Gordon Cameron

  • Review: Enigmatic ‘The Witness’ is big on challenge, light on reward

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 7 mths ago

    Blow, an indie developer whose 2008 puzzle-platformer Braid dazzled gamers with its winning combination of devious level design, twee art direction, and somber emotion, is back with a new opus. The Witness is strange, austere, infuriating, and occasionally brilliant. Some are hailing it as a masterpiece.

    I regretfully report that I am not going to be one of those people.

    The overall concept recalls 1993’s seminal adventure game Myst . You wander an isolated island, encountering puzzles around every corner. There’s nobody else here. The atmosphere is mysterious, serene yet vaguely sinister. You solve a puzzle. You solve another puzzle. New areas are gradually unlocked. What are you doing here? What does it all add up to?

    Answers are seldom forthcoming. In their absence, your imagination runs wild. You begin to see significance in everything. See how those clouds are positioned? See that pattern in the flower garden? It must mean something. But what? The game freely exploits that trick of human psychology whereby we interpret obscurity as profundity.

    Platform reviewed: PS4

  • Review: Harrowing ‘Darkest Dungeon’ Lets You Play With Madness

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 7 mths ago

    Fantasy dungeons are, typically, unpleasant. They’re dark, smelly, and populated with abominations that want to kill you.

    So it’s odd that most fantasy role-playing games feature parties of adventurers who uncomplainingly trudge through mile after mile of pungent sewage, swinging swords and slinging fireballs until their last hit point is bled dry.

    The makers of Darkest Dungeon have a different vision. This tactical RPG from indie developer Red Hook Studios, kickstarted in 2014 and just released after months of refinement on Steam Early Access, imagines parties of dungeoneers who feel mounting pressure until, one by one, they begin to crack under the strain. An expedition begun in optimism and camaraderie can end in selfishness, despair, and madness.

    It’s a brilliant conceit, but the trick is in the execution. After all, if all you’ve done is turn ‘morale’ or ‘psychological stability’ into another hit-point counter, you haven’t really done anything at all. Darkest Dungeon doesn’t entirely avoid this trap, but its clever gameplay mechanics and formidable design will keep you trudging through dungeons for hours on end.

    What’s Not: Messy interface; grows repetitive

  • This video illusion will ‘stretch’ your perception

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 7 mths ago

    Internet illusionist Brusspup is back with another video, and this time – despite the high-tech trappings – he’s going old school. Old school as in the Renaissance. The trick on display here is called anamorphosis, and painters have employed it for hundreds of years.

    The idea is to create a distorted picture of an object such that, when viewed from a certain perspective, it seems to exist in the same three-dimensional space as everything around it. Brusspup dares you to spot the trick by placing his anamorphic images in plain view on a tabletop amid real objects.

    “ Each object was photographed and then stretched properly and printed, ” explains Brusspup. “ When the printed paper is placed back in the same position as when it was photographed, then it looks like the object is actually there. ”

    Check out more illusions on Brusspup’s YouTube Channel.

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  • Crawl through dungeons dark and nasty in new ‘Path of Exile’ expansion

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 9 mths ago

    Since the dawn of time, or at least since the 1970s, gamers have sought dank dungeons to explore. And for just as long, game developers have sought to cater to that need.

    One developer indulging this admittedly peculiar fixation is New Zealand-based Grinding Gear Games, whose Path of Exile has quietly established itself alongside Blizzard’s Diablo III in the front rank of modern action-RPGs.

    Path ’s latest expansion, the upcoming Ascendancy , will feature not one, not two, but infinite dungeons to explore, in the form of the Lord’s Labyrinth, which gets a new procedurally-generated layout each day. That’s a lotta dungeon.

    Of course, procedural content is nothing new. But Grinding Gear is confident that the Labyrinth’s content-generation will keep dungeon delvers intrigued. The shifting layouts will feature numerous complex boss battles interspersed with difficult timing-based traps, from lava-filled floors to roving, bladed Roombas of death. Particularly masochistic players can activate ‘darkshrines’ that add random effects, potentially increasing the dungeon’s difficulty as well as the rewards it yields.

  • The most ambitious space game in history has raised $94 million. So where is it?

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 9 mths ago

    Would you pay $15,000 for a bunch of virtual spaceships?

    That’s not a misprint. Go to the website for the upcoming, as-yet-incomplete space simulation Star Citizen and you’ll find, among the many items available for purchase, “The Completionist” — an embarrassingly expensive suite of 66 digital spacecraft, from the massive Idris-P Frigate to the sleek F7C-S Hornet Ghost.

    Or, you can buy your spacecraft one at a time. The cheapest cost about $20; others run several hundred. One — the Javelin — will set you back $2,500, but you can’t get one, because they were released last December in a limited run of 200 and sold out within minutes.

