This diary is a little old now, but it introduces the concept.
Warframe is a free-to-play, cooperative 3rd person shooter for PC. Set in a Sci-fi world you play as one of the Tenno, a race of badass space ninja, and play through missions with up to three other players. These missions can vary from sabotage to data retrieval to extermination, although while some present the player with interesting tactical choices (like giving you a time limit to escape), most seem to play out in a pretty similar way. There’s nothing stopping you from going out of you way to explore and kill everything on a given mission regardless of the objective, in fact there is often incentive to do so with all the upgrades available through experience and money.
Like many free-to-play games, Warframe makes its income through optional micro-transactions, though the game also features in-game currency, which is admittedly harder to gather. It presents the player with quite a wide array of customisation options for your style of play, firstly each warframe is essentially like a ‘class’ and lets you choose one of three at the beta’s start. The player has three weapons, a main weapon, side-arm and melee weapon. Not only does your Warframe level up as you play but so do your weapons and levelling up opens an upgrade system reminiscent of Dead Space’s power nodes.
Once you’ve completed the tutorial you are presented with a galaxy map, where each system contains missions. The missions, for the most part, need to be completed in chronological order, once completed however you can replay them at any time and the map designs shift randomly every time you do. There are three settings when connecting to games: online, private and solo. Online will hook you up with other players on your region’s server, private is for playing with friends only and solo is also an option despite being punishingly difficult at times. Solo is difficult partly due to the constant threat of running out of ammo, however the main reason is the respawn system. Each day you are given four revive tokens, if you run out then die you cannot play for the rest of the day, however other players can revive each other Gears of War style making playing as a team essential. You can also bypass this by spending real money to buy more revives, some might say this is a cheap attempt to milk players for money, but personally I relish the incentive to stay alive at all costs and at the end of the day it’s no different to the arcade games of old.
The gameplay itself is very similar to Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode. Enemies have health bars and players must work together to survive against their vastly greater numbers. You combine your guns, powers and good ol’ fashion slappy sticks to mash your way to victory and the game can be quite difficult when you find yourself surrounded. Warframe manages to achieve that clever balance between being at times very challenging, whilst still making the player feel like a spinning whirlwind of future samurai death.
Try the game for youself by registering an account on their site:
IncGamers are kindly giving away beta keys at the moment so get em’ while they’re hot:
© Alex Annabel, 11th February 2013
This diary is a little old now, but it introduces the concept.
Far Cry 3 has an opening cutscene that grabs you by the balls and refuses to let go, it starts with a bunch of rich kids just maxin’ and relaxin’, before the camera pans backwards to reveal that it’s camera phone footage. The man waving it in your face is quite mad and is holding you and all your friends for ransom.
The game offers a great deal of freedom when it comes to how you want to play the game, after the first couple of missions it gives the player free reign to do what they want in whatever order they want. For example you could go straight to the next story mission to continue the campaign, or run about the island hunting wild animals for their precious meat coats. I chose to do the latter and bought myself a bow as soon as I could so I could stalk the jungles Turok style. The Turok I’m referring to is 2002’s excellent Turok Evolution, in which you are given a wide variety of guns including a rocket launcher that can blow things up, make enemies puke until they die and fires a drill that explodes their limbs one by one. Though maybe somewhat less graphic, Far Cry 3 affords the player a similar variety of weapons with which to wreak havoc on its pirate denizens. Anything from landmines, to flamethrowers to the classic RPG is available once you’ve got a big enough wallet to afford them, or unlocked them for free by disabling the radio jammers dotted about the island. Each combat situation also presents you with multiple options to achieve your ends and a fairly large selection of skills allows the player to custom tailor their character for their play style (Though if you spend as much time dicking around as I did you won’t ever be left wanting for skill points). The game rewards a stealthy approach, close quarter takedowns are more difficult to pull off but provide XP bonuses. On the other hand there is no penalty for going in all guns blazing and the game gives you ample opportunity to indulge your inner psycho with its big toys.
