Cult of the Fiver | June 2014

Hitman: Absolution

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Agent 47, the conspicuously bald but undeniably deadly master assassin, has been sent to take care of a personal contract. His former handler has gone rogue and must be eliminated. What seems like a straightforward assignment quickly goes pear shaped, though, as he finds himself protecting a young girl from the agency that was once his employer.

Hitman: Absolution is worth your $5 because… it takes the Hitman series in a thoroughly enjoyable direction. I wasn’t a big fan of some of the older games in the series, but this one really scratches that stealth gaming itch. The “instinct” system can give you hints about clever ways to approach your current objective. It also allows you to keep tabs on the situation with your enemies, and allows you to “blend in” at times when you’d normally get caught. There are a variety of challenges to complete, and playstyles to master. The “Contracts” mode allows you to challenge yourself and others by turning every level and every enemy into a potential target.

But don’t pay full price for Hitman: Absolution, since… there are some weird, tasteless, and downright creepy parts of the game. There are more fake breasts on display than a plastic surgeon’s office. The major antagonists seem to like to sling around homophobic slurs, and the overall portrayal of women is terrible and made me uncomfortable. Just say no to sleaze, game developers.

The $5 Deal: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Instinct only depletes when you’re using “point shooting” or using it to trick enemies that would otherwise catch you. You can use it to look for hints and to see guards through walls for free.
  • There’s no score penalty for killing enemies silently, if you hide their bodies. The fiber wire leaves the cleanest kill. Also, you can knock out and then hide civilians for no score penalty. This makes getting disguises easy.
  • Look for clever ways to take out your enemies that make their deaths look like accidents. This saves you a lot of time and effort in many ways, although these situations can be tricky to set into motion.

Batman: Arkham Origins

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It’s Batman. You really need a… oh, fine. There’s this rich guy, see, and he has this thing for justice. So, he dresses up like a bat and punches people. In this installment, all hell has broken loose at Blackgate prison. A younger, less experienced, and more angsty Bruce Wayne must suit up and contain the damage. Quickly, though, it’s revealed that the criminal underworld has decided to get rid of Batman once and for all. In addition to dealing with super criminals, an army of mercs is out for Batman’s head. Something more sinister is at work here as well… what could it be? (It’s the Joker. Duhhhhh.)

Batman: Arkham Origins is worth your $5 because… it’s Batman. The Arkham series has been the height of video game Batman-ning, what with its fluid combat and emphasis on Batman’s deductive skills. There are some really cool crimes to solve, where Batman will have to reconstruct the crime scene and scrub through the timeline to uncover clues the police have missed. The shock gloves reduce the “annoyance factor” of fighting certain otherwise tricky enemies. Once again, there’s a large map packed with interesting things to do, and most importantly, lots of thugs to punch.

But don’t pay full price for Batman: Arkham Origins, since… this is not the greatest Batman game in the world, no. This is just a tribute. Rocksteady (the original Arkham architects) are off working on Arkham Knight, and it shows. There are many repeated elements from the first two games here. Even some of the supposedly “new” things are just old things with new names, like the glue grenades. The Arkham voice actors didn’t reprise their roles, and in particular I missed Mark Hamill’s Joker. The climax just doesn’t do the characters justice. It’s still Batman but it could be Batmanner.

The $5 Deal: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Don’t bother going after the Enigma Data Packs until you’ve got the Glue Grenades. By this point you’ll be able to do them all, but it’s not always obvious which ones can be done and which ones can’t be done without a particular upgrade.
  • In combat, it’s easy to get a flow going by hitting a bunch of thugs in a row. Just push towards the next enemy and hit the strike button right after your last blow lands.
  • In Predator encounters, you generally want to hunt whichever baddie has gone off on his own. This makes it easy to take them out without the others knowing.

