What We’re Playing: The Games of Fall

October 21, 2010

Fall, undeniably the greatest season in the gaming calendar, is upon us and has begun to pour the annual harvest of blockbuster games all over our consoles/PCs/phones/abacuses. Ironically enough, the latest game to grip the office is Mount & Blade: Warband, with medieval armies being fielded regularly at lunch. Halo: Reach‘s Firefight, Fifa 11, and the ever-popular Left 4 Dead 2 round out our regular midday entertainment, though that’s by no means all we’re playing these days.

Read on to find out what else has been making the rounds:

Neil ‘Exedore’ Alphonso (Lead Designer):
I finished Dark Sector, and naturally had to finish that up with playing Darksiders. Darksiders was recommended as a surprisingly solid title, and it didn’t disappoint. I thought it was an outstanding first effort for a studio, in this case Vigil, and I’m looking forward to a sequel! I also finished Mass Effect, and have just started Mass Effect 2. I thought Mass Effect was very good even if it wasn’t totally streamlined, but Mass Effect 2 is simply outstanding, and I’m only a couple of hours in!

I finally got around to playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and enjoyed that as well. The destructible environments certainly present some interesting level design problems and solutions. Last but not least, I’m playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent. It’s a bit of a nostalgia blast even though I’ve only played the first level, because I haven’t really played a Splinter Cell game since I worked on the first one. But new Borderlands DLC came out recently, so that’s definitely on the agenda!

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Senior Technical Artist):
We’ve been jousting and hacking and slashing at lunchtimes recently with Mount & Blade: Warband… it’s actually quite fun in multiplayer, where you get to control armies of bots and lead your men with multiple players per team taking control of sections of the army.

The bots don’t stand a chance against a decent human player, but if you get yourself outnumbered or knocked off your horse, you can quite easily become mincemeat for any number of swords, spears and arrows. The learning curve is quite steep and the hit feedback leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s still very enjoyable to run your enemies through with a heavy lance from a strong charge!

Watch out for Kensai’s axe, though…

Dead Rising 2

Dean ‘Deano’ Calver (Lead Programmer):
A few late night sessions involving zombies, go go dancers and machine gun toting teddy bears have been keeping me amused between Brink fun. Dead Rising 2, brings more of the good bits of the previous title (lots of weapons to kill zombies with!) and removes most of the not so good things. With A-team-like combo cards to make interesting homebrew super weapons from stuff around the game, to more missions and other things to do apart from just killing zombies, to an engine capable of throwing so many zombies on screen it’s sometimes so packed it’s hard to move through them (tho something like a chainsaw attached to canoe paddle helps with that :)). But its one killer feature follows on from an increasing number of games (and one we at Splash Damage care about a great deal): awesome multiplayer features. Co-op is neigh on perfect, and your friend can drop in and out of your game at will, share in achievements, bonuses and most things.

So if you love zombies, blood, crazy costumes and weapons (every game should let you play as a muscle bound man, wearing a hula skirt skewering zombies with a sword fish), pick up DR2 and convince a friend to, as well.

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
Huuuhhhraaaahh – Castlevania Lord of Shadows has been my last venture in the gaming realm, I had spied it opposite the Brink stand at Eurogamer last month and have been interested ever since to get my teeth stuck into it. I’ve really enjoyed my time playing it, it reminds me of a mix of Shadow of the Colossus meets Uncharted 2, taking and improving on all the best bits and rolling them into one beautiful offering. It’s definitely worth a look.

I’m eagerly looking forward to Fallout New Vegas’ release tomorrow. The reviews already seem very favourable, not that that would have made a difference given the insane amount of play hours I put into its predecessor. 🙂 All the while, I’m trying to procrastinate the purchase of Game Dev Story on the iPhone which it appears everyone else in the office is now hopelessly addicted to.

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Technical Game Designer):
Games overload recently. My wallet is feeling kind of dry. I’ve been giving Civilization 5 a run through recently, finding out that it’s basically Civilization. Also been playing Halo: Reach, finding out that it’s basically Halo. Both are excellent iterations on well proven mechanics. I’m just ready for the next thing, is all.

And for now, the next thing seems to be Minecraft. I had played previous versions (way back before multiplayer was introduced I was giving it a few goes, since Notch used to frequent a chat room I lurk in). Even those versions, which were effectively just 3D pixel painting, were compelling in their creative affordances. Multiplayer added the joy of persistence to these worlds, where re-visiting servers let you see how your creative endeavours had progressed without you (or grieved out of existence). Now, with Dwarf Fortress-style mechanics blossoming up, as well as a large community forming, it’s starting to feel like the open, freeform, emergence heavy RPG that I’ve always wanted to play. The crafting system is wonderfully realized as a mini pixel art game in of itself… want a bucket? Draw a bucket shape using iron pixels. Want a diamond hat? Draw a 3 pixel hat shape out of diamonds. Brilliant. Notch is now richer than God, and deserves to be.

Halo: Reach

Jeshua ‘Beanz’ Nanthakumar (UI Artist):
Playing Halo: Reach!

This game just has so much polish, there doesn’t seem to be any detail that they compromised on! Great pacing, great UI, great experience from the moment you put the disc in to the moment you exit back to the 360 dashboard…

Philip ‘pipster’ Barnell (Production Tester):
Before playing Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, I thought 400 Microsoft points might be a bit of a rip-off. Damn you game for proving me wrong! The graphics, sound, weapons and characters are all excellent, but soaring above these was the slowly rising tension as the seconds ticked down to save your half-zombified (but adorable) daughter. To me this game has faint, blood-splattered echoes of Carmageddon; one of my favourite games of all time. I can’t wait to buy Dead Rising 2!

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
I strapped on Noble Six’s armor and completed my tour of duty in Halo: Reach. It’s an excellent game, especially if you’re into the Halo lore. The whole thing feels like Bungie only kept the really good bits of their previous games and stitched them together to form a hugely polished experience from beginning to end.

In less futuristic matters, I gangstered my way through Mafia II – another game I really, really enjoyed. Despite being a little more linear than other open world games, the entire setting feels authentic and alive, and I actually had quite a lot of fun just driving around the city.

On the PC side of things, I completed StarCraft II‘s marvellous single player campaign (undoubtedly the benchmark in RTS mission design), and more recently started empire-building in Civilisation V, which is as big a timesink as ever. Need. More. Sleep.

Next stop: The lovely town of New Vegas.