Posted on November 5, 2016
Fantastic news for those of you whom, like myself, adore the classic old school first person shooters of yesteryear. None of this Call of Modern Halo Fighter 4 bullshit for me thanks. I want fast paced, satisfying action, not tedious, po-faced military shooters filled with lengthy cutscenes and constant Q.T.Es. Games such as Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake 1 – 3 and Half-Life are still yet to be bettered and play exceptionally well many years after their original release. It’s no wonder all of those titles are still supported by talented modders, with a wealth of exciting and original content to spice up the solid mechanics and gameplay provided in the original titles. Many indie developers have tried to recreate these classic games, but always fail – seeming to miss out the vital ingredients that made the games they are trying to emulate so special. This could be down to poor level or character design, weedy guns that provide zero satisfaction, boring environments to explore, or the addition of unnecessary gimmicks. BothWrack and Rogue Shooter are recent examples of how not to pay tribute to the classic FPS, and now we have Ziggurat to show us that a decent indie old school FPS is indeed possible.
This time, the inspiration is not Doom nor Quake, but slightly lesser known title Heretic and its sequel Hexen. These games were published by Id Software, but were actually developed by Black Raven with assistance from John Romero himself. Heretic and Hexen both threw out the sci-fi horror setting, replacing it with a fantasy world featuring magical weaponry and spells. This is what Ziggurat has clearly been inspired by, as its frantic pace and no-nonsense blasting action using magical projectile weapons is pure Heretic. The first thing you notice are the incredibly beautiful visuals. So much so, that the wheezing cadaver I call my PC nearly had a nervous breakdown when I played it and I had to reduce the graphical settings. If you are the owner of a decent PC gaming system then you are in for a treat. The dungeons look great, the lighting is mesmerising and the amount of detail on everything, from the enemies, weapons and projectiles, to background items such as skeletons and glowing mushrooms is astounding.
Ziggurat also uses the popular roguelike elements seen in… well, pretty much every indie game of late. Each time you start a new game the levels are procedurally generated resulting in a fairly new experience each time. Each floor is connected by a series of rooms, and it’s up to you to locate the spell book, then find the room which houses the floor guardian. Along your way you will encounter different types of rooms. Some contain scrolls which provide some amusing anecdote, some magic chests that offer extra mana or weapons and some that are filled with traps such as spikes or fiery pits. Mostly though, they are filled with enemies, named minions. Once you enter the room, the doors lock behind you and the minions’ energy bar appears at the top of the screen. You must then fight for survival, laying waste to any of the hideous (and often rather humorous) creatures that appear. As you destroy them the minions bar depletes and once empty the room is cleared and you can continue on your quest – they also drop XP, ammo and health for you to collect as they die. It’s simple stuff, certainly, and many of the rooms repeat as you play through, but it never becomes too repetitive thanks to the exciting and fast paced combat that sees you strafing around the screen, firing your magical projectiles at a plethora of ground and air based foes. It really keeps you on your toes, and it is always with a sigh of relief and sense of satisfaction that you defeat the last foe and reopen the doors.
Like any other roguelike game, death is permanent and requires starting from scratch. Initially this seems brutal and progress is slow. But once you begin to hit the kill targets for unlocking new characters and weapons, as well as obtaining perks that can be used in your next playthrough, things become slightly more forgiving. Once this happens you will be hooked and will continue coming back again and again to try to beat that last boss who killed you before you could see what the next floor had in store for you. You will become more accustomed to the enemies attack patterns and behaviour and you will soon be whizzing through the levels, jumping over traps and mowing down minions left right and centre. The addition of levelling up and choosing new perks during the game in order to boost your chances of survival is a welcome one, made even better by the vast amount of perks you can choose from, new ones of which are unlocked as your hit monster kill tallies.
Ziggurat certainly doesn’t feature the same single-player structure as the games that inspired it – there are no intricate levels to explore and switches to pull to open new paths here. This may disappoint fans of Heretic and Hexen who wanted something similar to those great games and, to some extent, I include myself in that category. But I found myself enjoying Ziggurat too much to worry about what it could have been, instead focusing on enjoying what it is – a fantastically retro FPS that is heaps of fun to play, extremely challenging yet rewarding and wonderful to look at. The only chink in its armour is the length of the game. After several days of being defeated by the third floor guardian I made it to the fourth floor. I was disappointed to see that the stages still all looked very similar as I was hoping to see some outdoor stages, maybe a huge library, a clock tower, anything really. The disappointment was magnified tenfold when I got to the fifth floor and was informed it was the final stage. Only five floors? This seemed pretty tight-fisted to me. Sure, the game is hard and it took me several days casual play to reach the final stage, but I was left yearning for far more content. After a recent update there is a now a Game+ mode, unlocked upon completion of the game, which adds a sixth floor and increases the difficulty substantially. This should keep the hardcore occupied for a while longer.
