yes, the guys from Frictional have taken everything they can out from the setting - you visit cellars of all sorts, torture chambers, archives, prison, sewers, afromentioned morgue... and every place will make you nervous. Really nervous.

Yeah, this game is not for children
The monsters are of little variance, but that really doesn't matter, as they are rarely shown and seen. And if you see them, you are either too close, or should be running. And the monsters can be quite intelligent - I was rather amazed when a monster noticed that I was hiding in a room and started tearing the door down. Then I cried a little as it killed me, while I was weeping in the corner.

And if you haven't heard of the water monster yet, just check this YouTube-video. It is really, really tense. Let's just say, I felt safe because there were boxes all around. But then I had to drop into water and the chase began, and I only could breath once I was on dry land.

tl;dr-version: atmosphere gets great about 1/4 into the game, and won't let you go. And the graphics are really good, too.

Story
Who said picture is worth a
thousand words?


The story starts with the greatest cliché of them all - Amnesia (didn't see that one coming, huh?). Daniel, the protagonist, is inside Brennenburg castle and finds a note from himself - descend into the Inner Sanctum of the castle and kill Alexander. Why? It isn't revealed straight away, because, you know, that would be pretty lame. But it is a good reason to start moving. That, and the fact that "Shadow" is chasing you with an intent to kill.
One of the many diaries that can be found

The story develops in two timeframes - the one which the player is in, and the another, which is told by Daniel's diaries and other notes that can be found around the castle. I don't want to spoil too much, so I'll try to keep that to a minimum. The story revolves around an Orb that Daniel found on expedition in Africa, the curse that the orb has brought upon him and how Alexander tried/tries to help Daniel. The story also features Agrippa (Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa) as a major character, who also happens to be a real person, a German magician, occultist and so forth. And Johann Weyer, who is not seen in the game in person, is also mentioned. So you know that something occult is going on. The endings were a bit of a letdown, but still fitting in the contextual sense.

Overall


The game started a little slow and trying too many cheap tricks, but the further it got, the better it also became. It wasn't as scary as the Penumbra-games in my opinion, but is still one of the best new horror games, and I recommend everyone to try it. Besides, it costs less than 8€ on Steam, and there's also a demo available. Should you have a Linux or Mac-computer, worry not, Amnesia is available for Linux and Mac also, so in a sense, it's a true PC-game. If there's something bad to say, it is that level design is sometimes too confusing (I am looking at you, prison).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360)

Whooo boy. Deadly Premonition. It has to be the weirdest game I've ever played. And despite its suckiness, it's really good. And yet it is so bad. It has great atmosphere, except when it goes to total moodswings. Which means, all the time. So, where to start with this game? And please do listen that song, I guarantee it will get stuck into your head. And if you play the game, even more so, because it's fucking everywhere.

Visuals
Well, graphics are a bit aged, and I remember hearing that the development was started with PS2 as main platform, but then consoles renewed. Well, anyway, I think they do the trick quite nicely, and with game being a budget title with price tag somewhere around 20€, it doesn't look all that bad when compared to amount of stuff in the game.

On the plus-side though, the game runs really smoothy and load times aren't too shabby, especially considering that you have a huge countryside town to explore. And well, as said, most of the time things look pretty nice. Then there are times when animations just suck... well, you know. Look at the video if you don't believe. And oh yeah, that video is also a great way to introduce you to the schizophrenic world of Deadly Premonition, with constant moodswings and all. Yes, it is that weird, pretty much all the time.

Gameplay
Well, when it comes to combat, the controls are your standard Resident Evil-controls, meaning, when you aim, you can't move and so on. Movement's a bit tacky, but you'll get around.

In addition to your traditional health bar you also have a pulse bar, which becomes fuller if you run, hold your breath for sneaking or drive a police car while blasting your sirens(!). Oh yes, you can drive a car in this game. Now how weird is that, combining Silent Hill/Resident Evil with GTA-style freeroaming with car. Car controls are, how to put it, bad. But luckily the roads are pretty straight, so not much steering is needed. But still.

Then there's a profiling mechanic, which took me by surprise, as it wasn't mentioned anywhere in the manual, or even in-game. Basically, you collect some pieces of evidence and then our protagonist, FBI special agent Francis York Morgan (call him York, everybody does) starts having mental images which he uses to solve the case. Crazy, huh? Speaking of the manual, I couldn't help but laugh when I read it and noticed, that there would be fishing in this game. Nothing could have prepared me for existence of fishing in a game like this. I mean, how could you be expecting something like fishing and real-time beard growing in a game like this? Yes, you read right, real-time beard growing. How awesome is that?

There's a main questline in the game with 'time limits' on it, but it's nothing like in Dead Rising, you just have to be on time at some date in the place to progress in the story, so you might as well take two-week vacation just fishing and smoking before going to the crime scene. Or you could peek into people's houses to see what they are doing. Or you could do some side-tasks for money and items. Or you could drive around just because you can.

