Sunday, July 10, 2011

Steam Summer Impressions III

Sadly, I'm going to have to remove one game from my list for now. I tried to boot up Magicka, and it was really pretty but running painfully slowly. I double-checked the system requirements (which I'm in the bad habit of not checking) and discovered that my graphics card is just slightly underpowered. :-( I'm researching workarounds. Otherwise, this may have to wait until I get a more powerful computer. However, on to happier subjects, namely, games I've quite enjoyed playing:

Braid is a 2D-platformer with a neat artistic style - the levels look painted, and the main character has a good amount of detail (his hair even moves!). I've beaten the first three worlds but haven't finished any of the jigsaw puzzles yet. The story is interesting, if a little vague, and, as Jeremy has said before, doesn't tie into the gameplay, which is odd. All I understand at the moment is that I'm trying to find the princess and something about making up for past mistakes.

It's got a Mario-esque run and jump on enemies mechanic, with time manipulation as an added twist! Each world introduces a new way that reversing time interacts with things on the level or a new way you have to think about it to solve the puzzle. It's been very interesting so far, and quite a lot of fun, even if some of the puzzle pieces are frustratingly out of my reach at the moment. I appreciate that it recognizes its similarities to Mario in the end of each world, where a dinosaur comes out of the castle and tells you, predictably, that your princess is elsewhere.

I've been challenged by many of these puzzles not necessarily because they are hard to do (though some of them do fall under that category), but because they are hard to think through, which is the way puzzles should be. Braid uses some neat variations on the time-bending mechanic and has been enjoyable to play. The story so far has been lacking and some of the puzzles seem incredibly obtuse at the moment, but it's a solid game nonetheless.

Trine is a 2D physics-based platformer with 3D graphics. It's got a classic dungeon-crawling game aesthetic, and the graphics work well within the limited-movement environment. There's some backstory about the kingdom under seige by the undead, and you begin the game as a Thief, who is trying to steal a gem from the Astral Academy while nobody's looking. She gets to the gem, and you wake up as a Wizard, who goes deeper into the Academy to avoid the undead. He touches the gem, and you wake up as a Knight, who is excited to be brave and such and battle the undead. He makes it to the gem, and the three are bound into one body.

Trine has you use the unique abilities of the three (bow and arrow and grappling hook, creating boxes and levitating things, and fighting and picking things up, respectively) to navigate levels. In nearly every case, there are multiple ways to solve a given puzzle. This is good, because when one character dies the player isn't stuck facing a puzzle that character is needed to solve. The prolifically scattered checkpoints also help in reviving players needed for puzzles. The controls are pretty simple, though I sometimes flounder around in trying to quickly switch between characters (with the 1,2,3 buttons).

It's a fun game so far, and the characters have had some amusing banter. I do feel sometimes that I'm solving a puzzle in a way I'm not supposed to, and there are some things I haven't figured out how to get to. Often, the wizard's ability to summon boxes and levitate things can make easy ways around puzzles if you're creative enough. Another problem I've encountered so far is that the Wizard has no attack, so if he's the only character I've got left when I encounter enemies, my only option is to drop a box on one or two and book it for the next checkpoint.

It's a fun concept and I enjoy the physics-based platforming, which has been mostly straightforward so far. There is some ability to work around what you're "supposed" to do, but the level designs have been well thought out, and I'm definitely going to go back and try to get the secrets on previous levels. I wish that the game could save in the middle of a level, particularly at checkpoints, but the levels are reasonably short so that this is rarely a problem.

Torchlight is an action-adventure RPG that takes place in and under the mining town of Torchlight. I've played two hours so far and done the first main quest and a sidequest. It's a lot of fun, if more limited than the traditional RPG. You can pick one of three classes: Destroyer (swordsman, tank), Vanquisher (ranged, rogue), and Alchemist (mage). I picked Vanquisher, partially because she's the only girl. You also get the choice of a cat or dog pet, who will battle alongside you. The graphics are good and the aesthetic matches a classic fantasy-RPG feel. The game does get a little steampunk, as you can pick up guns (which are sadly considerably more powerful than my beloved arrows) and there's a friendly robot in town.

The levels of the mine are randomly generated, as my housemate discovered after beginning a game after watching me play the first level. The mechanics are pretty simple - left click to move, left click to attack, right click to do your quick spell/skill. I have some trouble with this in that when I miss an enemy, my ranged character charges into the heat of battle. It's been good hack-and-slash fun so far. The normal difficulty, which in games is usually enough of a challenge for a somewhat lazy gamer like me, is too easy. I haven't died and my equipment seems overpowered for the level that I'm on. I can't switch difficulties midgame, so I guess I'll finish it on normal and then try a harder playthrough with another character class.

There's a treasure chest in town where you can drop objects to be picked up by your other profiles, which is neat. I haven't used it yet, but if my Vanquisher finds a rare sword that she can't get much use from, I could easily transfer that to a Destroyer character. Also in town are your standard merchants, and people who offer to enchant your weapons. There's a familiar mechanic about powering weapons with gems, and they can be retrieved later at the expense of the weapon.

My favorite mechanic in Torchlight is that your pet has can carry as many items as you can. The best part of this is that you can give your pet items you don't need and send it back to town to sell them and bring you back the profits. While this means that your animal friend is gone from your party for a short time (19 secs in the first few levels, at least), this means that you can free up your inventory and keep making gold without having to leave the dungeon! And as somebody who normally plays lighter characters who can't hold as much, this is something I really appreciate.

While Torchlight doesn't have much going for it as far as innovation within the genre, it has still proven to be a fun game that implements its genre well. The difficulties should be better scaled - at this rate I could be playing with Hardcore mode on (death is permanent). I am enjoying hacking my way through the dungeons, racking up gold and fame, while taking the occasional fishing break to feed Trouble, my trusty cat companion.

Only one more day of sales left - we'll have to see if any more catch my eye and loosen my purse strings. Until then, I'll be dungeon-crawling!

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