Post-Holiday Gaming Spree (or “What’s The Agent Playing Now?”)

It’s not often that I get to talk about games here at The Archive anymore and that’s a shame seeing as how they were my first passion. Unfortunately, finances prevent me from splurging on digital entertainment.

The good news is that the influx of cash gifts over Christmas combined with Steam’s penchant for RIDICULOUSLY generous discounts over the holidays means that I get to talk about the ones that I’m really enjoying now. To that end, please enjoy these three recommendations for your gaming pleasure.

Chroma Squad

This was the odd duck gift that I got from a friend with a long history of loving the Real-Time Strategy and Tactical RPG genres. I never considered myself a fan of them since I’ve always preferred faster paced, action-oriented games that made me feel like I was directly in the action rather than an invisible hand directing events. That said, if any game has a chance of changing that opinion, It would be Chroma Squad.

Centering around a group of actors on a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers parody who get fed up with their d-bag director and start their own indie studio, you play the role of their new director and are charged with casting actors, making props, and building your set (all of which effect in-game stats) as you attempt to play to the audience to build a fanbase (which, in turn, provides you with a bigger budget for better gear) and build the best tokusatsu show ever.

Basically, it’s Fire Emblem by way of a business management simulator; an odd combination that strangely works. The fact that I was managing a show not only made me think harder about my choices but also helped to immerse me in the story since I wasn’t just some never-spoken-of pseudo-god playing with the lives of the cast. You can even customize the team name, uniforms, and catchphrases to create the show you wished you could make while watching stuff like Kamen Rider.

Bear Simulator

Okay, I know the ‘simulator’ genre is a total joke. Like, LITERALLY a joke; they’re made to be played for a few hours, be laughed at like a bad movie night, and swiftly forgotten. But Bear Simulator just feels like something more.

Like most games of its ilk (Goat Simulator comes to mind almost instantly), Bear Simulator revolves around you taking control of a normal creature in less than normal situations. But unlike its goat-based predecessor which largely required you to make your own fun from it, there is an over-arching mystery to be solved in Bear Simulator that helps to keep you engrossed in the action and encourages you to re-explore your world when you’ve polished your ursine skills.

Also, combining the Canada Hat in the above trailer with the fake mustache you find later totally makes you look like a gentlemanly tundra explorer.

Neurovoider

At this point, if you’ve been following me for a while, you should know that I love The Binding of Isaac and other procedurally generated dungeon crawlers. But if any game is going to knock Isaac off its lofty throne, it’s Neurovoider.

A sci-fi-based twin-stick shooter where you essentially play as a brain in a jar, Neurovoider is far more cerebral (no pun intended) than Isaac by the virtue of its item management system. Where you could basically pick up nearly any item in Isaac with little or no consequences, Neurovoider forces you to choose what to keep, scrap, and upgrade forcing you to make tactical decisions based on your style of gameplay.

It also addresses one of the biggest issues I have with Isaac – its lack of enjoyable and unintrusive multiplayer – by including a four-player co-op mode. Combine that with Dan Terminus’ intense Dark Synth soundtrack and you have what’s possibly one of my favorite games of the last five years.

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Steam’s Pay Wall Shenanigans (and Why The Agent Supports it)

Do the defensive walls of Fort Steam hold up well with bricks of cash?
Source: mediacloud.wordpress.com

At this point, You all know that I swear by Steam as a gaming platform. The indie gaming scene that they support just seems to produce more interesting products than the Triple-A sector.

Lately, however, they’ve been in the cross hairs of the consumers with the announcement that many of their features would be placed behind a pay wall.

Here’s how it works; many features on Steam including sending friend invites, group chat, and most interactions via Greenlight, Steam Reviews, and Workshop will be permanently locked until the user in question spends a minimum of five U.S. dollars in the Steam Store.

What is the justification for this? Well, according to the big wigs, this pay wall is put in place as a deterrent for people using the blocked content to spam their own unrelated wares or push a phishing scam on unsuspecting users.

Now, as the title of this article states and in defiance of my nature as a penny pinching, dirt poor writer, I am totally for this plan. Why?

Firstly, it’s not an additional fee. Most of the time when gamers complain about pay walls, it’s because they are making us pay for something that we were getting for free or blocking off major content until we crack open our wallets. Here, most of us are already buying stuff through the Steam Store. This is just using our regular purchases as a confirmation that we are legit consumers using the platform as it was meant to be used.

Secondly, we are all fed up with spam and phishing scams on Steam. I personally got at least four or five bogus friend requests every weekend before the pay wall defense. While it may be easy enough identify a scam (private profiles with names you don’t recognize or no games purchased are a dead giveaway), it’s still inconvenient and rude to make us have to sift through our in-box.

Thirdly, the price tag is very reasonable. Do you know how much five dollars is on Steam? It’s the minimum purchase to add funds to the Steam Wallet. It’s the lowest price for most games not on discount. It’s roughly two in-game purchases in Team Fortress 2. I lose more cash tipping at a restaurant then what you need to by-pass the pay wall.

And that brings me to the forth and final point; most of us are unaffected by the change. Those of us that aren’t running a spam/phishing scheme have already paid our dues and broke through the pay wall before it was even implemented without missing a beat.

So, what am I trying to say here? Well, I think the best thing to take away from this is that, if this must be a world of pay walls, micro-transactions, and pay-to-play tactics, this is probably the ideal way to do it and other gaming platforms and developers should follow suit.

