Games

Back to playing the dirtiest game I know

Perhaps it’s the great collection of trail running/rock crawling maps I’ve found. Perhaps it’s the stalwart Humvee, that in the words of Jimmy Broadbent, “is an absolute weapon!” Or perhaps I like living on the edge, of a cliff.

Either way, I’m having a glorious time in MudRunner again. I’ve played it on and off ever since it came out, but now, something has really clicked. Despite how it sounds, delivering logs has been a great way to spend the evening. Or a few dozen in my case.

Now that the standard content is complete, I’ve latched on to a slew of new maps, built specifically for rock crawling and trail running. And I’ve found a couple of great trucks to use.

First is the Humvee. One of many I’m sure. But it is brutally powerful and seems to be able to travel over anything and everything.

Second is “Snot Rocket”, a green counterpart to “Agent Orange”, which is an out of control buggy that has kicked me out of the saddle more than once.

They are total opposites, but my goodness, they are a ton of fun to play with!

With summer fast approaching, now is a great time to jump into MudRunner, listen to the chirp of the birds, the rush of the water, and the awesome power of a smoke billowing assault vehicle!

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Nothing can stop me now!!

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Ok, this is not the first time this has happened. Good thing I brought a winch.

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Pocket City – A great little city builder for Mac

I was a huge fan of Simcity 2000. I thought Simcity 3 was quite enjoyable. Then the music stopped and I skipped all the subsequent versions. But with Pocket City on the scene, I can now experience the same joy of city building.

Pocket City is a new game I just picked up over the weekend. And once I got started, I invested several hours into the venture. It has all the game play elements that made Simcity great. You set up residential, commercial and industrial zones. You need to play fire and police stations. To keep citizens healthy, hospitals need to be placed. To keep it all feed and watered, power stations and water towers need to go in. And things keep building from there.

I love the style of the game. The UI is easy to understand. There are the advisors to help you build and plan. If you miss the old days of Simcity, Pocket City needs to be added to your collection. And for $3.99, it’s a steal!!

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Pocket City for Mac

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A whirlwind of doom and gloom comes for my little city

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Well, didn’t see this one coming

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Racing along in Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally

While they share a common name and perhaps even a common code base, Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally are indeed quite different in their play style, graphics and implementation. As such, it’s not quite fair to pit the two against each other as so many people do.

Dirt Rally is focused on the precision and unforgiving nature of rally racing. Career mode starts with lower end, two-wheel drive cars and progresses to the more powerful four-wheel models. But, through it all, the goal is to drive as fast and precise as possible, as every second counts, resets are limited and costly, and misjudging a corner will lead to more damage and repair time than your team can afford.

Dirt 4 takes many of the previous Rally traits, but blends them with the arcade feel of Dirt 2 and Dirt 3. The tracks are still technical, the cars are still fast, the misjudged corner can still lead to disaster, but Dirt 4 doesn’t have the same punishing, and admittedly, the same lonely feel as Rally.

Like previous editions, Dirt 4 has head to head competition in Landrush, and offers more vehicle types such as the trucks and buggies seen in Dirt 2. It also offers a “gamer” mode, geared toward those who want an arcade experience versus a simulator feel.

I have both games and enjoy them for different reason. Despite the reviews, they both  have pleasing graphics. Rally is far more technical and will test your nerve, daring you to go faster, but handing out stiff consequences for cutting it too fine.

Dirt 4 is has a wider variety of tracks, vehicles and courses. While still challenging, it feels like you can recover from an early mistake. Yet it still offers the challenge of how much time can you spend repairing the car and still be competitive. And like Rally, you can’t keep clicking Reset until you get the perfect run.

During the Steam sale, the bundle price of both games was less than cost of each individually. I picked up Rally in the previous sale and grabbed Dirt 4 in the latest one. After playing each for several hours, both had me in the grip of white knuckle driving.

Dirt 4 should be compared to Dirt 2 and 3, and by that mark has many advances. I still enjoy Dirt 2, except for the Gymkhana events, which I can do without. Dirt 4 has plenty of challenges, a nice selection of vehicles, and even when mistakes are made, I feel I’m still in contention, if not for the stage, but for the overall standings.

However, with the sales going on, I wholeheartedly feel racers should get both. They are a challenge in different ways. They have their own play styles and satisfy for different reasons.

Both games are excellent, and continue building on a fine franchise. Dirt Rally is a slight departure, but offers plenty of thrills and a more simulator styled experience. Dirt 4 offers a wider variety of racing, and gives an edge of the seat racing experience. Rally will keep you on the edge of your seat as well, but time is the ultimate enemy.

