October 27, 2004

Far Cry, Myst and other geeky pleasures

A quick overview of the games I have played recently...

Far Cry

Pure bliss.  This game is absolutely gorgeous in 1600x1200 with all details turned on and it offers a tremendous amount of variety.  It is also surprisingly long and I thought I had finished it a couple of times until I realized that the plot was unfolding further.  I also liked the scenario, which starts with a simple plot and slowly turns into a full-scale Doom-like adventure.  But what keeps you going and going is just the constant hunger to discover where the next level will take you... Dune buggy?  Glider?  Patrol boat?  Jeep?  Carrier?  Helicopter?

Interestingly, the show "Lost" that is currently airing reminds me a lot of Far Cry...

Doom 3

Undoubtedly a fantastic technical achievement but after Far Cry, Doom 3 bored me pretty quickly.  I gave Doom 3 a fair chance to get me hooked and I played about one third of it until I simply got tired of wandering in dark corridors, waiting for the next alien to jump me from behind a closet.  I didn't install the "duct tape" mod, which allows you to have your flashlight on at all times, since I wanted to play the game the way it was designed, and I honestly didn't find it to be as frustrating as some other players have.  Having said that, while the constant darkness is guaranteed to make you jump on your seat on more than one occasion, the sad truth is that it probably hides most of the game's technical brilliance.

Experts will probably argue that Doom 3 is one generation ahead of Far Cry (which is at least chronologically true) but I'll take fun and variety over technical brilliance any day.  Especially since I think Far Cry certainly holds its grounds visually.

Exit Doom 3 then...

More recently, I have had a renewed craving for a good old Real Time Strategy (RTS) game that would match Rise of Nations, so I looked in the direction of Rome: Total War (RTW) and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (DOW).

Rome:  Total War

I spent a few hours on RTW, playing a battle and trying to get a feel for the campaign map but I can't say the game took me in.  Maybe I need to spend more time on it but my initial impression is that mixing battlefield and campaign doesn't work very well, especially since you can automatically resolve the battlefield campaign.  I am curious to hear from veterans RTW players:  do you still play the battlefields at all after many hours?

I also had a hard time getting a good grasp of how certain key concepts of the games are connected and how they play out together.  Maybe I am missing out and I should spend more time on it, but I distinctly remember feeling very much connected to Civilization right away, and its manual weighed a hefty 120 pages...

So I switched my focus to Dawn of War.

Warhammer 40,000:  Dawn of War

It's pretty easy to be seduced by the sheer beauty of the game.  It's fun.  Pure, unedited, mindless, childish fun.  A lot of colored units, great voice-overs, detailed animations that even now I find myself zooming into (especially when a mech eviscerates a whole platoon).  And the combat scenes...  oh my.  Lasers, missiles, grenades, and this is just in the very beginning, I bet more sophisticated units will be coming up for even more eye candy.

But is it the real-time strategy game I am looking for?

Certainly not.

First of all, the missions are very directed.  It's not an all-out battle with one team in each corner of the map and letting them duke it out.  There is a story line and the levels follow it.  A frustrating aspect of this is that some technology that is available at a certain level might be grayed out at the next level.  This goes against my intuition, and against simple common sense.  The best RTS games will not only provide you a gentle tutorial but the missions themselves will slowly bring you up to speed with the units you can use, and this progressive learning is the only way you can truly master even an RTS game as complex as Civilization or Rise of Nations.

But overall, I just find that a simple way of winning at DOW is to rush.  Plain and simple rush.  If it doesn't work the first time, fall back, regroup, reconstitute your army and try again.  Watch over your resources and your energy, and you will inch your way into the computer's field, who doesn't seem to be smart enough to reconstruct while you are rebuilding your army of minions.  That's disappointing.  Or maybe I should play at a more difficult level.

Until then, I find myself going back to DOW once in a while because it's mindless, doesn't need to much thinking or too much context and you can dive right back into a game that you left several days ago. 

If you liked Warcraft 3, you will love Dawn of War.  If you are more the Rise of Nations type, the title of best RTS to date is still up for grabs.

Myst 4 : Revelation

And finally, I have found myself being suckered into Myst for the fourth time (well, a bit more than that if you count Uru and its extension packs).

Myst 4:  Revelation is a pure gem.  It's by far the Myst episode that strikes the best balance between jaw-dropping sceneries, mesmerizing ambiance and reasonably hard puzzles.

Contrary to Uru (which would deserve an entry of its own), Myst 4 is not in full 3D.  It uses the same navigation technique as the previous three episodes (discrete moves) but each location can be fully viewed in 360 degrees and above you (in other words, you can look around).  While I was quite disappointed by this apparently step back from Uru, I got used to it pretty quickly and since the familiar Zip locations are present, it's fairly easy to move around (with a notable exception, see below).

As I said above, what I like most about Myst 4 is this impression that the puzzles are actually solvable by a non-lateral human thinker (that is: me).  Uru was disappointing in this, as I found that I could never have solved some puzzles in my lifetime other than by reading the walkthrough. 

Myst 4 is the opposite, and the very first puzzle you will face (restoring the power of your base of operations) will give you a good idea of what lies ahead.

But you need to have a very good eye for details.  And in doubt, not hesitate to take a picture, because most of the time, it will come in handy later.

