Hey people! I’ve always loved Half-Life, the story of one rogue scientist’s mission to save the planet from aliens. The premise admittedly sounds like a failed 80s movie, but the game manages to immerse you in the story by providing a realistic look at what might happen if our technology was a bit further forward and some foul xeno did appear.

I’ll be doing a review on HL2 pretty soon, but thanks to Cheeesetoastie one lucky gamer is going to get the game for free! To celebrate her 50th subscriber she’s put a PC Steam copy of HL2 up for grabs to randomly selected subscriber. Check out the details and go for it here!

Ender Quest Part 15!

In today’s episode we finish off mining for materials. I honestly had no idea Toastie mined in such a dangerous way – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

Please comment/subscribe/follow/whatever, and don’t forget the Toastieblog!

Defence Of The Ancients (DOTA) 2 – Where have you been all my life?

[This post is still under construction – I’ll be adding screenshots later today]

A bit of background might be appropriate here. I’ve always loved strategy games – I grew up on Age of Empires, C&C games and the original Warcraft (yay pixels). Warcraft 3, despite being too easy and too short, was always one of my favourites as the cartoony graphics and storyline were great and the gameplay gave you lots of options for achieving victory. One of the things that stuck with me was how amazing the ‘The Founding of Durotar’ downloadable campaign was. In FoD you take control of one hero (in a base building game??) and go speak to people (not command them??) and try and sneak/solo the missions your given (where are the giant armies??). It basically turned Warcraft 3 into a top-down rpg and it worked brilliantly. I was always sad this type of rts/rpg/chess was never a bigger thing.

Clearly though I just had my head in the sand. The original DOTA was another Warcraft 3 mod and Valve (after some legal scuffles with Blizzard) have made DOTA2 – the game I’ll be playing in my coffin.

The basic idea is simple: Have a big, base vs. base battle going on like an rts, but give the player control over only one hero, put them on a team and give them a million-and-one options on how to win. The bases are in opposite corners connected by 3 ‘lanes’ down which your soldiers (‘Creeps’) march to smash themselves against the enemy tower. Most of the time heroes such as yourself will be supporting the creeps in and trying to eventually break past all the towers and destroy the enemy’s ‘Ancient’.

Clearly storyline isn’t a big part of this. Sure, Valve have put together some backstory for each of the bajillion heroes you can play as, but since the heroes can play for either side (‘Radiant’ or ‘Dire’) and be allied with any other hero, the story has no effect on the game. It would anyway be hard pressed to explain how two opposing factions built their headquarters on opposite quarters of the same meadow, or why so many neutral merchant decided to set up shop in between them.

What is important is the strategy – you have a bout a hundred choices for heroes and items so your first few attempts are basically guesses (my guy has a pointy hat – I’ll get the thing that buffs intelligence!), but far more of the game comes down to tactics than one might think. If you’re supporting your creeps and manage to kill more of the enemy than the enemy kills you that might sound good, but 2 minutes later when your creeps have pushed all the way up to a tower they aren’t ready to beat yet and are getting slaughtered while the enemy hero sits back comfortably gaining levels and gold you might reconsider. The game has been very carefully balanced so you must think about everything – or at least more than your opponent – in order to win. It is this factor that makes the game so fun since there is little in the game that is truly random. If something goes horribly wrong there will be something you could have done better, or faster, or some item you should have bought. And when you finally do put it all together and kill an enemy hero or destroy a tower there is a genuine feeling you have accomplished something.

Compare it to RTS. I loved the genre, but the matches were basically the same every time on any map. Build some resource gatherer, build some towers, build up enough of an army to beat the other teams towers, rinse, wash, repeat until thoroughly bored. Playing against others was fun and more challenging, but the experiences I had playing online Warcraft 3 seemed to indicate that in many games there isn’t too much tactical thinking – just incredibly fast button clicking and knowing how to get your stuff built first. In DOTA2 even though there is only ever one map, it always feels like a new game.

