The Book of Living Magic

It’s taken a while, much longer than anyone thought, but The Book of Living Magic is finally out. The Lands of Dream are quite dear to me, The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge being, so far, probably my favourite among Jonas’s games, and I loved creating the graphics for this one. We’ve both put a lot of love and a lot of work into the game and Jonas and I are very happy that BOLM managed to find a good home (the people at Jay is Games have been really, really great). It’s been a difficult birth, but it’s also been worth it. You can play it here. If you liked it please feel free to spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, carrier pigeon or any other network of your choosing. And if you really liked it you could always drop Jonas a donation… we’ve got a cat to feed, after all.

Now on to Venus, to assist the local Space Cats in their struggle!

Phenomenon 32

I’m not very good at this, but:

My husband, Jonas, has released a new game. It’s called Phenomenon 32 and we’ve lost count of how many hours of work went into it somewhere around October 2009. Yes, you read that right.

The game is set in an alternate reality where humanity invented a so-called reality bomb, a weapon of incredible destructive potential, and now, twenty years later, some few surviving humans try to create a future for mankind. It is up to you to help them succeed.

You can read all the important details on Jonas’s blog, but let me just say that Phenomenon 32 is easily the biggest game ever made in Construct and one of Jonas’s most ambitious games to date.  And it’s got some bits of voice acting by me (hurrah!).

But seriously: the game is beautiful and intelligent and a real piece of art. And I am very proud of Jonas for creating it. So I hope you’ll give Phenomenon 32 a chance. You won’t regret it.

Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

Where does the time go?

Well. A good portion of “time” went to Pandora. Not the Pandora of the ten foot tall blue aliens, which is very excellent, but Pandora as in the setting of the role-playing-shooter Borderlands by Gearbox Software. Which is also very excellent.

Having come to the genre of computer RPGs only fairly recently, after a long and dark time exclusively spent in the dreaded domain of strategy and building simulation games, I thought I’d never advance as far as  first person shooters.

But once again I didn’t count on my enormous ego that said “sure I can” when my significant other remarked recently that I lack the necessary hand-eye-coordination to play shooters.

And thus I was introduced to Borderlands.

(Note from the significant other: I didn’t actually say that. I said you would start screaming during any action scene, like you did in other action/3D games. I was 90% wrong.)

Borderlands is a first person shooter with RPG elements. Gearbox Software lovingly calls it a role-playing-shooter but it will also respond to a-lot-of-fun and great-stonking-game. Borderlands likes to be played and encourages merciless powergaming by featuring procedurally generated weapons and enemies.

I mean, this game is fun. At first both me and Jonas thought that the ceaselessly re-spawning hordes of enemies would get tiring after a while, and it is true that there are a few areas in the game were the re-spawn could be a little slower. But the positive outweighs the negative by 5.6846 × 10. Seriously.

I don’t put much stock in graphics… let me rephrase that. The graphics of a game don’t need to be state of the art, eleventy-billion polygons per character, oh-look-at-the-shiny-water-type graphics. One of my favourite games of all time is Gothic 2, which was outdated graphics-wise before it was even made. That having been said: Borderlands looks very very pretty. Not only does it look pretty, the game, from the creature design to the cinematics, oozes style in the same way Dana Barrett’s bathtub oozes pink slime. (Yeah, we watched Ghostbusters II recently, so what?)

You gotta love a game that has shotguns that shoot rockets. And rocket launchers that shoot a lot of rockets. And sniper rifles that will turn your enemies into green puddles of goo. Or electrocute them (see how nicely the eyeballs pop).

And don’t get me started on the challenges. (I want to call them achievements, but apparently us poor PC gamers don’t get to have achievements. That’s only for the big boys on the consoles. Pff.)

Okay… well, since you ask: When it comes to computer games and myself the following rule applies:

me = powergamer

I mean it. I’m the person that went to every single location in Oblivion. Every. Single. One. I’m the person that made a point of collecting every single plant in Two Worlds. Every. Single. One. (And I wish I was kidding.) I’m compulsive, and not ashamed to admit it.

And along comes Borderlands. With challenges such as I am become death (kill 10.000 enemies), Nikola is a friend of mine (250 kills with shock weapons) and the unbeatable This is not a flight simulator (4 seconds of vehicle hangtime). What’s a poor girl to do but try and get all of them? ALL. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!

Erm… yes. Speaking of vehicles. Tis a tricky thing to pull off. You make the vehicle too strong and it’s no fun anymore. You make it too fragile and it’s definitely no fun anymore, because who wants to trek through half the countryside to get back to the next vehicle station every five minutes. Luckily Borderlands does have neither of these problems and running over enemies to raise your total kill count can become dangerously obsessive.

The plot is a marvel. I won’t go into details now, because you all, like, want to find out for yourselves how cool it is, but I’ll say this much:

It’s very well written, containing some of the funniest pieces of writing I’ve seen or heard in a computer game for a looooong time. The writing on the delightfully …peculiar Patricia Tannis is to be especially praised. Also you get real characters. Most of them are batshit crazy, true, but then again that’s some of the fun of it, isn’t it?

And the plot is long. Or the game world big. That really depends on how you look at it. After every large area that Jonas and I found we thought: Okay, so it’ll be a few more missions here, then the final boss fight, then end cinematic. Only it wasn’t. Well, obviously not all the way, every game has to end sooner or later, otherwise you’ll end up with World of Warcraft.

