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PC Gaming « Nitpixels

Archive for category PC Gaming

Mass Effect 3 post-mortem thoughts

So yeah, I’m done with Mass Effect 3.

Well, not done. I’ve played it three times now, and am working on the fourth. So here comes spoilers beyond and beyond, if you don’t want spoilers you really shouldn’t read this.

Things I’ll say before going more into detail: no, I don’t like the endings. No, I don’t want Bioware to fix the endings to placate me, I didn’t sign a petition nor do I support it. I’m neither for or against it, I feel it’s pointless. This is the game, this is the story of the game, these are the endings. That being said, pretty much everything up to that point is amazing. I actually found Mordin’s death quite moving (although I still have no idea why Mordin has a new voice actor now) and enjoyed pretty much every cameo and return, loved the story as it unfolded, loved watching Shepard try and navigate the treacherous politics of the galaxy while seeking to unite everyone to fight the reapers. The game is at times spectacular, your choices from previous games have surprising consequences at times. I’ve played a vanguard and a solider and enjoyed both of them. I even find the inventory system fairly easy to cope with, although partially because I only carry a Revenant most places I go because to me, the Revanant is Shepard’s signature weapon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enter to win two copies of Terraria

Here at Nitpixels, we’re big fans of gaming as a social experience. Why else would we spend hours every week talking about video games? To celebrate E3 and promote co-op gaming, this week we’ll be giving away two Steam copies of Nitpixels staff favorite Terraria — one for you and one for a friend!

Dig, fight, explore, build! Nothing is impossible in this action-packed adventure game. The world is your canvas and the ground itself is your paint.

Grab your tools and go! Make weapons to fight off a variety of enemies in numerous biomes. Dig deep underground to find accessories, money, and other useful things. Gather resources to create everything you need to make the world your own. Build a house, a fort, or even a castle. People will move in to live there and perhaps even sell you different wares to assist you on your journey.

But beware, there are even more challenges awaiting you… Are you up to the task?

To enter, you need to leave a comment on this post before 11:59 PM on Friday, June 10th nominating your best friend forever (or sibling, significant other, or whoever else you game with) as a winner — and your best friend forever needs to do the same for you! Remember to use a valid email address when filling out the comment form, as that’s how we will be contacting our winners. We will be choosing one winner at random, then we will search the comments for their nominee. If both comments are present, we’ll announce our winners and send out the prizes! If the reciprocal comment isn’t present, we will choose a new random winner. Again, we will be giving these away via Steam, not hard copies. If you don’t have Steam… what’s wrong with you?

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Breathing new life into Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is a franchise that I’ve grown up with. The first game in the series was released in 1996 when I was 10 years old. Unfortunately, as the years went on, the franchise went stagnant never improved upon itself. Those excellent adventure games we loved on the Playstation became old, diluted and mediocre at best. It, sadly, became a franchise where many of us were just waiting for it to die and go away so we could paint our memories of it with beautiful nostalgia, rather than constantly be bombarded with low quality followups to something we loved.

When the franchise was given over to Crystal Dynamics, Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld attempted to revive the franchise, but it wasn’t enough to inspire faith in the Tomb Raider name again. Regardless of who holds the IP, the fact is the franchise has become old and stagnant, and whatever story the series had became a convoluted mess. It’s a lot like the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It started out great and there are still some gems here and there in the series, but the franchise has become such a beaten mess that nobody has much faith in it anymore — a new Sonic game elicits groans of exasperation (though, admittedly, not necessarily for the same reasons.)

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The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 9: Pizza is totally a video game

The Nitpixels Podcast returns this week with your hosts Alex Ziebart, Matthew Rossi and Mat McCurley. Michael Sacco has been replaced with a potato. This week our discussion topics include:

  • More same-sex relationships in Mass Effect 3
  • The Gears of War 3 beta
  • The problem with movie-to-game translations
  • The art of the Easter egg
  • Some stuff about food that has nothing to do with video games at all

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store can take an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it may not immediately display on the page.

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Podcast if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

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Direct2Drive Easter weekend sale

Today and tomorrow, Direct2Drive is holding an Easter blowout sale. With the promo code BUNNY, you get 25% off of all purchases more than $19.95. If you’ve never heard of Direct2Drive, it’s a digital distribution system for purchasing video games — it’s not a full platform like Steam is, but it’s a solid way to buy and download your games online.

Nitpixels also earns commission from all Direct2Drive purchases made through links on our site (like that one right there). If you want buy cheap games and support Nitpixels at the same time, there really isn’t a better opportunity than this sale. You help us pay the bills and you get a ridiculous 25% off your purchase. Win/Win.


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Magicka: Vietnam post-release reactions

If you listen to our podcast, you know that DLC is a pretty popular topic of here at Nitpixels. We’re all very opinionated about the right and wrong ways to do it. This post is no different. As I mentioned previously on the site, I was extremely hyped about Magicka: Vietnam, Magicka‘s first paid DLC. The base game was a wonderfully good time and the company had a great sense of humor. There’s no way this DLC could go wrong, right? Uh, wrong.