So a very strong recommendation. But of course, the real question is – should you play it? Normally, i’d compare the benefits with the price and give you a balanced recommendation, but the thing about DOTA2 is it is totally and completely free. Yah. You can buy some funky clothes/weapon graphics for your characters but these are purely aesthetic and make no real difference. So basically there is no reason not to play it – it is infinitely more cost effective than a game that costs 1 penny.

Some criticisms though:

1: The AI sucks. Of course the whole ruddy point is to get into the multiplayer and with a complex game like this perfect team strategy would be very difficult. That doesn’t actually help however when the game is in the final stages and I’ve just torn open a hole in the enemy defences and my team decide to go and protect the most distant tower from a very weak attack.

2: No introduction. This is technically untrue as Valve have just started putting up a tutorial, but the tutorial doesn’t help much with the novel aspects of the game – in fact it looks and plays almost exactly like the original Warcraft3 tutorial. I’d love for some officially released ‘for your first time try this hero, aim to get these items and basically do x y and z’ – the forums are great for this type of thing, but you’ll also find a lot of disagreement and debate.

3: Long wait-times for multiplayer, which actually bugs me far more than it should. SO many times I’ve found a game after 10 minutes in which one person has failed to connect (so 9/10 are present). I then get put back into the search (on high priority) for another 5 minutes to find the next game, which is with totally different people. Why though? Why not keep the original 9 together and just do a quick search for a new no. 10. To be honest, I don’t really mind waiting 15 minutes for a game, but that particular piece of illogic really bugs me.

4: Only one map. I LOVE how much detail has gone into the map, not only in terms of graphics/details etc. but also the fact that I get the impression a great deal of money and processing power was spent making it balanced. I mean perfectly balanced – every path has been taken into account, the length and angle of every road carefully calibrated and as many play styles as possible considered. If the map was unbalanced, the entire game would be pointless! So I’m not saying there should be hundreds of maps, but I certainly hope similar thought is being put into just a couple of other maps with different challenges for the players.

I very much doubt this will be the last post on DOTA2. I’m planning on putting up character assessments, item reviews and maybe even some footage of some good matches. Expect my first character review (on the beautiful brooding Broodmother) very soon.

Please comment and subscribe! I’d love to know if any DOTA2 fans have thoughts!

Ender Quest Part 10+!

Hey guys – huge apology for the long break since the last post – I’m job hunting at the moment and in a weird way that actually slows down how fast I do non-job related things too. The good news is there’s a whole swathe of new stuff to post starting (of course) with the Tekkit Ender quest!

Since that’s a joint project with Cheesetoastie that is keeping to schedule (one does not cross the toastie). If you’re liking it, I’d suggest subscribing to the youtube channel or her blog, since they’ll keep you updated on new releases better than I!

Anyway, on with the show!

Part 10:

Machines get made and work starts on the main factory site… in the middle of a lake.

Part 11:

I decided that all that digging would be boring to watch and so did a bit of work between episodes, I hope you like the result! A gigantic glass floor for the factory and a ‘roof garden’ (by which I mean the roof is now a gigantic tree, mwuh-ha-ha-ha).

Part 12:

The 5 Ms of Minecraft? Mining, Mines and MACERATION, MACERATION, MACERATION! We’ve got the macerator set up – check out the video to see what the hell a macerator is.

Part 13:

Another boring bit of behind-the-scenes work has given us a finished factory floor! And the jungle our base is in the middle of is on fire. Ooops.

Part 14:

Some deep, dark, mining for diamonds. Includes a very good tactic for crossing giant lakes of lava!

Hope you enjoy, please comment and subscribe!

Game Review: Shadow Snake 3

Three thoughts occurred to me when I saw Shadow Snake (by playpanic) on the Kongregate home page:

1: A new game with 3 badges and a challenge? Awesome!

