Jaded's Pub

I’m still back in LOTRO, kind of deeply in fact. Raptr said I spent something like 16 hours playing last week, and it stopped tracking for a few days so it was probably over 20 hours, which is a LOT of gaming for me. I haven’t been writing about it because someone pointed out that no one wants to read about old games we’ve all played, and I couldn’t really argue with that.

But I’m having one problem. LOTRO (and every other MMO on the market) is SUCH a time sink. I have a bunch of single player games I want to check out, other older titles I’ve been itching to get back to, and my DVR is filling up with TV shows I want to watch. But…but… MUST GO TO MIDDLE EARTH!

Among my friends it feels like most of us are either MMO players or we’re non-MMO players. Sure there’s some dabbling back and forth but we all seem to have a primary focus. I’m trying to straddle the line and play both but I’m really struggling trying to find balance. I keep booting up a single player game and then thinking I need to log in to get my Hobbit Gift or how I should finish up that Journeyman Farming tier or that there are orcs what need killin’! So I shut down the single player game and log into LOTRO.

But then bedtime comes and I’m kind of sad that another day has passed without checking out Blackguards, or getting further in my Assassins Creed IV adventure. or going back to 7 Days to Die, or watching that Bonnie and Clyde mini-series I recorded last fall.

I’m almost looking forward to the day I log into LOTRO and go “Meh, I’m just not feeling this anymore.” Which is a weird thing to think. But of course, I’m never going to “finish” LOTRO and my lifestyle is such that I’m never going to have so much gaming time that I ‘play my fill’ of the game for the day and move on to something else. Every time I log off, I do it reluctantly because there was that one more thing I wanted to finish before calling it a night.

And I remember now that this is part of why I drifted away from MMOs for a time. They sort of demand that you be monogamous, and by nature I’m sort of promiscuous when it comes to gaming. There are so many great games out there waiting to be played, and life is short.

I have no solution to this dilemma. Well, I do. I know that my “Meh” day is coming. I just don’t know when. But it happens with every MMO. One day I’m thinking of using up vacation time just to play, and the next day I’m suddenly completely off the game. With me, it happens just like that. I don’t normally drift away slowly. I just suddenly stop playing.

I wish I could learn balance though. Maybe if I did, I’d actually stick with an MMO for a while.

Hendrake looks on as Saruman’s army of Uruk-hai approaches Helm’s Dike.

Hendrake looks on as Saruman’s army of Uruk-hai approaches Helm’s Dike.

Larian’s Divinity: Original Sin is billed as an epic RPG with tactical turn-based combat, support for co-op play, a classless character system and rich crafting. That’s the vision anyway, and the game has gone from a successful Kickstarter campaign that was funded just last April to arriving on Steam as an Early Access title.

In the PC gaming world, alpha is the new beta (I’m not really sure what that means but it sounded catchy) and that’s where Divinity: Original Sin is in its development cycle: alpha. It’s not balanced or bug free, and it certainly isn’t all there (they say the first 15 hours are available) but there’s enough to get a feel for what they’re aiming at.

Tonight I had a chance to jump in and noodle around a bit. Mostly I wanted to see what combat was like and just get a feel for how the game works.

You start your adventure with a pair of characters and can pick a “class.” Didn’t I say it was a classless system? It is, but a starting character has a package of skills and abilities that puts them into what we think of as a class (Warrior, Mage, Ranger). As characters level they can become whatever they like. You can play alone, switching between characters and running them all in combat, or you can play with a friend. I was playing solo.

You see the world from an isometric viewpoint using “click to move” to order the character you’re controlling around. It feels like a real time game until you enter combat. Then everything stops and becomes turn-based. I recorded part of an early combat encounter:

The guys with green circles around their feet I’m not controlling. The orcs with the red circles are the bad guys and the two with the blue circles are my party. You can see the skills listed across the bottom in a hot bar, and above that, when a playable character is active, you can see a series of small circles that represent Action Points. You seem to be able to attack only twice per turn (as far as I could tell) and moving uses Action Points depending on how far you travel. At the top of the screen is the turn order for all combatants. Now you know about as much about combat as I do!

2014-01-21_00004After this fight finished I wandered around the village, talking to people and finding quests. For now at least, you have to look for quests. There’s no “!” over a quest giver’s head. It’s the kind of game where you need to be willing to spend time talking to NPCs and figuring out what’s going on. If you’re playing co-op, your partner can get involved too, and in fact you can use skills (Intimidate, Charm, Reason) on your partner’s character, which should lead to some fun interactions.

