Arma 3 Free Weekend

It’s an Arma III free weekend! Arma III is the most realistic military simulation out there. If your rig can handle it, that is. The game begins at a pep rally in high school, one in which the military has come to recruit students looking for a sense of purpose in their life. Or, as the recruiting officer explains, a scholarship, exclusive technical job training, the chance to travel, etc. He makes it sound very convincing, and despite the fact that you were going to try and play ball at State a swelling of patriotism deep within you makes you decide to enlist. 
Flash forward to bootcamp where you are awoken at 3 AM by a shouting drill instructor who has informed you that you will now hike for 25 miles, in real time. There is no quicksaving or autosaving and if at any point you are unable to complete the full hike, you will have to start all over again. During this time, the drill instructor will shout various morale-boosting slurs at you. He will insult you with words like “Mary” and/or “pansy.” But it’s all in the name of country. The only thing that keeps you going is nightly letters from your high school sweetheart, who promised to wait for you to return from your Call of Duty. Except those nightly letters start coming less and less frequently, and you start to worry that something might be wrong. However, you told your best friend Billy to make sure to take good care of her while you were gone and Billy is a stand up guy so everything is probably fine.
From there, Arma III is all about the waiting. Waiting for deployment. Waiting to find out where you’ll end up. And then waiting to travel. And then you wait for your flight, and it’s lonely. Sure, there’s other soldiers there but really, you’re alone. And then you wait for your first taste of combat. Your finger sits on the side of the trigger, waiting to be used for the first time in a real life or death situation. And you wait for the first sign of the enemy. And you wait for someone else to fire first because you want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing. All the while, thinking of Suzy, back home, waiting for you too.
pretty lonely out here, just the two of us
Only she’s not waiting for you, oh no. I got bad news for you, Private. Suzy got tired of waiting and she got herself knocked up. Billy took care of her alright. So if this sounds like a game you might enjoy, give it a shot! Arma III is currently on free weekend until Sunday, Oct 26th! 

Planet Explorers

Planet Explorers is an open world sandbox game set on another planet. You have a cool backpack and also a jetpack to fly around in. It also uses what the devs call a “new OpenCL calculated voxel system” which basically means that you can build stuff like in Minecraft only more complex, less blocky things. Do you like sandbox games? More specifically, do you like Minecraft? If you like the idea of open world exploration, mining and gathering resources for survival, and then building stuff, well then this could be the game for you.

There are a few huge things that set Planet Explorers apart from Minecraft. Obviously the graphics are different. There are a few aspects that look really nice, like some grass and the water and generally the color palette and art style are all very good. When you look close though the textures aren’t so good and neither are most of the models (trees, etc). But for what it is, it looks pretty damn good. You can also build a lot more than you can in Minecraft, mostly in the way of ships and whatnot. And Planet Explorers makes it pretty easy to build ships. If for some reason you thought the stupid Trade Federation barricade ships looked cool in Star Wars Episode 1 you could build those ships, like this guy.

WE MUST BOW TO THEIR WISHES

Anyways, the gameplay is basically what you would expect from a sandbox game on another planet. You can dig, and dig, and then do some more digging, and then after you do that you can dig some more. Then you run around a lot looking for stuff, and then when you find some stuff you can build yourself a helicopter to fly around to find some stuff. The sense of exploration is great though due to the art style.  Combat is pretty basic and mostly just consists of running around punching things. But this is all pretty standard for a sandbox game. It is in early release game but Planet Explorers is pretty far along for an alpha. It’s not exactly polished but there is enough there to mess around with and have a good time. Supposedly there are serious memory leaks that become game breaking if your character lives for too long, which is basically the worst possible scenario. Early access everyone!

C3PO gets lost storming away from a fight with R2

Planet Explorers is currently 40% off and $14.99. This is a pretty decent deal but the game has consistently gone on sale for the exact same price every few months. It will surely go on sale for this price again so if you have reservations about buying a game in this state, you can feel good about waiting. If you love sandbox games though, there is enough here to keep you entertained for a while, and thus far the devs have been good about updating. Verdict: Buy it.

Prototype 2/Prototype™

At what point is does a prototype become an alpha, or even a beta release? I guess that’s more of a question for the DayZ devs. We will probably never know. Anyways, Steam Daily Deal has been on hiatus because the headquarters had to move. Now HQ is located safely under a bridge near the Los Angeles River, powered mostly by a combination of a water wheel and a few makeshift solar panels cobbled together by old beer cans. So apologies for the delay. Today’s daily deal is either Protoype™ or Protoype 2, depending on your fancy.