The LESS than ideal way would be the even more recent falderal with them making us pay for mods when the point of them is to be free user-made content to complement and enhance the experience of a game. Good show nipping that one in the bud, gamers.

The Overwhelming Meh (or “Why I Don’t Care Enough to Hate Hatred”)

Oh wow, a gruesomely violent game. I’ve… never seen that before… *sigh*
Source: CraveOnline

If you’re a gamer like me, you’ve likely heard the controversy around the up and coming game Hatred. For those new to the news, here’s a quick primer.

On December of last year, Hatred, an isometric shooter that puts the player in control of a seemingly nameless man (only referred to as The Antagonist) with an irrational and sociopathic need to end as many lives before losing his own, was pulled from Steam Greenlight on the grounds that it’s hyper-violent content would be something that, according to Valve’s director of marketing Doug Lombardi, “we would not publish… on Steam.”

The next day, the game was brought back with an apology from Valve co-founder Gabe Newell and is now slated for release this year.

Firstly, let’s not kid ourselves, fellow gamers; we’ve seen this song and dance before. Games like Hatred love controversy because it spreads the name and sells copies. It worked for Doom. It worked for Mortal Kombat. It sure as HELL worked for Grand Theft Auto. Now, every game wants a piece of the blood-soaked pie and will intentionally insert sex and violence in a rather weak attempt to look edgy. Hell, Valve was probably in on the whole thing and feigned removing Hatred because what helps their third-party developers helps them.

Now, if that were the only issue here, than I wouldn’t even be talking about it. But here’s the thing; not only is it relying heavily on controversy to spread the word, it seems to be relying solely on controversy.

I say that because, looking at the trailers, it’s just not very good.

Think about it; it’s just running and killing with seemingly no story or dramatic weight. I know it may sound silly to expect depth in a game like this, but it’s not too much to ask for.

If the game took a cue from movies like No Country For Old Men or comics like Batman: The Killing Joke and turned its plot into an exploration of abnormal psychology like the obvious Anti-Social Personality Disorder that The Antagonist suffers from, I could care enough to approve of it and give it my blessing. As it is though, it just looks like another dime-a-dozen gore-fest meant to appeal to immature brats who need to justify their hobby with a veil of faux-masculine crimson.

It’s possible that I could be wrong and we may get some info between now and its release that shows that it’s deeper than it seems. But, for now, I’m calling it; Hatred is going to be the unholy union of Manhunt and Goat Simulator that nobody asked for, won’t be worth our time, and that I’m just too bored of to give a damn about.

The Agent Reviews (a Mod For) a Game: The Binding of Issac: Community Remix

It’s about time I did a proper review again.

The news is spreading quickly around the gaming community; The Binding of Issac: Rebirth, the sequel to Edmond McMillen’s hit game will be available on November 4th. To celebrate, he was even nice enough to endorse a 33% loyalty discount on Steam to people who bought the original. That’s dedication to your fans, folks.

However, in the meantime, hardcore fans like myself will need to find a way to scratch that itch for the next month. Leave it to some devoted fans at Code-Cast with the aid of the community on Reddit to help us out.

Community Remix, as the name implies, is a revision of the Wrath of the Lamb DLC made by and with the help of a large group of fans. It runs through another mod called SpiderMod whose primary purpose was to function as a sort of ‘survival mode’ for players that needed more of a challenge.

There are a number of changes both large and small, but the most notable differences are an indirect result of McMillen himself. Over time, he has been leaving small teasing glimpses at Rebirth in the form of small animated GIFs showcasing new items and item synergies. Community Remix has managed to incorporate these teased new items into the mod.

One new item that I found interesting was Samson’s new starting item – The Donkey’s Jawbone. In essence, it acts as a scaled down version of Mom’s Knife as it has a boomerang effect and can function as a melee weapon.

The mod also introduces new pick-ups (key rings, half-soul hearts, mixed hearts, etc.), new pill effects, new Guppy-like transformations (you can now play as Tammy and Loki if you collect their items), and has modified a few existing items (The Polaroid, for example, is now a passive collectible and won’t take up valuable trinket space).

These additions add a new level of challenge and strategy for long time players as well as give them a feel for what changes to expect in Rebirth.

But probably the most positive change in this mod is that this fixes the video resolution issues present in the original. One of my biggest complaints while playing was that there was no visually appealing screen ratio that TBoI ran at. Now, the resolution automatically adapts to your selected window/monitor size. This is amazingly valuable to ‘Let’s Play-ers’ that record their playthroughs.

There are a few minor complaints to be made with Community Remix, however. Firstly, while the adaptable resolution makes character, enemy, and item sprites look amazing with no deformation, the backgrounds still appear to look grainy and pixelated in some places.

Also, another contribution from the community were remixes of the game’s original soundtrack. These remixes are very catchy if you’re a fan of electronic music, but they don’t seem to capture the same dark, foreboding atmosphere of horror-as-comedy that Danny Baranowsky’s compositions gave. In other words, I want to like these songs more than I actually do.

Overall though, I’d say that Community Remix is a great way to tide you over until Rebirth hits the store front. It won’t replace Rebirth by any means, but It will give you a taste of what’s in store.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish a playthrough as Guppy to honor the memory of an absent friend.