Steam Summer sale 2013 – Games to look out for.

So it’s that time of year again.  The time when Steam comes around and says “Hey, that’s a nice wallet out have there!  It’d be a SHAME if someone emptied it…OH LOOK CHEAP GAMES!  EVERYWHERE!  :D”

Given that, I thought it’d be nice for me to hammer out a list of games that I think are work picking up if they go on sale.  I’d like to have Spotlighted all of them, but…You’ll just have to settle for a list.

XCOM Enemy unknown:  A fantastic Turn based strategy game that I’m shocked I haven’t spotlighted yet.  It’s extremely challenging and will suck you in for hours at a time.

Bastion:  A tight, immersive and all around fun action RPG.

Borderlands 2:   Yeah yeah, I know.  Most of you have already decided a long time ago if you wanted it or not.  But I’ll recommend it all the same.  Especially if you have friends to play it with.

Deus Ex, and Deus Ex Human Revolution:  Ok, The Deus Ex games are way up there among my favourite games.  Human revolution is actually my favourite game of all time, for the moment.  If you can snap these games for cheap, do it.  If you get the original game, though, be prepared for some clunkyness.  If you haven’t played a Deus Ex game yet…Wait…Why HAVEN’T you played a Deus Ex game yet?!

Dreamkiller:  It’s one of those oldschool run-and-run-circle-strafe-twitch-reflex FPS games.  It’s also really fun.  My only complaint is that it has the best premise EVER (you are a psychologist who can dive into people’s minds to literally KILL their phobias) and it doesn’t really do it justice.

Dungeon defenders:  Got friends who like Action RPGS and tower defense?  Get this and get them to get it.

Dust, an Elysian Tail:  Just go read my spotlight, I gave it a glowing review  😛

FTL – Faster Than Light:  A fantastic little space themed roguelike where defeat comes often, and the victory must be EARNED.  I got a lot of mileage out of this game.

Galactic Civilizations 2:  You want a civlization game in space?  Where you can make your own ships?  And face off against wacko aliens?  GET IT.

Half Minute Hero:  Bite sized RPG packed with humor.  It’s like a large collection of RPG themed puzzles!

Hotline Miami:  It’s super meat boy meets no more heroes, from a top down view.  If any of that perked your ears up, GRAB IT.

Lone Survivor:  For a 16 bit sidescrolling horror game, it really manages to nail the atmosphere, even though it ends a little too soon.

Mark of the Ninja:  I spotlighted it.  😀  Go get it!

Poker night at the inventory / Poker night 2:  Did you ever want to play poker with Max from Sam and Max and other various game and internet characters?  Get it.  They’re both fantastic games.  While Poker night 2 had more “game” to it, I prefer the first one just because I find the characters in that one funnier.

Recettear:  An RPG where you also run the Item shop.  It’s a nifty idea and I really enjoyed it.

Sanctum 2:  Think Borderlands style carnage meets Tower Defense. It’s fantastic.  Get some friends in on it too if you can.

Sequence:  An RPG that fusion danced with a Rhythm game and then decided to fuse with a really funny and smart little story.  It’s a surprisingly awesome combo.

Strike Suit Zero:  Probably gonna spotlight this soon.  It’s a Fantastic space sim dogfighting game.  You want to be a Gundam pilot?  This game captures that kind of feel VERY well, with great ship dogfighting to boot.

Unreal Tournament 1999:  It’s a classic twitch arena style FPS.  If that’s your thing, this game is a great little nostalgia trip.  At least, it was for me.

Uplink:  You want all the glory of being a hacker, but you don’t want to go to jail, and you don’t want to learn how to sift through code?  This game’s got you covered.  It makes hollywod-hacking really fun.  AND STRESSFUL.  You will be paranoid after just a few missions.

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines:  I spotlighted it.  It’s Deus Ex with Vampires.  What more do I need to say?  It’s amazing!

Psychonauts:  A hilarious and witty platforming adventure romp through the demented minds of various people.  It’s really fun and deserves all the praise it gets.

The Walking Dead:  Ok, I don’t tendto get emotional over games much.  This game almost made me cry.  Ok, no I mean, I got the sniffles for a good twenty minutes but…   Whatever, it’s a fantastic point and click adventure game with great story, characters, and it’ll stick with you for a long long time after you put it down.

Spec Ops The Line:  If you don’t know why you need to play this game, then I’ll just say this:  This game blew my modsbanned mind with the story.  It’s a fantastic deconstruction of the modern military shooter genre.  Not for the faint of heart, though.

And that’s all I got for the moment.  I’m sorry for contributing to the untimely demise of your wallets, friends!