Despite its short length and lack of variety in the levels, Ziggurat is the most complete and solid ‘early access’ game I have played so far, and wouldn’t have been surprised if this was sold as the finished article. But with the potential for further updates and improvements, this game can only get better. If you yearn for the classic days of 1990’s first person shooters then you will love Ziggurat and I urge you to head over to Steam and splash out on it as soon as possible. You won’t regret it!
For reviews on popular titles we recommend PC Invasion.
For game purchases we recommend GOG.
*Ziggurat is constantly in development and receives regular updates that refine the gameplay, tweak the visuals and add new content. This review is accurate as of 21st September 2014. I will bring you news of any major updates in future posts.
Posted on November 5, 2016
With the release of the Armello Teaser Trailer for PS4, League of Geeks is unveiling the game’s complete visual upgrade scheduled to hit PS4, PC, Mac and Linux at launch this september. Even with Armello already lauded for its visual achievements, numerous graphical improvements are being made, including volumetric cloud and weather effects, an overhaul of lighting and shaders, high detail character models and an entire remodeling of the environment.
At launch League of Geeks will also double the amount of playable characters currently available in Early Access, increasing the number from four to eight. The male bear clan hero, ‘Brun Oakbreaker’, highlighted in the assets released today, is the first upcoming character to be revealed. Brun will be playable for the first time at E3 in room 515a in the West Hall.
Set in a vibrant magical world with a tinge of darkness, Armello thrusts players into a Game of Thrones-esque struggle for power in epic single or multiplayer action. Players take on the role of a ‘Hero’ from one of the four animal clans and navigate their character across the procedurally generated board as they quest, scheme, explore, vanquish monsters, perform the Mad King’s royal edicts and face off against other players, with one ultimate goal in mind – storming the palace and becoming King or Queen of Armello.
Players start in their clan grounds and traverse the board with a set number of action points for each turn to spend on moving their character from tile to tile. Each tile presents different consequences including exploring a dungeon, gaining or losing health, claiming a settlement for your own or granting stealth. With more than 100 beautifully animated and illustrated cards, players can cast spells, recruit followers, uncover ancient treasures and execute treacherous plots as they quest for the throne!
There are four ways to win in Armello.
1. Combat – Slaying the king and surviving the confrontation
2. Prestige Victory – Having the most Prestige when the King dies, whether from his afflictions (the King loses health every dawn) or dying in combat with the attacking player also not surviving the battle.
Prestige is gained by completing heroic deeds such as killing other players, vanquishing banes or completing quests
3. Spirit Stone Collection – magical Spirit Stones can be found throughout Armello. If a player collects four, they can use them to assist the King in passing in peace, restoring balance to Armello
4. Rot Victory – players who defeat the King in combat whilst having more Rot than him (and live to tell the tale) will win the game and shroud Armello in darkness.
Posted on October 26, 2015
Online gaming has grown very rapidly in popularity. Some of the first games to hit the Internet came about in the 1990s. Many of these games were text-based games that allowed players to navigate different scenarios created by other individuals. In fact, these games were pretty much just continuations of the real world role-playing games (RPGs), such as Dungeons and Dragons. In these games, one person would assume the role of game creator. The game creator would set up certain scenarios and populate the world with various monsters. These monsters would have set skill levels and attacks. The players would encounter these monsters and have to fight against them using a series of techniques and attacks. If the player had enough life points, the player survives. These moved to the Internet in pretty much the same form. They began to shift a lot after that, though. The games have differences and similarities along a few common lines.
How one pays for a game is a big aspect of what changes or stays the same in certain video games. Pay structures fall into three different forms: free, free-to-play, and pay-to-play. Free games are those that are completely free. Usually, you need an Internet connection, but the game does not require that you give any money for anything. This is a structure that is very popular for the most simplistic games. Flash-based games are typically free. They are games that do not require much upkeep on the part of developers, so, users do not need to pay anybody for maintenance. These games are typically not maintained or updated; therefore, it is uncommon for a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) to be completely free, since they require large amounts of upkeep.
