Play/Pause September 2012

Play/Pause is a new idea I had, wherein I check in with the games I started but just couldn’t bear to finish.

Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga

Why did I start playing this?

I read some good reviews of the game, saying that pre-patches it was a mess, but that the expansions and post-release support had improved it greatly. I tried the Xbox 360 demo and it seemed interesting, so when a sale on Amazon took it to $5, I figured I could give it a go.

It’s a pretty interesting “standard fantasy” world, with magic, dragons, and all the usual RPG trappings. About a third of the way through the campaign, you get an ability that changes you into a dragon, and your very own fortress. I managed to get all the way through the main campaign, but I couldn’t bring myself to continue on into the expansion.

Why did I give up?

Repetition. The combat is repetitive and dull. There are a severely limited number of different enemies, and they just do a color palette swap, if that. Actual fighting is pretty much just an exercise in mashing the attack key, with dodges occasionally thrown in. Enemy attacks come from the same skill tree as yours, so there’s not a lot of variety there, either. Leveling up only provides minimal, incremental benefit – most of the time I just couldn’t figure out how to invest my points and get more than a 1-2% increase in an existing skill.

As cool as being a dragon is, it’s also terribly repetitive and limited for no real reason. You can’t hurt ground enemies in dragon form – in fact, despite claims that you’re nigh invincible in dragon form, you can get your butt kicked pretty quick by enemy peons if you try to burninate them with your fire breath. Usually you just have to be a dragon to get from point A to point B, while burning a few dragon-killing towers in between.

The tower is a neat idea, but it’s not fleshed out very well. It takes too long to get around, and there’s not a lot of tangible benefit from investing time in upgrading it. Compounding this, quests in general are tough to track – plan to consult a guide frequently if you want to have any clue what is going on.

Why might I come back?

It wasn’t a terrible game, just somewhat repetitive. The expansion directly continues the story, and I’m kind of curious to see where it goes.

Cthulu Saves the World

Why did I start playing this?

I played Breath of Death 7 on Xbox Live Indie Arcade, and liked that OK. I got this game for free when I pre-ordered Precipice 3. It’s still packed with the same indie/old school charm as the first game, and there’s been more than a few refinements.

Why did I give up?

It’s somewhat one-dimensional, and I felt like BoD7 was enough of this idea. Even though there’s a limit to the random encounters, it still feels like a grind. The difficulty’s a bit uneven. The dialog, while occasionally amusing, isn’t top tier.

Why might I come back?

It still has its charms, and probably some day I’ll pine for the Final Fantasy NES days and load it back up to finish.

Legend of Grimrock

Why did I start playing this?

I picked this one up during the Steam summer sale. It’s been on my radar for a while. There’s a good amount of RPG and puzzle goodness going on in here. I never really played the old school dungeon crawlers this is based off of, so I kind of wanted to see what I’d been missing. The graphics are gorgeous, and the whole game is really smooth and well done from a visual standpoint.

Why did I give up?

The difficulty is terribly uneven. I got to one point and I’d been owning everything previously, and then I bit it hard, repeatedly, from the same couple of encounters. There’s a fixed amount of XP, typically, so I can’t grind to get more powerful. Perhaps I misinvested points or something, but I felt stuck and not really interested in fighting my way through the block.

Combat, especially magic, is frustrating. Trying to remember what pattern of glyphs does what in a heated battle isn’t especially fun. I almost always ended up dropping my weapons on the floor rather than swinging them in tense combat situations.

Sometimes the puzzles are quite obtuse or devolve into pixel hunts – staring at walls, looking for unusual bricks isn’t terribly interesting in my opinion. Looking at a guide, I realized I’d walked right by important or useful items because they didn’t really stand out from the environment.

Why might I come back?

It’s still a good game, and perhaps I can overlook its flaws at some point. I think I’m more likely to pick up a Skyrim expansion and delve back into that world, though.

Sins of a Solar Empire

Why did I start playing this?

I played a demo at one point, and it seemed like fun. I picked it up on the cheap during the summer sale, and I gave it a spin. As RTSes go, it starts out fairly simple, but it can scale up pretty drastically in the mid to late game.

Why did I give up?

I don’t have the skills to really get high actions-per-minute in RTS games. I do OK sometimes, but it’s not really my genre of choice. I can’t seem to get over the learning curve here, as well. I feel like there’s probably an optimal way to play that I just don’t understand yet. As it is, I get dominated by the AI, even on the lower difficulty levels.

Why might I come back?

This is the second time I’ve been intrigued by the game, and it’s very well made. I just don’t think I’m in a RTS mood at the moment. With it being in my Steam library now, I’m sure it will turn up again later on.

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