Steam Holiday Sale 2013 – damage report

With the holiday season behind us and the grim reality of 2014′s first full working week underway it’s time to take stock of the new additions to our glorious hoard.

Assetto Corsa

Assetto-Corsa

played: 15 minutes

Assetto Corsa offers something which can be very hard to find on the PC racing sim scene: a bit of flair. It joins Project CARS in the new breed of PC sims that seem to understand a large part of motor racing’s draw are the motors, so you can’t really get away with rendering them at clunky Gamecube-era levels of detail and endowing them with vacuum-cleaner noises. Unfortunately much like Project CARS it’s a loooong way from being a finished game, though at least I never started a race only to immediately tumble through the pitbox floor into a flat grey purgatory in this one. (it hasn’t asked me to contribute content for the developers to package and sell as part of their commercial product either.)

Avernum: Escape From the Pit

Avernum-Pit

never played

Acquired due to the same basic human desire to collect matching sets of things that drives Steam Card trading. I got the early 2000s Avernum 4,5 and 6 remakes (the original games are apparently from the mid ’90s) in a bundle at some point so despite never really playing those naturally I immediately craved this, the 2012 remake of the  very first game.

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians

Beatbuddy

played: 1 minute

I think it was a dollar and it looked like Sound Shapes on the Vita. Didn’t have the perseverance to go and setup my controller at 2AM (that thing where you detect a 360 controller and then make me have to get up, grab a keyboard so I can go into a menu and enable the controller? knock that shit off please). Slightly worried it’s for people who genuinely love amateur beatboxing.

Dust: An Elysian Tail

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played: 9 minutes

One of those side-scrolling beat’m’ups where you pop guys into the air and then combo them for three minutes. Not really my thing but it was developed by a single guy over the course of three and a half years and boasts some serious blood sweat and tears production values, so I was more or less forced to get it for ideological reasons.

Europa Universalis IV

EUIV

played: 85 minutes

In those 85 minutes I managed to successfully complete chapter one of the three-chapter tutorial. Count me among the thousands of sad hopefuls who want to be grand strategy guys but lacking the conviction to conquer the learning curve slink dejectedly back to Civ V time after time.

Far Cry 3

played: 104 minutes

This game has amazing alt-tab stability and doesn’t pause when it loses focus, which is good because its full of insufferable cutscenes. Intermittently fun whenever it opens up a bit and you get to employ some ingenuity in how you  take out enemy camps. Guns feel a bit flaccid though.

FINAL FANTASY VII (allcaps are steam’s, not mine)

played: never

Please don’t tell anyone but my favorite Final Fantasy is VIII. Due to a variety of circumstances I might bore you with in more detail later I played FFVI right after finishing Chrono Trigger, which is a great way to make the former look staid and sluggish. VII fared little better hot on the heels of the wildly ambitious and DEEEEP teenager-baiting Xenogears (note I’ve taken a vow never to revisit Xenogears because I suspect that like Christmas and magic it’d be ruined if it ever came into contact with an adult mind). Even though FFVIII dropped within weeks of me finishing Suikoden II (the heartbreaking way), it packed enough spectacle and wild, crazy ideas (this is the game that brought us gunblades) to carry me all the way to disc 3, where it got TOO crazy.

Anyway I didn’t buy that, I bought FFVII, possibly out of subconscious guilt.

Hate+

never played

The sequel to 2012′s finest sci-fi Korean history visual novel with text-adventure bits. Saving it for a rainy night.

Kentucky Route Zero

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played: 66 minutes

I completely slept on this back when it was released back in february, possibly because when I hear ‘adventure game’ I still think of Gabriel Knight’s cat fur mustache. I’m not quite at the level of orgasmic froth that led the Rock, Paper, Shotgun to elect it their game of the year but it certainly is gorgeous, well-written and worth playing.

Long Live the Queen

never played

Princess Makers are to me what dehydrated kids are to the Kool-Aid Man. No human construct can stand between us and the objects of our respective disturbing obsessions.

Maia

never played

The rare Greenlight title that makes you go ‘finally’ instead of just pondering what it is with people and zombies. I like space, I like building bases and I like slightly insufferable filters. This Paypal confirmation prompt, it was made for me!

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX+

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played: 29 minutes

It’s heartbreaking to see Namco outsource everything that isn’t Tekken to ill-fitting western studios these days. This perfectly illustrates what games like Unbounded and Assault Horizon are missing. Audiovisual design slick enough to transcend ‘good for a game’ to being Actually Cool and a sense of unflinching confidence in its core mechanics (I mean this happens to be pac-man so it’s not like they could’ve filled it with sidequests and cruft to collect but Ridge 7 uses the same approach to turn its boost system from a stale genre trapping into a combination game of chess and Russian roulette played from the cockpit of a car travelling sideways at 200mph through a writhing canyon pass.)

Uh anyway PAC-MAN CE DX was great on consoles, and this, aside from some ugly new social integration menus, is just as good.

