Keeping Score: Loot Rascals

This is Keeping Score, a series about games and their soundtracks. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I was searching my backlog for something I could play in short sessions without getting too invested in a long story, and I settled on Loot Rascals. I don’t remember when I got it, but I do remember seeing some positive reviews online, praising it as a quirky and light game that sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for. Players explore a procedurally generated hex-based map, generated anew each game, while scrounging for loot and battling the colorful, titular rascals. Everything from the landscape to the bizarre cast of rascals is rendered in a beautiful watercolor style, and there’s even a Scottish robot sidekick with a teapot for a head. What’s not to like?

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Even More Amalur: The Legend Of Dead Kel DLC

This is a post about an add-on for the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Recoking. You may wish to read the earlier post about the base game first. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Recokoning is, as everyone says, too long. Surely, the last thing we need is more of it? And yet, when I played it, I found it dragged the most in the middle sections of the game but then picked up towards the end, such that I was actually sad to see the finale. Against all odds, I wanted more.

Well, reader, there is more. Amalur received two pieces of DLC (that’s “downloadable content” for those who don’t know) before developers 38 Studios imploded in a storm of debts and litigation. Each provides a new self-contained area to explore with a new story to follow, new creatures to fight, and new things to do. The first, The Legend of Dead Kel, takes players to a mysterious island in search of the infamous undead pirate for which the DLC is named.

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History Lessons: Phantasy Star

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. This post makes many references to the entries for Dragon Quest II and Final Fantasy. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

My quest to play the early Japanese-style role-playing games continues. I failed to start at the beginning, unfortunately, playing Final Fantasy before realizing that the Dragon Quest series got there first, releasing two games before anyone else caught on. But I’ve now gone back and played both of those. Add in Final Fantasy and I’m all caught up, but there’s no time to rest on my laurels: on December 20, 1987, a mere two days after Final Fantasy was released, Phantasy Star appeared. Developed in-house by Sega, it was intended as a showcase for their Master System console, a direct competitor to Nintendo’s Famicom which ran Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. And since both the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series took their sweet time coming to the United States, Sega actually beat them to the US market, releasing an English-language version of Phantasy Star in November 1988.

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History Lessons: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is only seven years old, but I couldn’t help but compare it to its contemporaries and successors in the role-playing genre as I played. Hence, a History Lessons post. I actually bought the game when it was released, because reviews suggested it tried several interesting things, even if it didn’t qualify for classic status. Today, the game is more famous for the scandal that followed its release: developers 38 Studios, founded and run by retired star baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, infamously imploded a few months after the game came out, resulting in bankruptcy and a tangle of litigation related to loans from the state of Rhode Island. Stories of poor management and exorbitant spending (largely on perks for employees, at least) were everywhere at the time. But when THQ Nordic announced they had acquired the old 38 Stuiods IP (including Kingdoms of Amalur) in September 2018, the game was briefly back in the press spotlight, and a lot of people pointed out that the game itself was actually pretty good. That inspired me to finally give it a spin.

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History Lessons: Dragon Quest II

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. For some context, you may wish to read the post about Dragon Quest and the post about Final Fantasy first. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

My very slow quest to play through the early Japanese-style role-playing games continues. I semi-accidentally started out of order with the first Final Fantasy game, before realizing that it was predated by not one, but two of the Dragon Quest games. Deciding it was foolish to limit myself to the Final Fantasy series only, I then played the first Dragon Quest, and have now moved on to the second. As with the first game, Dragon Quest II appeared in Japan first, released in January 1987 for the Japanese Famicom, before being localized for the Nintendo Entertainment System (a rebranded Famicom) in North America in 1990, under the name Dragon Warrior II to avoid trademark troubles. This English-language version is the one that I played, and while there are some minor changes, it’s largely the same game as the Japanese original.

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History Lessons: DROD: The City Beneath

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. In this case, you should read the History Lesson posts about DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon and DROD: Journey To Rooted Hold in particular before proceeding. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

DROD: The City Beneath is the game I thought I was getting when I first played Journey To Rooted Hold. Back then I expected a story-driven puzzle game, only to be confounded by its rigid 25-floor structure, in which every room of every floor must be cleared even if it had nothing to do with protagonist Beethro Budkin’s mission. It wasn’t until I started the DROD series from the beginning that it finally clicked, and I completed Journey To Rooted Hold — even its crushingly difficult later levels — eager to see what came next.

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A Cold War In Hell: A Solium Infernum Story

I have written many words about Solium Infernum, including two epic turn-by-turn diaries. But I haven’t stopped playing, and the stories haven’t stopped coming. This account won’t describe every single turn, but will instead offer a summary, from my perspective only, of a recent game with a particularly dramatic finish. You should be able to follow along even if you aren’t familiar with the game, but if you want to learn more about how Solium Infernum works, you may wish to read my original post about it, or peruse one or both of the two huge diaries, first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Lucifer’s throne stands empty. Six archfiends will vie for it, in a test moderated by the Infernal Conclave. Unfolding in turn-based fashion, the archfiends will submit orders that will be processed simultaneously every few days, leaving plenty of time for behind-the-scenes scheming. This contest will be longer than in the past; once the Conclave has drawn 20 tokens — a process which will take months of real time — the most Prestigious archfiend shall be appointed ruler of Hell. The arena, a wide expanse of the Hellish plain, is also larger than before, and peppered with more numerous Places of Power. Archfiends will surely conquer the garrisons of these Places and take command to earn Prestige each turn, then engineer vendettas with their rivals in order to fight short, strategic wars over them.

But not my archfiend, Brunt. He is not a fighter. His personal legion is pathetically weak. Brunt is, however, a Master Administrator, able to attach an extra Unholy Relic (or praetor commander) to each of his Places of Power. He will amass as many Unholy Relics as possible, using them to grow his power and Prestige. He also happens to be an Infernal Cardinal, letting him demand better tribute than the other archfiends in order to finance his collection. He might conquer a Place of Power or two, but only to use them as places to display his Relics, inspiring awe and fear in his rivals.

At least, that’s the plan. But in Hell, things rarely go to plan.

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