King’s Quest: Chapter 1

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Developer: The Odd Gentlemen | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, 3D

As of this post I will stop adding pros and cons. My web statistics tell me that pretty much no one is reading these reviews but me, and then I might as well not waste time pretending to be a reviewer.

This game really surprised me. I didn’t expect all that much apart from a modern take on the classic Sierra adventure games, but it was really top notch. Great animation, wonderful and funny dialog, lots of humor, and some ingenious puzzles too. Long and varied too. Definitely not bad for a free first chapter.

The game used much of the same template as Telltale Games who did e.g The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. Even down to the cel shaded style. I could steer young Graham around with direction keys on scenes that sometimes were static, sometimes scrolling, clicking on things to interact. To spice things up, the adventure was sometimes complemented with a blend of arcade action and QTE sequences.

The 3D adventure reminded me of Simon the Sorcerer 3D, and the QTE of Dragon’s Lair. Although QTE in games of today are technically already derived from Dragon’s Lair, it felt particularly strong here because of the first scene in a, well, dragon’s lair. Or perhaps I should say prison.

I completed this first chapter in one sitting taking 6 hours, and I’m happy I spent time with it. The adventure game parts quickly opened up with multiple locations and non-linear solutions, and the dialog was often splendid. I can’t say that I was a fan of all of the action stuff, though. Some sequences such as avoiding dragon fire, shooting goblins with a bow, and a race with a narcissistic knight was a bit too much.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

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Developer: Techland | Released: 2013 | Genre: FPS, Western

Finally I arrived at the third in this western series – the best of the trilogy.

This western FPS was significantly improved in most departments. The almost cel-shaded graphics and the sound effects were both outstanding, the dual and concentration modes refined even further, and it now sported an excellent level-up system. I lamented the loss of the anti-heroes of the first two games, but it was made up for by a charming tale of a new gunslinger meeting the legends of the Wild West.

Stealth and jumping was dialed down even further, mostly focusing on pure shootouts. The cover system no longer glued me to the crates and wall corners, but I still found it to be an improvement on the second game. Objects used for cover were now always easy to see and usually in abundance, and the few shots I received (shown as bullet damage to the screen) was easily shaken off while reloading in cover.

Together with easily spotted enemies, this made the game easier in the beginning.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

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Developer: Techland | Released: 2009 | Genre: FPS, Western

I actually didn’t like this much at first. The game threw me into the trenches of the civil war and pushed me from point to point with little time to stop and smell the roses. The static HUD was also gone, replaced with temporary UI elements whenever a key was held down. It felt like the developers wanted it to be Call of Duty: Bound in Blood rather than a proper sequel to Call of Juarez.

Also, it was a prequel – telling the story of the three McCall brothers.

I did eventually get used to the different style and the game was indeed much more slick than the first one. Both loading and saving was now very fast, the Chrome Engine looked competitive, and the cutscenes were now much more cinematic. The troublesome stealth sequences of the first game were gone. Instead, shootouts now pretty much dominated the game.

But I must say, I never really liked the HUD-less UI with no health bar or action slots. Having the border of the screen glow red, perhaps with a squirt of blood sprayed, has always been way too ambiguous to me. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve always wanted to have the vital information displayed at all times.

That’s what I really liked about Wolfenstein: The New Order.

The Call of Juarez Series

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I’ve always wanted to try out the trilogy of the Call of Juarez western FPS games by Techland. It’s sort of another leftover from when I was deep into video games many years ago. I’ve had Gunslinger from 2013 in my Steam library for quite a while, and last week I bought the two oldest games from 2006 and 2009 cheap on sale. So with all three games in hand, I decided to try them out back to back.

I won’t be playing The Cartel since it’s not a western. Besides, it received a lot of negative reviews.

Call of Juarez

Developer: Techland | Released: 2006 | Genre: FPS, Western

Quite an old FPS by now, it’s the first in the series in Techland’s in-house Chrome Engine. Steam started the game in DirectX 9, but a tech site recommended I started an executable file for DirectX 10, since it would look a lot better in that. They were right – the lighting was much better, and the grass more dense.

When I published the first version of this blog post, I actually didn’t want to complete this game.

It’s not because the gameplay scared me away. Sure, it had its share of annoying features such as forced stealth, time limits, excessive reloading and bullet sponge enemies, but it didn’t seem too unfair and I still wanted to experience the game. However, there were issues of a more technical nature.

Still Playing PC Games

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I was reading a blog post I wrote two years and decided it’s time for an update.

So I didn’t dial down on playing PC games, eventually giving it up as I was pondering. As you can see in the latest couple of pages in this blog, I’ve actually played quite a lot in my recent Christmas vacation.

There has been a few changes for the better.

First, and probably most important, I’m getting better at making my writings shorter. Cutting to the chase and leaving out the fat. It’s a difficult art to master and I certainly overdid it for many years. I think I’m finally starting to find a balance that works. But it’s still work in progress, and probably always will be.

Another thing I’ve really learned is to leave games behind and not have this intense desire to complete it at all costs. This was exactly my biggest problem back when I was obsessed with PC games about twenty years ago. No matter how bad, how difficult or how amateurish, I absolutely needed to complete it. It was so important to me that I gained another tick in my spreadsheet of conquests.

Luckily, I’ve managed to shake that obsession today. It helps that many games I play are already very short, often less than 3-4 hours. But no matter the length, it really has to grab me before I decide to see it to the end. Another reason is that it helps reducing my backlog a lot. As most everyone else with a backlog, I also have a desire to eliminate it. I want to see what I paid for, even if on sale.

Verde Station

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Developer: Duelboot | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This one barely took an hour to get through – I almost put it in a Short Sessions blog post instead.

It felt crude and simple in the beginning, like a small fan mission for e.g. Half-Life. I woke up in a space station – all alone of course – and walked from a bedroom to a greenhouse, then to a lounge, the kitchen, and back into the greenhouse. I was about to quit at that point, but then I noticed that something was different. Turned out that time had passed when looping through the sections.

This immediately made the experience more interesting. I kept circling around in the sections to observe the changes. This led to a new location and a surprise. And as a free game, I’d say the surprise is worth giving it a shot – just don’t expect awesomeness.