2014-01-21_00005When you get a quest, it goes into your Journal in a fairly vague way. In the alpha one of the first things you need to do is meet up with a mage in the second floor of the barracks. Easy enough to do, once you find the barracks. There’s a map but none of the buildings are labeled. I finally had to resort to reading street signs. (I was thinking about looking for a pad of graph paper to make a map on!) It’s not clear yet if this is the game being deliberately old school or if things like labels and quest helpers aren’t in the game yet. I kind of like it the way it is now, personally.

I was also happy to encounter, very early on, a task that couldn’t be solved via violence. Instead it was more like a puzzle. No spoilers though!

When a character levels up you get points to add to attributes (Strength, Dexterity, etc) as well as points for skills (crossbows, fire magic, lockpicking) and there don’t seem to be any limits on who can take what. It’ll be interesting to build different characters and see if specialists are always better than generalists.

Early on in the alpha a third character joined my party; I’m not sure what maximum party size is. Time will tell.

And that’s about all I have for now. I only played for about an hour tonight. I’m going to try to walk the fine line of keeping up with how the alpha is shaping up, without burning myself out on the content in this section of the game. So look forward to more posts about Divinity: Original Sin as it moves through alpha, beta and finally into launch.



Disclosure: Access to the alpha was provided to me by Larian Studios.

So there I was, back in LOTRO and pleased as punch, fighting for the good people of Archet and feeling like a Big Damned Hero. And then it happened.


OMG I’d forgotten DEEDS. If you’ve never played LOTRO, deeds are a feature similar to dropping a cement block on your toe over and over. They are THAT fun! Deeds give you some task to do, and in exchange you get a reward like a title or a trait. Traits in turn give you some kind of permanent stat increase.

Now some Deeds are fine. Deeds that task you with finding landmarks actually can be fun. Deeds that reward you for using your skills are kind of transparent.. you earn them in the course of playing. But the deeds I’m talking about are the Slayer deeds. Kill X of Monster Type Y.

My first Slayer Deed was Spider Slayer. I had to kill 30 spiders in Bree. That wasn’t so bad…I killed 15 or so in the course of doing quests. So I hung out and killed another 15. But then I was ‘rewarded’ with the Advanced Spider Slayer Deed, where I had to kill 60 more spiders. Even this isn’t bad but a shudder ran down my spine as I remembered deeds where I had to kill hundreds of a certain type of creature.

I started thinking about playing “7 Days to Die” instead of LOTRO.

But then I whined about deeds on Google+ and my buddy Scott slapped me a few times to calm me down and said “You’re not some uber raider… let go of the completionist mentality. You don’t need to worry about deeds.” (I’m paraphrasing some…my ears were still ringing from the slaps.)

And for once in my stubborn life, I listened. I immediately quit worrying about kill deeds. And then I took the advice and ran with it. The reason I was playing LOTRO was to experience the world, not squeeze it dry. So now I’m playing LOTRO for the Epic Questline (a series of quests that tell an ongoing Story about your adventures that revolve roughly around the Fellowship of the Ring).

In practice, this means I’m doing enough ‘side’ quests to keep my level high enough to do the Epic Questline. I did pretty much all the quests in Archet and Combe, but by the time I got to Staddle I started skipping quests because I was high enough level to press on with the Story quests.

While I felt a little guilty as I left Staddle with so many sad little hobbit eyes turned my way in hopes of assistance, I had bigger fish to fry than trying to sort out the love life of this one, and harvest the pipeweed of that one. The Enemy is stirring! Pick your own damned pipeweed!

I do have the advantage of being familiar with these quests, so I can pick the most interesting ones. I’ve spent very little time out in the fields killing boars and bears, preferring instead to drive the Blackwolds and Sharkey’s Men out of their lairs and into early graves.

This means all the quests I’m doing are Blue or White, so the experience rewards give me healthy chunks of progress. I remember too well trying to do everything and winding up over-level and doing Green, or even Gray, quests and watching that experience bar barely move as I grew more and more bored with the area I was questing in.

I’m also trying to do quests in chunks. So rather than grabbing half a dozen quests, I’ll grab one and then do the follow up to it and the follow-up to that, following a quest line and enjoying the story that way. In the past I’d just always do whatever the lowest level quest in my log was, and the side-stories would wind up fragmented.

