Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

Weiner Review: Geneforge 5 January 16, 2009

Filed under: 3 weiners,Games,Mac,PC,Reviews — Gwyddia @ 11:28 am
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Shape On!

Shape On!

If you are not familiar with the Avernum and Geneforge series of games, you are missing out. Developed for both Mac and PC by Spiderweb Software, these RPGs eschew flashy visuals for deep story and hours and hours of solid gameplay.

 

Theme:

The latest from Spiderweb is Geneforge 5. The core concept of the Geneforge series is based on the existence of people known as Shapers. Shapers can mold matter and magic into semi-intelligent or even intelligent creatures that are subservient to the Shaper. The classic Shaper hierarchy is fine with this, believing that Shapers’ creations are lesser beings and should be treated as such. A growing group of Creations, backed a group of Rebels, disagree, and have been fighting the Shapers for five games now.

Geneforge 5 finds this world on the verge of total disruption. The Rebels are succeeding, and regime change seems imminent. The Shaper Council has begun infighting and choosing sides at will. You are thrown into this as a character with a mysterious past, who might even be a Creation, but who has rare Shaper skills.

The game centers as much around you finding out who and what you are as it does on your role in the greater world. That’s a welcome change, as the last four game in the series have been strong but slight variations on the theme of Empire vs. Rebels. That classic trope is present here, too, but there seem to be many more factions and options for the player to choose from than in previous iterations.

 

A typical town scene from Geneforge 5.

A typical town scene from Geneforge 5.

Art:

Art is not Spiderweb’s bailiwick. Spiderweb is largely the work of one man, Jeff Vogel, and he has made a conscious choice to put his efforts into writing over visuals. As a result these games have passable characters, decent textures, and utterly forgettable items. The advantage is that you can play these on an aged system or the newly-popular Netbooks. The disadvantage is that they look like they were made in 1996 with minor visual tweaks along the way.

 

 

Gameplay:

The heart of any RPG is its battle system.  Fights in Geneforge are classic turn-based fare with a bit of strategy thrown in.  Characters have action points which they can spend to move, fight, or both.  You have to be in range of an attack for it to hit, so figuring out how few points you can spend on movement of each character or Creation and still attack is key.  After that, though, it is very much an RPG-type magic and mundane attack system with the expected status change spells and elemental weaknesses.  

 

The World Map.

The World Map.

When you’re not in battle, movement is accomplished through an overland map system. New areas open up as you move through the map.  Once you’ve cleared an area, you can always move to it from any other cleared area.  This is a real time-saver, and takes away the question of annoying random battles.  You can always see what’s coming in Geneforge 5.

 

 

 

 

Overall:

For people who have played through the Geneforge series, Geneforge 5 is more of the same.  Solid but somewhat tired story, good battle system, excellent writing.  If you are following the Geneforge storyline and want to know more, have at it.  For newcomers to Spiderweb’s particular brand of game, Geneforge 5 is as good an entry point as any.  It assumes no prior knowledge, though prior knowledge will add depth to the proceedings.  In the end, this game sells for $28 and you’ll be hard-pressed to find more RPG entertainment for less money these days.

 

For being a solid RPG, if repetitive for fans of the series, Geneforge 5 gets Three Weiners out of Five.


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Pain Unimaginable January 12, 2009

Filed under: Mac,Microsoft,Other Folks,PC — Gwyddia @ 8:25 pm

It began a few days ago.  Microsoft, apparently non-ironically, introduced their “Garage Band killer”, Songsmith.  

(Note the kid is using a MacBook.)  

But moving on, today this appeared on the intarwebs (thanks Gizmodo). It appears to be the developmentally disabled love child of Van Halen and a Casio keyboard demo button.

Why? WHY?

 

Spore Expansion Pack Coming This Spring January 8, 2009

Filed under: Games,PC,Spore — Gwyddia @ 12:28 pm
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Not so excited about the Spore: Creepy and Cute parts pack?  Want more – ahem – gameplay?  

Your wish is Maxis’ command.  Spore Galactic Adventures will be released in March.  While details are still scarce, this new title promises to be just the first in of a Sims-like prolific progeny of small gameplay and large item expansions.  We’ll know more during Maxis’ special even later this month, where they announce their full “Spore line-up for 2009″.  No word on the presence or absence of DRM for these new goodies.

 

WeinerCast Wednesday! GVGA Edition December 31, 2008

The Weinercast is go! This week: Gwyddia Hosts The 2008 Gnome Video Game Awards.

As always, the Weinercast is available on Gwyddia - Weinercast

Please leave us a review or a comment/question, and we’ll address it on air next week!

A non-iTunes link if you need it.

 

Let The Gender Reassignment Commence! December 11, 2008

Filed under: Blizzard,Games,Mac,PC,World of Warcraft — Gwyddia @ 2:10 pm

Blizz has announced that World of Warcraft players will be able to change their character design features – hair, skin, gender for $15 beginning soon. It’s key to note that the changes are ONLY design features – i.e. cosmetic stuff. No race or class changes allowed. Blizz considered race changes, but decided against it as the new enhanced racial abilities could conceivably turn into a race-a-day nightmare as players tried to swap out racials like gear. Kudos to Blizz for choosing game stability and cohesion over the choice to make even more money off hardcore swappers.

