Just Cause

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Developer: Avalanche Studios | Released: 2006 | Genre: 3PS, Sandbox

This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the games I played many years ago, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

This is about the first game in the series.

February 10, 2013

It actually surprised me a bit when I discovered that the game developers were Swedish, as the game was set in some fictive Spanish/Mexican/Colombian republic and had a lot of furious Spanish guitar mixed with modern rhythms. The description of the game made it sound like the bright green islands from Far Cry meets the typical game rules from the Grand Theft Auto series.

You get missions and side missions to kill targets or to dust something important, targets in the form of icons on the mini map and the larger map, and you can steal cars, motorcycles, jeeps, trucks, speedboats, police cars, even later helicopters and airplanes. There was a solid road network on the islands – more than I had thought, complete with quite a bit of traffic on the roads. As an added spice of its own, Just Cause and its sequel were notorious for the many stunts you could do. Jumping from car to car, throwing a grappling hook at other cars and helicopters, hang gliding with a parachute, even throwing yourself off high cliffs and popping an always available parachute. And there is probably much more still possible.

However, the game turned out to be too similar to the Grand Theft Auto series for my taste. No saves anywhere but only checkpoint saves at the end of a mission or in a hideout. The latter was much like in Far Cry 2, with the possibility to renew weapons, ammunition, heal, and obtain a new vessel.

Trine 2

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Developer: Frozenbyte | Released: 2011 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

I started this sequel shortly after adding a diary blog post about the first Trine, which I completed back in 2012. That was of course the reason I transferred that, so I could refer back to that blog post.

The sequel was basically more of the same, with only a few tweaks. It had the same trio that I could freely switch between – the wizard Amadeus, the knight Pontius, and the thief Zoya.

Again the wizard could conjure metallic crates out of thin air and also levitate the things the developers allowed me to move. The knight could smash through certain barriers, fight with a sword or a hammer, and protect himself with a shield that could have its direction adjusted with the mouse. The thief could shoot arrows with various strengths, and also shoot a grappling hook for swinging to the other side.

And again the graphics was total eyegasm, with lots of exquisitely animating details. It was brighter and more saturated – perhaps too much for some, but I didn’t mind that. It looked great to me.

The wizard could now both levitate certain objects and also rotate them with left/right hotkeys. There were puzzles with air blown out of pipes where I could levitate a bent piece of pipe, rotate it to fit properly, then attach it to blow wind in another direction. This could then lift a character upwards. This was a cute idea that made good use of the levitation ability. Later the pipes could also be used for fire.

Journey’s End

I watched the WWI movie, Journey’s End, for the first time the other day, on a Danish streaming service for my broadband internet. The movie was released in 2017, so sure – I’m late to the party.

The movie was basically about a small group of people dealing with the stress of past and upcoming battles in the muddy trenches of Aisne, 1918. There are in particular three officers that we follow, one of which is a captain that’s losing his mind to PTSD. As such the drama and the acting is absolutely top notch.

Yet, the movie didn’t quite work for me.

The problem is that 99% of the movie takes place in the officers quarters and the trench, with people worrying and talking. The actual war action is very limited, and even when it does happen, not much is seen apart from a few bombs going off. No doubt budget reasons played a role, and I also understand that the story was originally a theater play.

But the way the movie starts with the captain already starting to lose his marbles, right after the young second lieutenant Raleigh joins, shows that they have already been through a lot of hell at this point. But we don’t really know what that is.

Sure, we already know about how the trench warfare in the first world war was absolutely excruciating. We have seen the footage. However, a bad design in movies is where there’s too much telling and not showing. This movie doesn’t even bother to do that. It merely trusts that you’re already aware of this.

It’s not because I love war action and people dying all over the place. I despise war as much as anyone. But I still believe a rough and loud scene of war to begin the movie would have made the captain’s worries so much more impactful. It would have brought me a lot more under the skin of him and his comrades.

It would have made for a much better movie to me.

Trine

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Developer: Frozenbyte | Released: 2009 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the games I played many years ago, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

Once again I’m back with this series again after another long hiatus. I’m going to try a few snazzy things this time. First, I’ll let Google Translate turn the Danish text into English, since it’s probably much better at it than I am these days anyway. I still have to adapt it here and there, though. Second, I’ll post this with the publish date of when I completed the game. Hopefully that will make more chronological sense.

July 30, 2012

I managed to play the first 5 levels out of a total of 16 over two rounds today. Trine was a sideways puzzle platform game, but in a very nice 3D engine with good lighting (typically wavy and sliding all over) and with nice background music and themes. The game scrolled from right to left in levels with checkpoints (so no quickload) and it was also a little harder than what I had heard.

I controlled three characters which I could switch between in the heat of battle – a wizard, a thief and a knight. With a wizard I could draw boxes and later planks in the air that materialized and fell to the ground. Then they could e.g. be stacked or squash a skeleton. It was also possible to lift certain things up with levitation, such as a platform on rails in the ceiling. A thief could swing a loose rope shot up into certain selected pieces of wood under the ceiling, or I could fire an arrow – the longer I held the button, the more powerful. And finally, a knight could strike with a sword, protect himself with a shield against arrows and sword swings, and I could lift and throw heavy things.

