GOG release: “Mirror’s Edge”

DICE‘s sequel of the first-person runner is already out, but the original is still worth playing, especially now that it’s DRM-free on GOG.

The story is a rather conventional dystopian one with main protagonist Faith, a Runner who carries data from rooftop to rooftop and whose sister has been framed for a crime, trying to outrun the system. She might not be the deepest character and the story has a few holes, but it serves well as a background for the unconventional gameplay.

In contrast to other FPS games, shooting is only possible when evading enemies and pulling their weapons from them. Most of the time it’s really running from one area to the next, which involves climbing, wall and ledge jumping. While this is certainly too much for people with motion sickness, the way everything runs smoothly as in the best of platformers speaks for the quality of the game. I played it years ago on the Xbox 360, and even if I had to take pauses in between plays, it was an unforgettable experience.

The graphics still look great with a unique visual style and really good sound design, even after seven years after its original release. The game is now available on GOG with a 50% discount that will last until September 29, 12:59 PM UTC.

Buy the game for PC on
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Official Website

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Game release: “We Are The Dwarves” (PC)

Tactical strategy games in a fantasy setting don’t always have to involve different characters, as Whale Rock Games’ We Are The Dwarves focuses on the smaller race.

Telling the story of a Dwarven Starship that is in search of new energy sources and crashes with only three Dwarven astronauts alive who then have to fight their way through dark caverns already shows that the typical fantasy fare is mixed up with sci-fi tropes. It remains to be seen how deep (pun intended) the storytelling really is and how relatable the tough characters are, but at least it feels quite fresh, compared to the standard save-the-world-and-defeat-the-ultimate-evil tales. And dwarves are so much cooler than elves, anyway.

Each dwarf has their own unique abilities, and one can switch on the fly between them while controlling the whole squad as well, giving real-time orders to overcome all the enemy obstacles. Pressing the pause button and adjusting strategies is also a nice way to think about each new step in the tough battles. Using the environment to one’s advantage, e.g. throwing nasties off cliffs, is also a viable option to progress.

The game certainly looks and sounds nice (and bloody) with fluid animations, atmospheric backgrounds and lighting effects, while offering some good voice acting and suitably epic music. It’s now available for PC with a 33% discount that will last until September 28, 1:59 PM UTC.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

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 page๐Ÿ™‚. Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
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Game release: “Zenith” (PC)

Most RPGs take themselves very seriously, but there are a few, like Infinigon’s action-RPG Zenith, that have a much more lighthearted approach.

Some might think that action-RPGs are less strategic than their turn-based high fantasy counterparts, but if the epic stories and characters aren’t always on par with a Baldur’s Gate II, then it’s okay to simply enjoy the company of some more down-to-earth people like Argus Windell, a former wizard and arcanologyst who simply doesn’t want that whole prophecy chosen-one bravado and who’d rather spend his time in less stressful situations. But of course when the apocalypse calls, everyone has to join the party if they want to or not.

Self-referential humor, a protagonist who doesn’t take anything or anyone seriously, a world full of fantasy stereotypes, but also pop culture references make this parody quite a joyful journey through standard point-and-battle territory. Of course it’s questionable for how long this can hold anyone’s attention without getting too annoying, especially with the use of swearwords. But if it’s on the same level as the Fable series or Bard’s Tale and even has some subtle emotional elements as in Stories: The Path of Destinies, then this should be a pretty good time waster.

It also looks rather pretty with some very nice backgrounds, character animations and lighting effects, while the voice acting sounds convincing as well. Using special abilities and upgrading certain attributes is obviously what every action-RPG since Diablo has done, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. The game is now available on PC with a 20% discount that will last until September 27, 3:59 PM UTC, but it will also be released on PS4 and Xbox One in the near future.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

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 page๐Ÿ™‚. Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps๐Ÿ˜‰.

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Game release: “Conga Master” (PC)

Just when you thought that indie games are all about platformers and rogue-likes, something crazy like Undercoders‘ arcade party game Conga Master comes along.

Rhythm action games are almost common these days, but what if the core concept of simply dancing and forming a line of like-minded people is more important than learning instrument combos or even having some sense of rhythm? That’s what this game is all about, as the goal is to convince club visitors to join your congo ranks while dancing around them. It sounds silly, but it’s also ingenious fun.

As simple as it looks, things get more complicated when pigs and aliens join the party, the former literally stinking and the latter abducting people away from one’s ever increasing line of dancers. Power-ups and different dancer abilities are other ways to prevent the game to become stale, while there are many levels to unlock.

Multiplayer modes involving other congas to disrupt, pigs to pop and a lone conga dancer to win over as well as to make the longest line add to even more chaotic fun, while the various references to arcade games in the level select titles are great to spot, too. Together with Super Treasure Arena, this might be another contender for local multiplayer awesomeness.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

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 page๐Ÿ™‚. Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps๐Ÿ˜‰.

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Cyberpunk stories: “Deus Ex: Invisible War” (PC)

Following in the mighty footsteps of FPS/RPG/adventure hybrid Deus Ex, Ion Storm’s Deus Ex: Invisible War wasn’t exactly what people were craving for.

Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC)
(USA 2003, developer: Ion Storm (defunct), publishers: Eidos Interactive (defunct)/Square Enix, platforms: PC, Xbox)

20 years after JC Denton brought society into war and economic depression, Alex D, a trainee in the Tarsus Academy, witnesses a terrorist attack on the city of Chicago and soon has to decide which leading parts of society he can trust.