 

GTAIV For PC – Now With SecuROM! December 2, 2008

Filed under: Games,GamesLaw.net,GTA,Other Folks,PC — Gwyddia @ 8:05 pm
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From my piece on GamesLaw.net:

Despite the truly epic amount of litigation fomenting around DRM and SecuROM in particular, Rockstar has decided to use the product on the PC release of Grand Theft Auto IV this week, stating that SecuROM is “the most effective form of disc based copy protection[.]”

 

It is important to note that while SecuROM makes a product that many people dislike, the use of a SecuROM product by a company does not necessarily mean the advent of the sort of draconian measures found in Spore. GTAIV’s flavor, for example, will require anyone who does not purchase the game via Steam to have the disc in the drive while playing, and will require a one-time authentication on install. There are unlimited installs of the game after the initial authentication, and those do NOT require re-authentication.

 

That being said, like Spore, uninstalling GTAIV will still leave some remnants of SecuROM behind. As per Rockstar:

In regards to SecuROM, deleting GTA IV will remove the active functions if it is the only application that requires SecuROM, but some traces will remain, such as a registry entry and file, which allows you to reinstall without re-entering your authentication code. We are working with SecuROM to post information on our support pages regarding how to remove these inactive traces of the program for users who wish to do so.

At least they’re working on it, but why does the program do that in the first place? And isn’t that potentially malicious lingering part of what is calling SecuROM to legal question in the first place?

 

Review: Fallout 3 November 11, 2008

fallout3

There is a Fallout fever in my house.  The Weiner Daddy is playing on 360, I’m playing on the PC using both keyboard and mouse and the Microsoft game controller.  We’ve been playing since the game was released on October 28th, and neither of us is anywhere near completing it.  I will also note that neither of us have encountered any of the nasty bugs reported by Kotaku, but these are known issues, so your mileage could vary.

 

Theme:

Welcome to post-apocalyptia, children!  The theme and setting are the same no matter which version you choose. Fallout is set in an alternate history universe full of retro-futuristic kitsch and post-bombing hell. Imagine the American 1950s, only with 22nd century laser and gene-mapping technology.  By the time you are on the scene, the bomb has long since dropped.  It’s 200 years later, you are ready to crawl out of your sealed Vault and see what’s what in the ruins of Washington, DC.  The Capitol Wasteland comprises a HUGE area, and the sidequests alone can take you hours upon hours.  Unlike Bethesda’s Oblivion, however, you can and will want to get back on track with the main quest eventually.

Welcome to the world of yesterday's tomorrow!

Welcome to the world of yesterday

 

Art:

Think bleak.  As befits the setting, the Fallout 3 world is full of brown, grey, and yellow.  Unlike the repetitive trash-strewn levels of Hellgate: London, the environment of Fallout 3 is huge and fairly varied. When does Bethesda reuse something in the game, they are doing it on purpose.  Think all those tract-home shells look alike? That’s the point.  All of that suburban sameness makes it much more powerful the first time you see the ruins of the Washington Monument or the Capitol Building.

 

The character models are straight out of Oblivion, albeit with different clothes. The facial mapping and details are improved from Bethesda’s RPG, but the idea is the same, with the PC having the edge over the 360 in detail.  Enemies vary, from mutated critters to raider gangs to super mutants.  The critters are pretty much all the same, but the raiders and mutants are varied.  If you look closely you can see the attention to detail, as most of the humanoids’ armor is actually pieced together bits of the trash strewn across the Capitol Wasteland.

 

Gameplay:

It is here that the PC and 360 versions diverge.  Fallout 3 is not a shooter and it is not a full-on action RPG, but is something of a chimera of the two.  After fighting with the mouse and keyboard for over 20 hours, it is clear to me that Fallout 3 was designed for a controller.  Even the lowest mouse sensitivity option will swing your view way wide of the enemy in front of you.  Lockpicking is nearly impossible to do without failing a few times, due to the twitchy nature of the PC controls.  My experience was vastly improved when I used a gamepad on my PC.

 

Combat is its own strange bird.  On the shooter side you have the option to take a first-person view and use your weapons as you see fit. On the ARPG side you have the V.A.T.S. system; action points-based pause-and-play combat.  Contrary to popular belief, you can’t really play Fallout 3 entirely as a shooter or entirely in V.A.T.S.  Most of the time you’ll use V.A.T.S., then try and duck and cover while your AP recharges to use it again.  Why?  Because the FPS perspective doesn’t work that well.  The target reticule is small and inaccurate, and there is no lock-on.  This is true in both the PC and 360 versions.  

 

Use V.A.T.S. to shoot the junk off his trunk.

Use V.A.T.S. to shoot the junk off his trunk.

Searching for and picking up items must almost always be done in first person view.  The “target boxes” for small items, such as stimpaks, is ridiculously tiny, and unless you’re nose-to-nose with them, you may not be able to highlight them to grab them.  This is a little better on the 360 version, but here again the PC version suffers from poor mouse control.

 

Overall:

Don’t let the PC control issues dissuade you.  Fallout 3 is a fantastic game.  It is engaging, fun, and deep.  You will care about your character.  You will care about some NPCs and want to kill others. You will make irrevocable choices early on that will truly affect your game path and the game world. Evil is as viable a choice as good, and your experience will differ greatly depending on which path you take.  You can get through the main quest in about 10 hours, yes, but if you do, you’re missing the point.  I didn’t miss it at all, and I’m wondering how I’m going to balance playing more Fallout 3 with the release of Wrath of the Lich King on Thursday.

 

For being an excellent and engaging game with real consequences and deep story branches, I am giving Fallout 3 five weiners out of five.

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