Well, most of the time when you investigate crime scenes, the game warps into a otherworld of sorts, much like Silent Hill. There you pretty much shoot enemies, get money from doing so (oh yes, you actually get money from doing pretty much anything), collect evidence, shoot more evidence and do some profiling. I played on easy because the monsters just took annoingly long to die on normal. There is basically three types of enemies, bosses not included. A generic zombie-like monster, shoot it until it dies. A wall-crawling bastard, that turns invisible from time to time and takes forever to kill, especially if you use SMG or pistol. And then there's our serial killer, the Raincoat Killer. When you encounter him, you are often basically just doing a quick-time event to prevent getting killed. Sometimes you run away from him and then have to hide somewhere, much like in Forbidden Siren. Much of the gameplay is spent around figuring out, who is the Raincoat Killer, and why he is.

Atmosphere
As you may have deduced from above the atmosphere in the game is a bit crooked. And it's quite obvious that when making the game, somebody had watched Twin Peaks a few times too many. Pretty much everyone in the town is eccentric and strange. There's Mr. Harry Stewart who goes around in his wheelchair with a gasmask on, telling his assistant what to say to other persons. And this assistant only speaks in rhymes. Then there's the crazy lady with an object of obsession (a pot, this time). A fat traveling salesman that is ever so cheerful. Then there's protagonist Francis York Morgan who constantly speaks to his alter-ego Zach, even in the presence of other people. Or speaks about serial killers using skulls as urine collectors while having casual dinners with local law enforcement. All this while this cheerful music is playing. What were they thinking? Honestly. This is just something you don't do, not even on meth. And yet they did it, and quite frankly, I am happy that they did. Because it's half of the charm of the game. Or in fact, all of it, because the game doesn't have a good story (although it is quite interesting until it goes whoop-de-fucking-doo-surprise in the end), it can't boast on gameplay merits and music, while memorable, is almost never used correctly.

Story
Pretty much my thoughts
summarized.
Well, it starts out as a horror game, Silent Hill-type at that, and then you suddenly end up in a open sandbox like GTA. Confused, I did not know what to expect, but little by little I got a grap of the game, it's pretty much a detective story with supernatural themes. It's actually fairly interesting, though you might guess the killer's identity if you pay attention to all those little things. And not pay attention to some things, because they're just red herrings. I'm pretty sure the story is there to just mess with your head, as the game ends up from fairly realistic horror-game to having a skyscraper-sized boss. Things like that, and that the ending is pretty much pulled out of nowhere, it's only way past halfway when there's first mentions of the reasons behind why the end is so fucked-up.

Opinion on short
So, what do I think about this game?
I love it, though it is a  maimed game.
I can't really see any space in-between.
But you should try it, even if you're no tween.
You may really like it,
be it a miss and a hit.
I don't know how to make rhymes fit,
so I guess I'll just end it.

So says Mr. Stewart.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)

Metro 2033 is based on a book with the same name as the game, by author Dmitry A. Glukhovsky. The setting of the game is post-nuclear war metro tunnels of Moscow. The said nuclear war has left Moscow in ruins and the topside of terrain inhabitable with poisonous air and radiation. Military ammo is used as currency in the metro tunnels' markets, and most of the stuff you get your hands on are rusted thoroughly. For example, to recharge your night vision goggles and flashlight, you must crank a manual general recharger. 


The game bears some resemblance to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., with philosophical undertones and atmosphere so thick that you could cut it with a knife. I played it on X360, because I honestly doubt that my good old laptop could handle the game. So, how is the game?


Visuals
Game looks quite good, but those of you who really need the 8xAA and 1920x1080 settings should play on PC, obviously. Grey is the main colour on the palette, but it doesn't really bother me, as it adds to the grim atmosphere of the game's settings. Darkness is truly dark when it's dark and rays of light look very nice. I have only one complaint - the human faces look sometimes quite bad, but it's nothing too big.


Gameplay
FPS-games should always have a really good gameplay. As is the trend in the modern shooters, there is regenerating health. However, it takes quite a long time to regenerate, so it won't really save your ass in combat. It really adds the tension of the game, as every encounter on Normal difficulty has quite a good potential to be lethal if you don't know your surroundings, good tactics and the number of your enemies. You do have, however, some medkits to instantly heal yourself to full health, but they are somewhat scarce. And on top of it all, if you're fighting on the streets of Moscow, you must be careful that your gasmask won't break, otherwise you'll choke to death slowly. Or if you run out of gasmask filters, you'll face the same fate. 
Controls on X360 are a bit iffy, as the game is clearly designed to be played on PC, but they manage to be quite good. The amount of controls needed unfortunately makes the control pad show its worse side. It takes a little time to get used to the controls, but then they'll come quite intuitively.