Basically in Prototype you play as some combination of the thing from The Thing, Stretch Armstrong, and that guy from Akira. In other words you are a weird super organic tentacle monster but you also have a penchant for parkour, or as Americans called it for 1.5 years freerunning. The Prototype games are both open world games. Back in the day, we would have called them sandbox style, because that’s what we called post Grand Theft Auto III sandbox games. I think now sandbox refers to Minecraft-type games where it’s like you’re really playing in a sandbox. Who knows.

Prototype reminds me a little of Just Cause 2 only instead of the guns you have a big smashy arm. But, also like in Just Cause 2, you can grapple onto helicopters that are flying by and whip yourself all over the map with reckless abandon, and it gives you a pretty good feeling of being able to do whatever the hell you want. Your muscles have become all evolved from taking PEDs and HGH and you can stretch your arms really far, make yourself a nice shield, and turn them into big blades for chopping vegetables (and people). Also you can eat people by ripping them apart. It’s pretty cool I guess.

Bringin’ this helicopter down with no survivors

So which game do you get, Prototype™ or its trademark lacking sequel? Everyone likes the first one better. The controls got wonky in the second one and the level up system got way worse and dumbed down. That always happens. Gaining new abilities in the first Prototype is definitely better and that is way more fun. The sequel definitely has better graphics but it is also horribly optimized and has a massive memory leak so the game always crashes unless you remember to alt tab out and back. Also, the first Prototype is cheaper.

Basically if you like open world games where you can wreak havoc on an unsuspecting public, Protoype Trade Mark has a lot to offer in this category. Plus there is lots of brooding. Protoype is currently on sale for 75% off. It is $4.99. Verdict: Buy it.

JUST CAUSE 2: 2: Warner Bros. Publisher Weekend

I already covered Just Cause 2 a long long time ago when it was 80% off and nothing has changed. Check it out here. If you didn’t buy it then buy it NOW. The original Verdict: Buy it still remains. 

Anyways, there is also a Warner Bros Publisher weekend. If you’re like me you might think of the Warner Bros as a cartoon studio. Most likely involving some combination of Bugs Bunny and/or the Animaniacs. Also, the studio is located in Toontown and they are frequently made the subject of prejudice by an exploitative human hierarchy. Well that’s all wrong, because Warner Bros also publishes games apparently, and lots of them are on sale, except for the two featured ones, Gauntlet and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Which is a damn shame because Gauntlet is badass and due for a remake. Plus that Valkyrie is totally smokin’.

Something about wings and/or breasts, etc.

Look at those high heeled boots. Hilarious! If this came out now people would totally lose it on Twitter. They just don’t get that if you kick ass while also being scantily clad it’s twice as impressive. Am I wrong? Hello?

Let’s look at the games, because Gauntlet is out because it’s not on sale. The top five options are, in order of how they are listed on the sale page, are:

  • Batman: Arkham Whatever
  • Scribblenauts UNLIMITED
  • F.E.A.R.
  • Bastion
  • Mortal Kombat vs. Scooby Doo! and Looney Tunes Cartoon Universe: Adventure
This a pretty varied selection of games, and you’re bound to find something you’re interested in in this bunch. Apparently WB Games does make some good stuff but they only release something basically every 3 years. Anyways, let’s break it down. Batman is pretty fun if you like trampsing around a city in your underwear beating up criminals. Scribblenauts Unlimited is pretty fun if you like pretending to tramps around in your underwear beating up criminals with silly objects. F.E.A.R. was awesome back in the day and somehow scary while providing one of the first FPS experiences with Bullet Time But you need at least an x850 xt to run it. In Bastion you run around in a painting and smack people with a hammer. 
But we all know where this was heading, Mortal Kombat vs. Scooby Doo! and Looney Tunes Cartoon Universe: Adventure. If you ever wanted to know who would win a fight between Shaggy and Scorpion, or if Fred could take down Mileena (she’s a maneater but that ascot would melt a heart of coal), now you can! It’s not even close. Winner: Mortal Kombat vs. Scooby Doo! and Looney Tunes Cartoon Universe: Adventure.

Terraria

Terraria is a game that looks kind of like Minecraft, and it plays kind of like Minecraft, but also it’s in 2D. Also a lot of people will get upset if you tell them that Terraria is Minecraft in 2D, and some other people will tell you Minecraft is more complicated. The point is there are staunch supporters of both games. Rabid fans, if you will. Just take one look at YouTube. People love both these games. The difference is Minecraft isn’t on Steam yet. If you type ‘Minecraft’ into Steam search the first thing that comes up is 7 Days to Die, which must be what happens if you play that game for 7 days straight.