2: Mouse-only avoidance game? Sweet!

3: So whats the gameplay like? Ooooohhh nuts – this is going the same way as Oroboros (by funface), more on that later.

So your a snake (type thing) and your goal is to eat little pacman-esque nuggets while avoiding the little gribblies that inhabit the game. One serious criticism right there: If the game is all about not crashing into things please don’t call it shadow snake – if I were an insubstantial shadow this would be a whole lot easier. Maybe I’m being picky, but after a few hours of this incredibly frustrating game I’m not in the mood to be charitable. They should have called it Solid Snake (and been sued) or just Clunky Snake With An Annoyingly Long Tail (CSWAALT for short – an acronym as unwieldy as the game itself).


CSWAALT – better as a Breaking Bad themed Counter Strike map.

The basic game mechanic for these games is unfortunately hugely flawed. The best analogy I can think of to describe what controlling that bloody tail is like would be trying to reverse a car while towing a caravan – yes I understand that I technically have control over the damn thing, but getting it to go where you want is beyond the realm of mortal men. The game if fine for the first few levels where there are few things to avoid but things quickly get unpleasant as the screen fills up with the random little bastards.

Oroboros (a very old game from the depths of kong) did the exact same thing with a very similar game mechanic, and it too suffered from a game mechanic which makes it basically unplayable, but at least there there was some ability to kill the things trying to kill you. But hey – maybe you like this type of game, aced Oroboros and have a savant-esque ability to control computer snakes. Then this game is for you, right?


Please no….

Wrong. Shadow Snake 3 manages to make some huge errors in basic game design which are totally unrelated to the gameplay. Here are a few:

1: Upgrades are incredibly expensive, and have to be bought anew every 7 levels (i.e. bought separately for each ‘Temple’ chapter). From scratch. For no observable or explicable reason. I can’t even think of a reason why they might have wanted to do it this way – other than a hatred of all gamers. After much complaint from players the game was updated to allow you to sell upgrades from previous temples (at 80% of the original price) but that doesn’t help much since you have to replay earlier levels to unlock later ones. Selling anything before you’ve unlocked all the levels is a huge risk.

2: Compounding the expense problem is that when you replay a level you get basically nothing. I’m going to let the numbers talk here: Upgrade costs range fromĀ  500 (the cheapest thing on the cheapest stage) to upwards of 32k (i never got any higher, but that’s for a level 3 speed upgrade on the final set of levels – 5 upgrades total, so it probably peaks at around 100k). The first time you complete a level at a given difficulty level you will be awarded somewhere between 2-8k (perfectly reasonable). Repeat any level and you’ll earn less than 100 of whatever currency this is (ying-yangs, apparently). Someone did the math and this basically means that for a final upgrade you’ll need to replay levels around 100 times. ARE YOU INSANE?

3: I’m just being picky here but I really didn’t like the vibe of the game. We earn little ying-yangs, battle in the earth/air/wind/fire temples and each level is introduced by a thoroughly irrelevant quote from Confucius. It’s not that a bit of spirituality or deeper meaning can’t improve a game – Loved is a fun little game that does exactly that – but only if its related in some way to what you are doing. Shadow Snake just dollops on as much ‘meaning’ as it can like a fat kid making a peanut butter sandwich, and is therefore rendered completely meaningless.

So yeah… not my favorite game. The graphics are fairly good I guess, and the genre could go so far. I loved Flow – a great game playable for free (I don’t want to link to it because I’m not sure where it originally came from, but search ‘flow game’ and you’ll find it) which uses roughly the same mechanic, but a game is sub-standard when I play the 3rd installment and feel nauseous at the thought of playing 1 and 2.

The end of week 1

So the last part of our introductory tekkit week is finished, and we’ve progressed…. ish. Things will only get more crazy from here on out as we’re almost ready for machines, explosions and full on maceration. Weekly updates from here on out, and don’t forget the other awesome blog!