The second kind of structure is free-to-play; this is one of the most common and most popular. Free-to-play is, as the name implies, free for a player to join. Typically, that player is allowed to play the game with most of its features; however, certain features are behind a paywall. Usually, the player has to pay real money for certain weapons, equipment, or character customisations. These are called micro transactions, because they are such small transactions of money. They are how most of these games fund themselves. In certain games, such as Dust 514, the micro transactions unlock equipment that would have been unlocked later anyway. So, the real money micro transactions give distinct advantages to players willing to pay real money.
The final pay structure is the simple pay-to-play structure. This can be accomplished by a one-time fee that the player pays to purchase the game; Guild Wars is an example of this. Or, it can be a monthly fee as with World of Warcraft. Malaysia online game communities are split about which structure is best for them.
Players tend to control PC games with their keyboards, whereas they control console games with controllers. Many feel that the keyboard offers greater control. This is definitely true in MMORPGS that require different attacks and tactics.
Recently I have been having a long overdue Amiga revival! For those of you who don’t know (have you been living under a rock?) the Amiga is a 16-bit home computer made by Commodore and released way back in 1985. While originally released as a high end computer for business use (yawn) it wasn’t long before it became known as a gaming machine thanks to its fantastic graphical capabilities and fun software. A couple of years later the most famous model of Amiga, the Amiga 500, was released and it cemented Commodore’s machine as a home gaming platform bar none – It took PC games many years to catch up to the same level!
EmulationI am a huge advocate of emulation and, on PC, you are sorted when it comes to the Amiga. WinUAE has been around for ages and is constantly being updated. It performs extremely well, playing everything you can throw at it – It does require slightly more tinkering with than the average SNES or Mega Drive emulator but it’s well worth the effort. However, I have found Amiga emulation on other devices such as the original Xbox, Wii and PSP to be less satisfactory. Often the games don’t load, or feature stuttering framerates, sound issues or crashes. It’s here where I strongly recommend the original hardware!
Once you have the two items it’s a simple matter of taking out the stock Amiga 1200 Hard drive and plugging in your CF card / IDE adapter combo. If, like me, you are happy with using an Amiga 600, you will be pleased to know you can use this CF card method on that model too.
On this CF card you will need to install WHDLoad – a fantastic piece of software that you use from Workbench to launch your pre-installed Amiga games. It is worth noting that these are different files to the usual .ADF files and will only run on WHDLoad. There are many fantastic tutorials online should you need any further help with installing both a compact flash card and WHDLoad!
Amiga 600 & Gotek USB Floppy Drive
Despite the above method being the best way to enjoy Amiga games, I stand by my choice for an Amiga 600 with a Gotek USB Floppy Drive installed. The ease of copying .ADF game files to a USB drive is the deciding factor for me. The Amiga 600 holds the most nostalgic memories for me, personally, and its smaller design is far more appealing than the humungous A500 model. You don’t get a numerical keypad but, if you only intend to use your Amiga for games, you won’t miss it!
The Amiga 600 I had been using over Christmas suddenly died on me. Thankfully I was able to pick up an Amiga 500+ locally for only £35. It also works perfectly with the Gotek, though the sharp edges contained on the metal parts inside the machine have rendered my hands a sliced up disaster area. I was pleased when my replacement Amiga 600 arrived this morning and after a couple of minutes cleaning and installing the Gotek I was soon playing the brilliant Ruff N Tumble again!
in the bottom left only has a short cable to attach it
USB stick fit and create easier access to tiny disk swap buttons
(Arcade – via Model 2 Emulator)
Two cars and three tracks. Yep, that’s all you get. But it matters not one iota, as what is on offer here is pure perfection, tuned and tweaked to provide the most pure and perfect arcade racing experience you can have. The two cars, the Lancia Delta (HF Integrale) and Toyota Celicia (GT-Four ST205) both look, sound and handle brilliantly and have enough subtle differences to make driving each one a whole new experience. After selecting your preferred vehicle you begin on the bumpy sand and mud filled Desert stage before heading along windy mountain roads, more mud and tight hairpin bends in the Forest course. Then it’s a twisting trip through villages and, you guessed it, more mud as you careen through the final Mountain stage.
