What’s up in my world of gaming

Though I remain an active and proud gamer, I realize it probably doesn’t come across as such on this blog because I rarely ever talk about the games that I am playing. So this post should set the record straight. Here’s what I’m currently playing.

Team Fortress 2 is a team-oriented class-based first person shooter based on Half-Life 2’s Source engine. It’s a blast to play, and I’ve been logging regular hours pretty much since The Orange Box was released. I find it to be fun, mindless entertainment. I just drop into one of the many servers that are active at any given moment and get right into the thick of things. The soldier, with his slow but deadly rockets, is my favorite class. My subconscious predictive dead reckoning skills have gotten quite good, and I can reliably take out someone from a good distance by firing rockets at where I predict they will be at the time the rocket finally reaches them. It takes a bit of skill, and even some psychology if the opponent knows you are shooting at them and is trying to dodge, but that makes it all the more fun. I would recommend TF2 to anyone who likes team-based FPSs, or anyone who liked Team Fortress Classic. It’s a great experience all-around because it is polished to near perfection.

Sins of a Solar Empire is a real-time 4X strategy game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate). If you’ve ever played Master of Orion, it’s similar to that, but real-time. I still haven’t quite figured out if I like Sins, though I have played it a fair bit. It has its moments of sheer brilliance, but thanks to the real-time nature of it, it also has its moments of sheer boredom. Sins lack the mercy of an “End Turn” button (since it has no turns), one of the features of Civilization that helps speed up the early game in which not much happens.

The midgame of Sins is the sheer brilliance part. When you’re marshaling your fleets and attempting to take enemy territory while simultaneously fending off other civilizations and pirates on your other fronts, it’s pure hectic fun. But alas, the midgame ends quickly enough, and if you don’t suck, you’re soon on your way to slowly but inexorably conquering the rest of the galaxy. Once you have a decent advantage, there’s no way for anyone to stop you, and it becomes a slog as you slowly capture planet after planet (planetary bombardment takes awhile). The outcome is never in doubt, and thus, it’s not exciting.

The most recent game of Sins I played was on a medium-sized map with only one star with the game speed set to high. It still took me six and a half hours to win it. The first hour was kind of boring, as it just involves wiping out unaffiliated fleets and claiming virgin planets. The next two hours, when I was tangling with enemy civilizations, was the really fun part. Then the whole rest of the game was the long slog of capturing the rest of the solar system long after my win had become inevitable. I guess I could have quit knowing that victory was assured, but I’m not one of that mindset. I have to see things through to the end. So, after my bedtime had come and gone, I finally finished bombarding the last enemy planet to oblivion.

Sins has so much potential, but I don’t know if it’s quite there yet. I’ll have to try it on the hardest difficulty with diplomacy enabled. Maybe the AI civilizations will band together when I start conquering most of the galaxy and put up a fierce resistance for the majority of the game.

Picross DS is an amazing puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It’s sort of like Minesweeper and sort of like Sudoku, though I find it far superior to both. The gist of it is you’re given a large blank grid labeled only with series of numbers along the rows and columns giving clues to the layout of pixels within the grid. Your job is to figure out which pixels should be on and which should be off using the numerical clues, and when everything is complete, it forms a nice picture for you to look at. There’s a good amount of logic-solving in it and the D-pad and stylus control scheme is the best I’ve ever played of any puzzle game anywhere. The system feels hand-tailored for it.

I would highly recommend Picross DS to anyone even tangentially interested in puzzle games. Heck, even if you don’t have a Nintendo DS, buy one so you can play the game. It comes with so many puzzles that you’ll be occupied with it for a long time. If you want to check out the game concept, try this Flash applet. The basic rules of the puzzle are the same, but it lacks some of the features that make Picross DS so great, and it doesn’t offer any super-challenging puzzles like Picross DS does. And marking off pixels with the mouse is far inferior to doing it with a stylus.

One Response to “What’s up in my world of gaming”

  1. Sarcasmorator Says:

    There’s a patch coming up for Sins that supposedly addresses some of your complaints, particularly the long slog at the end (AI players will surrender if they’re in an unwinnable situation, and are supposed to be smarter). Think it’ll be out within a week or two.