GOG free game “CONSORTIUM: The Master Edition” + Kickstarter “CONSORTIUM: The Tower”

To push the Kickstarter project CONSORTIUM: The Tower, the collaborative effort of GOG and Interdimensional Games offers users of the DRM-free platform its predecessor CONSORTIUM: The Master Edition as a giveaway.

I have to say that this game passed me by unnoticed, probably because the sci-fi setting didn’t appeal to me so much and from the looks of it, it seemed like another rogue-like. But now that it’s available for free (at least if one gets a copy in the 48 hours since the announcement), this looks quite intriguing, especially since I’ve been watching the new Battlestar Galactica for quite a while and having been completely wrong about the genre.

It’s a first-person action-adventure/RPG hybrid taking place on a spaceship with the main character investigating a murder. Visually it might not have a chance against bigger AAA titles, but it’s all about the choices one makes. These influence the way characters react and how the story plays out, something that has been said by many PR people, but which could actually work here. With a setting and characters which could be from a sci-fi TV show it can end up to be a memorable experience, one that is even sweeter now that it’s possible to play it for free. So make sure you create an account (if you haven’t done already) and get CONSORTIUM: The Master Edition for free before February 13, 1:59 PM GMT.

Official Website

And while you’re at it, it might be a good idea to head over to the Kickstarter website for CONSORTIUM: The Tower that looks quite fantastic and will hopefully hit its target financing. It’s interesting to watch the developer talk about the narrative possibilities in gaming and this project in particular, although I’m not sure about how Die Hard and Deus Ex fit together.

It has lots of action, but this will also depend on how one approaches the game, hopefully making it less than an FPS and more of an adventure game like the first title. This looks more open and less claustrophobic in the game trailer, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it doesn’t neglect good character writing and instead delivers on the promise that gameplay and storytelling can’t be distinguished anymore, something one has heard so many times before but seldom seen come to fruition.

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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Star Wars games: “TIE Fighter Collector’s CD-ROM” (PC)

Only one year after X-Wing gave gamers the chance to relive some parts of the Star Wars saga in the cockpit of Rebel spacecrafts, LucasArts’ TIE Fighter showed that the Imperials are just as suitable for a good space combat sim.

TIE Fighter Collector’s CD-ROM (PC)
(USA 1995, developer: LucasArts (defunct), publishers: LucasArts (defunct)/Disney), platform: PC)

As a pilot fighter of the Empire, the Rebel Alliance and others who oppose the Emperor have to be pursued from the cockpit in many dangerous missions.

Join the Imperial side
If one expects a suspenseful fight for survival story, one should look elsewhere. Being part of the already powerful Empire takes away some of tension of fighting against all odds with higher stakes, even if the idea of playing as an unknown novice pilot who rises in fame and prestige works as in X-Wing. While the Rebels always try to find allies, the Empire is more interested in keeping their status quo and “protecting” the galaxy from traitors, pirates and those who stand against “peace”. This alternative version of the Star Wars story after the destruction of the first Death Star (and leading up to the construction of the second one) is entertaining most of the time with some guest appearances of Darth Vader and the Emperor, although the more interesting parts are those involving the acquisition of new space ships, as there is the main character remains faceless.

Fly for the Imperial fleet
7 ships can be flown for various missions with different controls. Even if cockpit views in addition to shield, laser and speed systems carry over from X-Wing, additional keys are assigned to special abilities, e.g. a beam that prevents enemy ships from moving and another one that keeps them from firing, or the use of super speed. As it’s possible to equip one’s craft with different weapons and tools at the beginning of most missions, there is a certain open strategy involved. Targeting specific components of a ship, e.g. weapons or shield systems or switching to enemy crafts attacking mission-critical objects as well as being able to match one’s starfighter speed to another one by the press of a simple key is also highly helpful.

Not every ship is available right from the start, as they’re part of the main plot and some add-on missions. If this sounds even more complicated than in the original Star Wars space sim, that’s not the case at all. Sure, each ship handles differently and with the standard TIE Fighter having no shield at all, one has to be even more careful during battle. But it’s simply a great feeling to try out different strategies and see how each vessel handles in missions. With the fire power of the Missile Boat that can have 80 projectiles, gameplay is much different from flying an evasive TIE-Defender, for example. The velocity and damage of each torpedo and missile has to be taken into account as well.