Papers, Please

never played

I’ve read thousands of words of praise about it and looked at dozens of screenshots along the way but I still don’t understand how you actually play. Saving it for the right mood.

Poker Night 2

never played

I don’t know cards besides old maid and blackjack and this is supposed to not be the greatest poker sim in the world, and the quotes get old really fast, but when the price of admission is less than a Snickers I’m down for a round.

Risk of Rain

played: 10 minutes

The unfortunate thing about the holiday sale is it takes place during a period of the year I like to spend playing chicken with the apocalyptic hangovers that plague all males over the age of 25 in my family. This ended up in my possession before I swerved. I don’t like Terraria because it’s a game about building stuff and going places seemingly created specifically to present stuff and places in the least evocative way possible, I don’t like wander-around games unless the place you’re wandering ’round is just absurdly interesting (Shenmue, Metroid, JSRF) and I don’t really have a hardon for numbers going up unless they correspond to real-life units I can apply a frame of reference to (hitpoints: meh brake horsepower: huzzah!). So yeah blame Four Roses.

Saints Row IV

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played: 10 hours

GTA has a problem. It wants to be a thrilling crime drama but it has a hard time working as a thrilling crime drama because it’s all but impossible to get players emotionally invested in a character they just used to run a fire truck through an orphanage. I mean, that’s not a guy with hopes and motives and feelings anymore, that’s a cartoon villain. Slightly insufferable game critics refer to this phenomenon, where a video game’s gameplay chafes against the narrative as ‘ludonarrative dissonance’. The Saints Row series from 2 onwards cleverly sidestepped this whole mess by simply constructing a narrative centered on the idea the leader of the Third Street Saints was a gleeful lunatic (not an entirely new idea for the genre, my all time favorite action sandbox Mercenaries: playground of destruction introduced it back in 2005). Saints Row 3 doubled down on that idea and here we are today, brandishing Crackdown powers and fighting an alien invasion from within a Matrix-like virtual reality simulation. Personally I kiiiind of miss driving (you can drive but there isn’t much point) but there’s no denying your abilities make combat a lot more interesting by shifting the focus away from the series’ traditionally so-so gunplay (I don’t know whether it’s intentional but with the way downed enemies drop health and you’ve got some degree of invulnerability during your little melee cutscenes you can pretty much keep a melee chain going indefinitely as long as you know which way to sprint to get the next guy).

Shadowrun Returns

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played: 11 hours

Like a late ’90s CRPG without the atrocious combat. It’s sporting a zippy little turn-based strategy number instead, not the deepest thing in the world but enjoyable enough in a XCOM-lite kind of way. Unfortunately your trips into cyberspace use a variation on this system without any of the brevity, the satisfaction or even much in the way of strategy, which leads to the odd situation where a cyberpunk game is at its best when played with a character completely ignorant of technology. Also, even though message board cretins everywhere are complaining its too short the plot kind of overstays its welcome for an ill-advised dive into banality some ten hours in. I heard the game’s plot is based on one of the 40 novels set in the Shadowrun universe out there and if so: screw that book’s last three chapters.

Spelunky

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played: 11 hours

I saw someone call this the platformer of the decade recently and I’m inclined to agree. Like PAC-MAN CE DX+ this is a game I loved on 360 and double-dipped on mainly for convenience’s sake (my 360, god bless it’s slower-than-a-modern-smartphone tri-core 3.2GHz powerPC heart, takes about four minutes to go from cold boot to Spelunky title screen).

Steamworld Dig

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played: 10 minutes

I’d heard it mentioned in a conversation about Spelunky. It’s kinda more of a Mr. Driller meets Metroidvania x Terraria situation, which is good because trying to beat Spelunky at its own game right now is like making a mascot platformer in the early ’90s. It came from 3DSware and that’s my main problem with it because it feels very deliberately tuned for five-minute bursts of play on a system you can instantly standby and resume at any time. On PC I just get those first couple minutes in and then quit to free Steam up and go do something else.

Test Drive Unlimited  2 TDU2-thumb_cb

played: 13 minutes

One of those feverish OH GOD THE SALE IS ENDING THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE TO BUY SOMETHING, ANYTHING! purchases. I instantly dismissing the first TDU way back when it came out because as innovative and exciting the thought of an always-on online open world racer was back in those days it wasn’t very good at conveying any sense of driving a car. I haven’t had much on-road action yet as the servers have been down since I got it (additionally this has been the first time I’ve ever seen Steam itself run out of CD Keys for something. I thought the way this worked was publishers had to beg and plead to get daily slots in the big Steam sales but this gives every impression of Atari being caught completely off guard by their three year old racing game suddenly shifting 10.000 copies) but the game’s overall presentation sure is something.

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

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played: 35 minutes

Do you want to play a bunch of grindhouse vignettes by furiously typing at the undead? A.) Yes. B.) No, I have literally the worst taste C.) I’m disabled but let me watch that shit. It’s kind of unfortunate the way PCs handle keyboard input means you can’t play this together but the Typing of the Dead will always be one of those games so amazing just knowing it exists makes me happy.

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