Monday, April 29, 2013

My Thoughts on God Mode

Four-player, co-op shooters have become quite commonplace over the past few years– so much so that they generally come and go without much fanfare these days.

What's noteworthy about "God Mode" is that it adds a few interesting wrinkles to the formula and is priced right for what it is. What's a bit disappointing is that it doesn't go further with its unique design elements and is therefore of limited appeal beyond its initial novelty.

God Mode has some fairly impressive visuals for a budget title.

In "God Mode," one to four players traverse a series of five "mazes" that are set in Hades, or "Hell in a toga" as the game's love-it-or-hate-it announcer proclaims when the title screen loads.

The problem with the "mazes" is that they're more like linear paths through the levels with extremely subtle variation in the way players follow them in subsequent playthroughs. As a result, once you've seen a given "maze" a few times, you've pretty much seen all it has to offer. This wouldn't be so bad if they weren't called "mazes," which always made me pine for more variety and choice with regard to how they're navigated.

"God Mode's" other big shortcoming lies in its technical implementation. After a post-release patch, which took over a week to appear, it's now a pretty playable game but there are still technical issues such as events required to progress through levels occasionally not triggering, creatures rarely getting stuck in place and not disappearing after being killed, and players sometimes getting out of sync and unable to progress as a group.

These issues don't occur frequently but they happened to my group enough times in our 10+ hours with "God Mode" to be a noteworthy annoyance. The bottom line on the technical stuff is that the game is playable, but could use another patch.

There are a reasonable amount of character, weapon and ability
customization options that can be accessed between levels.

The big positive thing "God Mode" has going for it are the "Tests of Faith," which occur at fixed points throughout each level and infuse random elements into the gameplay. Enemies might for example become temporarily smaller and weaker, or larger and stronger. The level may become shrouded in mist or peppered with hazards like bombs. Alternatively, things might just get silly, with enemies wearing funny hats or sound effects playing faster or slower than normal.

The "Tests of Faith" are a great idea and some of the best ones are tied to the game's harder difficulty levels, which makes them worth experiencing just to see the new tests. They inject a much-needed dose of personality and variety into the game and their random nature helps each maze feel much fresher during multiple playthroughs than it otherwise would.

You'll fight a range of enemies in God Mode that feels
just about right given the overall scope of the game.

All things considered, "God Mode" is a good way to kill a few hours with friends. The $10 price point feels about right for the 10-15 hours of gameplay players are likely to get out of it before they've seen the bulk of what's there. If there were a bit more content or a bit more variety in the included content, "God Mode" would be worthy of a Shout Out; however, as it stands, with particular concern over its technical issues, I can only recommend it cautiously.

God Mode (via Steam)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Thoughts on Orion: Dino Horde

Let me start by making this perfectly clear. "Orion: Dino Horde" (O:DH) is not a new game. It is a new version of the "Orion: Dino Beatdown" game that was released in 2012. While there are several noteworthy additions and changes to the game in this new version, they don't in my view constitute a "new" game.

Of course, as a fan of the game, which took the #7 spot on my "Best Co-Op Games of 2012" list a few months back despite its technical problems, I'm happy to see a new version of it– regardless of what it's called.

For the sake of simplicity, I will only refer to the game by its new name moving forward.

The T-Rex will still wreck your face but the new Trike is no joke either.

So, what's new in O:DH? Quite a lot but not quite everything one might want.

In short, there are some new and tweaked weapons, an expanded "Augments" system that includes tiered, class-specific enhancements, a new vehicle, several new dinosaur types, some new and re-imagined levels, and a few new PvP game modes.

Personally, PvP isn't what I come to this game for but it's nice to have the option for it should I ever get the itch.

Sadly, the best co-operative mode from the original version(s) of the game (Conquest) is still absent as of this writing but the developer has assured me that it will be returning to the game via a free update in June. They've been a lot better about sticking to their release dates of late so I'm cautiously optimistic about Conquest mode's future.

An updated survival/objective mode does the heavy lifting where co-op gameplay is concerned in this new version and it's definitely good for a quick romp but I'm still looking forward to the return of Conquest.

Beyond the bullet points, O:DH is just a better version of the game. It runs better. It plays better. It looks and sounds better. It's simply better than it was (aside from the absence of Conquest mode of course). :)

For those of us who've been playing and enjoying the various versions of this game for the past year, O:DH is a welcome, free update. The game feels closer to living up to its potential than ever before and the developer has done a lot of good work on it. There's even been a post-name-change patch to iron out more bugs and add a few new features like force feedback support for controllers.

The new Penguin vehicle is great for getting two people around the map
quickly. It also runs smaller dinos over real good until heavily damaged.

For those of you considering picking up a copy, there are some things you should keep in mind:

It has taken a long time for its developer to get O:DH to its current state, which is still not what I would call "done." They have become a lot more receptive and responsive regarding feedback on the game in the past several months but their track record was pretty sub-par prior to that.

I also have to say that I think the $15 asking price is a bit high for what's currently in the game. It's not grossly out of line or anything and if they do manage to get Conquest mode and some additional free content into the game, I think it could be easily justified but it does feel a little overpriced as of right now.

Having said all that, I do still love this game. It's a scrappy little underdog with a great premise and some genuine charm in a world of cookie-cutter, big-budget shooters. As I said while playing with a friend, "It's the 'Smokey & the Bandit' of video games." You'll never mistake it for Shakespeare but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Orion: Dino Horde (via Steam)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slowing My Roll

Wanted to let you all know that I've decided to cut back on the frequency of my posts here for the foreseeable future.

As usual, this is a time and money management issue. As much as I enjoy creating this content, there's no money in it and blogging takes considerable amounts of time and effort to do well.

I'm still planning some posts over the next few months for when the "Powergrids" update I'm developing, "Orion: Dino Horde" (which I'm currently beta testing), and "DayZ Standalone" hit– so keep an eye out for those.

Beyond that, I may find the time for the occasional post here and there but I won't be able to maintain the "post-a-week" pace I sustained over the past three months with all the other work I need to do to make a living.

If you're totally bummed out by this news, go play "Defiance." It's pretty great!

Defiance (via Steam)

Short on cash? Check out "Warframe." It's free-to-play and not a bad little co-op game– all things considered.

Warframe (via Steam)

Until next time, have a good one folks!