Worth the wait, Homeworld, 2/4/15

The Mothership

I had meant to play Pillars of Eternity, that had been the plan for months. I had even played a whole 120 hour game (Baldur’s Gate 2) just to make sure I could cope with real-time combat in an isometric RPG.

But I am not playing Pillars, even though my family have gone to the in-laws for Easter and I have had to stop home because I messed up my Saturday swop. Despite having four nights and a day of free gaming time, I am not playing Pillars. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Pillars is no good or even that I don’t want to play it. It’s just that I have higher priorities, namely trying to save the remnants of a dying civilization. They are hanging helpless in the huge black void of space as I write, waiting for my swift return. They need me to guide and protect them through their hazardous journey across the galaxy and return them safely to their Homeworld. Even now, I can see in my mind’s eye the Mothership hanging in space; huge, but vulnerable. Continue reading

Homeworld Remastered, PC, 1999 and 2015

Homeworld

I desperately wanted to play Homeworld when it was first released in 1999, but my computer was more than six years old at the time and didn’t stand a chance of being able to run it. Instead I pined for it, dreamt of it and persuaded Kalmfist to buy it; not that that did me any good, since he lived on the other side of the country at the time.

But this year, I finally got to play it and I was not disappointed. Homeworld is a 3D, real-time strategy game set in space. Your aim is to guide the Mothership and the rest of the fleet safely to your ancestral Homeworld. While it is a difficult game to learn, it rewards players who invest the time and effort necessary to master its systems and by the end of the game you truly feel like a skilled space tactician.

What is most striking about the game is the sheer size and majesty of the experience. It does a magnificent job of using scale to demonstrate the vastness of space. But more than this, it uses magnificent visuals combined with a haunting soundtrack to help the player feel as if they really are in the story. Alone, running from an enemy who ruthlessly destroyed your civilisation, your fleet is at once huge and powerful against opponents and yet tiny and insignificant against the backdrop of space. I felt compelled to protect them against the harsh empty vacuum of space and help them reach their Homeworld.

Quartermaster General, Board game, 2014

Quartermaster General

When I first saw Quartermaster General played, I was underwhelmed.   It seemed mean that the Italians got beaten up so badly, I couldn’t quite see why anyone would want to play as them. The next time I saw it played, I was shocked when the plucky Italians stomped into the Ukraine and then later saved Germany’s ass. “Huh?” I thought, “they’re supposed to be Europe’s whipping boys”. The third game was even stranger, with Russia lunching an early push through Asia to capture China and give the Japanese a serious headache all game. Continue reading

To Hell…and back? Baldur’s Gate 2, 24/3/15

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It’s all done, well sort of. I finished Baldur’s Gate 2 yesterday, which was good timing, because Pillars of Eternity comes out in two days’ time. Pillars was one of the reasons for playing BG2 as I wanted to see if I could cope with playing an ‘Infinity engine’ game; as you have probably guessed, I could and then some. BG2 turned out to be a masterpiece; this will come as no surprise to all the people who have played it at some point during the 15 years since it was first published. But it was a surprise for me because I was doubtful about how well it would hold up given its age. Continue reading

Kicking Beholder Ass – Playing Baldur’s Gate II, 23/2/15

BurgandyBeholder

I stride into the centre of the living room and perform a perfect karate kick, exclaiming as I do so

“That’s me kicking Beholder ass”

Pleased with myself, I do the action again. My wife sees a forty-one year old, overweight, white guy wearing glasses do a crap little kick that would barely reach someone’s knee and hears me proclaim:

“That’s me kicking Beholder ass”

“You look like Van Morrison”, she dryly declares (a family joke).

But my mood cannot be shattered, I feel like a million bucks, because I have just kicked Beholder ass.

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Stuck at the beginning, fearing the future, Starting Baldur’s Gate II, 16/2/15

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I have been on a bit of a CRPG kick recently, what with Divinity: Original Sin, Wastelands 2 and Shadow Run. So, in preparation for Pillars of Eternity coming out (Released 26 March 2015) I thought I would try one of the old ‘Infinity Engine’ games to see if I could cope with a Isometric CRPG that is not turn based. Having looked around for a while I settled on Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced edition (BGII). BGII is spoken of with great reverence, but I wasn’t sure whether I would get on with it and so couldn’t face buying the original version and modding it, hence the purchase of the ‘enhanced edition’ which makes the graphics vaguely acceptable on a modern monitor.

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Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced edition, PC, 2000 and 2013

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Game of the year is a strange concept and Baldur’s Gate 2 highlights this: originally released in 2000, an ‘enhanced edition’ was released in 2013. But truthfully I had never played it before 2015. I decided to give it a go because it is quoted as one of the best RPGs of all time (Rock, Paper, Shotgun lists it at number 3 in its top fifty RPGs). So in some ways it is odd to include it in my game of the year selection, except that it really was one of the best games I have played all year.

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GOTY: My Game of the Year 2015 – Introduction

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Whilst I haven’t published much, for which I apologise, over the last year I have written a lot of pieces. I thought examining my Game Of The Year (GOTY) 2015 would be a good way to publish some of the pieces I have written over the last year. So, over the next couple of months I will take you through some of my gaming highlights from 2015.

At this point I feel I should make clear my criteria: a game can be considered if I started playing it in 2015, the actual date of publication is frankly irrelevant to me. This helps to explain why my list is a bit different to most people’s…