As far as narrative is concerned, Far Cry 3 is a game that relies on width, rather than depth. Despite some compelling scenes and a couple of well-designed characters, I found it hard to become truly engrossed in the game’s story, but the fun and addictive gameplay more than makes up for any shortcomings. The game also features both multiplayer and co-op modes. The co-op mode allows up to four players to run and gun through a linear set of levels, a stark contrast to the open ended nature of the single player campaign. Despite this it can still be enjoyable to cut a bloody path through hordes of pirates with friends for once and as a nice bonus it supports two player splitscreening. The multiplayer also has its fair share of laughs, with the ability to perform ‘mercy’ or ‘punish’ scenes to an enemy at the end of each game. Multiplayer also features a lot of unlockable equipment and skills, unfortunately the gap between what is available to new players and what is available to veterans is so large it can lead to very unbalanced fights. Multiplayer also supports splitscreen, but only if both players have xbox live memberships, although that isn’t too bad with so many multiplayer games these days refusing such a fundamental feature entirely.
Far Cry 3 is an excellent example of the sandbox genre, want to hand glide over a jungle then drop into a river far below? You can. Want to set the jungle on fire? You can. Want to punch a leopard in the face? You can. If you enjoy Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty and wondered what you’d get if you put the three together, then this is definitely the game for you.
© Alex Annabel, 4th January 2013
Project Zomboid is an indie game being developed for PC and in case you couldn’t tell from the title, it has zombies in it. Zomboid is a top-down, zombie survival game with retro graphics that throws you into the zombie apocalypse with a singular promise: you will die. Personally I saw such a statement as a challenge, which I accepted, partly because I love survival games and partly because the early build of the game was free download. The build I played was pre-alpha and doesn’t accurately reflect what the finished game may be like. That said I recruited two of my friends and had a little competition to see who could last the longest.
Me: The game starts out with your character Jim, standing over the wounded form of his wife Kate. Jim and Kate have obviously been having a rough day and I took it upon myself to make it better. The first task was to go to the shed in the garden and use the tools within to fortify the house the couple are sheltering in. The controls are fairly straightforward and the interface turned out to be not unlike Minecraft, an inventory with the ability to combine items and two equipment slots. With hammer, board and nail I set about the house, covering ground floor windows and doors. One of the first things I noticed is that it gets dark very quickly and when it’s dark it’s really dark. With wifey secure, the conversation led to sleep and more importantly light. Now I was presented with a new problem, food. Being the man I had to go out and forage for food while the woman stayed at home doing womanly things like bleeding. I headed into the street, hammer in hand, and began to search from building to building. The first building in and you’re already you’re running into the walking dead, the game gives brief instruction on how best to cave their skulls in; my Jim flailed his hammer to put the thing down and was rewarded with a cache of food for his trouble. I repeated this process in another house or two but it was already getting dark, I found myself sprinting down the street towards my safehouse, chased by a growing horde of zombies. I desperately boarded up the door behind me and turned my attention to the much more difficult task of cooking. With the soup on the stove, I was reading a radio report wifeski was tuned into, when a man broke down my boards and walked in the door. Unfortunately he wasn’t friendly; he levelled a gun at my head and demanded we go upstairs to see the wifesicles. Now I wasn’t about to give in to his demands, but I also knew he’d pop me in the head if I tried anything, while I was deliberating all hell broke loose. That same zombie horde I’d led to the house earlier decided they wanted to chat too and promptly proceeded to swarm the gunman, I took the opportunity to run upstairs and see if I couldn’t drag wifebot to the safety of another house. Pleasantly surprised that I was now able to move her, I headed back downstairs with a mind to go out the back, through the kitchen. The kitchen was on fire. Somebody had left the soup on and now the whole room was being rapidly consumed by flames, to top it off the zombies had finished munching on my new friend and had their sights set on poor old Jim. Carrying the Mrs was slowing Jim almost to a crawl and I soon abandoned her to the fire and the zombies and ran for the door…which was still boarded up. About to burn to death and surrounded by flesh hungry monsters I shouted “You’ll never take me alive coppers!”. I swung my hammer madly, to no avail. At least I didn’t burn to death…
Survival Time – 1 Day, 7 Hours
