Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shadowrun Returns [GAMES]

For one of the planned breaks from our on-going Forgotten Realms campaigns, one of our players offered to run a Shadowrun one-shot.  The game setting sounded reasonably interesting (a mash-up of cyberpunk and fantasy), but otherwise I didn't really have a good feel for what the world was like.  As a happy coincidence, I was fishing around for a new computer game to download and saw Shadowrun Returns offered for $ 15 on Good Old Games.  A turn-based RPG is right up my alley, so I went for it.

There's a lot I liked about the game and a little I didn't, but I think what stands out for me the most is the gorgeous backgrounds.  Admittedly, I don't play a lot of modern games, but I was blown away by the quality of the artwork and how it perfectly established the feel of a gritty, slightly futuristic urban landscape for noir storytelling.  It instantly gave me an understanding of what stories in the Shadowrun universe could be like.  Speaking of stories, the one in Shadowrun Returns is pretty solid.  It starts with a classic hook, as an old runner ally is found dead and your character gets the Dead Man's Call: a pre-recorded video offering 100,000 Nuyen (currency) if you find his killer.  The trail leads to a serial killer and interdimensional invasions in an organic way, and the writing supports the gritty cyberpunk world well.

In terms of mechanics, the turn-based combat system works quite well.  I like how many options there are for customizing a character, as you can be sorta good at a lot of things or really good at one or two things.  The character I created, Big-C, was a troll who only fought hand-to-hand but (against type) was a pretty good decker.  A bruiser with a deep, deep, heart of gold, he was fond of terse replies and sticking to business.

There were a few drawbacks.  The backgrounds, although beautiful, are not particularly interactive, and a lot of cool-looking things really are just scenery.  The gameplay is very linear--apart from an occasional side-encounter, the story is on rails and there's no skipping from point A to point C without stopping at B first.  Despite that, I had a great time with the game and I'm looking forward to downloading the other official campaign created for it, set in Berlin named Dragonfall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Screamer [GAMES]

One of the games I downloaded from Good Old Games several months back was Screamer, a realism-light auto racing game released in 1995.  The controls were simple to learn: left arrow (left), right arrow (right), up arrow (accelerate), and down arrow (brake)--that's it!  So, easy to play and pretty fun at first.  The game has both individual practice races and a bare-bones "league" mode, which requires you to get at least third place in a series of tracks.  The leagues go from pretty easy ("Rookie") to harder and harder.  The first couple presented a good but fair challenge and I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that, for whatever reason, the game would crash rather frequently.  The Pro league amped up the difficulty considerably, and I couldn't even do better than 8th place on the first track despite repeated tries.  Since it kept crashing, I felt like I had a good enough excuse to delete the whole thing and move on with my life.  I will say, in the game's defence, that my son loved watching me play and he often pretended he was controlling the cars by pulling on a USB cable . . .

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 48 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372 continued]

In the mysterious complex on the far side of Terrigo Multivar's mirror-portal, the adventurers remain stymied by a door guarded by a magical trap. Daisy volunteers to try opening it, and suggests that if every other door in the corridor opened by pressing four panels, then the four corners of this panel should be pressed. The others seem dubious, but when she tries it, the door opens! 

Before she can explore what lays beyond it, however, the strange purplish haze observed by Myst coalesces into a four-armed, insect-like humanoid creature. With clicking mandibles, it appears it is trying to communicate, but only Dolcetto and Myst understand. The creature names itself T'Klack, and says that the adventurers have pleased it by entering into its home and passing the initial tests it has placed in their path. It promises to meet those who survive the next test in an arena for the honour of battling to the death. The creature then begins to fade into mist before disappearing completely.

The adventurers decide to explore what lays beyond the door opened by Daisy. They see a wide room with high ceilings that is a museum or trophy-collection of some sort: massive skeletons, preserved animal heads, and grotesque stitched-together bodies are all displayed with obvious care. Daisy is extremely upset to see that several animal corpses are on display, and begins slamming her axe into the wall. Dolcetto tries to calm her down, but has little luck, and decides to venture into the room to explore it further. She reaches a far corner of the room and notices an open space in the floor and the mechanism for a rope & gear-operated lift. Before she can investigate further, however, three of the giant patchwork corpses begin to twitch and groan before taking herky-jerky steps towards her!