Puzzles, platforms and the enemies along the way required regular switching between all three characters, but it often seemed like there were multiple solutions. Still, I often fell down in the same place and had to try again and again, and here the lack of quickload was quite annoying.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

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Developer: Airtight Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

I’m going to bring the pros and cons in the end back again. I actually like writing them, and also reading them at a later time to remind me what I originally thought about the game in few words.

This was a really pleasant surprise. I’ve had it in my backlog for years but always postponed playing it. I had seen videos of the gameplay, and although the adventure part did look very appealing (that’s why I bought the game in the first place) the patrolling demons looked like they could be frustrating. Luckily, at first the demons were not that hard to deal with, and I really liked the smooth adventure puzzles.

The game started with a police detective being thrown out of a window and subsequently shot and killed by a masked killer. The detective became a bluish ghost and was shocked to see himself dead. Shades of that movie with Patrick Swayze, no doubt about that. I then had to investigate and solve my own death. Along the way, I sometimes found other ghosts with side cases about figuring out how they died too.

I liked the voice actor for the detective – a really good film noir fit.

The pure adventure part of the game was prevalent and absolute bliss. As soon as I got close to something, an action word was shown along with one or more hotkeys shown as actual keyboard buttons or a mouse with a highlighted button. It may sound simple, but it worked really well, especially as some hotkeys were automatically disabled if an action didn’t make sense in the given situation.

Spec Ops: The Line

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Developer: Yager Entertainment | Released: 2012 | Genre: 3PS, Military

I’ve heard a lot of about this game since the game was released now more than a decade ago. About how the story was supposed to be extraordinary and really surprises you in the end. But I always imagined that it would be rock hard and for that reason I’ve always skipped it. Until now. And I’m happy to say that it’s quite playable on the easy difficulty level – even for a shooter klutz like me.

In fact, the gameplay is terrific. It’s one of the best cover shooters I’ve played.

As captain Martin Walker, I was one of three military soldiers in a squad that I commanded, dropped in Dubai after a catastrophic sandstorm, looking for survivors and also a guy named John Konrad. Turns out there was a lot alive in the ruins of Dubai – but they were not survivors. They were hostiles. And so most of the game went through buildings, cellars, parking lots, sometimes bothered by sandstorms, sometimes using a zip line to enter the next skyscraper. It was all linear too, with ammo refills in the corners.

Even in 2023 I was satisfied with the graphics. The facial animations were excellent and the voiceovers even better. The sandstorms were very convincing when they blasted through the windows.

Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition

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Developer: Larian Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Turn-based

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a long and relatively complicated CRPG. I think the last RPG with loads of skills and talents to adjust every level was The Witcher 3 in 2016. And if we’re talking party-based and isometric, I probably have to go all the way back to Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2014.

Suffice to say I’m a bit rusty when it comes to these RPG beasts.

Luckily, this game made it easy for me to grease those rusty RPG cogs. No doubt this game is a product of a developer who really cares about what they’re doing. Almost everything about it oozes of quality. Sensible windows with inventory, attributes and skills. Hotkeys and controls that for the most are easy to use and make sense, and tutorial tips that pops up right when we need their information.

You could even adjust number of auto- and quicksaves up to a whopping 25 files.

SpaceVenture

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Developer: Two Guys From Andromeda | Released: 2022 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

I was a Kickstarter backer on this one and was sent the game by the developers. For some reason it’s not on Steam, but I think I can guess why. If it’s what I think it is, perhaps it never will be. Why?

Because it’s a buggy mess with a daft user interface.

This was a game I really had to force myself to complete. The characters, the story, most of the puzzles, the humor and the graphics were all excellent. If only the user interface and bugs had not been a problem, it could have been a gem worth recommending to all adventure game fans.

The game itself was a spiritual successor to the Space Quest series, and it was even developed by the same two guys. Instead of a buffoon like Roger Wilco, the hero in this one, Ace Hardway, was more of a seasoned plumber with a rumbling voice. He reminded me of a similar character in the platform game Rochard. Ace also had a mechanical dog called Rooster with an extendable tongue for grappling things from afar.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

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Developer: Crystal Dynamics | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Isometric

This is the sequel to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light which I completed back in 2015.

It was basically more of the same. Platform jumping from an isometric viewpoint, solving puzzles and occasionally shooting monsters. Because I was playing solo, the other three coop characters were always left behind. I even had the staff that one of the other guys usually wielded. The staff was good for blasting vases for gems, but could also raise specific platforms when held up.

Better weapons and amulets could be found and equipped in an old-fashioned inventory that looked like it was nicked from an RPG. I also had access to a torch for lighting braziers, and a rope for ascending a wall when clicking on a specific wall ring. Big spheres returned to be pushed onto switches or into cages. There was even a time bomb version that could have its timer slowed down by raising the staff.

I must confess I wasn’t always a fan of using the mouse to move a cursor for indicating the target of my weapon fire. When the going got tough and there were a lot of monsters chasing me around, I sometimes couldn’t see the cursor and I ended up firing away from the monsters.