I bought Magicka: Vietnam on Steam the very first moment I could on launch day. That night, right after we recorded the most recent episode of the podcast, I jumped on and played through it with a few friends. The DLC consists of a single 30 minute mission and an arena map. Less than an hour of content for $5. Fun content, yes, but there is very little of it. At this stage in the game, that kind of price for so little content is disappointing at best. I didn’t go in expecting a full secondary campaign (and that’s not what was advertised) but I paid $5 for a 30 minute mission and an arena. To say it did not meet my expectations is a massive understatement.

I didn’t mind the format of the Vietnam mission. The full campaign that was included in the base game is well-designed for a single player experience, but the core entertainment value of the game is playing it online with friends. Who is going to be able to play a multi-hour campaign online with friends in one sitting? Almost nobody. Breaking it up into shorter pieces of content is a very smart move. The Vietnam mission was a perfectly sized chunk of content to play through with some buddies. This DLC just needed more chunks. I don’t think wanting an hour’s worth of mission-based combat is unreasonable.

I still believe that Magicka is one of the most unique, entertaining games to come out this year. I still highly recommend the base game. This DLC, however, feels like a cash grab — and maybe they have a right to that cash grab. The base game was severely underpriced at $10. I would have gladly paid more for it. This DLC feels like they realized that, then rushed out the smallest amount of content possible so they could get a little more bang for their buck. It strikes me as a little dishonest, and that’s a real shame.

Due to the low price point of the base game, I’m really not as angry about this as I could be, or potentially should be. Magicka is worth far more than $10. Even if this DLC was underwhelming, I’ve still paid less overall on Magicka than I would on some other form of entertainment.

As I said, I do still love Magicka and if you asked me right now if you should buy it, I would say yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s less than $10 on Steam right now — it’s $4.99. If you don’t own the game, go buy it right now.

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Sexuality is Not a Game Mechanic

Dragon Age 2, BioWare’s latest RPG offering, allows players to strike up romantic relationships with party members regardless of the gender of the player character or the NPC in question. Basically, if your ideal romantic interest would have to be homosexual/bisexual in order to be romantically compatible with your particular character, they will be. This also means that you as a player may periodically experience flirty conversation from NPCS that might not match up with the sexuality you intend for your character.

After a self-professed “straight male gamer” posted on the BioWare forums complaining that he was getting hit on by male characters while playing as the male version of Hawke, BioWare’s senior writer David Gaider gave a fantastic response: essentially, “get over it.” Gaider affirmed that BioWare is committed to giving players of all sexualities the opportunity to pursure romantic interests in whatever configuration they please, which is fantastic, and a real step forward for video game relationships in general.

Somehow, though, I’m still finding cause for concern.

Video games have been struggling for a long time now to be recognized as a legitimate art form, largely because it’s not been until recently that games have even had the opportunity to have extended dialogue, like books, and voice acting, like movies. The increase in “cinematic-ness” (cinematicity?) has also led to an increase the number of memorable, “real” characters present in games.

To be fair, though, games and movies and books are often all striving for very different things. A fantasy book you read or movie you see in theaters has the aim to entertain you, to tell its own story, to present its characters in a specific set of scenes and situations. Things are a little different in modern role-playing games, especially where BioWare is concerned. While still taking part in an over-arching narrative, you’re given the opportunity to shape the world (and the narrative itself) through your decisions and interactions. And even your main character, normally the rigidly-defined cornerstone of a narrative, isn’t set in stone; you can choose different backgrounds, appearances, and, in this case, sexualities as well.

Now, contrary to what sitcoms and movies would like you to believe, “homosexual” is not a personality trait. Neither is “bisexual” or “asexual” or “only sleeps with big disfigured metal space bugbirds” (don’t judge me). But it is part of a character, of a person. Sexuality shapes interactions both personal and public, and lots of other facets of a character. Which is why BioWare’s choice concerns me.

Let me give you some perspective. I liked Final Fantasy VII just fine, but I didn’t love it like I loved Final Fantasy IX. In FFVII, with the exception of some small stat differences, all characters behaved fundamentally identically in battle thanks to all of their skill assignments being handled with Materia, useable by anyone with no restrictions. Anyone could do anything, which was a far cry from the highly specialized characters of FFIX. If I needed brute force, I knew to use Steiner. In FFVII, anyone could be my brute-force guy (or gal).

Now, perhaps it’s fallacious to use game mechanics as analogues to “real-life” traits. In fact, I know it is, and I’ll get to that. So I’ll put it in a different way. In a BioWare game, like in a good movie or book, I can expect a character to generally act a certain way. I know Garrus will have a deadpan one-liner for lots of situations. I know Miranda will choose (and suggest that I choose) the most pragmatic option in most circumstances. These are the ways these characters work, the way they react to things. They’re integral parts of their character.