Dolcetto reacts quickly and dashes out of the room, while Daisy, enraged, dashes into the room and begins hacking at one of the creatures with her greataxe. Fargrim initially takes the defensive, but is drawn into the fight as one of the creatures heads for the corridor. Markus finds himself briefly trapped, only to find his rapier won't pierce the abominations' thick, fleshy hide! Fortunately, Gelkar bravely pulls him temporarily out of harm's way; his own attacks on the creatures with his shovel, however, seem to have no effect. Dolcetto summons creatures to help distract and delay the attackers, which she identifies as flesh golems. Myst stays on the far side of the corridor, unable or unwilling to assist in the battle.

Daisy's axe repeatedly cuts into her opponent, but Fargrim's axe (made out of a strange, red metal) seems to have more effect. The vigor of the flesh golems' onslaught catches both of the adventurers by surprise, and each is knocked into unconscious during the battle. Gelkar manages to revive Daisy, and Markus throws a vial of acid at one of the golems to destroy it! Another one focusses on him, however, and he risks staying within its reach in order to ready another attack. The decision proves fatal, as a stone-hard fist catches Markus in the face and smashes his skull against the wall, killing the swordsman instantly. Dolcetto grabs Markus' rapier and then casts a spell to make the area underneath the golems slippery. One of the them falls, and Daisy quickly moves in to decapitate it. 

The remaining golem continues fighting, undeterred. Gelkar is knocked to the ground during the fighting, with a jagged wound from a collision with a glass display case. As he bleeds, the adventurers manage to destroy the golem and then rush to his aid. Myst, Dolcetto, and Daisy scramble to try to stop the bleeding, but their frantic efforts are in vain: the heroic Gelkar expires.

In the aftermath of the tragic battle, Dolcetto takes command. She says the party needs to retreat, heal, and then return to finish their mission. Once the magick that has brought them here expires, they'll be returned to Silverymoon and can attempt to have Markus and Gelkar raised from the dead. Myst and a badly hurt Fargrim and Daisy agree, and carry the bodies of their fallen comrades to a secure room where everyone can rest.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'rell: Entry # 2 [RPG]

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BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

I don't have much time to talk, or I'll be late for the oh so important "Barracks Inspection."  I swear we're treated like orphaned toddlers at a run-down boarding school.  I won't go into all of it, but there's a lot about this place that I just can't stand!

First of all is the sheer gall of these Jedi--they act like they know everything in the world, and they refuse to share any of it!  They even have several floors of the library sealed off with secret books there--but I found a way to find out what's inside.  Most intriguing is this place south of the Academy grounds called Sorama--none of the books talk about it, but now that I know where it is I can find out what it is.

I actually don't mind the initiates (my roommate turned out better than first impression led me to believe) and even most of the Jedi masters, but there's a few who are insufferably arrogant--particularly Maisa Trinity (our barracks instructor) and Makomonus, the Peckwa-riding instructor.  This last bastard gets off on not telling initiates how to do something, and then laughing when they don't do it right!  I could learn more watching a decade-old vid than learning from him--I'll learn to ride the damn peckwas myself!

I've started to figure out which classes I'm going to take.  I talked to Anatis who's going to teach me how to use the library and also agreed to be my advisor.  Alek Fury is going to show me more about The Way, and I'm going to attend the head Jedi (Xandriana Bes') class on Jedi history with some of the others in my barracks.  I still need to find two more advisors, and maybe another class--though most of this stuff I can learn on my own--though I haven't decided about lightsabers yet--I keep getting the run-around when I ask about them.  (and that reminds me of another thing!--these Jedi always talk about tradition, tradition, tradition, but they can never explain why the traditions got started--I think I'm going to build a lightshield of some kind, and show them all that there are different ways to do it).

I'm rambling now, but I can hear that bitch downstairs lining everyone up and I have to hurry--I saw Donita, one of the Shadow Jedi, come on a secret mission from somewhere else wanting to talk to the council--I know something's up, and pretty soon I'll figure out what it is.

You'd think the Jedi would know by now that secrets don't lead to trust, and hiding information simply keeps people ignorant, not safe.

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME: 1837483721

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