Unique creatures

If a game is supposed to be a series of interesting choices, environment of the game should offer those choices. And one of the defining features of the game environment are various creatures that inhabit it.

Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of my all time favourite games and one that implements concept of unique creatures rather well. I’m not going to go through and analyze each and every of them, as there are quite a bit. Instead, I’ll pick and highlight some that I find particularly interestingly done.

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Analysing a game: the Last Remnant

Last Remant is pretty daunting game when it comes to amount of different mechanics. Sure, it’s not Crusader Kings II, but it still has plenty of different options and strategies to consider. Luckily they aren’t introduced immediately, but piece after piece during the game. Even after several hours of playing the game new skills and mechanics pop up and give player new option. This makes learning them somewhat easier, as you don’t have to memorize everything in one go. However, sometimes it’s difficult to gauge what skills are good and what are not that great. Seems that this is one of those games where the community wikis and guides are extremely valuable.


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Analyzing a game: Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol


Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol is a turn based, tactical level, air combat game. After playing the first part of the campaign, the focus seems to be on small scale conflicts. The biggest so far was 4 vs. 4 battle.

After selecting a country, player is given choice of 4 different pilots to choose from. These are randomly generated, but the difference is only on name, portrait and a special skill they have. In any case, this is a nice touch, since it immediately gives player chance to which pilot they identify most. I sort of would have liked to hace a character creation too, but this way players might play something else than their absolutely favourite skill too. Later when player receives promotions, they’ll be able to command a flight of four planes.

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Analyzing a game: Abducted

I wanted to try my hand on analyzing games a bit while I play them and the first one I’m doing is Abducted. It’s an early access game, so the final game might be different from what I actually played. I played for an hour and game is pretty slow, so I didn’t get to see that much of it yet.

The game does very little hand holding initially. You’re just thrown into game world and left to your own devices to figure out the user interface. Luckilly, not everything on UI is initially enabled, but unlocked soon after the story starts progressing. Plotwise the game uses simple trick of amnesia. Player doesn’t remember anything of their past and figuring out why that is seems to be part of the deal. They do have a companion with them, who remembers their past and can explain things and how to use them as player encounters them. Here’s the first problem, the game features a ton of text in form of dialoque. When the first conversation starts between the player and their companion, game grinds to halt as player reads through screen after screen of text. Certain parts of the dialoque grant player skill points that can be used to purchase and upgrade skills, so player is of course trying to maximize the skill points and tries to go through all the options. Trying to exhaust all the dialoque options means going through the dialoque tree multiple times, often re-reading same parts of the text multiple times, which I quickly found to be a chore. Or if they don’t try to maximize their skill points, they might have a feeling that they’re handicapping themselves somehow.


Text, tons of text

World is shown from 3rd perspective, using a fixed camera that keeps following player character as they walk around. This neatly avoids camera getting stuck in the geometry and allows designer to choose good looking vantage point. I wasn’t fan of this method in old Alone in the Dark games, but in Abducted it works pretty well. Partly because the game is played with mouse and character’s orientation doesn’t matter. You click on the screen, that’s where the character tries to go next. Steps, stairs and other levels are automatically scaled, which is very nice as it makes playing smoother. Glowing symbols are shown at locations of interest and they work as a nice visual cue.


Maybe I should just hide in this corner?

I wasn’t very happy with how terminals work. They weren’t really explained anywhere, so only way I could start operating was to hack them. There’s also an option to solve them, but I gave up after trying two terminals. The solving method felt like annoying trial and error, without any real mental effort, except memorization. The solving method might be explained later on in the game, but during the first hour or so, it just felt either boring or infuriating, depending on how long I tried to use it.


Pretty, but infuriating terminal

Soundscape of the game is pretty minimal. Low ambient noise that doesn’t draw any attention to it. Special effects are used sparingly and they are nothign memorable. Player feels that they really are more or less alone in the area they’re exploring.

For some reason cinematics kept crashing on my computer, so sadly I don’t know how much they explain the game, the world it is set and the player character.