Story
Well, the story takes in Moscow's metro tunnels, where our protagonist Artyom has set out on a mission to find ranger named Hunter so that he can help his homestation against the alien mutants known as Dark Ones. Dark Ones have quite strong psionic powers, including ability to communicate via telepathy. They are rarely seen in the game, though. On his search for Hunter, and then the weapon to annihilate the Dark Ones, Artyom comes accross many people and mutants inhabiting the world - communists, nazis, Librarians, Demons and so forth. There are many underlying philosophical tones, such as questions about human nature, war, death and value of living things in general.


There are two endings, the "bad" one being Artyom allowing the launch of missiles to kill the Dark Ones. The second one, "Enlightened", has some quite strange requirements and I really don't feel like replaying the game straight away to get it, but it ends with Artyom stopping the missile launch. Here's the video for it.
If we don't end wars, wars will end us.
 Opinion in overall


The game lasted about 10-15 hours, I really didn't count the time I took. I guess you can play the game through easily under 10 hours if you just rush through, but if you take your time to look around the world, it can take even 20 hours, but it will be worth it. Enjoy the game's world and take time to notice all the little things, it's an experience you don't want to miss. If you just want plain shooting, this game isn't for you. All in all, you should give it a try, still.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Witcher

So, yesterday I completed The Witcher: Enhanced Edition. The original Witcher game was released 2007, published by Atari around the world and by CD Projekt in Poland. Developed by CD Projekt Red, based on the world of The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski. Last time I played through it was about two-three years ago. Then, I loved the game deeply, and found it almost perfect. What about this time?





The visuals
The graphics look damn good for a game, that is 4 years old and runs on BioWare's Aurora engine, which, as far as I know, was never known for stunningly good graphics. My main complaint is that while having dialogue, most of the body animations are very awkward. As if people don't want to talk to you, they swing their arms a little and wiggle their fingers nervously. And there were some bugs on graphics (on epilogue, Triss sometimes disappeared while having dialogue).  Nothing too big, but still little annoying. Special effects look nice. The game takes a realistic approach to graphics, which is always a bit dangerous in a way, but manages to pull it off nicely.

The gameplay
The main complaint I've heard about The Witcher is that the combat is pure garbage. Really? Because I've found it very enjoyable. Sure, not really innovative or the best one, but it still good in my opinion. The combo-based melee combat is nice and requires some focus, and spells (or Signs, as they are called) are nice, although I found that only two are really worth developing (Aard, the "force push" Sign and Igni, burn everything-sign). Witchers carry two swords - steel one for people and more common beasts, and the silver one for monsters. In the game you can also carry a small weapon, like a dagger, handaxe or a torch, and a larger weapon, such as two-handed war-axe or another steel sword. And in your leather vest you can store potions in quickslots, or bombs. Weapons can be enhanced by magical runes that temporary increase the damage and effects of your weapon of choice, poisons and oils that do the same trick, or you can brand your silver sword with permanent runes that give your sword the enhancements you prefer. And you can forge new steel swords from meteorite pieces that you may stumble upon during your search for answers.

Which brings me to character developement. Every level you gain some talents, that are splitted into three categories: bronze, silver and gold. By bronze talents you can obtain lower-level talents, silver for mid-level talents and gold for the most powerful talents. It is quite nice one, and sometimes you just end up wondering, which one to take, because you can't have everything.

For movement, there are several choices and camera views. I felt that moving only using the keyboard was near impossible, so I used mouse to control movement. Not the best one to use for movement, especially with the wonky camera, but it was passable.

If I see one of those drowners in TW2...
Coming back to combat, there is one problem I must say that annoyed me - in the swamps, there are monsters bloody everywhere, and most of the time it is just better to run than fight the pitiful drowners and such, that are worth only 1XP in later game. This picture that I found pretty much visualizes what happens in Swamp cemetary at Chapter 5. Drowners everywhere. Luckily there is a talisman that repels drowners from getting unto you, but still.

This one is a bit about story, but it also is about gameplay. The story is branching, having multiple places where you must make choices - should I give these supplies, that I was commanded to guard, to the non-human rebels, or kill them, or just deny them of the supplies? Should I side with the religious fanatics of the Order, or the aforementioned non-human rebels, Scoia'tel? Or should I be like a true witcher, letting them solve their own problems? Let the witch be burned, or defend her of crime, that she seemingly didn't do? I just love these choices, as the consequences of the choices don't become evident immediately, but only hours later, to prevent save scumming for optimal outcome. But as it turns out, there is no optimal outcome - only different shades of gray.