So, wrapping up: Borderlands has very wonderful, insane writing. A cool plot. Supercool graphics. More style than Dolce & Gabana. And the gameplay isn’t too shabby either. We’re going to get the three DLC packs soon, which promise to make the game even more fantastic. I mean… zombies? Yeah, bring them on.  We can’t wait.

Like Phoenix From The Ashes

RisenJust in case any of you have been wondering why I haven’t updated the blog in nearly a week… the reason is called Risen.

Risen in the new game by German developer Piranha Bytes, the makers of Gothic 1 & 2. They are also, unfortunately, the makers of Gothic 3, a game which is pretty high on my list of things that I should undo if I ever were to get access to a time machine. (There’s other stuff higher on the list, but not much.)

Jonas and I bought the game about ten days ago and it is fair to say that it is slightly addictive. Jonas is good about stuff like that, he can still function normally in the presence of a good game. When I’m playing  a good RPG the only way to get me to do something else than play usually involves a crowbar.

Anyway… I solemnly promise to write a more detailed review of Risen when I’m done with the game, which should be in another few days, but for now I just want to say that Piranha Bytes have truly managed to redeem themselves.

It is true: after Gothic 3 I thought they had lost their minds and that putting them in an insane asylum, a really old-fashioned one without any computers, would be a splendid precaution.

But Risen makes more than up for the agony that Gothic 3 has inflicted on us. They graphics are beautiful. The fighting system is well balanced. Levelling is once again something to look forward too. You can climb (big, wonderful bonus!). And the story is sounding good so far.

Last but not least: the game is a Gothic game in all but name. There are a lot of small nods to the Gothic franchise and even the story seems to be based, at least partly, on one of the possible endings of Gothic 3. (No, this is not a spoiler. You get the relevant info in the first cut scene of the game and if you’re concerned that this might spoil your Gothic 3 experience: don’t, the game manages to do that on its own, it doesn’t need my help for that.)

Also, miracles never cease, the game seems to be pretty much bug free. There seem to be certain issues with a few types of graphics cards, but neither of us are affected by that and in any case there’s a patch out already that fixes it. The only other bug I have encountered is rather beneficial to the player, so I won’t complain.

So yay for Piranha Bytes and Risen on all counts. A more detailed review shall follow soon.

Divinity II: Ego Draconis

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Note: Jonas and I are playing this game together, even though it’s a single-player game. You can read his review here.

Besides reading a lot and going to the movies a lot I also play computer games… a lot. Only recently there has been an appalling drought in the genre of first or third person RPGs. The good kind. Not the kind from Japan, with half-naked twelve year old girls called Simon as protagonists.

So, along comes Divinty II: Ego Draconis. In terms of graphics it looks a lot like Gothic 3, which made me nervous at first, because Gothic 3 was an appalling pile of moose dung. (I shall pretend to be a software-geek for a moment and say that Divinity II is actually done in the same engine as Oblivion and Fallout 3, but fails to look as good as either. Not that it looks bad, mind you.)

Now, after playing the game for about fifteen hours twenty hours way too long (considering we only bought it on Thursday), I have to say: Fear not, it be great fun.

The world is big and open, although you quickly notice when you’ve strayed too far for your current level. (I mean that as a compliment, Oblivion has taught me to fear games with leveling enemies. If I never see a level 40 Xivilai again I’ll die a happy woman.) The fighting system is simple, too simple, I might even say, as there is little variation to the attacks that you can choose from, especially at the beginning. The story is adequate, although nowhere near as good as, say, Gothic 1 and 2. And best of all: You can turn into a dragon. Not at first, and I have to admit that I haven’t gotten there yet, but hey, you can turn into a bloody dragon. So shut up and don’t complain.

Advancing your character stays hard throughout the game and especially at the beginning you’ll curse the absence of “good” weaponry. When you level the game isn’t too generous on the attribute and skill points, so I’d suggest to choose wisely what you raise and what not. If you think this is a bad thing you might do well to reconsider buying the game. Personally I think it is wonderful. There is nothing more refreshing as five minutes of agonized indecision as to where to put your next skill point. (I AM trying to be as un-sarcastic as possible here, I mean it.) Also it really makes you appreciate your first level 20 goblin chief and the 1000 xp that he brings along as a present.

The music is really awesome. Not awesome as in I need to listen to this even when I’m not currently playing, but awesome as in I frequently catch myself whistling the tavern theme when I’m preparing dinner. Which is a coincidence, actually, but these days I do little but play, cook and sleep, so the chances were pretty  good.

The writing deserves praise as well. (For those of you that are wondering: we are playing the German version of the game, seeing that the English one only comes out in September.) Anyroad. I find that it takes a bit to make me laugh when it comes to computer games and this one has managed to do so on several occasions. So, yay for the writing. If I had to change anything I’d remove most of the meta-humour, since it tends to damage the immersion in the same way that a glowing-hot needle damages a soap bubble. But luckily the really gross examples of such “wit” are few and far inbetween.

Despite all my criticism Divinity II is deeply enjoyable. Not one of the greats, but a lot better than anything that has come along in recent years. For people who enjoy a good RPG with a plot that is a little more substantial than candy floss, witty dialogue and a nice big world to strech one’s avatar’s leg in I would definitely recommed this game. So go forth and kill some goblins and don’t miss out on making a creature from decayed body parts, that’s the best bit.

Edit: Here are my slightly more negative thoughts upon having finished the game. It’s still got many excellent parts, but…