Here’s a look at what games I’ve been playing the past two weeks, ranked roughly from most-played to least-played. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I’m hoping to make it a weekly feature going forward. It allows me to offer some thoughts on some titles that I may not devote a full review to, plus sound off on some ideas that might not have made it into full reviews of the games I play. Games are listed roughly in order of most- to least-played, with assistance from my Raptr profile.
“Dragon Age II” (rated M, $60 on PC, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) [review]: Now that I’m done with BioWare’s latest epic adventure, I’m curious to see what they’ll do for the inevitable downloadable add-ons. There’s a real chance they can transcend some of the main game’s flaws and deliver some great storytelling as they do so, but we’ll see. One pet peeve I had that didn’t make it into my review was that I played the first game on the PlayStation 3 and the second game on the Xbox 360. (I just review whatever versions of games the publisher sends me.) I know that I have a persistent Electronic Arts profile that goes across both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, so why couldn’t I upload my save data from PS3 and have my choices from “Dragon Age: Origins” reflected in “Dragon Age II?” It seems like the technology’s there to do that, and I assume I’m not the only person to mix platforms.
“Portal 2” (rated E10+, $60 on Xbox 360 and PS3, $50 on PC) [review]: Because the PlayStation Network has been down, I played single-player on my PS3, and the co-op parts on my laptop. Gaming on my laptop isn’t really a whole heck of a lot of fun, but I liked that I could plug in a wired Microsoft controller identical to what I use on the Xbox 360 and have it work right away. Games aren’t meant to be played hunched over a laptop, and the wired controller at least allowed me to recline in my chair a bit. This was my first experience really using Steam to chat with a co-op buddy and it was as easy as gaming on a console. The only trouble came when the game caused my laptop to heat up and stutter a bit, which was remedied by taking a break. Note to self: Buy a gaming rig soon.
“Gears of War 3” beta: I’ve been working on the multiplayer beta test for “Gears of War 3” when I get a stray moment here and there because I want to try to unlock the bonuses for the full retail game when it launches in September. I’m still pretty awful at “Gears 3,” but I have gotten better at not dying constantly. My best performance in the team deathmatch mode was six kills, 10 downs, a couple of revives and zero deaths, which was good enough to beat out a bunch of folks with double-digit kills for MVP that round.
“Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga” (rated M, $40 on PC or Xbox 360): This is the kind of well-written, flawed, low-budget game that I could see myself becoming a champion of. “The Dragon Knight Saga” actually includes two games on one disc. It contains an improved version of last year’s “Divinity II: Ego Draconis” as well as that game’s sequel, the all-new “Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance.” The whole thing costs $40 and is supposed to provide about 90 to 100 hours of role-playing gameplay. You play as a new recruit to an order of dragon slayers before you unexpectedly become a Dragon Knight, a member of the very order you’ve been trained your whole life to kill. Despite its traditional RPG setting, reviews of the game have praised its writing and voice acting. These, quite frankly, are top notch. The gameplay department is a little iffy, though. It definitely plays like a budget game, which means that if you want to experience the great story, you have to be patient with random difficulty spikes, an obtuse leveling system and a perplexing, unreliable autosave. I’ll probably be playing this off and on for a while, so I’ll continue to report back.
“Crysis 2” (rated M, $60 on PC, Xbox 360 or PS3): I’ve been wanting to review this first-person shooter for a while now, but difficulties getting Internet at my new house and now the PlayStation Network being down have prevented me from diving into online play. Still, the game’s been out for a while. I’m working on the single-player part of the game and hoping online play comes back early this week so that my impressions of the multiplayer portions aren’t limited to what I played at a media preview event shortly before the game launched.
“Catan” (rated E, $10 download on Xbox 360 or PS3, except you can’t download it on PS3 because the PlayStation Network is down): I fired up the Xbox 360 version of this classic board game the other day hoping I could find a game online but didn’t have any luck. It’s really too bad this hit Xbox Live and then never had any of the expansions hit the marketplace.
“Halo 3: ODST” (rated M, $20 on Xbox 360): Some friends of mine and I fired up the original Firefight Mode for a couple of hours. Even though “Halo: Reach” improved Firefight by making it fully customizable and able to wrap up quickly, the default settings on the “ODST” disc are hard to beat if you can round up three friends to play online with you. The difficulty and pacing fit my regular group’s skill level better than any of our attempts to replicate the original experience in “Reach.”
“Culdcept Saga” (rated T, out of print on Xbox 360): I dragged out my favorite board-card game hybrid for a match because I signed up for a slow-moving tournament that has me playing a match every couple of weeks. I lucked out and got a win in the first round of the double-elimination event.
“Knights Contract” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3): Namco sent me a review copy of this game a couple of months ago, but I didn’t get a chance to try it out until recently. I don’t know why, but with a name like “Knights Contract,” I was expecting a swords-and-sorcery role-playing game. Instead, “Knights Contract” is a “God of War”/”Devil May Cry”-style action game, where you have to make quick work of hordes of enemies via the use of crazy button-mashing combos. Normally, this kind of game is right in my wheelhouse, but I’m not sure what to think of “Knights Contract” yet. For starters, the game is ugly. The textures are muddy and the graphics can charitably be described as “not pretty.” So far, though, the game’s engine has been able to keep up with all the action taking place on screen. Even if the game doesn’t look hot, it runs smoothly. And the writing is solid, even if the voice acting is spotty. At its best, “Knights Contract” might be a guilty pleasure buy at a budget price. At worst, it’s forgettable and bad. The jury’s still out and I’m hoping to spend more time with it later. The $60 asking price, however, seems pretty steep.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3): After largely ignoring them since I started writing about games, I’m trying to get into fighting games, arguably one of video gaming’s most niche genres. I’ve been playing “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” off and on and am probably going to add “Mortal Kombat” and “Super Street Fighter IV” to the mix for an upcoming column, but that column is a few weeks away. It takes a while to become competent at fighting games, and I’m juggling a lot of titles right now.