Skulls of the Shogun

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The afterlife’s just not all it’s cracked up to be. After almost becoming Japan’s most powerful warlord, our hero is stabbed in the back by his lieutenant. Bummer. Worse, his lieutenant has beat him to the afterlife, where he’s using his former master’s name to wreak havoc! In this turn-based strategy game, you’ll need to raise an army (literally) to fight back and claim the eternal reward you so richly deserve.

Skulls of the Shogun is worth your $5 because… it’s an intriguing turn-based strategy game in a miniature package. There are interesting concepts like units stationed next to each other form a “wall” that can’t be flanked or fired through. The Shogun himself is a unique unit who charges at the start of a battle. Bringing him out early means he’s weaker, but you get more time for him to deal damage.

But don’t pay full price for Skulls of the Shogun, since… it’s ultimately a better mobile game than desktop game. The limit of moves per turn means that you have less micromanagement, but it also means that having a numerical advantage is less important than it seems.

The $5 Deal: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam

Quick Tips:

  • Units can hang out on a rice paddy to recover health each turn, even if that unit didn’t haunt the paddy in the first place.
  • Eating three skulls will turn a unit into a demon, which will grant it a second action per-turn.
  • When killed, units will drop any skulls that they have consumed, and these skulls are neutral and can be eaten by any team.

Kingdom Rush

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Kingdom Rush is tower defense game that was massively popular on iOS, before being ported to Android and also to PC. Lots and lots of orcs and other baddies are trying to pass your defensive line, but you’ve got to hold them back with knights, wizards, archers, explosives, and other fun orc-destroying toys.

Kingdom Rush is worth your $5 because… it’s a very polished and well done tower defense game. Each tower has two distinct upgrade tracks you can take it down, which means the towers can fill different roles depending on how you upgrade them. The levels are varied, and the bosses are interesting.

But don’t pay full price for Kingdom Rush, since… it’s technically just an upscaled version of a phone game, and the phone game is pretty cheap. Unless you really want to tackle the challenge levels, the game is relatively short.

The $5 Deal: Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

I actually did a 2-part guide for the mobile version of this game, so check it out!

Bastion

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Bastion is the story of “the Kid” – one of few survivors of an apocalyptic event that decimated civilization. He makes his way to the titular Bastion, a floating city that becomes his new home, and might give him a chance to avert the disaster that started the whole mess. He meets a few other survivors, some of whom are friendly, and some who… aren’t so much. Along the way, the Kid will fight off the hostile denizens of the ruined world with an arsenal of upgradeable weapons and perk-like “tonics.”

Bastion is worth your $5 because… it tells an interesting, engaging story with excellent gameplay mechanics to back it up. The narrator, Rucks, is probably among the top 10 video game narrators, ever. The music is haunting and beautiful and still gives me chills, years after finishing it. The combat is varied, with different weapons, upgrades, perks, and challenges to overcome. It’s got a decently long campaign and a new-game plus mode for when that’s over with.

But don’t pay full price for Bastion, since… well, pay whatever they want for it. It’s worth every penny.

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • Tonics are like perks that you can swap out whenever you visit the Bastion.
  • Try to pick a set of weapons that compliment one another. For instance, a weapon for close quarters and one for ranged encounters.

The Unworthy

  • Galcon Legends – Sometimes when you strip a game concept down to its most minimal form, it gets super fun. Other times, not so much. This minimalist RTS game is in the second category.
  • HAWX 2 – I like arcade-y flight sims, and I liked the original HAWX. However, this one is full of stupid design decisions like always-on DRM that will actively eject you from campaign levels without saving. The AI is terrible. I had a wingman crash his plane into a mountain while he was delivering a line once. It’s too bad, too, because the overall game is pretty fun.
  • Ittle Dew – Do you like the 2-D Zelda games? Sure you do! Do you wish you could play one that is focused on a lot of block pushing puzzles? What if it frequently wasn’t clear whether or not you had the tools to solve them at the moment? How about if we take away 80% of the interesting gear? Not so much? Me neither.

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