Here’s a look at what’s looking good this weekend, with an emphasis on new releases, sales or games that are otherwise relevant. The slow summer release schedule and some weekends off mean it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done one of these. Consider this a catch-up edition.
“Dragon Nest” (Free to play on PC, open beta runs through Tuesday, after which the game launches): I got a chance to take an advance look at Nexon America’s newest, free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game shortly before E3. (If you’re among the uninitiated, Nexon is the studio behind free-to-play games “MapleStory,” “Mabinogi,” “Vindictus” and “Combat Arms,” among others.)
The story underpinning the world revolves around two sister goddesses, Vestinel and Althea, who each has her own world she’s in charge of. That’s all well and good until Vestinel decides to poisen Althea and start corrupting her world. Players are tasked with restoring Althea’s world, collecting gems and bringing them to a monolinth.
I don’t play action RPGs on PC, at least not until I build my new rig at the end of the month, but I was able to jump right in to “Dragon Nest,” playing as the warrior and later the archer. (The other two classes are cleric and sorceress.) The controls are standard genre fare, with the WASD keys controlling movement, the mouse controlling the camera and special abilities mapped to the number buttons. If you’re not a big keyboard-and-mouse player, the game also supports a wired Xbox 360 controller as well as Logitech gamepads, according to the official site.
The art style is kind of a cuted-up version of “World of Warcraft,” and the quest I ran with some Nexon employees had us rescuing a prophet named Rose by killing a bunch of bad guys. There was plenty of loot to be had by all.
For a free-to-play game, “Dragon Nest” seemed fairly polished and uncluttered. It’s worth a look if you like action role-playing games. It’s not like you have anything to lose.
“Bastion” (rated E10+, $15 download for Xbox 360): The first game from the Xbox 360’s Summer of Arcade promotion is one of the best titles I’ve played so far this year, thanks to its hand-painted art style, subdued soundtrack and simple yet deep gameplay. Here’s my review.
“Catherine” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 or PS3): Anyone snapping up “Catherine” because of its sexy marketing campaign will probably end up disappointed that the majority of the game is spent solving soul-crushingly difficult puzzles and dying, repeatedly, rather than galavanting ‘neath the sheets with anime cuties. In any case, I’ve been digging the game’s largely mature take on romantic relationships and supernatural story. And the block puzzles are fun once you get the hang of ’em. Look for a review of “Catherine” in the next few days.
“Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” (rated E, $15 download for Xbox 360): It was hard to miss this gorgeous game in Microsoft’s booth at E3. I got sucked in by the visuals when I had some time to kill and ended up chatting a bit with Joe Olson of Fuelcell Games, one of two collaborators. In short, “ITSP” is a “Metroid”-style game, in which you traverse a side-scrolling, 2D world and obtain tools that unlock other parts of the map. You play as a scientist who’s trying to rescue his home world from a parasitic entity that’s captured the world’s sun. I’ll be giving this a whirl over the next week or two and writing up impressions when I can.
“Brink” (rated T, $60 for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, $50 for PC, but free to play via Steam this weekend) [review]: Even if you don’t currently own “Brink,” you might as well go and download the “Agents of Change” add-on. Released Tuesday, it’s free to download for the first two weeks as a mea culpa for the game’s myriad problems at launch. And with the way downloads work on the Xbox 360 and Steam, you can always grab “Agents of Change” now, delete it and grab it again when you need it at no extra charge. For all “Brink’s” graphical issues and frustrating, AI-controlled teammates, I actually found it to be a ton of fun, provided you can get a group of real-life people together online. Not only is “Brink” free to play this weekend on Steam, but if you decide you like it and want to play it beyond the weekend, it’s also half-off, or $25.
“From Dust” (rated E10+, $15 download for Xbox 360): This was the Summer of Arcade release between “Bastion” and “Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.” I haven’t had a chance to give it a whirl yet, but I know it’s a simulation/”god” game developed by Eric Chahi, who made the 1991 Super Nintendo Classic “Out of this World.” That’s good enough for me. I’ve bought “From Dust” but haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
“Limbo” (rated T, $15 download for PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and PC): Arguably the best of last summer’s Xbox Live Arcade games made it to the PlayStation Network a couple of weeks ago.
“Dragon Age II” (rated M, $40 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $30 on PC) [review]: I played the newish “Legacy” downloadable add-on at an Electronic Arts showcase a few weeks back. “Legacy” is independent content that looks to flesh out some backstory about Hawke’s father. You can start the story anytime after you get to Uncle Gamlan’s house in Kirkwall. While a lot of my beefs with “Dragon Age II” will have to wait to be tackled when “Dragon Age III” comes out, “Legacy” clearly looked like an attempt to try to address fan’s concerns about the core game. For starters, it gets players out of the city of Kirkwall, the setting for nearly all of “Dragon Age II.” It also introduces some areas that looked to be a little less linear than those in the core game, and I didn’t see any dungeons being used. “DAII’s” action-oriented combat didn’t appeal to me the way the tactics-heavy “Dragon Age: Origins” did, though, which makes me think I’ll be picking up this add-on down the road.
“Let’s Golf! 3D” (rated E, $7 download for 3DS): If you happened to be an early adopter of Nintendo’s 3DS handheld, you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t a heck of a lot of games for it. And some of the games that have come out have featured puzzling restrictions on erasing saved-game data, no doubt meant to erode those games’ resale value. The lack of new stuff to play is probably a contributing factor to Nintendo’s decision to knock $80 off the 3DS’ retail price. The price cut takes effect Aug. 12, and if you happened to buy a 3DS earlier, you’ll be eligible to download a bunch of free games if you get your 3DS online and create an eShop account before the price drop hits. None of those games is available yet, but while you’re on the eShop, you might as well check out “Let’s Golf! 3D,” arguably the most appealing of the recent 3DS eShop releases.
“NCAA Football 12” (rated E, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3): This year’s installment in Electronic Arts’ college football series ups the ante in the presentation department. The cool little gameday traditions they showed off at a recent EA publisher showcase were a nice touch. Chances are, if you’re a college football nut, you’ve probably already got your hands on this.
“Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon” (rated T, $40 on Xbox 360 or PS3): This game’s predecessor, “Earth Defense Force 2017” is supposed to be one of the all-time great cheesy, mindless co-op games. But it was offline only, right? So a sequel that promises to let players enjoy co-op play online ought to be even better, right? Well, yes and no. I got a look at this at both the Game Developers Conference in March and at E3 in June. I liked what I saw: Soldiers facing off against swarms of insects, some of them as tall as skyscrapers. It looks like terrific, dumb fun, particularly when using the jetpack-clad Pale Wing character that was shown to me at E3 by publisher D3. That said, a friend of mine paid less than $20 for “EDF 2017” and gave it to me. I can’t imagine paying $40 for a sequel that adds online co-op, not in an era where legitimately great games like “Portal 2” and “Bulletstorm” can be found for that price a month after release. I’ll be checking back in on “EDF” a few months down the road if I can find some folks interested in playing then.