Chloe: Chloe decided right off the bat that she didn’t care one bit for her poor, hard done by wife and abandoned her. Instead she had a survival plan of her own, with the tools in hand she started clearing buildings, much like I did. However she decided to fortify a different house and use that as her base, I advised that she pick one with two exits, that way she’d never be cornered by zombies, unless she was stupid enough to set the other door on fire…This is when we learned something new about the zombies, as I found out they can follow you home and they will eventually break down boards and doors. However I noticed they didn’t seem to come through the windows, as a result Chloe didn’t board them up. The zombies kept gathering round the house even though Chloe didn’t leave, we realised perhaps a little too late that they can see you through the windows if they’re not boarded up and will attack the door as a result. Unfortunately Chloe isn’t a natural gamer and doesn’t react well to that kind of pressure. When the zombies bashed in her back door I advised her to try and escape out the front, instead she ran upstairs and barricaded herself in one of the bedrooms, sure that they’d go away if she just believed hard enough. Unfortunately nobody was listening to her prayers and she ended her life being chased around a small room by a crowd of dead folk. I found it hilarious. She did not…
Survival Time: 3 Days, 4 Hours
Josh: Despite her somewhat questionable tactics Chloe had already beaten me; meanwhile Josh had been patiently watching both of us and learned from our mistakes. He wanted to see the ‘story’ through to the end, by complying with the gunman’s wishes and seeing where it led. He led the gunman upstairs, which prompted a little dialogue between the three survivors. Based on the amount of supplies you’d gathered the gunman would say different things, but either way he decides he wants your safehouse for himself and also that Kate’s broken leg is a bite so she should be put down. With wifeski in danger Josh heroically bashed the gunman’s brains out, saving the day, Kate thanked him….and that was it, we figured it was the end of the story for the alpha build. With that out of the way Josh decided to have a proper explore of the town and he managed to rack up quite the hoard of useful items, including baseball bat and even a shotgun. There were a few locked buildings with no obvious way in, but apart from that Josh had completely mapped the place out. After all the situations he’d survived he got brought down in the most undignified, yet dramatic of ways. A simple lone zombie managed to get a hit it on our star player; it wasn’t long before he became very unwell and eventually succumbed to the zombie virus. We then spent at least another ten minutes just watching what his zombified husk got up to in 3x speed.
Survival Time: 14 Days, 9 Hours!
By this point Chloe had literally fallen asleep and if you’re still reading this, I’m surprised you haven’t. But we had our winner and could safely say we had seen all there was to see, despite it being a pre-alpha tech build of the game it had already showed potential to be incredibly fun.
© Alex Annabel, 15th October 2012
I am not a natural strategy gamer, but my brother is and as a result I’ve found myself playing many such games over the years. I was more excited for Xcom than I have ever been for a strategy game and my high hopes were not let down. In the business of reviews we are taught never to make stand-alone, declarative statements, but let me start by saying Xcom is a brilliant game.
Xcom is a turn based, top-down, squad shooter. It is the latest instalment in a classic franchise that has gone 11 years without a release and even longer since a good one. Given it’s illustrious history the game had a lot to live up to, even though many gamers, myself included had never heard of the originals. Enemy Unknown does a good job of both pleasing fans of the old games whilst still inviting new ones. The turn based combat is methodical and addictive, it rewards careful players and delivers brutal punishment to the cocky and that’s just normal difficulty. Personally I enjoy challenging games such as Dark Souls, games that put pressure on the player to try their hardest and Xcom has that in spades. The game features ‘classic’ and ‘impossible’ difficulties as well as Iron Man mode, a brutal setting where the player is allowed no manual saves, making every decision final. If difficulty isn’t your bag then there is a ‘casual’ setting, though in my opinion normal is easy enough once you know what you’re doing. Wimp. On the other hand if you find the computer still isn’t giving you enough of a challenge though you can always test your alien gun chess skills in the multiplayer, in one on one deathmatches
The ant farm, base management is reminiscent of Starcraft 2’s, with the ability to choose your research and engineering projects. However, unlike Starcraft, Xcom doesn’t deliver much in the way of story, with the former title setting benchmarks for the genre I can’t help but feel they could have done more in this area. That said the Area 52 theme is enjoyable, it benefits from the slightly cartoony graphics, which feature death animations anywhere from the mundane to the grisly. Whether you’re into strategy games or not I strongly suggest you check Xcom out, it achieves that rare balance of difficulty and rewardingly fun gameplay that many games promise, but few deliver.
© Alex Annabel, 31st October 2012