So this is keeping LOTRO feeling fresh for me this go around. It’s a constant struggle for me to not fall back into that “must do everything” mind-set (which always kills me because I get bored and quit the game completely) but so far I’m doing OK.

Though I did slip up and buy a house. I probably shouldn’t have put down roots…


Last week there was a news item hitting the blogs saying LOTRO wouldn’t be getting any more instances or raid content in the near future. That led to some speculation about the future, or lack thereof, of the game. While Turbine’s Rick Heaton was quick to point out that Turbine and Warner Brothers have renewed the license and they have an agreement that runs through 2017, the seed was planted in my brain.

Online games have a lifetime and they’re all going to go away eventually. As a long-time Tolkien fanboy, no MMO world has captivated me like Turbine’s rendition of Middle Earth has. I’m not necessarily a fan of all the game systems, but the environment makes me geek out, so I decided to revisit the game while it and I were both still around.

It’s been a long time since I played LOTRO and much has changed. It went free-to-play of course, and I’m not sure I’ve played it seriously since then. I bought a Lifetime Membership way back in 2007 so I’m a VIP member, which you should keep in mind as you read this post.

I remember feeling like the Turbine Store was being shoved in my face every 5 minutes, so I guess I must’ve played some since the transition. This time around I haven’t felt that the Store was being promoted too heavily; I’m not sure if the game has changed or if I’ve just gotten more used to In-Game Stores.

The first order of business was overcoming the “WTF do all these skills do? What’s all this crap in my inventory?” mountain. Or alternatively, side-step it all by rolling a new character, so that’s what I did.

The very very first tutorial seemed unchanged, but as soon as I got to Archet (I rolled a Man) I started noticing differences. The quest lines seem to have been tweaked/streamlined a bit so there’s less running back and forth, which was a nice discovery.

Also through the magic of the Turbine Store, you can purchase the ability to ride a horse at level 5. You are also given a “Welcome Package” that includes a horse whistle that lasts for some limited time (I think it was a day, real time). I bought the skill and super-sized it so my mounts run a bit faster. While I was shopping I also purchased an account-wide upgrade to 6 inventory bags and some extra shared vault space.

pending_lootAnother interesting change is that you no longer have to loot corpses. All your loot goes into a “Pending Loot” interface where it stays for as long as an hour. At any time you can open this interface and take out any and everything you like. This seems like a small change but in fact it makes a HUGE difference in the pace of playing at low levels. You can move from mob to mob, being a whirling dervish of blades, and never have to pause unless your health or power is low. I LOVE this system! I have no idea how it works in groups though.

Other changes I noticed right away: You no longer have to purchase skills, and in fact the whole skill system has been overhauled. Each class has 3 specialties to choose from. For my Guardian I choose to be a sword and board DPS role. I could’ve also picked a 2-handed weapon wielding role, or a more pure tank role. I *think* you can re-specialize at any time.

There’ve been some small but nice tweaks to combat. You can now turn on features that move your character to the opponent, as well as turning to face him. No longer will your hero swing his axe into thin air and say “Oops, I need to be nearer to and/or facing him.” Your hero is smart enough to turn towards his target and close the range, if needed.

All in all I’m finding the pace of the game is faster and less frustrating than it used to be. I’m enjoying it so far!

Next time: The changes I’ve made to myself to help me enjoy LOTRO


A few of my friends have been doing annual recap posts so I decided to get in on the fun. I’ve been so terrible at writing posts here this year…maybe this will start a new trend.

2013 was a good gaming year for me! When Sony and Microsoft announced their new gaming consoles I immediately pre-ordered them both then got to work making extra $$ to pay for them. So when launch came I had the cash tucked away in an account ear-marked for consoles and nothing else. Sure, working 3 jobs for a while over the summer sucked, but to me it was worth it to have guilt-free next gen gaming when the time came.

It’s been over a month now and I still can’t decide which of the new consoles I like more, though the Xbox One gets a lot more use as a tool since the cable box is hooked up through it. Both systems have a bright future once development ramps up for them, and I’m glad I have ‘em both.

At the same time I feel like I’m getting a lot more picky about the “big” games I play. My favorite games this year were The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto 5. I don’t know if I can choose between them since they’re so apples and oranges. TLOU was some heavy shit while GTA5 was mostly just crazy capers.