Myst 4 takes you through several ages, each more beautiful than the previous one (I am almost done with the third one right now) and while the size of each world is daunting at first, it's only a matter of time before you get familiar with the various areas you can explore and you figure out how they relate to each other.

Unfortunately, this also happens to be the only bad thing about Myst 4:  it's easy to get lost.

And I don't mean losing yourself, I mean:  overlooking certain locations because finding your way is everything but easy.  If there is one thing missing from this otherwise-perfect adventure game, it's a way to tell what the possible paths are every time you reach a new location.

Barring this, the puzzles are quite enthralling and always logical.  If you didn't miss any location, an idea of how each age level will slowly form in your mind as you discover new pieces of the puzzle and nothing is more thrilling than when you can finally put your theory to the test and see it work (I even found myself writing down a finite-state automaton once, although obviously, you can certainly solve this problem differently and the only thing you really need is simple common sense).

Overall, Myst 4: Revelation is one of the most immersive games I have played in a long time, and I recommend it to not only Myst lovers but you anyone curious to try something new.

Posted by cedric at October 27, 2004 10:37 AM

Ok, now please Cedric reveal me your secret... how many hours does your day have? google, testng, (all the other stuff..) 72? ;-)

Posted by: Filippo at October 27, 2004 10:57 AM

You have no comments about the multiplayer capabilities of any of these games. Multiplayer is often the best part!

Posted by: RefuX at October 27, 2004 11:25 AM

Refux, that's very true. I purposely stay away from multi-player in order to keep some sanity, although I have been known to get my butt fragged repeatedly at Unreal Tournament 2004 these past months.

But I definitely keep away from massively multiplayer online games. They are legal crack, nothing less.

Posted by: Cedric at October 27, 2004 11:28 AM

What are the hardware specs on the machine you are using (just curious)?

Posted by: Rob Misek at October 27, 2004 11:29 AM

Since you are interested in multiplayer games :)
I will pimp what I consider to be the most innovative mutliplayer game out there, it is of course Natural Selection (http://www.natural-selection.org/):
Natural Selection is a hybrid first-person/real-time strategy game. There is a resource model, a tech tree, structures and upgrades, just like a traditional RTS (like Starcraft or Command and Conquer). It is mostly played in first-person, but one player can become the Commander and plays from a top-down perspective.

Posted by: RefuX at October 27, 2004 12:00 PM

I just recently got Unreal Tournament 2004 and all I can say is wow. If you haven't played it you should, it's a blast, especially the Onslaught games which require teamwork and strategy in order to win.

Good stuff.


Posted by: Anthony Eden at October 27, 2004 12:12 PM

Hey CÚdric, I thought you had given up on games since the Amiga in the early 90's. I'm glad to see you're still at it.

PS: So is it true you don't have to work 16 hours/day now?

Posted by: Frank at October 27, 2004 01:16 PM


I have never commented on your posts before, but now I am really tempted!

My personal preference is RTS-games and I am now playing Rome Total War. I like the game, but it's not the 'game of the year' as you see appearing in all these magazines.

It's too much of the same. You mount your armies together and if they are big enough you will win the battle easily. I very often find myself not even using all the batalions. It gets too cluttery and is too difficult to direct.

Unfortunately it is important to fight the battles yourself, in order to really decimate your opponent. By 'auto resolve' battle you always leave opponents behind.

To my experience it also takes too long. To conquer 50 provinces takes many many turns. And you are actually doing the same trick all over.

But now I have my 50 provinces. So, it's time to go for Rome ... And then, I'll deinstall it. My girlfriend is complaining ...


Posted by: at November 1, 2004 04:57 AM

Halo? Or upcoming Halo2? Deux Ex?

Posted by: mjasnows at November 1, 2004 11:49 AM

I'm new to this site, just browsing around

Posted by: natural & big at November 13, 2004 06:01 PM

about RTW , Single player is always easy but try hard for a change, then u will see that the CPU is really annoyning u in Battles , but as always Single player stays simple once u cracked the CPU his strategies.

i played some competition matches in LAN cafe,s and Campzones and i must say it,s a challenge! then it changes about the amount of soldiers u have caus they have certain rules about money and units (Elephants where not alowed) caus u start with a small amount and when u climb up the ladder u know the When u win u go a long when u lose ur OUT! like the first few rounds i won easily caus my opponents where those [My Army Is Bigger Then Urs] but they wherent using there heads! the first thing he did was sending his General (cavelery) right in to my archers kinda stupid caus what he didn,t knew Triari Spearman where behind them so he got his general killed his men lost morality and i won in about 2 min
once i got in a final and there it began max money. we fought about 30 - 40 min and by a small luck that one of my catapults shot right in to his general army and that was his defeat caus u knew once the general is gone morality of ur men starts to reduce. I won and it was great.

my favorite Faction is SPQR and the rest of the roman houses Why? because they are balanced.
my advice is try Multiplayer for a change and use ur units whisely caus that,s and use ur mind that,s the key to succes

Posted by: MorBid at April 19, 2005 09:34 AM

esta bue fix o jogo

Posted by: Nelson at March 7, 2008 07:00 AM

mas aixo que o (crysis) e melhor

Posted by: Nelson at March 7, 2008 07:02 AM

salut cava

Posted by: simo at September 7, 2008 02:55 PM
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