Easter Gaming Roundup

I’ve got something of a gaming logjam building up; Bioshock 2, Psychonauts and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising are all patiently hanging around the Steam games list with barely an hour or two played between them, so with a couple of days holiday over Easter I thought I’d be able to get a decent run-up at one or two of them.

MMOG-wise, Dungeons and Dragons Online continues to work quite splendidly as a once-a-week game with the Irredeemable Waifs every Friday, along with the odd extra-curricular dungeon delve and a bit of inventory housekeeping and auctioneering here and there. I’m having enough fun to justify a monthly subscription, but I think it would still irk me slightly if that was the only choice. As it is I’m more than happy to spend Turbine points on fripperies like a bright green ponytail mohawk as well as the more sensible stuff like the adventures packs; we made a start on the Vault of Night this week, which has been a lot of plummeting-into-a-lava-pit fun so far.

With the RUSE public beta drawing to a close I spent a fair bit of time launching massed artillery strikes against my foes. And also playing RUSE (aaaah!) (No, not ‘aaaah’.) I seemed to hit some sort of problem that meant about one in five times when looking for a multiplayer game it would just hang at the “Connecting…” screen, requiring killing the process off in Task Manager, which put a bit of a crimp on things, but I still managed a few decent games. There was quite a fun four player Free For All that ended up as a three-way tie, the timer ticking down as I finished destroying the Blue player’s main base, mostly because the bulk of his forces were off destroying the Red player’s base, and meanwhile the Turquoise player finished with almost the same points total from wiping out the Red player’s attack on him. Also a couple of slightly frustrating 3v3 team games where I’d been doing reasonably well myself, but a team-mate either lost connection or decided things weren’t working out and surrendered; in those cases the game passes on control of any remaining troops to another member of the team, I presume the one with the highest score, which is about as fair as you can hope for, but it’s as much as I can manage to focus on a single sector, and when the second player on the team decides that’s it and quits as well there isn’t much point carrying on. Playing head-to-head would obviously remove the reliance on the rest of your team, but I prefer the scale and unpredictability of the larger battles. I’m still undecided about this in retail, with the backlog of other games I’ll probably wait until it’s on sale, but if you’re after an RTS it’s well worth a look.

I found Napoleon: Total War cheap online a few weeks back, but I hadn’t even got around to installing it with RUSE on the go. From flipping through a few user comments on either Eurogamer or Rock, Paper, Shotgun, general opinion of Empire: Total War seemed quite low, enough to put many people off Napoleon, but I thoroughly enjoyed sweeping across Europe and painting the world the correct shade of British Empire pink, and with the RUSE beta winding down I finally got around to installing it. I’ve only whipped through a few tutorial bits, but it looks like Empire with a bit more polish so should be excellent. Apart from playing as Napoleon, of course; I don’t mind defeating Austria and invading Russia, but I draw the line at re-writing history at Waterloo (stands to attention, plays Rule Britannia etc.)

In other irresistible bargain news Borderlands was half price on Steam, so I felt morally obliged to grab it; fired it up for a quick look on Saturday playing as a Hunter, got to about level 7, decided I wasn’t too keen on the class, created a new Siren, and wound up around level 19 by Monday evening. It’s really rather addictive, with all that lovely randomly generated loot to collect, and probably deserves a fuller write-up. Just a couple of small tips for anyone else who’s just grabbed it recently:
1) If you’re getting blank textures inside buildings, and you’re running the v9.11 ATI Catalyst drivers, then upgrading to the latest version might solve the problem
2) To disable the SODDING UNSKIPPABLE INTRO MOVIES, see this PC Tweaks thread on the Gearbox forums. Whoever thought it’s a good idea to force a player to sit through the four company logos every time they start the game needs to be made to sit through the four company logos ON REPEAT FOR THE WHOLE OF ETERNITY. Or a few hours, if they repent.