The game has also a dynamic day/night-cycle, which brings the world alive and also affects what the people of the world do, as well what monsters are available. Some quests require you to be at certain place at certain time, but most can be completed at any given time. There are no time limits, so you can take your time doing anything you want, drinking with friends or gambling for quite some money.

The story
The game is based on Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski, the first one, Wiedźmin (The Witcher)first one released in 1990. Two of the books have been translated to English, the short-story collection The Last Wish and the first part of the Saga, The Blood of Elves. In the game, there are many, many nods to these books and probably to other books, but I really can't say because I haven't read them and until they are translated to English, I won't read them. Unless I learn Polish due to some accident or something.

The world of the game is pretty much your standard western fantasy, where building architecture isn't over the top, but resembles heavily the medieval Europe. If you dwell deeper into the world, it turns out to be quite a beast - moral ambiguity, black humour and quite realistic people. And these are present in the game as well. The story begins five years after the original saga. Geralt of Rivia, the famed witcher also known as White Wolf, has lost his memory and is brought to Kaer Morhen, the keep of witchers. Witchers were once quite respected people, needed as humans conquered new lands full of monsters. But those times are in the past, witchers are a handful and often despised by the common people. They are mutants, subjected to many alchemical and magical rituals and tests, that, if they survive, grant the witchers superhuman abilities. Witchers also become able to resist most diseases (or every, I actually don't know), but as a cost, they become infertile. Witchers are famous of their neutrality, known that they take no sides in political issues.

So, how is the story? I'd say it is one of the best ones in role-playing games, only bested by PlaneScape: Torment. The many choices you make will have their consequences, sometimes something you didn't quite expect. Sometimes the situation forces you to take sides, even if you don't want to. Such is life. As the consequences hit you, they are represented in stylish oil paintings with Geralt's voice telling how he feels about things. The ending is quite a mess, having suggestions that Alvin, the magical boy, is actually able to travel through time and become the Grandmaster of the Order, the big bad behind everything in the game. It isn't confirmed, though, but is heavily implied.

There is actually two stories, one with a clear outcome and one which doesn't affect so much the main story. The main story focuses on Geralt's search for the Salamandra, a criminal organization which attacked Kaer Morhen and stole the witchers' secrets and mutagens. Geralt must find the leader of Salamandra and destroy them once and for all. But on the side of this, is a much personal questline - the Identity. As Geralt suffers from amnesia, he must rebuild his identity. Your decisions and dialogue choices affect who Geralt turns out to be - does he avoid taking sides like a true witcher, does he stay neutral but defend the innocent and slaying monsters, that quite don't look like monsters on the outside? It is quite sad that these choices aren't addressed in the ending, but it is nice that these choices still exist.

Audio
The english voice acting is good, although sometimes it could be a bit more, alive. I haven't yet tried the Polish VA, but I've heard that it is superb compared to English. The world is full of sounds, and bring the world truly alive - the people in the game make remarks about you or the weather or themselves as you pass them by. Night/day cycle affects the soundscape, as does the weather. And quite luckily, when it rains, it truly sounds like it's raining cats and dogs. Thunder booms as it should.

The music is very atmospheric, and I must say that even though there are no music that really works outside of the game's context, the soundtrack is magnificent. Music stems from folk music, incorporating sometimes something that reminds me of heavy metal, but isn't quite that. On the right is one of my favourite pieces from the game.


Opinion in short
Things are getting serious.
It's a good game that has some gameplay issues, mostly the controls, that are not really bad, but neither really good. Story is definitely worth seeing and the choices carry real consequences, which makes replaying very worthwhile. If you like a good role-playing game and want something semi-recent, I suggest you try this. It is dark, and it is gritty. It has edges, and it is rough.


Post scriptum
Sometimes I can't help but to compare this game to BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins. Games are quite different, as DA:O takes more tactical approach to combat than Witcher, and DA:O is party-based. The comparison often stems from the similarities of the Witchers and Grey Wardens. Both are alienated from the common society and are small in numbers, given the mission to protect the people from monsters (in DA:O, from the Darkspawn).

They are quite different games, but somewhat similar. DA:O, to me, was rather mediocre game. The first playthrough was a blast, as dialogue was very well written and helped me to tolerate the sub-par plot. The origin parts were very well executed, and something I'd liked to see more. Unfortunately, they carried next to no effects on the main game. DA:O's world is very detailed in the Codex, but for some reason, it fails to represent it visually. The claimed racism against elves is rarely seen, even if you play elven character, and the world as a whole seems quite generic. The choices, that were a big part of PR talk for DA:O, proved in consecutive playthroughs to be quite meaningless. And dialogue just couldn't carry the game the second time. Hopefully DA2 will be a better game. The talk about plot spanning over 10 years gives a chance for the writers to come up with some good stuff, and personally, I've always felt that plot that revolves around the charactrer is far more better than plot, that can involve any given character.