Looking past those two games though, nothing else much stands out. I played a lot of games but none of them made a huge impression.

My favorite genre these days is the survival/building genre. Games like Minecraft, Terraria and Starbound. I just like creating things in games, but if there’s no struggle to do it, I lose interest. Unfortunately technology hasn’t seemed to keep up with game developers and all these games are decidedly retro in look and feel. I daydream of the time when we have a game like this done up in a AAA game engine.

As for MMOs, my love/hate relationship with them persists. I think I love the genre except I really don’t. What I really want is a ‘virtual world’ that I can roam around and be a loner in, but what we have are mostly theme park MMOs that are designed for folks who want to play with others and socialize while doing so. There are exceptions, but then I run into time issues. Games like Wurm Online should be perfect for me, but they require so much time that I can’t really enjoy them.

I’m looking forward to Trove and Everquest Next Landmark as possible games that fit my play style. I’ve been fortunate enough to get into betas of the other high profile MMOs heading our way and found that they don’t really excite me much. Nor can I find much motivation to follow my friends who’ve been returning to and enjoying older games like WoW or LOTRO.

Gaming aside, I’ve been started to read more again, and have been dabbling in watching anime for the first time in a few years.

My resolution for 2014 is to learn more and game less. Some days I look back at the amount of time I’ve spent gaming with really not much to show for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…gaming is a way to relax and re-charge, after all. But if I set aside say 25% of the time I spend gaming and spend it learning something…I think it’d be good for my mental well-being. It doesn’t matter if I’m learning about building catapults or home dentistry or a new programming language or how to read Japanese. Just the process of learning something and keeping the mind sharp will be a good thing for me.

I hope everyone who comes cruising past this blog now and then had a great holiday season and I hope you’ll all have a prosperous and peaceful 2014!

forzaboxWell after 2 weeks of Forza 5 I think I’ve slaked my thirst for simulation racing. Last night I hopped over to the PS4 and Need For Speed: Rivals and all I could think of was “Wow, this is so much more fun!”

I think Forza 5 is a very good game but it’s a game that really requires dedication if you want to enjoy it over a long period of time. You can start out by turning on all the assists and doing pretty well in races, to be sure, but honestly that doesn’t require a lot of skill. And enjoying Forza is all about becoming more skillful.

I started the other way. I turned off a bunch of assists and was doing OK while driving the less expensive cars (the C & D class cars). As soon as I jumped into my first B class car (a Jag) I just couldn’t keep the thing on the road. Punching the throttle would cause the back end to spin out, the slightest bit of oversteer would cause me to fishtail back and forth down the track.

I turned a bunch of assists back on and started finishing in the front of the pack again, but I couldn’t help but feel like the Xbox was playing more than I was. What I really needed to do was practice, practice, practice using the controller to drive. I needed to learn to feather the right trigger (throttle) rather than mashing it all the way down, and same with brakes (though I did have ABS on which made braking less of an issue…earlier in my career I’d hit the same issue with braking and ABS eliminated the need to learn to feather the brakes).

Problem is, I just wasn’t motivated to do that, for a few reasons.

First, Forza 5 is a slow moving game. You load up a track and that takes a while. Then you race a 2-3 lap race which doesn’t take very long. Then the game goes into the post race routine where it slooowwwly shows your (probably battered) car rolling to a stop from 3 different angles. Then it slowwwwwly counts up your winnings, then makes you stare at them for a good 10 seconds. Then it slooowwwwwly shows your experience and affinity gain, and again makes you stare at these for much longer than you’d ever want to. Then finally you get to the post-race screen. When you hit continue it takes a good while to unload the current track, then another while to load the next track.

I haven’t measured it but it feels like I spend more time watching loading/unloading screens than I do racing. I’m pretty sure that isn’t really the case, but it’s how it feels. I find myself impatiently mashing buttons on the controller hoping to find a magical combo that will speed up the post-race routine. I’m sure the pacing is so some kind of number crunching can finish in the background… but after a while it starts to get under my skin.

Second, the replay cameras kind of suck. I play the game from the in-car view so often I’ll get slammed into and not really know what happened, so I go to the replay. There are a few camera options there but none of them gives a good broad view of the race. I want a camera that follows my car from a few hundred feet above and behind it, so I can see how issues in a race developed. If there is such a camera I haven’t found it. There is a “replay” camera that shows the race from certain fixed points but there are huge gaps on the track where there’s no coverage and the “replay” camera defaults to a view from the front bumper, which is totally useless since that’s more or less the view I was driving from.