Anyways, Terraria allows you to build and build like Minecraft, although you only have to think in two dimensions so it’s probably a little bit easier. I never could figure out how to build anything cool with Legos that wasn’t just a big square. It was just too complex. But in 2D anything is possible. But the biggest difference between Terraria and Minecraft isn’t the building. It is the exploration. Exploring is certainly possible in Minecraft. But you can go in any direction in Terraria basically forever. Up, down, left, right, (hold A and press start) and you will find wildly different territories. Dig down under to a fiery Hell full of lava or become Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and find a city in the clouds. And then when you’re in that city in the clouds become best friends with Lando Calrissian, only to be betrayed by him in exchange for the safety of said Cloud City, and then eventually Lando will regain your trust by piloting your ship in a massive space battle surrounding the new, super Death Star. Then, you can party in the forest with teddy bears.

It’s like if you mixed freeform jazz and castlevania except not like that at all

Also, there’s fighting. Basically, if you like Minecraft then you would probably like this game. If you hate the idea of crafting then Terraria will probably not change your mind. But if you are scared of crafting and building and pixels, but at the same time you like exploration, it might actually bring you over to the dark side. Exploration in 2D can be fun too. Plus it’s cheap. Terraria is currently on sale for 80% off. It is $1.99. Verdict: Buy it.

Secrets of Rætikon

Secrets of Rætikon/Ratikon/Raetikon? is a stylistic, artistic 2D indie game. People have referred to it as Metroidvania-style, or possibly even like an open world Ecco the Dolphin but instead of being a dolphin swimming around you are a little polygonal bird. This is pretty apt, the flight mechanics actually feel pretty similar to the swimming mechanics of Ecco. In case you somehow have escaped the term “Metroidvania,” it generally means a game like Castlevania Symphony of the Night or any of the ones that keep coming out for Nintendo handhelds. Secrets of Rætikon is only really like that in terms of the fact that it’s a 2D open world game. There are no items and there is no leveling up and there are no RPG elements, but you can technically go anywhere from the beginning without completing any objectives I guess so there’s that- in other words it’s not really Metroidvania at all.

The game has a minimalist soundtrack and it is unobtrusive. It looks very nice, but simplistic, 2D-polygon-type style can actually get kind of confusing. Sometimes I picked up objects without even knowing what they were. A lot of things end up looking kind of the same and it’s a little hard to figure out what is a friendly bird and what is a rock. Gameplay basically consists of flying around, exploring, and collecting stuff. If you like listening to an ambient soundtrack while just sort of cruising around on the jetstream, well then you will probably like this game. There’s not a ton else going on. There’s no attack button but you can get evil birds to fly into spike thorn walls or something, I was very unsuccessful but it’s allegedly possible.

In general, Secrets of Rætikon/Raetikon is one of those “experience” indie games. You play it for the experience. The gameplay isn’t amazing on its own, but the combination of the gentle soundtrack, really pretty visuals, responsive controls, and its exploration based mechanics all fit together to give you a unique experience. That’s what’s great about indie games these days. Some of them are all shitty gameplay and nice graphics, some of them are great gameplay and terrible graphics. Some have it all. But either way they allow for some complete, unique experiences and this game is no exception.

Secrets of Rætikon/Raetikon is currently on sale for $4.99 which is 50% off. It’s only a few hours long and at this price it is probably more than a dollar an hour. The game is beautiful and interesting but I never really felt compelled to keep playing. If ambient, relaxing games are your thing, pick it up. Otherwise, Verdict: Skip it.

StarForge

StarForge is an Early Access Game that also got Indie Go Go’d. They got like $150,000 off the campaign and everybody quit their jobs to work on the game. It’s the dream! Of course, according to forum posts and reviews as well as online petitions for refunds, this game is a pipe dream at best and a nightmare at worst. What’s the deal with these early access game/crowdfunding scandals? I think with StarForge, there’s not so much a scam going on but a game that was perhaps too ambitious to be completed.

StarForge has been in development for a few years now and it’s officially in Beta. It is a sandbox style world building planet exploration game. Apparently there was supposed to be space exploration but that’s probably never going to happen. Gameplay consists mostly of exploring a procedurally generated world and shooting zerg, and also building a house. You can also dig. That’s about it. It’s kind of like Minecraft on a strange planet. Most of the servers are dead, or there are only 3-4 people in them at a time. There is a single player mode as well. If this sounds like your cup of tea go ahead and check it out, but it looks like it will probably not get finished. But some people are staunch defenders of the game. There also used to be an asking price of $75 which is just silly.

This is the problem with Early Access Games. Devs don’t ever have to make good on all their promises, and progress on the game can be slow. Updates on this game have become monthly and communication from the devs has become better than it was. The problem is nobody knows what kind of game StarForge is even going to become anymore. It started as a Survival/Exploration sandbox game and then started leaning towards PvP but the community can’t decide what it wants and neither can the devs! So best case scenario it will eventually be a combination of both but who knows?

Turok 2 looks pretty good

If you don`t mind playing an unfinished sandbox game with no end in sight than go ahead and try StarForge. Otherwise you’re better off just waiting to see what happens with the game. In summary: fuck early access games. Verdict: Skip it.