January 17

Thoughts on Card Hunter on Steam

Card Hunter is a name that I turned my head for. It has “card” in its title, it’s gonna be something for me right? I remember playing this a couple of years ago on another platform. Might’ve been on my Android phone? Not sure. Anyhow, this time I re-discovered it on Steam and decided to give it another go

First of all, it’s an amazing concept for a game! In some ways I really wish that I came up with it; concept-wise it’s right up my alley. A digital card game with several layers of tactical gameplay on top of it, framed as an old fashioned RPG campaign where you move around old-school paper miniatures. How can you resist that?

The art style is simple but reall neat. It really captures the feeling of old school board gaming in the 90s, it speaks to me. The cards themselves could’ve been slightly more interesting, but they get the job done. At least they look different enough from each other so that you can tell what it is from a glance, even on a pretty small screen. Hard o make an interface that works for small screens.

The game is free to play download and play but make use of in-game purchases for those who wants a slight edge or some extra content. I’m usually not a big fan of in-game purchases, but when the game gives you a full experience without needing to pay anything and not getting in your face about it either, you have to kinda respect it. There are bundles you can buy that almost represents a “buy the game”-button since it gives you most of the things you can spend in game money currency on. I was close to purchasing it multiple times but didn’t think I will would spend enough time on the game to warrant it.

You can play either Campaign, were you complete various adventures battling menageries of monsters, or you can play head-to-head multiplayer versus other players or the AI. The characters are always max level when you play multiplayer, to even the playing field. Besides that, any equipment you earn in either mode could be used in either. You get access to two different parties of three adventurers, one for Campaign and one for Multiplayer.

I mostly enjoyed the game as a soft single-player campaing experience. It’s a cozy game and can be real challenging. The card draw aspect gives it some variance as well.

Deckbuilding is done by equipment. Each piece of equipment gives your character a pack of cards. You have three characters that each have their own deck to draw from. It’s a cool variant on deckbuilding and something we also thought on when making SteamWorld Quest, but it’s very hard to get a good overview using that method. Very quickly it feels like you have little or no idea what equipment gives what since you continously unlocks new equipment slots, thus making your deck larger.

I gave the game a good five hours or so before I decided I was done. I was level 10 at that point and had completed something like half of the campaign or slightly more. Well spent time with lots of ideas and inspiration gained.

Just now read in the forums that the development torch has been passed from Blue Manchhu to The Knights of Unity. When researching The Knights of Unity I found that they also were a big contributor to Disco Elysium, a game I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s a small game dev world. Judging from Disco Elysium I would think that the game is in good hands to develop further.

For a game to be released in 2013 and still going strong is really impressive, and the fact that it’s still in development is even more impressive. Not many games can say the same.

December 27

Thoughts on Disco Elysium

The Hangover movie as a base, spice it up with some Fallout vibes and sprinkle on an eceptional character expression/progression system. Where do I sign up? I had some high expectations on Disco Elysium and it still manage to deliver a solid 10/10 experience.

Right of the bat the game hits you with some quality witty dialogue. Loved it from the first second on hearing the crass voice from the reptilian brain. You wake up in a banged up hotel room, celarly you have a substance abuse problem and you also seem to have amnesia. Although I do not enjoy the “main character has amnesia for the viewer to easier relate”-cliché, Disco Elysium really does it all the way. It revives fond memories of playing Planescape Torment, another favourite of mine.

The characters all have clear weaknesses which make them feel very human. Every time you meet a new NPC your presented with their absolute worst traits. So it takes a while before you can properly assess the characters and their motivations which make the game very thrilling.

There is basically no combat at all, it’s all dialogue. I often yearn for more gameplay driven systems when I play an RPG, and combat lends itself well to create gameplay, but somehow Disco Elysium have find simple skill test mechanics throughout the game that you can play around. There are both active and passive skill tests. Active tests are dialogue choices where you see the difficulty of the test, some of these are one time chance and som you can try multiple times. Passive tests happen constantly and they affect what sort of information you get access to as you are talking to NPC.

The internal dialogue that is the result of the passive checks truly is the greatest USP this game has. Depending on what you’re good at, you are given different pieces of advice or information. These are meant to represent the main protagonists inner wants and primal driving forces. Very interesting take on internal struggles, needs and wants. I was so inspired I think I came up with three different concepts of projects I wanted to work with, based on this type of presentation.

You play a cop in a pretty classic murder story with the classic twists and turns. I was thouroughly engaged across the entire game. If I would have to complain about something it was that my ending was slightly underwhelming. There were many things I was not content with, but maybe thats what ZA/UM wants me to feel?

