Alone in Space

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Developer: Butterflyware | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

I completed this first person action adventure in less than 4 hours. I woke up alone in a desolated space station on a stormy planet and had to find my way off. There was an abundance of corridors with tilted chairs and a ton of boxes that gave the game a very samey look. Most of the areas were mazes and there were connect or sliding puzzles to open doors, pass codes to find in big widescreen log screens, stationary lasers to cut doors open, sizzling magenta anomalies to traverse carefully, and much more.

I’ve seen reviewers on Steam pushing down the walking simulator stamp, but that’s not fair. Yes, there are sizable periods of time where you’re not doing much else than traverse a maze, but there are enough puzzles and dangerous passages to make it a real game. In fact, some of the dangerous passages even got me quite aggravated. There are no monsters or humans to be found, but the anomalies zapped me dead until I figured out how to throw down a metal bolt step by step to find my way through the parts that didn’t zap me. There was also a section with flaming gas leaks where I kept coughing and had to crouch or close rooms to kill the flames, and enough coughing meant death. Lightning could sometimes zap me dead in a corridor if my timing was off. There were a couple of sections with the air being sucked out fast.

And of course, don’t get in front of a stationary laser.

Technobabylon

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Developer: Technocrat Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

This was an excellent AGS cyberpunk adventure game, at least as good as (if not better than) Beneath a Steel Sky and Gemini Rue. After the fifth Broken Sword I thought I was through with adventure games, but this game managed to fondle gray adventure cells I thought had gone extinct. All it took was the right futuristic setting, the right story, and the right puzzles – along with great voice acting.

Part of the reason I liked this game so much was also that none of the areas (or chapters) were too big. Less than half a dozen screens and for the most part even less than that. The inventory was usually also small, rarely were there enough items to make a second page necessary. It made for a nice balance where nothing felt too difficult, yet it wasn’t so easy that I could just stroll along.

That being said, I never felt the need for a walkthrough.

Backlog/Checklist Web Sites for Video Games

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As a creator of a backlog/checklist web site for video games myself, of course I need to keep track of what the competition looks like. It’s only natural to check out whether your own stuff can hold its own. Sure, I have a ton of my own ideas, but maybe a site supports something I hadn’t thought of.

Besides, I can see in my activity log they are also checking out my site. What goes around.

But what really is a shame is how unknown these kinds of sites are. Apart from the two usual suspects, Backloggery and HowLongToBeat, it truly is a niche. Whenever someone talks about the concept in forum threads, you can be sure that at least one of those two sites will be mentioned. Anyone else among truly nice sites are practically never linked to, unless a lonesome cowboy fan happens to stop by.

So I’ve decided to list what I have found during these years, no matter how it may affect visitor retention on my own site. I’ll try to keep the listing of sites relatively objective since I’m a player too.

Into the Mists of Pandaria

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So I finally gave in and went back to World of Warcraft to check out Mists of Pandaria – the expansion right after Cataclysm. Curiosity and nostalgia got the better of me. Last I played this game was about 6 years ago. In fact, the last report about it should be right here in the 2011 line of blog posts.

If you’re wondering how it’s like to level from 85 in 2017, in a time where two more expansions may have affected the balance of health and damage, look no further. It was all solo – no dungeons or raids.

And I can say right off the bat that it was too easy, even for a jellyfish like me. I can’t for logical reasons say if it was always like this or if the two later expansions and all their patches have affected the balance. I sure hope it was harder when the expansion arrived in 2012. I played my main Retribution Paladin and I could kill almost all solo enemies in approximately two ability attacks. Typically a judgment and then a follow-up. Solo enemies also did really weak damage to me, typically a total of much less than 10%. I rarely bothered with healing spells, food or bandages. The only place where it felt like Blizzard finally turned the tides was right after going through the wall gate into the north area of Townlong Steppes. There were a few mobs here that actually smacked my health bar down for me to see an actual gap.

But alas, it turned out to be the exception that proved the rule.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 4

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This is part 4 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

May 2005

Izz from our guild (a level 42 Priest) and I went to Arathi Highlands where I managed to close a couple of elite quests. First we killed the stone giant Fozruk (he was easier than I thought) and then we entered Stromgarde Keep to get the artifacts in the tower. Here we found a Paladin and a Warrior had just wiped. I resurrected them both, and as thanks they helped us both get the artifacts. It’s in situations like these that the game really shines and shows when an online game can be really fascinating.1 May 2005

One thing I have skipped so far is that I wanted Bricaard to be a great enchanter. I had increased this skill meticulously by disenchanting a lot of gear and buying materials from the auction house.

I managed to buy the final reagents at the auction house and was ready for a trip to Uldaman to reach the enchanting master. Degaul and Sebastianus from my guild lent me a hand, and we quickly found the inconveniently placed woman. I bought the artisan level and trained from 225 to 250 using the reagents, thereby squeezing all the recipes available out of her. Nice keeping it to just one trip.3 May 2005

After a few short visits here and there in Azeroth, I went to Hinterlands and picked up quests. The town Aerie Peak used new building prefabs I hadn’t seen before. There were planes and tanks inside. I killed trolls and found a lot of feathers. After delivering the quests I dinged to level 51 and was finally able to get the new buff spell Blessing of Kings. It could increase all the attributes of a player with 10%.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 3

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This is part 3 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

April 2005

I bought some plate armor at the auction. My level 40 paladin now had more than 2000 hit points and was getting close to 3000 armor. I redefined the keys Q for my mount and E for Seal of Command.