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Game Spotlight – Mark of the Ninja

Picture this.

You’re a mercenary type guy.  Your first big job.  Protecting the outer perimeter of your company’s compound on the graveyard shift.  Boring work.  So you’re there, chatting with a buddy about going to a little bar he knows to pick up some chicks after work when suddenly, one of the streetlights goes out.  You spin around, checking the light out, but  nothing seems to be around it.  You turn back to your buddy and…he’s gone.

You yelp in pain as a wooden dart plonks on your helmet.  Growling angrily, you spin around, looking for the source.  It seems to have come from that streetlight you just checked.  So you shine your flashlight up there again and…”HOLYGEEZWHATTHEHELL!”  Your buddy is strung up by a chain, with a large hole hole where his neck used to be.  You scream, firing wildly, and step backwards, until at last your back is safely against a wall…

Sorry, did I say safely?  A pair of hands grab your legs and pull you swiftly into a vent.  You don’t even have time to scream as a blade gets shoved into your head by something with a blood red tattoo all over his face.

Congratulations.  You’ve just been ninja’d by the hero of Mark of the Ninja.

I’ll put this plainly.  I freaking LOVE this game.

I happen to really like stealth games, and this is one of the best ones I’ve played in years.

If the name hasn’t already clued you in, you play a ninja.  A real ninja.  Not one of those kids in orange pajamas whose definition of tactics involves charging into everything head first to kick its ass.

(No offense meant to any Naruto fans.)
(But you have to admit that 95% of that show’s cast don’t behave like actual ninjas.)

No, I mean one of those “sneak around in the shadows and do your job without being seen unless you want to be seen” kinds of ninjas.

Pictured above:  AN ACTUAL NINJA.

The story is somewhat simple, but they make it feel rather interesting.  You’re one of the best and brightest students of Clan Hisomu, one of the last (if not THE last) ninja clans operating in the modern age.  The secret to their success?  A strange ink that comes from a rare desert plant.  When put into a tattoo, they grant the bearer powers of perception and speed…But at a terrible price.  Your mission?  To take revenge on a private military company that violently raided your hidden sanctuary.  There’s more to it than that, obviously, leading up to a phenomenal ending…….Right up until the last 30 seconds, in which they do something that I feel was quite a bit annoying.  Aside from that, it was really well done.

What really sells it is the aesthetics.  Everything looks either vibrant, or dark and inky (like it should, given that it takes place almost exclusively at night).  The world and characters look stunning, and the little story cutscenes really suck you in.  In gameplay, it also helps that they have easy to identify visual cues for everything, making the stealth a joy to play.

Ah yes.  The stealth.  This game plays like a dream most of the time.  Everything feels smooth and natural.  Aside from one or two very specific locations, you can seamlessly go from wall climb to ceiling climb to hookshotting to a perch to dropping into a hiding spot to stealth kill an enemy in perfectly flowing sequence.  And the little visual cues that show you how much noise you’re making, or where an enemy is looking are really intuitive and keep you up to speed with your situation with just a glance.

As for the stealthing itself, there are a huge variety of scenarios you’ll be faced with, each with many solutions.  Do you want to go through, killing only when convenient, and ducking into vents and dropping spike traps for unwitting prey?  Go for it.  Do you want to sneak through peacefully, leaving confused guards, and total darkness in your wake?  You can do that.  Do you want to be an evil version of batman, terrorizing guards into shooting each other, hanging their buddies’ corpses up from lampposts, drinking in their screams of terror and then finally dropping onto them once they are alone and terrified to grant them the mercy of eternal slumber?  Yeah, me too.  😀

You have a ton of tools, ranging from bamboo darts that can take out lights and distract guards, to smoke bombs, spike traps, a grappling hook, and even unlockable ninja styles (read, ninja suits) that change your abilities.  And each environment is a playground full of vents, grappling perches, and various hiding places.  Oh, and plenty of well armed guards and lights that will expose you to the former’s bullets.

While it’s certainly fun to just go through each level willy-nilly, attempting a pure-stealth pacifist run is a huge challenge, even with the ninja suit that’s designed for pure stealth.  But overall, the most fun I’ve had was abusing the terror mechanic.  Certain actions (like making a guard spot a corpse strung up from a grapple point) will cause guards to enter a panic state.  In this state, their motions become erratic and unpredictable, and they’ll shoot at the slightest noise.  While this might seem like a bad thing, it’s actually very beneficial (and fun!).  By carefully luring them around, and provoking them at just the right times, you can make your foes friendly fire each other which is both amusing and very rewarding, points-wise.

