These are three games that kept me busy over Spring Break:
- Snoopy Flying Ace - An XBOX Arcade title that comes in at 800 MS points (about ten bucks) that, despite the cutesy Peanuts motif is an exceptionally fun, challenging, and genuinely satisfying dogfighting game. No, not Michael Vic dog fighting but air-to-air combat Snoopy vs the Red Baron and his minions. There has been a serious drought as far as solid (fun) air combat games but Snoopy is a welcome release. It's easy to pick up and play, challenging without being Gauntlet for the NES (although some of the later levels made me say bad words), a varied style of gameplay (one of my favorite levels has you bouncing back and forth from a turret and a bombadier's postition), and one of the most chaotic multiplayers around. I have not tried local gameplay yet so I'm not sure how well those work. The multiplayer is complete mayhem though with team deathmatch being my favorite so far. There's a definite combination of skill and luck involved against other players that is lacking in some other games (especially FPS) that levels the playing field against other players. Additionally, the demographic online seems to be older folks (one evening I played and it was primarily jovial parents who were secretly having fun playing against other grownups a game they normally co-op with their kids). The large team deathmatches also shift players from map to map so on one level your nemesis could on the next map be your wingman (I like this because it takes out part of the acerbic hatred you might feel for some of your opponents and when you're on the same team gives you something to joke about - and also learn tips and tricks).
- Sony Online Entertainment's Facebook game Dungeon Overlord. Yes, I know a Facebook game but this game, backed by SOE is actually a really good game and if it were a regular title I think it would garnish excellent reviews. DO is at its core an evil Overlord SIM. You take on the role of a deposed Overlord and it is up to you to claw your way back to the top. You start off with one dungeon in a mountain, build it up, collect and manage resources/troops/minions/etc, and slowly expand your area of influence. What is still the most surprising aspect of the game is the sheer scope of the world. Example, your starting dungeon is in a mountain with up to four other players with twenty available areas to expand to. Once you enter the Overworld map you find yourself in a region of a continent with at least three dozen other mountains and surface dweller villages, towns and cities to raid. On the continent there are about two dozen regions, expand from that there are over a half dozen continents (each contain untold numbers of regions and mountains). I don't think I've encountered many games that have the scope and breadth of DO (and for free!). It's a slow game (I've been playing for over a week and I'm still only level two) and at times the classic SIMs frustration of building levels and gaining the appropriate resources for expansion can tax even the Dalai Lama's patience. That being said, it's an excellent game (with a warped sense of humor) that allows you to be an evil micromanager.
Torchlight is the third game and I have to admit that every time I think the bloom is off the rose I get a new piece of equipment or a new skill or encounter a new boss that kicks me in the jimmy. As I said in the comments I'm on my third character (actually come to think of it my fourth) - the female rogue. So far Frankie is my favorite character, a two gun action girl with abilities to drop some rather ass kicking traps (even on Very Difficult). The ability to share gear between characters is awesome though it requires some inventory management and ping-ponging between characters when you're starting out. Right now I have Frankie decked out with some excellent gear culled from other characters (none of the gear is class specific though in many cases you need to fulfill skill and level requirements before you can equip items). Additionally, I've learned that each character (warrior, alchemist, and rogue) can be tailored to various sorts of gameplay. Even better, if you have the GP, you can purchase a Respec potion which allows you to reshift all of your skills. The wealth of spells adds to the level of complexity and I often find myself purchasing or trying out new spells just for fun. Effectiveness of spells can further be boosted by spending skill points on one of three kinds of magic (Defensive, Offensive, and Charm). Right now, I've spec'd combat boosts in dual wielding and ranged combat weapons (significantly boosting my combat effectiveness even with >20 lvl weapons) and traps (my current personal fav is the Flechette trap which lays down wicked suppressing fire with physical damage). I could, in theory, respec and play more of a backstabbing nasty rogue character but I'm more of a play a bunch of traps, run into a room full of enemies, cast Haste, and kite the bastards to their doom.
Here are a few of my tips and tricks for Torchlight -
- DO NOT waste gear, potions, spells, gems, or anything of actual use on your first character. All of that stuff will be much more useful to your second or third alts.
- DO NOT after finishing the main quest retire your first/main character. You might be tempted but don't. I lost a lot of useful gear and supplies retiring my first character at lvl 40.
- DO NOT waste your gems by plugging them into weapons and armor willy nilly. You can combine them and slowly upgrade them to much more awesome gems a lot faster than you can find them.
- Remember that starting your first character at easy or normal will reap you similar benefits to starting on Very Hard so take your time. Start on easy, tear through the foe, loot, learn the controls and what set-up you prefer then when you are bored or things get too easy start a new toon, slap on some good gear, and keep going.