Dirt 4 eschews the glamour of the X-Games style racing of it’s predecessors, but still have the same showy feel. Dirt Rally throws it away all together and your only gauge for how well you’re doing is the tone of your co-drivers voice.

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The dirty and beautiful SpinTires: Mudrunner

It’s no secret that the original SpinTires is a strangely wonderful game with an equally strange relationship between developer and publisher. At one point, SpinTire disappeared from Steam only to return hours later amidst accusations of sabotaged code. The thrill of outrageous 5mph white knuckle driving was marred by a completely uncertain future and lengthy gaps of silence.

Adding to the frustration, the game always seemed unfinished, perpetually living as a technical demo, sporting odd bugs, a quirky interface and almost a complete lack of objectives to play.

The tables may be turning as SpinTires: Mudrunner comes to Steam, still helmed by the original developer, but published by Focus Home Interactive without ant oversight by Oovee, or at least we hope so.

In essence SpinTires is back with the same gloriously large and ridiculously powerful Soviet era trucks, the same sparse and eerie rain soaked landscapes and the same impossibly brutal terrain, narrow roads and debilitating mud.

I’ve already taken advantage of the 50% off discount for previous SpinTires owners and the trucks are just as well detailed as they ever were, with articulated suspension, winch points, and top heavy loads of wood just waiting to topple over at the most inopportune time.

While it looks and feels a lot like the original, it actually feels complete this time. There is a tutorial to get acquainted with the basics. There are challenges to get the ball rolling and mud flying. And there are new maps full of log toting goodness. There is also multiplayer, which is basic, but will hopefully improve. And it works more fully with a controller.

The Steam Workshop is also included, so if things work out well, there should be a slew of trucks to play around with. I also have the feeling that although Mudrunner might be the spinoff, it’s most likely the one that continued to be developed while the original SpinTires has probably reached it’s end of life.

So, if you’re looking to drive oversized trucks, throw some mud and balance an obscenely overloaded logging on the side of a cliff, Mudrunner is the game you need to get.

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Ember – Some final thoughts

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I have now completed Ember and figured I would share a few thoughts about the experience.

To put it simply, Ember is a tremendous amount of fun and is probably the best game I’ve played this year. I found it to have a deep and interesting story that unfolds not just through the events of the game, but through the dozens of books you find along the way. Plus there is a lot to learn through side conversations and tavern interactions. The more citizens you speak with and the more books you stop to read, the more you learn about Domus, the events that brought about the Lightbringer and the tension between different races. And even if the books don’t give enlightenment about the lore of the world, such as the famed tome, The Domus Pub Crawl, they are still amusing and add to the fabric of the game.

Additionally, Ember has great momentum, always moving you forward to the next quest. I never felt at a loss for something to do and there was no need to aimlessly grind. Instead, I was always involved in a quest both from the main story line or one of the several dozen side quests. These ranged from simple delivery runs, to locating lost artifacts, to returning wayward children and husbands, to negotiating trade routes. And even the side quests have side quests, so there is no cause to be idle.

Some have said the combat is simplistic, but I believe they are missing the point. If you recall the original Ultima series, which is an inspiration for Ember, you had 3 stats – Str, Dex, Int, and did damage based on your weapon stats and absorbed damage based on armor stats. While a shift from complex skills trees like we see in SotA, it holds true to the system used in Ultima, A Bard’s Tale, Wizardry and others. Even with that, each character has 3 special abilities they can employ based on weapon and armor combinations. And if the items skills aren’t to your liking, you can socket runes to make a more deadly combination.

Ember is also a lovely game to look at. I thought the game graphics and sound were very nicely done. I especially liked the rain and thunder as I walked through the cemetery and the sound of muffled voices calling for help as I crept through the catacombs. At other times, the birds sang as the forest turned to autumn. And the world felt pretty large to me with multiple locations to visit, plenty of houses to just wander into while the citizens were sitting down to dinner or sleeping. Like all good towns, there was a tavern to visit to pick up gossip, chat with the ladies and come close to getting into a brawl.

I’ve spent 40 hours exploring and being entertained by this world of Domus and I’m taken enough with the experience to start over, play a different style of character and choose an alternate path when presented with a decision. I know for certain this will change the outcome of several situations.

As a game that pays homage to classics like Ultima and The Bard’s Tale, Ember is work of art. As a game that offers 40 hours of entertainment for a mere $10, you are missing out if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Although the story is different, in many ways, Ember is a spiritual successor to Ultima. It looks and feels like Ultima 7/8 and with an interesting story and the wry humor that made the Ultimas such enduring games. But Ember stands as a solid adventure game and I truly hope this is the first title in a long running series.

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