(Arcade – via Model 2 Emulator)
Each of these tracks is a perfect example of expert level design, with every nook and cranny feeling totally essential to the rollercoaster ride you take through the jumps, puddles, tunnels, twists and turns. Even better, if you place first, you get a brand new track to race on, the beautiful, yet devilishly tricky, Lakeside. If you manage to successfully traverse the incredibly tight corners of this final stage and place first you are granted a brand new car, selectable the next time you play. The Lancia Stratos (HF) is just as iconic as the two cars that adorn Sega Rally flyers and advertisements and is a welcome addition that will take some serious practice to master thanks to its rather erratic handling and high speed.
Sega Rally Championship is an absolute blast to play due to, not only the cars and tracks themselves, but the wonderful physics and handling of the vehicles. Your car drifts around corners in such a satisfying manner that it makes you feel like a true pro every time. The feeling of weight you experience when hitting one of the many bumps and lift off from the ground is second to none and wrestling with the wheel to keep yourself facing the right angle to the approaching corner is what arcade gaming is all about – pure excitement and adrenaline. The different road surfaces play a part too, with mud and sand feeling different from the smooth tarmac found on the Forest and Mountain stages – the transition from a muddy track onto the tarmac is extremely gratifying and feels, one would imagine, just like real rally driving. Sega rally offers two viewpoints, behind the car and a full screen, first person viewpoint. It all comes down to personal choice, naturally, but for my money the outside view wins every time – these cars deserve to be seen and look ace drifting around corners and launching off bumps in the road, spraying dust and mud in your face as they do so.
The coin-op cabinet came in both single and dual variations, allowing for some seriously competitive and tight races against your buddy if you were lucky enough to chance upon the double seated cab. Sadly, with the death of the arcades and the sheer age of Sega Rally Championship, you are very unlikely to come across one these days. If you do see one out in the wild, be sure to sit down and put a few coins in it as it’s still the most enjoyable arcade driving game out there (second only to Daytona USA). Luckily, however, there were a selection of console and computer ports that brought all the thrills and spills to your own home, in some cases providing an even greater experience.
The first port was for Sega’s 32-bit Saturn console. Released in 1995 and built from the ground up, the Saturn port was a real showstopper, especially after the rushed and rather dismalDaytona USA port. The visuals, while not in the same league as the original, were fantastic, with a slightly grittier look than its arcade parent. Sega were also thoughtful enough to reposition the timer to a less distracting position and also remove the unnecessary progress bar featured in the Coin-Op. The music was one of the biggest improvements made, with the arcade tunes replaced with CD quality remixes. These powerful guitar tracks are incredibly catchy and suit the game to a tee. Anyone who has played Sega Rally Championship will remember the quirky voice acting in the game. These incredibly upbeat and tongue-in-cheek samples elevated the games sense of fun even further and in the Saturn port they sound even better. The iconic “Fiiiii-nish” and “Game Over, Yeeeeah!” are of a much higher quality than before, providing even more of a laugh. Honestly, there isn’t a person on this planet who won’t raise a smile at these wonderful voice overs.
The game retains the same three cars as the coin-op, though this time the Lancia Stratos remains unlocked and selectable once Lakeside is beaten in first place. There is an additional time trial mode, complete with ghost opponent, and a brilliant split screen two player mode. There are also a wealth of customisation options for each car, allowing you to fine tune its performance to suit your play style. You can then save these customisations (along with other changes in the options) to the Saturn’s memory for next time. The Saturn version was a big success and rightly so. It’s the best game for the system and, despite it’s rather ropey visuals (by today’s standards and compared to the PC version), it remains an utter joy to play. I would even go as far as to say that it is worth owning a Saturn for this alone (a 60Hz model, of course!).
In 1997 Sega released Sega Rally Championship for the PC. Essentially a port of the Sega Saturn version, the PC version looked very similar (but with a slightly cleaner look), featured the same excellent remixed soundtrack, contained the time trial and split screen modes and featured the same customisation options. There was also a rare version released with direct 3D support that improved the visuals further. You can now download a patch online to mod your existing Sega Rally installation to this version, and there are also other user made mods out there to further enhance and improve stability and function on modern PCs. With this setup, combined with an essential Xbox 360 controller, the PC version of Sega Rally Championship is my favourite of all the versions. Be sure to own a copy of the original disc in order to get the awesome soundtrack playing alongside the action!