As if that weren’t enough, there’s a lot of optional objectives, collectibles, a leaderboard and a new game plus mode that makes the game a lot harder.  As far as stealth games go, that’s pretty good.

As of this weekend (the 21rst to the 24th of March 2013) It’s on sale.  If you like stealth games you really ought to pick this up while you can.  Highly recommended.

Game spotlight: Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines.

Every once in a while a game will come along that will just be so damn GOOD that it deserves to be played by everyone…and yet something or another happens and it just….doesn’t seem to catch the attention it deserves.

Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines is one of those games.

Basically, it got rushed through final production and came out on the same day as half life 2 (It I remember right).  As a result, the original release was about as buggy as a tropical jungle.  Surprise surprise, the game didn’t sell well at all, the studio folded, and this amazing game was almost lost and forgotten about.

Fortunately, dedicated fans have not only patched almost all the bugs, but they also restored a LOT of the cut content, making this one of the BEST games I have ever played.

How so?  Let me break it down for you all.
***

Vampire the masquerade Bloodlines (referred to as just “bloodlines” from this point on) is an action RPG with stealth and lots of social interaction.  Basically, it’s Deus Ex with Vampires.  And none of this “sparkles in the sun” silliness.  I’m talking predatory, monstrous, manipulative and nasty vampires coming in many flavours (from the sexy Toreador to insane Malkavians to ugly as hell Nosferatu).


If you woke up with a face like this, you’d hate your unlife too.

The story is pretty riveting, delving deep into the mess that is vampire politics, with you being a new agent of sorts for the local overseer, Lacroix.  Not that you really want to.  In the very first cutscene, you get Turned, are informed that serving Lacroix is in your best interests if you want to live, and get a VERY rude awakening to the draconian rules of vampire society.  The Masquerade.

Ah yes, the masquerade.  You see, if humans find out about the vampires walking in their midst, right down the streets of modern downtown LA…Well, they are going to go Simon Belmont on you all.  So, you have 5 strikes.  If you Feed on people in public, use obviously supernatural powers in plain sight or get spotted by a civilian when playing the above mentioned Nosferatu, you will get a Masquerade violation.  With each violation, you run greater risk of running into vampire hunters out in the open.  5 violations and, as Smiling Jack (One of the most awesome characters in the game) puts it:  “You wind up staked and baked”, Game over.

So not only do you need to accomplish your missions for your new overseer, but you need to be careful when and where you Feed and use your powers.

Each vampire clan (ie:  Character class) is fairly unique, each with a specific focus, and a clear weakness.  For example, Nosferatu are so ugly that being seen in a civilian area will likely lead to a masquerade violation (throwing social interaction mostly out the window for them), but they make up for it with excellent stealth skills and melee mastery.  Then there are the Tremere, who can never fully level up their physical attributes, but can bend blood and break into the minds of most enemies.


And then there are these guys who seduce the hell out of everything and shoot the survivors

But most of your powers come at a price.  Blood.  To fuel your various powers, you’ll need to feed on mortals, blood packs, or rats if you can stomach that.  If you run low on blood, you can’t use your various abilities, and worse, you run the risk of frezying and losing control, which could easily lead to a Masquerade violation, or running right into an ambush.

Gameplay has a lot of diversity.  You can focus on stealth, wasting armies of mooks without taking a hit.  You can charm your way through a lot of encounters.  You can pick locks, hack computers, mind control or seduce or bribe people to get what you want…You can go close combat or guns or focus more on your higher end abilities like making glowing wolves appear out of nowhere to chow down on your enemies.  The variety is excellent.


Decisions, decisions…What do I want to be awesome at next?

That said, it suffers a bit of Deus Ex Human Revolutions problem of boss fights.  While most of them aren’t anywhere NEAR as frustrating as HR’s bosses since you likely have a skill or two you can use to gain an advantage (and the bosses only really start getting hard around the second half, when you should be more than prepared), it can be frustrating to have a melee character facing off against someone who can teleport out of range after a few whacks, and then starts pestering you with his gun.

The real star of the game is how engaging the world is.  The characters are well written (Smiling Jack, Nines, and the Voerman Sisters really stand out) and the game makes a concerted effort to make you wonder which side in this conflict you’ll ultimately side with, and one in particular is a refreshing choice to be able to make.  Favors will be curried, backs will be stabbed, and your status as a newly Embraced Vampire will be exploited by every corpse with a week of seniority and some dirty work that needs doing.  And you will love it.

So if you’re a fan of action RPGs or stealth games, or really loved the Deus Ex games, you owe it to yourself to sink your fangs into this game.  It really is that good.

Just make sure you grab the latest fan patch HERE.  And it’s still being updated and improved to this day.

Happy hunting everyone.