In Games Worth Playing I take a look at noteworthy games released during the previous month. It contains both a list of worthwhile new games and coverage of the most highly anticipated releases of the month.
Naturally I can’t play every game that’s released in a month, but I’ll do my best to get a good sampling in. If I haven’t played a game and still list it, then that fact will be mentioned and the guiding commentary will be based off of reviews and player comments.
So if you’re looking for something new to play, then check back in at GameDrone every month for a list of games you might want to give a go.
July was a relatively quiet month with few new releases and even fewer wortwhile ones. But the quality present in the few notable releases this month more than makes up for it, with such excellent titles as Alien Swarm, Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge and none other than StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty! Who cares about other games when you’ve got that strong a line-up?
Read on for the good stuff.
Game of the Month
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
It has been more than 12 years since Blizzard first introduced the world to its epic science-fiction saga featuring the struggle between the hard-boiled Terran, enigmatic Protoss and all-consuming Zerg. Now this real-time strategy sequel reintroduces players to this world by following in James Raynor’s footsteps as he seeks to lead his force of rebels, Raynor’s Raiders, to topple Arcturus Mengsk’s dictatorial rule over the Terran Dominion and eke out some revenge for a lost love along the way.
Wings of Liberty’s singleplayer campaign offers only James Raynor’s Terran perspective, but both the Protoss and Zerg do make an appearance and there are even a few Protoss missions included. But while it doesn’t offer the three perspectives of its predecessor, it doesn’t sacrifice anything in length or depth either and actually offers a vastly superior singleplayer experience not only to the original StarCraft, but to any game in its genre.
StarCraft 2 presents a highly varied singleplayer campaign, with enormously different gameplay for nearly every mission. I’ve talked before about how lack of variety is the bane of modern real-time strategy games and Blizzard seem to agree with my assessment and have tackled the problem with fervor. No two missions are alike with objectives such as escorting civilians to a spaceport, tearing down bases powering an invincible spaceship that’s destroying civilian settlements, defending your base at night and attacking by day, etc. And each mission also comes with several tough bonus objectives and achievement challenges.
The storytelling is also a cut above anything you’ve seen before in the genre and is represented not only through cutscenes and mission dialogues, but also free-roaming segments inbetween missions. During these free-roaming segments you can talk to the crew of your battlecruiser, the Hyperion, and use your limited funds and research points to steer your armed forces in the desired direction and acquire mercenary contracts. It also makes the story more personal in a fashion similar to Battle Realms by providing several key moments where you’re forced to choose between one or the other mission which greatly impacts the rest of the story.
And of course this singleplayer campaign is but the tip of the iceberg, because Blizzard has invested no less attention to StarCraft 2′s multiplayer component. As the extensive beta test had already indicated this is once more a highly competitive and extremely well-balanced multiplayer game that should dominate the genre and esports for years to come. And it actually attempts to introduce new players to the highly competitive multiplayer arena by means of some excellent challenge missions that teach some of the essentials of multiplayer play, while the matchmaking system now generally pits you against players near your league.
There is no doubt in my mind that StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty will be hailed as this year’s Game of the Year, but it does have its share of problems. These mostly come in the form of the new Battle.net system which has changed little since beta and still doesn’t include chatrooms for managing competitions and clans in-game, although they’ll supposedly be added in a later patch. LAN support is also conspiciously absent and it’s impossible to connect with gamers from other regions without buying their version of StarCraft 2 first. Meanwhile the game’s offline mode is so unobtrusively placed in the main menu that at first glance it seems impossible to play without connecting to Battle.net first.
There are numerous other smaller issues such as the difficulty of setting up private matches and the misleading league system, but for the most part these are but small blemishes on a game that plays like a dream. If there’s but one game you’ll buy this year, make it this one.
Alien Swarm was a modification for Unreal Tournament 2004, but the team got hired by Valve where they set to reenvisioning their mod into a fully fledged multiplayer game with high production values. And so it’s been rebuild from the ground up in an improved Source engine and with full Steam support, where it was released this month as a free game!
The game offers a number of different classes and characters to choose from, but players can further customize their chosen character by utilizing different loadout configurations. With over 40 weapons and equipment to choose from, along with several unique and wonderfully designed environments, there certainly is no lack of variety in this 4 player co-op game.
Steam achievements, persistent levels with item unlocks, mod tools and a map generator round things out for one incredible free gaming experience. This is one game you don’t want to miss out on!
Blacklight: Tango Down - no hands-on experience
A futuristic multiplayer-only first person shooter that offers 12 different maps and 4 cooperative missions at a budget price tag. Its key distinguishing feature is the Hyper Reality Visor that all players carry and which reveals nearby allies, enemies and items when activated. Players can’t shoot while their HRV is activated however, so there’s a definite downside to its usage.
Otherwise it’s mostly just a solid shooter with persistent ranks and unlocks, satisfying weaponry and 7 different versus game modes alongside co-op gameplay. Blacklight is never a fancy genre-defining experience, but with it’s low price tag of 15 euro it hardly needs to be.
It’s only unfortunate that the developers decided to release Blacklight: Tango Down mere days before Valve unveiled its superior free co-op shooter Alien Swarm. Still, in a time of relative scarcity in the shooter genre this might fill in a gap in your schedule.
Moonbase Alpha - no hands-on experience (yet)
Moonbase Alpha is another free futuristic game that centers around multiplayer co-op gameplay, but it’s a very different game than the top-down shooter that is Alien Swarm. No, this game presents a more peaceful scenario wherein players cooperate to maintain a near-future lunar colony at optimal functional capacity.
The best way to think of this might be as a third-person puzzle solving game for up to 6 players. It presents a realistic representation of the moon, as well as realistic physics for everything from the astronauts themselves to the lunar rovers. Also included are leaderboards to add an edge of competition to the experience.
If you’ve ever wanted to walk on the moon, then this is likely as close as you’re going to get.
Highly Anticipated Games
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge - no hands-on experience (yet)
This reenvisioning of an adventure classic goes well beyond the mere surface retouching that was presented in The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition. MI2SE not only introduces vastly improved graphics and voiceovers, but also streamlines the controls with a right-click action wheel that allows for much easier interaction with objects and characters. Players can also listen to voiceovers in classic mode this time around.
Also interesting for fans of the series, which covers pretty much any PC gamer really, is the inclusion of audio commentary from the developers. Starting the game in commentary mode will result in Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer talking about how the various scenes came to be. It’s only unfortunate that the game doesn’t pause during these moments so players will miss out on character dialogue when the commentary is running.
The hints system from the first remake makes a return, which helps a great deal in solving some of the more challenging puzzles. Added to this is a new object highlight functionality which can be called by holding down both mouse buttons simultaneously. This highlights every interactable object in the scene, making for much easier going. Lastly, players will gain concept art from both the original game and this remake as they play through the game.
All in all, Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge offers a great new take on a genre classic and adventure fans would be foolish to pass up on its charms.