Third, I like a healthy dose of CarPG in my racing games. I love earning credits/cash and using it to upgrade my cars. You can do this in Forza 5 but generally you do it once per class change and that’s it. Every car has a numerical rating and classes start at the hundred marks. So if Class B starts at a rating of 501 (going by memory here) then in order to be competitive in Class C your car better be rated between 490-500. When you move from Class D to Class C (assuming you just don’t buy a Class C car) you’ll upgrade everything to bring that car up to spec. And Forza 5 gives you a 1 button upgrade to maximize all of this.

Four is a lack of variety. Forza 5 is all about circuit racing. Once in a while you’ll have some goofy challenge at the Top Gear test track (like driving through bowling pins) but, as far as I’ve seen anyway, there’re no rally courses, or drift competitions, or Kart racing to break things up.

Now there’s a lot to Forza 5 I haven’t taken advantage of. There is an elaborate painting/design system that people use to create pretty amazing paint jobs. I don’t really have the patience for that but I appreciate being able to access the great work other players have done.

There’s a whole Tuning system that you can use to customize how you car handles. Sadly I’m just not knowledgeable enough to make use of it, and this is probably my Forza Achille’s Heel. Maybe that Jag wouldn’t be so squirrely if I tuned it properly. I could learn about this, and I know that people do learn about car tuning just to play Forza better, but that’s where the dedication requirement kicks in. At the end of the day, it’s just not that important to me. That’s my problem though, and not a problem with the game.

And there’s online racing against real players. I feel like I suck too much to get into that, but I suppose I should try it sometime.

As I said, Forza is a good game, but for a casual racing fan like me, it requires too much dedication and too much patience for long-term enjoyment. That said, I’ve played it every single night for the past 2 weeks so I don’t regret the purchase one bit. I’ll probably leave all the assists turned on so I can go back and enjoy it from time to time just to marvel at how amazing everything looks.

And I hope the company makes a Forza Horizons 2 for the Xbox One. From what I hear, the simulation aspects of Forza Horizon are dialed back, but it’s still a looker of a game. So a ‘next gen’ version would be very welcome.

Until then, I’m back to waiting for the arrival of Drive Club and The Crew while I continue to trick out my Mustang in Need For Speed Rivals.

The Playstation 4 is here and I have mine. I’m a happy camper! (No fanyboyism…my Xbox One should be arriving next Friday and I’m excited for that, too.)

A lot has been said about how weak the PS4 launch library is, and I’m here, at the risk of damning with faint praise, to say it isn’t as bad as some of the gaming blogs would lead you to believe, particularly if you’re already a Playstation customer.

I’ve owned the PS4 for 24 hours and here’s what my library looks like:

Need For Speed Rivals: $60 (I paid $40): This is the game I’ve been playing the most. I like it a lot. It isn’t a system seller (it’s available on last gen too) but it’s a solid arcade racer.
Killzone: Shadow Fall: $60 (I paid $40): Haven’t touched it yet
Assassin’s Creed IV: $60 (I paid $40): Haven’t touched it yet

I got these 3 in an Amazon “Buy 2 get 1 free deal”

Knack: $60 (I paid $50): Haven’t touched it yet

I bought this one digitally in October when Sony was giving you $10 back for every $50 you spent.

So far, this is what game sites are talking about when they talk about the weak launch. But they don’t mention:

Sound Shapes: $15?? (I paid $0) A PS3/Vita title that has been ported to the PS4. If you own it there, you own it here
Flower: $15?? (I paid $0) Same as Sound Shapes. I already owned it so d/led it for free.

Resogun: $0 Take an old school shooter and pump it full of steroids. This is the game I’ve put the 2nd most time into. Love it!
Contrast: $0 Haven’t touched it yet

These two are free to ‘lease’ for as long as you’re a Playstation Plus member, and since every PS4 comes with a 1-month free trial of PS+, everyone has access to them free for the first month of their console ownership

DC Universe Online $0
Warframe $0
Blacklight: Retribution $0

Haven’t tried any of them yet (well I’ve played DCUO on the PS3) but all are free-to-play games available for anyone to download and enjoy.