Serve the Emperor with improvements
Mission design doesn’t distract much from the destroy-target/protect-ally template, although now one can pursue secondary and bonus goals. The former are given by the Emperor’s secret service, the latter are usually completed by sheer luck, e.g. destroying certain targets. While the secondary mission goals are simply about identifying or destroying specific vessels, the reward to be accepted in the inner circle of the Emperor feels even better than climbing ranks and receiving medals. Of course this all requires more fighting and strategic skills, but as checking if it’s still possible to accomplish these objective is made easy, frustration is kept at a minimum. One can also abort/restart a mission during play with the option to restore the latest pilot data.

This doesn’t mean that the game is easy, though. Despite being able to choose between three difficulties, even Medium offers quite a challenge, with some missions being particularly tricky and in certain cases almost unfair. At least it’s possible to fast forward time so that waiting for crafts to complete docking or for others to arrive isn’t necessary anymore. Unclear mission briefings are absent as well, because one can ask an officer or secret agent about specific details of the missions. Even after failing a mission, helpful advice is given what one could have done better. Again the sheer amount of missions is staggeringly high, with 7 Tours of Duty for the main campaign, 3 more with the first add-on Defender of the Empire and again 3 with Enemies of the Empire. Adding all the training and historical missions which are interwoven in the main campaign with new ship arrivals, playtime is very long indeed.

Looks and sounds are better on the dark side
Graphics are much more detailed than in X-Wing due to a higher resolution and more effects, while slowdown rarely occurs, making for a more fluid experience. Voice acting is improved as well (even if there is a discrepancy at times between what is said and what is written), while the music adjusts to the action on screen (although again only in the Collector’s Edition available on GOG). It’s interesting to note that the usually dark Imperial march music is used as a heroic leitmotif. It might not work in the same nostalgic way as in the Alliance campaigns, but the higher quality soundtrack and effects add to the overall intense battle atmosphere, especially with voiced messages during missions notifying the player if he/she succeeded or failed. Cutscenes are also quite good, rewarding the player with progressing, particularly when being given marks on his arm during the Emperor’s secret agents’ ceremonies.

A great flight sim about the bad guys
Sometimes it’s good to be bad in games if the title in question is really that good. In the case of TIE Fighter, it’s the better X-Wing in gameplay. With more user-friendly improvements during missions and more elaborate mission briefings, it’s more accessible, while the graphics are much easier on the eye as well. However, missions still suffer from repetitiveness and the story of being an Imperial isn’t as exciting as fighting for the Alliance. Still, with a playtime of 40-50 hours due to the two expansion packs, the 100+ missions offer enough joystick food for space combat simulation fans and those who want a more polished game than LucasArts’ first foray into the genre could offer.

Score: 8.5/10

Buy the digital version for PC on
GOG
Steam

Buy the retail version for PC on
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG and/or Amazon link and buying the product also helps ;).

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Star Wars games: “X-Wing: Collector’s CD-ROM” (PC)

LucasArts made Star Wars fans’ dreams come true when space combat sim X-Wing came out, but does the 1994 CD-ROM edition still hold up today?

X-Wing: Collector’s CD-ROM Edition (PC)
(USA 1994, developer: LucasArts (defunct), publishers: LucasArts (defunct)/Disney), platform: PC)

As a pilot fighter of the Rebel Alliance, the evil Empire has to be attacked from the cockpit in various dangerous missions.

Epic flight stories
The story of the main campaign divided into three tours of duty takes place before the destruction of the first Death Star, but continues with the expansion packs Imperial Pursuit and B-Wing (respectively tours of duty IV and V). While they don’t necessarily tell anything new in the Star Wars universe, all the missions evoke a feeling of playing an important part in the Alliance’s cause. This can also be said about Rogue Squadron 3D, but the plot is better developed and works without the unintentionally funny bravado of one’s flight comrades. Even if The Farlander Papers, an accompanying novella included in the original boxed release, gives the pilot a name and one sees him from behind during ceremonies, there aren’t any memorable dialogues, not even during flights.