Factions and fractions of society
Following the collapse of society into different factions, there’s potential for a more comprehensive world with interconnected stories, but unfortunately what remains are ideas and personalities that only scratch the surface of what could have been achieved. The World Trade Organization (WTO) functions as a police state, as it regulates where people are supposed to live and how “order is kept”. The Order is a religious group divided into various splinter cells which stands for rebuilding society to achieve spiritual growth. Finally, the Knights Templar are a secret society like the Illuminati who want purity and oppose biomodifications, something the black market traders, the Omar, strongly promote, as they’re into transhumanism, i.e. they’re already upgraded with nano technology to a degree that they’re not human anymore. Another organization, the ApostleCorp, also tries to bring humanity closer together with this technology.

In theory it sounds great to have an ambiguous character like Alex D. trying to figure out who to trust and find the reason behind the terrorist attacks. Unfortunately he remains as faceless and unlikable as most of the groups he has to do jobs for. During the game one also meets old friends from the Tarsus Academy who decide for themselves which groups to join. This is quite an interesting way to present all the different ideologies, but connecting with these people is almost impossible, as they remain flat and uninteresting.

Divided by opinions, characters, and places
Even if there are always some leads to follow and new people to meet, the dull dialogue is only saved when serious topics like social unrest, AI philosophy or transhumanism and racism are discussed. The same holds true for various news bulletins and database entries one can listen to or read. Radio shows and adverts are fun and surprisingly witty in how they criticize social and political events (similar to GTA), but the incredible sense of place one felt when playing through the original Deus Ex is somewhat lost among all the babbling. Despite being able to listen to people’s conversations, immersion and suspense aren’t at a very high level, which is a shame, as each individual location has a lot going for it, e.g. Cairo where the poor and wealthy are divided into those who can afford to live underground in apartments and those who have to suffer pollution above ground. There are even almost sci-fi horror-like scenarios in abandoned research stations, which again proves that the world building has much potential if only the overall script was better.

The confined locations additionally break immersion. Even if they consist of various levels or districts, frequent and long loading times when traveling from one to the next and the absence of open, wide spaces makes the world seem less encompassing than what storytelling wants the player to believe. Having the console version in mind, this setback is felt throughout the adventure. The levels in the original game were too big at times, but here one feels claustrophobia in the small spaces, which again is a shame, because there are enough distinct places to go to with their own individual NPCs and quests.

Questing in the future
Quests are varied and adhere to the same decision-making process the game’s predecessor offered. The system serves to immerse the player, something that the overall story and shallow characters often fail to do. Being asked by various factions to do tasks that are detrimental to the other is an interesting idea and keeps the gameplay at a steady pace, especially since one can see different story paths and alternative dialogues. However, it takes too long for the involvement of Alex to actually matter. In the final section of the game, he might become an important part of each action the groups take in order to achieve their goals, but the player is usually more motivated to help outsiders, e.g. two rivaling coffee shops or a pop star A.I. that seems to perform governmental surveillance. It’s here where the writing almost reaches a quality worthy of an RPG, even if completing the quests doesn’t require a lot of imagination and strategy.

Augmented reality distortions
The augmentation system that was an integral part of changing the gameplay styles in Deus Ex is disappointingly dumbed down to a degree that one doesn’t receive any experience points to invest in skills. Only the use of augmentation canisters can make things easier for the player, although they’re not as important to progress as before. While it’s possible to choose between normal and black market upgrades, both can’t be used at the same time, making it even less customisable. At least there are so many littered around the levels that overwriting them and starting anew isn’t a big problem. Being able to run silently or even invisible to the eyes of machines and humans alike might have been very useful before, but sneaking or using multitools to open doors and avoid enemies works most of the time, anyway.

Shooting one’s way through enemies is also possible, but with limited universal ammo, gunplay doesn’t require much strategy (although running out of ammo is rather annoying with this new system), especially with the AI being so bad and upgrades for different weapons are limited to two, making them even less of a viable option. One can of course hack computers and control turrets or drones to get rid of enemies, but it’s much better to simply turn off security cameras and go through levels without much enemy presence. Unfortunately, it’s rather fiddly to hack computers, because one has to keep the mouse aim locked on them, something the original game didn’t bother with, and with good reason, because it happens all too often that mouse sensitivity makes losing focus a major problem so that the player has to go through the whole process again.

A new breed of graphics and sounds
Graphically, the game looks much prettier than its predecessor with some nice lighting effects, e.g. a swinging lamp throwing flickering shadows against walls. Even if the character animations, facial expressions and lip sync aren’t great, the higher resolution of the models and the surroundings make it easier to distinguish the environments, something that the first game had trouble with. The music is good and varied despite lacking a certain identity, while the voice acting is quite good, although the voice actor of the main character sounds bored most of the time with lines delivered in the same intonation, no matter in what situation words are uttered.

It’s difficult to be a sequel sometimes
Calling Deus Ex: Invisible War a bad game would do it a disservice, and even if it doesn’t have the ambition or scope of the original, it’s a little bit unfair to see it as a bad sequel, because the story itself and the topics that are discussed are interesting. It simply lacks better writing and character development. Even the world is more varied than in the original. However, everything is put together in such a convoluted way without the necessary exposition, that the plot ultimately fails to convince, which is also true for the characters one simply can’t relate to very well.

Gameplay-wise, there aren’t many RPG elements left, and even the sneaking and gunfights aren’t that intense anymore, which is a shame, because there are some memorable quests. They might not be very demanding, and some of the decision-making is questionable, but the legacy of the original Deus Ex is still recognizable. As it is, the playtime is reduced to 15-20 hours, which doesn’t seem like much, but most of these are quite enjoyable and even thought-provoking in certain parts.

Score: 7/10

Buy the digital version for PC on
GOG
Steam

Buy the retail version for PC 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 page๐Ÿ™‚. Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using one of the GOG or Amazon links and buying the product also helps๐Ÿ˜‰.

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