Along with Danes from my current guild we started a chain of runs in Scarlet Monastery, a big place that was split up in several smaller dungeon instances. The journey there was actually quite a hassle. We started in Southshore, rode past the magical sphere of Dalaran, swam through a lake with small islands, then rode through a low-level Horde zone with a couple of lethal “Level ??” PvP soldiers on our tails.

First we visited the Graveyard (the smallest with no quests) and then the Library. It went well for a while but on the way out we pulled too many. Here I tried using Divine Intervention, a timed shield of immunity to protect another player from harm while the enemies run back. Throwing this spell was always a suicide on my part and the other player was then supposed to revive the fallen party members afterwards.

Unfortunately the guildies didn’t know about this mechanism and we just wiped anyway.

Another not so cool thing was that our pulling player did so using his character instead of a ranged weapon or spell. Nevertheless it went better in the Armory and we even killed the boss Herod. As he died it started pouring in with several dozens of additional enemies, but luckily they were not elite and could be exterminated with area of effect (AOE) spells. We did okay – but there was still a lot to learn.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 2

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This is part 2 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

March 2005

After getting the guild tabard for Bricaard (it made me look like a royal knight) I helped my friend Marc with my priest for a while, but it was boring doing the same quests again that I had already done with Bricaard. It was probably the first good hint that leveling alts wasn’t really for me.

Bricaard then went to Duskwood, the third zone that took place in an ominous dark forest with undeads. I was together with Bulwai most of the time, and he told me about a Scandinavian guild that he was also a member of. All of the members were grownups and there was a friendly tone. Unfortunately the guild leader was on a ski vacation, so I had to wait a while in case I wanted to change guilds.

Questing with Bulwai in Duskwood was great some of the time, but it wasn’t always fantastic.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 1

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This is part 1 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. I can’t guarantee that I will go all the way, but I’ll try to add parts when I’m in the mood for more.

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to video games in general. Back in the 80’s and 90’s on the C64 on Amiga, I was much more interested in coding, making chiptunes and being part of the demo scene culture. This continued in the 90’s on the PC where I was into AdLib music. I dabbled a little bit with adventure games and the first couple of Tomb Raider games, but I never considered it serious.

This changed radically in 2001 with an epiphany, almost like flipping a switch. Suddenly I was grabbed by single-player PC games and played them back to back, like I was possessed. Every game was pondered and described in my digital diaries, a writing habit I had started back in 1996 and still do to this day. I now considered it an honorable and fascinating hobby to experience and complete PC games.

I listed my victories in Excel and to anyone else, it might have seemed like genuine OCD.

But burning through single-player video games like that of course made me step up several times to keep the hobby fresh. I started playing RPG, a genre I had never really touched before. I didn’t only play the new stuff, I also went back and played a lot of the classic RPG and FPS. I completed isometric RPG like the Baldur’s Gate series and then Morrowind in 2004, a game I found too overwhelming at release.

After having completed more than 250 games and reaching 2005, I was starting to get a bit bored with a lot of single-player games. It was getting harder finding innovative titles and the novelty was wearing off. To make matters even worse, I was sort of slapped completely silly by one exceedingly impossible mission in Tribes: Vengeance that frustrated me enough to actually make me consider quitting the hobby.

I needed a change, and that’s when I started hearing about World of Warcraft.

PC Gamer Confessions

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I read an article at PC Gamer quite a while back (actually it’s from October 2015) about gaming confessions. They talked about being opinionated; about having pet peeves and quirks.

During the years of completing now around 500 games (mostly on PC) I have of course maintained my own internal list of these. So why not steal this idea and try it out for myself? I guess it’s time to let it all out.

If you’re been looking for post where you’ll see really questionable opinions, this will be it. I’m sure there’s going to be a few oddities below that will make almost anyone’s head spin.

The Witcher 3: Leftovers

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2016 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

I completed the main story of The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine (the second expansion pack) in the end of December 2016 and wrote a blog post about it, but I still had a few question marks and secondary quests to finish off and I did so in January. I must say that some of these secondary quests were really funny and absolutely worth completing. I’ll get into detail about some of them in the spoiler section below.

It also turned out that there were a few additions to the game that I had not discovered yet in my previous blog post. One was the “Hanse” bases – unique map icons of fortified castles or caves swarming with bandits. Clearing these out could be challenging, especially if some of the bandits managed to light signal fires to call upon reinforcements. A base cleared out would be followed up by a short cutscene of soldiers taking over the place. Bandits in the surrounding areas would then have dispersed.

Screenshot

Another change was that clearing out a town had a different cutscene. In the vanilla game, villagers would immediately walk in and settle down. Now Geralt started meditating instead, a timelapse of a day passing by was shown, and as Geralt came back to his senses, villagers were now living and working there. It made sense that the developers wanted to make this change. The previous cutscene felt like the villagers were just outside the combat area, waiting for Geralt to finish off the monsters.

“Great, he killed them – let’s go!”