Of course this isn’t such a bad thing, as it gives the impression that one starts out as a nobody, completes increasingly more difficult missions and rises in ranks and esteem. X-Wing is certainly no character-driven game. It’s more about the Alliance’s struggle to hit and run when it comes to sabotaging the Empire whenever they can. Despite not having the most complicated plot, it’s engaging enough to continue playing. The sense of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy is felt throughout with the original game doing a good job of retelling George Lucas’ first movie complete with the trench run to fire missiles into the Death Star’s core (even if this means one suddenly plays as Luke Skywalker). Imperial Pursuit may not have the same emotional impact, but it shows a realistic part of the Alliance’s survival, i.e. finding food and allies while constantly escaping the Emperor’s and Darth Vader’s clutches. B-Wing doesn’t change the narrative formula much, even if flying missions with a new starfighter is nice for a change.

Epic campaigning
Mission design is varied to a certain degree, with escorting, destroying or disabling targets being the order of the day. In addition to the campaigns and starfighter-specific training missions, there are also various historical missions. However, these should only be tackled if one spent some time in the proving grounds which teach how to navigate the ships through goal-like posts while getting familiar with speed and destroying targets in a strict time limit. With training missions for each ship, there are over 120 to complete. While this sounds like much and playtime is at least 30-40 hours, one quickly sees a recurring pattern of the missions and things can get a bit repetitive, as engaging enemy fighters, containers and big ships can only entertain for so long. However, in the add-ons one can choose between alternative missions. Even if these don’t have an impact on the overall campaigns, it’s nice to be given some options.

Use the Force or keyboard/joystick combinations
Being a flight simulator means that it’s not as easy to control the various ships as in an arcade game. It’s actually quite difficult at first to get one’s head around all the different keys and how the cockpit works. Shield, speed and laser systems have to be handled with care. Transferring energy from one to the other, preferably from lasers to shields is a good way to start, but one has to keep a constant eye on recharge levels and speed. Otherwise one can easily become a sitting duck in the eyes of enemy crafts, especially bigger ones with more fire power.

Switching to missiles, doing evasive maneuvers and even disabling ships to prevent oncoming reinforcements are the most essential strategies for surviving in addition to fly around targets without colliding with them. This is actually a major concern, as one can either be hit by flying parts when destroying an enemy in close range or by them doing a suicide attempt. If this is planned or not doesn’t matter, but it’s annoying at times, especially with wingmen acting the same way. Even if one can assign copies of one’s advanced pilot data to them, their A.I. still isn’t the best. This is too bad, because giving orders like attacking certain targets or calling for assistance makes the combat even more immersive.

The handling of the ships requires different strategies and is best done with a joystick. The A-Wing is very fast, the Y-Wing slow, but carries disabling weapons, while the X-Wing is an somewhere in between these crafts. The B-Wing is extremely slow in maneuvering, but it can shoot lots of missiles and has additional layers of shields to protect it. The way these starfighters are used in the campaigns shows that they’re not simply for fan service, but that they serve a purpose. Fortunately one doesn’t have to relearn all the controls, as all keys are the same, making the learning process easier.

Nerve wrecking problems
While story and missions are engaging, there are still issues that make the game unnecessarily difficult. The biggest concern is that one doesn’t get notified if a mission is failed. In the heat of the battle, reading all the messages of various crafts being destroyed isn’t easy, and if a mission-critical ship suddenly becomes history, one wonders what happened, especially with no option to read past notifications. Not being able to abort and restart a mission during flight is one inconvenience, but leaving the player clueless why the “mission complete” message doesn’t show up is an annoyance. So is the downtime when waiting for docking operations or certain ships to arrive, as time can’t be fast forwarded. At least the add-ons have optional hints which are very useful, as they show which ships to go after first and what the best strategy of completing a mission is, something that is a major problem of the game when one spends so much time in battle and misses newly arrived ships which destroy an important allied ship.

Preserving pilot data is another problem of the game. When one’s ship is destroyed, one can restore the pilot, but with all his merits and points gone, while being captured by enemies isn’t any better. Only with Rebel forces nearby who can rescue the pilot is it possible to retain the same score and rank. While this is certainly realistic, it’s still an unfair system, considering that some of the missions are devilishly difficult and colliding with enemies can be a constant issue. Even if the Collector’s Edition made some levels easier and collision can be switched off, it seems like a cheap trick to punish the player. The only way to get around this is to manually create backup copies, which means quitting the game every time one dies and replacing the current data file with the old one.

Looks and sounds from the olden days
Graphically, the game shows its age with low-res textures (at least in the original and 1994 CD-ROM edition) and unspectacular backgrounds. While it’s nice to have a planet in sight or small space particles fly by, these distract more than they add atmosphere. With multiple ships on screen some slowdown can occur as well. Cutscenes still look nice and serve as rewards after completing certain missions, moving the plot foward.