So no, the PS4 doesn’t have the strongest launch library ever, but it does have a lot of options that you can sample without spending a lot of money. I kind of wish I hadn’t purchased so many games so soon; the free offerings could have carried me a long ways, I think.

Of course the big question is what happens on Tuesday and the Tuesday after that and the Tuesday after that. Will the library sit stagnant until March or will we get a continuous stream of new content? I think that’s the important question that we need an answer to.

i2_ScreenShot_Cole_GrindI’m pretty excited about the Playstation 4 that is headed our way in a couple of months, and I’ve been gearing up for it by trying to cut down my ‘pile of shame’ of PS3 titles I’ve wanted to get to.

One of these in Infamous 2. I played through the first Infamous and enjoyed it a lot, and one of the big early releases for the PS4 is Infamous: Second Son, coming some time in early 2014. I bought Infamous 2 when it first came out but somehow got distracted and never got very far.

So when I picked it up again a few weeks ago, I was stoked for another great gaming experience. But I had to bail out of my first session with the game early when motion sickness kicked in hard. I broke out in a sweat and my stomach was threatening to expel i’s contents. I had to go lie down for a while and wait for the feeling to pass.

Infamous 2, in case you haven’t played it, is a really twitchy game. The controls are super-sensitive with a very small dead area on the sticks. Plus there’s a lot of parkour-like climbing that’s made really easy by giving the character feet that tend to stick to anything remotely resembling a rail or a ledge. This means that sometimes your character will jerk a little in one way or another to help you stick a landing, even if you weren’t intending to land.

It makes the game really fun because you can easily do crazy things like jump off a tall building and land on the tip of a light pole, but I think it really aggravated my motion sickness. Just that little lack of control was enough to throw my inner ear into fits.

But I a) really wanted to play the game and b) was really annoyed at this motion sickness thing. As you get older you lose the ability to do more and more of the things you enjoy and dammit, I wasn’t going to lose the ability to play a video game!

So the next day I went back to Infamous 2 and played for all of 5 minutes or so. As soon as I felt a bit of discomfort, I stopped. And I did that again the following night, and the night after. By about the 4th night I was up to 15 minutes or so. At this point if I started to feel a little queasy I’d pause and look away for a few minutes before continuing.

The nice thing about Infamous 2 for this ‘regime’ is that there’s tons of collecting items and simple side quests to do, so I could play for 15 minutes and still feel like I made a little bit of progress.

The body, or at least my body, adapts quickly and now, a few weeks later, I can play as much Infamous 2 as I want without feeling bad. Sometimes after a really intense battle I do have to pause, get up for a drink or to pet the dog or do something other than look at that moving screen for a few minutes, just to let my eyes and stomach ‘settle’ a little, but it’s no biggie now.

I’m just sharing this story in case anyone else out there suffers from motion sickness in gaming. You can overcome it through regular, short-duration play sessions. Don’t let yourself get sick…stop before you do. You don’t want your sub-conscious to develop negative associations to gaming (though that would probably save you a lot of $$)!

I will admit that I now make sure to play at least a little Infamous 2 every other night or so. I’m afraid if I leave it for a week I might back-slide. So even on busy nights I’ll log in and chase now a blast core or break-up a robbery or an abduction or something. Just to stay ‘video game fit.’ :)

And I’m glad I did this because Infamous 2 is pretty good so far, and there’ll little references to things I’ve seen mentioned in previews of Infamous: Second Son. By the time that game launches I’ll be ready!

Over the weekend I returned to Don’t Starve, the strange little survival game from Klei Entertainment. I’d played Don’t Starve back when it was in beta and liked it quite a bit but as with so many games it got pushed to the back of my brain and forgotten.

Now the game is launched and Klei is constantly updating it, adding new things to discover. I love that a game I paid about $10 for (beta price, it lists for $16 but is frequently on sale on Steam) gets this kind of continuous support. It probably helps that Don’t Starve is going to come out on the Playstation 4, too.

The other day I had my most successful run in a game, making it 20 days before I succumbed to the dangers of the world. I wanted to tell you about that run, but I realized I’d never talked about the game so here’s a belated First Look.

When a game of Don’t Starve begins, you find yourself empty handed and alone in an alien world. Your first order of business is to find food and the tools to make fire. If night falls and you have no light source you’re pretty much doomed. There are beasties in the dark, and the dark is pitch black.