So what’s not integral? Stuff that relates to or works with game mechanics. Is Miranda a fundamentally different character if she uses submachine guns instead of pistols heavily in my game as compared to my friend’s game? No, she’s still a femme fatale ice queen. Her choice of gun has an effect on gameplay, not narrative — two very different things. It affects how I experience the narrative, perhaps, but not the narrative itself. That krogan was going to meet his end regardless of the weapon used, and Miranda would still shrug it off because that’s who she is. And so is her sexuality.

Essentially, by making it something that can be adjusted, changed, deleted, what’s happening is that BioWare isn’t treating sexuality like a character trait. They’re treating it like a game mechanic. And in an oeuvre that includes games in which “relationship” has historically (and unfortunately) been defined as “a minigame with sex as a reward,” that’s actually not that surprising. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to please players of all sexualities would be to give them a handful of relationships meaningful outside of the pursuit of a PG-13 sex scene, not give them access to a large number of ultimately trivial ones.

If it sounds like I’m condemning BioWare’s decision, I truly am not. I don’t envy BioWare in their effort to please people of all sexualities, and envy them even less in trying to legitimize an art form. In fact, I don’t even think this is a bad solution to the heterosexual male-dominated “gaming culture” that thinks elves are “gay” even when they aren’t. It’s just that there’s still a long way to go if we want games to be societally progressive and a legitimate art form, and part of the latter is not just continuing to sacrifice the building blocks of a character in the name of game mechanics when there simply must be other ways to do it. Even if we haven’t thought of them yet.

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Suggest your favorite multiplayer PC game!

After spending many hours last night playing Nutsy Bolts with a number of friends and readers, I was prompted to do something a little differently here on the blog today. I want to ask a question of all of you What do you think are good multiplayer online games?

Free games like Nutsy Bolts and Transformice are ideal, but paid games like Left 4 Dead and Magicka are very much acceptable! I find it strangely difficult to find pick-up-and-go multiplayer games that aren’t MMOs or first person shooters. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist — I simply don’t know what they are.

There are plenty of console party games like the Mario Kart, Mario Party, and all sorts of fighting games, but I find it much harder to find that experience on the PC. There is no PC Mario Party. You play an MMO or you play a first person shooter. It feels like a very limited set of options. StarCraft (or similar titles) is certainly an option, but it feels like a significant undertaking for what it is — party games generally have a very fast turnover round to round. In my experience, StarCraft … doesn’t.

Please, suggest your favorite multiplayer games! Any genre is acceptable. FPS, RPG,whatever you want, as long as it’s fun!

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Sims Medieval: The Sims take a turn for the RPG

I truly believe that the Sims games have something to offer every type of gamer. There is no correct way to play the game and it offers so many options that absolutely anybody can find some form of entertainment within. You can play the predetermined scenarios if you’re looking for RPG-style gameplay. If you want to build something, you can set a budget for yourself and create an estate for your sims. If you want to start from nothing and work your way up, you can create a custom family and make something from nothing. If you don’t want a deep experience and simply want to be wacky, you have that option, too. Murder an entire family in increasingly bizarre ways? Try to break a man’s psyche? Steal all of the neighbors’ lawn gnomes? Impregnate an entire city’s population? Go wild. The Sims provides entertainment in spades for any player that picks up the game.

The announcement of Sims Medieval caught my interest immediately. Come on. It’s The Sims with knights, bards and wizards. How cool is that? Building keeps and castles with the Sims‘ robust construction and decoration tools? Yes, please! Despite Sims Medieval not receiving nearly as much hype juice as the core Sims titles, I’ve been following the game since I first took notice of it.

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The story/game disconnect in CRPGs

Spoilers for several games, past and present, including Dragon Age II abound in this post.

Computer RPGs excel in many, many ways. They can present a unified visual, with voice acting, immediate character visuals, and fantastic locales all realized for your playing convenience. Think of how hard it would be for a game master to create the milleu of Mass Effect through his or her voice alone.  But one element of the tabletop RPG that has always been nigh impossible for CRPGs to present is the ability to make shit up on the fly. To give an example, imagine you have the same scenario in both an RPG and a tabletop dungeon crawl – a boss fight that requires the players to fall into a trap behind one of two doorways. If this trap is necessary to set up the scene, the easy thing to do is to set it up so that no matter which door the party opens, that’s the door with the trap.

The problem here is that in a CRPG, there are things like save games and replays, so the players will learn fairly quickly that the game cheated, and that either door presents you with the trap. In a pen and paper game, there’s no replay and even if the suspicious players go and check the other door, a GM can blithely lie to them and have there be no sign of a trap. Yes, in each case you were railroaded. But in case A, you can easily find out, because the game can’t cover its tracks.

CRPGs have to balance a very careful line, leveraging their assets to make you forget that in the end, the story is by necessity on rails. Even when a game presents you with options and choices that can determine the outcome, it can only present you with so many because the story has to end somewhere.  There’s only so much room on those game discs or in that file download for variation, much as if you were ultimately reading a choose your own adventure book or using a flowchart. The game’s goal, therefore, is to make you forget that. It does so with all of the bells and whistles at its command, ultimately, and by making use of as many ‘non-choice choices‘ as it can get away with.
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