Unfortunately, the voice acting isn’t up to scratch. With only Admiral Ackbar being voiced by the original actor, the rest of the cast isn’t so great. They’re not terrible, but with low audio quality making them sound disconnected from the scenes they play in with the additional problem of texts in briefings sometimes different, the atmosphere suffers. Fortunately, John Williams’ soundtrack is left intact, making the fights a pleasure, especially with the iMuse technology adjusting to current events and the iconic blasting sounds and the surround sound of TIE-Fighters flying by offering even more reason to be immersed. However, this is only possible in the original release and Collector’s Edition, as the 1998 version simply plays the same track in a loop, therefore making the game less engaging (so make sure to get the GOG version that includes all releases).

A classic simulation piece of Star Wars gaming history
X-Wing is an easy game to love if one is a fan of the Star Wars saga, as it perfectly captures the sense of thrilling space combat. It’s also great for those who want to try their hands on a simulation that offers enough action with strategic elements. Unfortunately, graphically it doesn’t stand a chance today and while the story is good, it’s not the best in the universe. More problematic are the high difficulty and some user interface-unfriendly design decisions. Still as a space combat sim in the Star Wars universe where it all began, it’s still a blast to play and especially listen to.

Score: 8/10

Buy the digital version for PC on
GOG
Steam

Buy the retail version for PC on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG and/or Amazon link and buying the product also helps ;).

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Game release: “Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders” (PC, PS4 , Xbox One, iOS and Android)

It has been a while since a game adaptation of her novels has been published, but Microids‘/Artefacts Studio‘s Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders might just hit the right notes as an investigation adventure game.

If you know a bit of adventure game history, then the Agatha Christie games weren’t the most accomplished titles. While they did a good job of staying mostly true to the source material with characters and atmosphere, it was in the puzzles they failed, usually cluttering the inventory with useless items and giving the player not enough clues. If you do a bit more research you’ll even find out that there actually was Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders for the Nintendo DS, developed by AWE Games and Black Lantern Studios, and published by DreamCatcher Interactive. However, this looks to be something quite different.

The visual style is eye-catchingly beautiful with its cel-shaded graphics. While lip sync seems to be off unfortunately, the backgrounds and characters look great, while voice acting sounds good as well. What’s most important though is the gameplay, and this could turn out to be a very linear experience, as evidence has to be found on crime scenes, witnesses and suspects interviewed (with a bit of L.A. Noire reading faces feature thrown in), and other leads followed in a certain order. Still, as could be seen with a game like The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, this could be engaging enough if the story holds up well. There is enough potential in the original about a killer who gives the date and location of the next murder to Hercule Poirot after all.

The game is now available on PC with a 20% discount until February 12, 5:59 PM GMT (at least the GOG version). The console versions as well as the PC retail box will be in stores soon with the mobile versions coming along if ready.

Buy the digital version on
GOG
Steam

Pre-order the retail version for PC on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Pre-order the game for Xbox One on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Pre.order the game for PS4 on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Official Website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG and/or Amazon link and buying the product also helps ;).

Posted in Game release news, Gaming | 4 Comments

Funny videos: “10 best dry ice experiments and huge milkshake fail”

Sometimes the easiest experiments are the most impressive ones, as the Reardon Bros show with their 10 best dry ice experiments.

You might remember these guys from the Carbonite chocolate Han Solo + Chocolate Lego stormtropper article, and even if I still can’t warm up (pun intended) with the music and some of the attitude, this video is pretty cool (again pun intended). It reminded me of a show I used to watch on TV ages ago called “Knoff hoff” (yes, the wrong German pronunciation of “know how”). This was more scientific with explanations, but the idea was the same, namely using household stuff and showing the often surprising results.

I guess some of the Reardon experiments could actually happen on today’s Rosenmontag (Red Monday) in Germany when all kinds of drunks do stupid things (not only dressing up as clowns, but behaving like them as well). Anyway, if the dry ice rocket or coke and ice experiments are done in a safe environment, these could turn out to be pretty awesome. Speaking of awesome, the milkshake fail is my personal favorite in addition to the moving coin and floating bubbles. So make sure to check out the whole video.

Have you done any of these experiments? Or do you know of any other hilarious videos? Let me know, as this could actually turn out to be something I’m looking into more in the near future.

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.

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