So you start scrounging. There are emaciated bushes that you can get sticks from, tufts of dry grass to pluck and chunks of flint strewn about. You can combine these basic materials to create shovels, mining picks and axes. You can also make a torch, but torches burn out pretty quickly.

With an axe you can chop down trees to get logs (and pine cones which you can use to grow more trees). With a flint and logs you can build a campfire which should get you through your first night. Later you’ll want to gather some rocks to make a fire pit which will burn your wood more efficiently (and safely).

Now that you have light it’s time to address the grumbling in your belly. Food is a major motivator in Don’t Starve. You can scrounge for wild carrots and berry bushes at first but they offer poor sustenance. You might find seeds and you can eat those too if you get desperate. All these items can be cooked over your campfire which seems to make them slightly more filling, though that could be my imagination.

Soon enough night falls and the dark closes around you and your little fire. You munch your berries, keep feeding logs into the fire, and wait for dawn. There’s a bit of downtime here, it must be said, though later in the game you’ll have chores to do at night.

At this point you might notice you have 3 gauges. One is health, one is hunger, and the third is sanity. When your hunger gauge is empty you’ll start taking health damage, and you can also take health damage in battle. Your sanity goes down as you go more hours without sleeping.

As your sanity drops, the game starts to represent this loss by throwing various artifacts on screen. Things shake, shadows appear, harmless bunnies start to look like fierce creatures. Hands reach into your fire and steal the light. Being crazy isn’t fun, but skipping sleep for that first night won’t have too bad an impact.

When dawn breaks it’s time to get to work again. You can choose to scrounge for more food, or perhaps build traps out of grass to try to capture those bunnies I mentioned. One of your first big goals is to gather the materials (chunks of gold being the hard-to-find component) for a “Science Machine” which provides you with recipes for more craftable items. The day goes by quickly and there never seems to be enough time.

Once you get a science machine your options open a lot. You can build basic weapons and go hunting. If there’s a herd of beefalo nearby you can collect their manure and build gardens where you can grow crops. And you can craft bedrolls…those are important.

When it gets dark, you can use a bedroll to skip the night hours. This helps to ‘heal’ your sanity, but you take a big hit on your hunger meter. So there’s a constant balancing act between having enough food and getting enough sleep to stay sane.

As the days pass and you wander farther from your origin point you’ll encounter all kinds of weird things. There are different biomes like grasslands, forest, swamps, rocky plains and even graveyards. There are sentient, or at least semi-sentient, creatures living in the world. There are monsters to avoid and animals to hunt. There are more machines to build that unlock more tools to craft, as well as walls to help keep you safe.

But when you die, it’s pretty much Game Over. There are ways to prevent death but they’re pretty elaborate for beginners like me.

Don’t Starve is a game like The Sims in that it can spawn some interesting stories. I’d like to eventually tell some of my stories but I think I’ve rambled on for long enough for now.

Citadelsresized.103515Here’s an upcoming game that caught my eye: Citadels. Reminds me of the good old days and games like The Settlers. This video (which has a really ill-fitting translated voice-over!) just shows one aspect of the game. Beyond that all I know is what the PR email said:

Citadels relates a spellbinding story from a time of kings, noble knights, and impenetrable castles, offering medieval battles with extraordinary characters and numerous tactical possibilities. In order to survive enemy onslaughts, players must construct mighty castles and fortify them with moats, walls of spears, and defensive units. But, building a powerful army requires the extraction and production of resources, making the delicate balance between economy and battle a critical decision in every engagement.

Key Features

  • Experience medieval England at the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table with detailed graphics and painstakingly designed environments – and rewrite history in the process!
  • Good or evil? Decide for yourself whether you will fight on the side of King Arthur or Mordred and his allies from the Northlands.
  • Construct impregnable fortresses and fortify them with units, moats, and spear walls. Your strategy will determine your success or failure.
  • A castle alone does not ensure victory! The right combination of defensive structures and units, as well as resource extraction and production are decisive for the outcome of a siege.
  • Fight medieval battles with an army of all kinds of units and siege weapons. When assembling your army, you will have access to archers, crossbowmen, swordsmen, mounted units, ladder carriers, catapults, trebuchets, ballistae, and siege towers.
  • Realistic projectile ballistics enables a tactical advantage for higher positions, and falling objects and rubble cause damage.
  • By fulfilling certain tasks, you can acquire legendary characters that will give you a bonus for your missions.