They really succeeded in creating a game where it *feels* like your choices matter. After I had finished the game, I immediately wanted to start a new run and test out new routs with a different set of stats. The game is also short enough, and I mean that in the best way, where you feel like you can spare the time to replay it once more.

December 20

Thoughts on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I’ve recently been in something of a Star Wars phase, watching Mandalorian and also playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It has really gotten me invested in the universe. The two are somewhat close to each other in the timeline as well, so you could draw some parallells. Mandalorian is set after the original trilogy and Fallen Order is set after the prequel trilogy.

Fallen Order presents a great gameplay experience. Taking much inspiration from soulsborne games in their combat design and level design, while still doing it’s own thing. I can imagine it being similar to Sekiro? But unfortunately I haven’t had time to play that yet.

The combat is centered on parrries, dodges and timed strikes. There are a pretty large variety of enemies that presents new challenges, for example ranged units where you bounce back their projectiles, enemies that block your attacks and large monsters and robots that can’t be stunned in the same manner as their smaller counterparts. I don’t think there was one battle in the entire game that I didn’t enjoy. You had so much room for creativity and playfullness, really nice execution.

For me, the game fails with the characters. The characters have very bland personalities, especially the main character, and several uninspired backstories that doesn’t really carry the weight that the game is trying to put on them. The overall plot is good enough, and a nice setting for a Star Wars adventure, but with such a bland cast I just can’t feel properly engaged. The character with the most personality is probably the sidekick droid that the main character carries with him.

That said, the game was a wild ride and it was great fun to explore all the planets. The game has a metroidvania-like exploration gameplay; when the player discovers new gadgets and force powers you get access to new locations and secrets. Not a unique selling point by any means, but combined with the beautiful planets and the cool force powers, it feels fresh.

Overall, this is one of the best Star Wars games ever made so big kudos to Respawn Entertainment. They really know how to make quality stuff. I don’t really want a sequel, but I wouldn’t mind playing something like this again.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The ending was superb. Introducing non other than Darth Vader as the final final boss of the game. I loved it! The description after scanning him was something like “Only way to survive is to escape”. Even though that character has almost been exploited to oblivion, the presentation of him and the small hints throughout the game made the reveal super satisfying. He is perfect as a final boss!

December 12

Thoughts on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

I was thouroughly entertained by Machine Games previous Wolfenstein: The New Order and was pretty psyched when this one came out. It took me a while to get to it because of a backlog with no end in sight, but I finally managed to pick it up and play it. Always a small sense of pride when it’s been developed in Sweden and that I know people who has been involved.

I’ve always found it hard to distinguish shooters between each other. There are very seldom a memorable unique gameplay experience to be had, other than that it “felt” good when you played it. Instead, games with gun-centric gameplay tends to lean heavily on cinematic experiences to give them that extra edge. For me, it feels a bit backwards somehow that the most important part of a shooter often boils down to the story and plot.

In that regard, The New Colossus does a bunch of really neat things. It’s a great mix of highs and lows, serious topics and not so serious topics. The characters are overall great and there is a vast diversity among the cast. The story and the individual character arcs take some really unexpected turns and I often found myself rushing through the gameplay areas just to get to the next story beat.

The gameplay is what you would expect, no more, no less. It’s a decent first person shooter with some stealth and some minor puzzle solving. There are some secrets, but I never found them rewarding enough to search for. I felt like I played on a pretty good difficulty level, died quite a few times, but had no problems overall. Can’t say that I needed to change my strategy much, played pretty much the same way through the entire game, alternating between two different weapons.

There are some achievement based power level progression which I in theory is pretty neat. I like when games try to base experience systems on what the player does, rather then to generalise it. More times than not though, it’s not very engaging to interact with. Even though there were achivements like “kill people with headshots” or “kill people by burning” them, I only spent maybe the first hour or so actually caring about that. I felt like it managed itself without me needing to do much. I also didn’t feel like it affected my gameplay much, except maybe for the crouch speed you got awarded for stealth kills.

One type of “secret items” that I though was really neat was the Star Cards. The Star Cards were, as I understood them, pictures of people from the development team with their real names or a nickname printed on them. I even recognized some people! I really like when games try and show off the developers more.

Overall, this game was a great experience because of the cinematic bits. It was really worth to play through and it hade quite a few memorable scenes and characters. The game really went all the way with all the themes it presented and was raw and honest about them.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - Press Kit

I also have come to really appreciate games that focus solely on a single player experience and not at all on multiplayer. There are too many games out there that focus only on multiplayer so it’s almost impossible to compete anyway.