Feeling down, but.

I’ve been in a funk for a few weeks now – unmotivated, uninspired, unenergetic, etc. Name it, I could probably put an un- in front of it.

Then yesterday I saw something truly wonderful – a iPhone version of King of Dragon Pass. I didn’t have time to play it very long, but it appears to be a fully functional version of the utterly classic PC game with some new material. This must be the neatest thing I’ve seen in a year. It’s priced like Carcassonne for the iPhone, but who cares? I’d pay more for either. One thing that it does not seem to do that the original did is allow saved games, so it will probably reward an extra-conservative style of play.

KODP is a game with its own genre. I don’t even know what to compare it to. Resource management crossed with extravagantly branched CYOA, maybe? About the only game I can think of that is remotely close to it is Sword of the Samurai, which is far, far less detailed, almost abstracted.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Was it possible for the new Deus Ex game to meet my expectations? Yes. Did it? No – not quite.

In many ways, it is a loving tribute to the original. It plays almost identically. In others, though… this might go on for awhile.

One of the high points of the original was the lack of boss fights. There were some that could be loosely called such, but there was no one in the game that would fail to fall down satisfactorily if you shot them in the head at point-blank range, or explode into chunks if you pulled the pin on a grenade and stuffed it down their pants. This game has at least four bullet sponges, however, which kill some of the immersion.

Another sticking point is the melee. The main character of DE: HR has a one-hit kill/stun melee attack. Doesn’t work on the previously complained about bosses, of course. It is rendered in 3rd person, though, in a 1st person game, for some bizarre reason. Some choice on the camera work would have been nice.

The recharging of the energy for the melee attack is just silly. Why can I recharge the last bar but not all of them? Are all the upgraded batteries nickel-cadmium?

There are not enough tough choices in the augmentations, also. I played a stealthy game without upgrading any of the ‘stealth’ options, for example, which do not make you more stealthy, but simply give you more information – most of which is useless and conveyed quite well by the 1-point radar upgrade.

The game is clearly biased toward stealth play, giving massive XP bonuses for avoiding kills. This eliminates any motive for a second playthrough. I won’t be nearly as well equipped if I miss all the 500-point ghost bonuses, and have to settle for 10 points per kill rather than 40-60. As such, weapons like the sniper rifle are a waste.

The old game did not make these mistakes. Every augmentation was a tough choice, because taking one eliminated another choice permanently. There was no bonus for stealth, only a personal preference that paid off at the RPG level. The toughest cyborg was not as tough as the weakest rocket. Immersion was maintained throughout, and 3rd person was restricted to conversations.

Ok. I may have created the impression I hated it. That’s not quite true. The conversation system was interesting, and the side quests were all highly individualized and creative. The hacking minigame was an improvement over the original. And of course the game looked far, far better, making good use of matte paintings, and I felt the game world was consistent, story-wise. Still, if I had to rank them, the original is an easy win.

I have to say that I may have reached my limit on games with man-sized ventilation ducts.