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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Defcon

When I was young, my greatest dream in life was to be the nerd from Wargames. To be a l33t haxxor, date Ally Sheedy and save the world from nuclear destruction in the process - what more could anyone want?

But as you grow up, your interests change. Sure, my hacking skills are legendary. But Ally and I had a messy breakup. And now, instead of saving the world, I kind of want to nuke it.

Enter Defcon. I don't want to gush but - instant classic. The graphics are simple but perfect. The soundtrack is truly incredible, replete with haunting coughs. But it's the gameplay that really shines. Like many terrific games, the basic gameplay is easy to pick up and understand. But it has a ton of depth and seems like it could take a long time to truly master. Here's a list of the units you have at your disposal:

Radar Installation – Without these you’ll never know what your enemies (and “friends”) are up to.
Silos – The big guns. Crucially important for defense as well as offense.
Airfields – Scramble fighter jets to scout and defend. Launch some bombers with a deadly payload.
Battleships – Clear the oceans with these deadly ships.
Carriers – Launch bombers and fighters from the seas.
Submarines – Sneak right up to the enemy’s coast and then open up a can of nuclear destruction on them.

Instead of boring you by trying to explain the diplomatic possibilities, I'll just show you this terrific video made by our own Anskiere (who meant diplomacy and not democracy but is too busy nuking people to change it).



Every game is filled with difficult decisions, shaky alliances, nervous lulls and intense excitement. It's an incredible product and for only $15 US on Steam, how can you go wrong? Check out the demo first if you're not convinced.

My only caveat would be to say that this is not meant to be a single player game, although you can play against the AI. It truly shines when you're playing actual human opponents.

Defcon is brought to you by Introversion, which has already scored with such indie classics as Darwinia and Uplink.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

PoxNora

Television bores me. Instead I spend obsessive hours scouring the internet for entertainment. Most times you find nothing of interest, sometimes you find amusing games to pass the time (see Motocross), but at other times you stumble upon one of those rare gems. My most recent find is Octipi's PoxNora. PoxNora is a turn-based strategy game based on playing cards. It resembles a Magic: The Gathering and a Heroes of Might & Magic hybrid. The game is java based and a very quick download. Players may play for free with a few full sets of pre-set, faction-based "Battlegroups".

Players take turns moving various units around the terrain on the game board. Cards are played in turn to spawn units, relics, spells and equipment. Each unit has its strengths and weakness such as movement speed, attack, defense, and special abilities. Essentially the game is like a fantasy-lover's dream chessboard.

If the game interests you after playing through a few of the demo decks, players have the option to purchase various size decks to construct there own battle groups. Purchase decks will have a mix of common, uncommon, rare and the ever-elusive exotic cards. The hand drawn artwork for the cards is breath-taking and is half of the coolness factor of PoxNora. A player can essentially get started with $10.00 (US). Once a player gets a bit established they can start playing rank games, level-up their cards, trade and bid with other players for cards, and enter online tournaments. There is an upcoming tournament with $10,000.00 in cash prizes. So if find yourself looking for something new, I would definitely recommend this title.

-Bandit

Aggro Note: Like potato chips dipped in luscious chocolate, sometimes two very different flavors taste so good together. Pox Nora is delicious. The card battle elements work very well with the SRPG portion (think Shining Force or FF Tactics). What I love about it is that a person with an excellent deck can sometimes defeat a person with superior strategy on the battlefield. And a tactical genius can sometimes defeat a player who has a more skillfully constructed deck.

Then for good measure PoxNora throws in the persistent MMO-lite element of being able to gain xp which can add abilities to your cards. Note that this doesn't necessarily make your deck stronger because it increases the casting cost of those cards. So don't feel you're at a disadvantage to established players. More xp really just gives you more options, not an automatically better deck.

While the card artwork is fantastic, sometimes the battlefield can get very cluttered and it can be hard to tell which piece is yours. It would be nice if this was made more apparent.

The sample decks are strong so don't feel you have to purchase the game to enjoy it.

I believe SOE's
Pirates game will have similar elements of deck-building and tactical strategy so I'll be keeping an eye on that as well.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Discordi

Discordi is a free-to-download remake of an old multiplayer online game that went by the name of "What's The Big Idea", which was later renamed to "Cosmic Consensus". The gang over at Blue Box Network have done a great job of recreating the game under the new name Discordi.

The game is simple to play; you answer questions. There are 3 types of questions that get asked, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and creating lists of 3 items. All players currently in the game answer the question simultaneously and must do so before the timer expires. The game as a whole feels like a mashup between You Don't Know Jack and Family Feud.

The goal to each question/answer period is to try and pick the answer that the majority of the players will choose.

For example, if the question was "Who is the most annoying Star Wars character?" you might have to choose between "Jar-jar Binks", "Wicket", and "Young Anakin".


If you select "Jar-Jar" along with the majority of the players, then you move your way up the ziggurat 1 or more steps at a time. The overall end-goal is to accumulate the most IQ points before someone ascends to the heavens. Whoever has the most accumulated IQ points by the time someone ascends wins the game.

The game's "board" is of the form of a Ziggurat. Each layer/step of the ziggurat has a property that either may or may not benefit you when you land on it. Most steps either add or subtract IQ points for landing on it, but other steps make you miss a turn, zap you back to the bottom step of the ziggurat, or even allow you to skip some steps.

They also mix things up by having random Storm-events occur that can knock you down a few steps, result you losing IQ points, or both! Luckily you can spend some of your hard-earned IQ points to buy insurance to protect you against the incoming Storm.

To make the game more interesting than answering a questionnaire, the questions are usually zany and offbeat enough to make you chuckle at the possible answers. The developer was smart enough to allow players to submit their own questions to be added to the game... but I am awaiting feedback on this because it appears to be unavailable at the moment. Once they get this working again, I think it is a great way to keep the game fresh and current.

The game still has a round of advertisements each round... but before you throw your arms up in the air in disgust, let me tell you that some of these commercials are downright hilarious, if not disturbing. Some of us were eagerly waiting to see some commercials a second time because they were so disturbing and weird the first time that you wanted to see it again. I have to say that I thought this was a genius to make commercials in your game 'fit' - they had the same zany attitude the game presents you with, and they don't last more than a dozen or so seconds.

Sadly the game is currently suffering from lack of popularity these days. Back in the day the game was crazy-popular. There were always several games taking place, and most of these were usually near-full 24/7. When I first downloaded the game I was disappointed to see that there were no players at all currently playing. I had to resort to finding people I knew to play with... which still turned out to be a really good time. There were 9 of us playing at one point, however I can remember the days when there would be 20+ players in a single game.

I have a feeling that the game would be much more popular if it were remade in Java and hosted by a site that would give the game more exposure- right now its not only hard to find the game (unless you are looking for it, as I was). This simple, entertaining little game has such great potential I would hate to see not get played. If you are interested let me know and we can try to organize a game sometime in the near future.

Aggro note: Discordi was fun to play and a nice way to take a little break from MMO'ing while still participating in group activity with online friends. However, it might not have been fun if I wasn't on Vent with a group of people because: A. You need a good amount of people to play and B. There's no in-game chat interface. So if I just ran across the game on my own, I'd be unable to play at all until there were enough players. And then I couldn't talk to the other players when they were there, which really cuts back on the sense of community. I'm guessing there's no in-game chat feature to prevent collusion, but who would really take it that seriously?