    If this all sounds nuts — and it should — then you don’t know Star Citizen . Frankly, no one really does yet, because despite raking in a record-setting $94 million in crowdfunded cash (officially making it the biggest crowdfunded project ever), it’s a year behind schedule.

    In other words, it’s the ultimate space game by one of the genre’s pioneers.

    In the case of Star Citizen , consumer money has created what some consider a disaster in the making.

  • Review: Leisurely 'Sword Coast Legends' scratches that old RPG itch

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 10 mths ago

    There’s something special about moving miniatures around on a tabletop, about shepherding a bunch of tiny characters to their destiny. It’s the root of role-playing and mother’s milk for millions of geeks.

    Recreating that digitally hasn’t been in vogue for years, but it’s suddenly all the rage. In an era of totally immersive 3D RPG experiences like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, the resurgence of isometric, old-style role-playing games is surprising. And to gamers who remember the glory days, really awesome. 

    Following last year’s Divinity: Original Sin and this spring’s Pillars of Eternity , along comes Sword Coast Legends , the third major title in this mini-miniatures renaissance, and the first to officially employ the Dungeons & Dragons world and ruleset that inspired all of them. Like its forebear, 2002’s Neverwinter Nights , Sword Coast Legends includes both a big campaign and a set of tools allowing players to build and run their very own adventures.

    [Related: Review: 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt' casts a mean spell]

  • Review: ‘Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide’ runs deep, but doesn’t lift all boats

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 10 mths ago

    Turn-based games are seductive in a way that real-time games can never be. A real-time game makes a constant, insistent claim on your attention. But a turn-based game keeps beckoning to you gently. Sure, you could go somewhere and do something else. But wouldn’t you rather stick around just a bit longer?

    The Civilization games have been plying this seduction for almost a quarter of a century now. What makes them even more potent is that they’re not just addictive, they feel vaguely good for you. You walk away from a Civilization game feeling like you’ve been to a TED talk. Your mind is swimming with the sweep of history, with an awareness of humanity as a vast complex of interconnected systems. You feel, however illusorily, that you have — to paraphrase Wordsworth — seen into the life of things.

    As before, the game puts you in charge of a small colony of interstellar settlers who are attempting to scrabble out a new existence on an alien world. You’ll have to contend not only with hostile indigenous fauna but with other colonies, whose worldviews may be very different from your own.

    What’s Hot: Fun new ‘Artifacts’ system; rich forest of upgrade paths; deepened diplomacy system…

  • Review: Atmospheric ‘SOMA’ tells a gripping sci-fi tale, when it gets out of its own way

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 11 mths ago

    To some, it’ll be enough to say that it’s a new horror adventure from Frictional Games, the makers of 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent , which established Frictional as a major force in atmospheric, creepy, story-driven games.

    For everyone else, well, hmm. How to tread lightly? The setting is sci-fi/horror. You view the action through the eyes of a mild-mannered protagonist who ends up at the bottom of the ocean in a mysterious high-tech installation. He’s seeking a device called the Ark, which may or may not be the key to humanity’s salvation. Along the way, he is stalked and menaced by various inhuman entities of, erm, enigmatic origin.

    I won’t say more. It’s not that the game’s storyline is so stunningly original as to render spoilers a crime, but to a large extent, the storyline is the gameplay, and SOMA husbands this resource carefully, distributing twists and revelations in a measured way.

    Lest you mistake SOMA for being just a sci-fi cousin of Gone Home , there’s also an element of threat, mostly in the intermittent stealth sequences that pop up whenever one of the game’s unsettling bogeymen shows up. Such sequences are, at their best, genuinely frightening.

  • Review: ‘Tearaway Unfolded’ is a crafty, creative odyssey

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 11 mths ago

    The platformer genre is pretty crowded. To distinguish itself from the pack, a game needs to channel something special: some impressive new mechanics, a captivating narrative, or an amazing art style, perhaps.

    Tearaway Unfolded certainly nails that last one, and it does a pretty good job with its story and gameplay, too.

    The original Tearaway first saw life on Sony’s portable system, the PlayStation Vita, two years ago. It was received so well that Sony and developer Media Molecule decided to dust it off, apply a new coat of paint, add a few features, and bring it to the PlayStation 4, so those of us without a Vita could get in on the fun.

    I’m glad they did. Though it’s not quite as harmonious as the original, the console version stands on its own two adorable, wobbly legs.

    What’s Hot: Gorgeous delivery; innovative mechanics; crafty, creative mini-games

    What’s Not: Occasionally tedious combat; lacks some of the features that made the Vita version sing

  • Tame dinosaurs and survive the night in 'ARK: Survival Evolved'

    Gordon Cameron at Plugged In 1 yr ago

    Riding dinosaurs is cool. Maybe not as cool as a T-Rex flying an F-14, but pretty cool nonetheless.

    That, in a nutshell, is the core idea behind ARK: Survival Evolved , an Early Access game that’s currently all the rage on Steam and is planned for eventual release on PS4 and Xbox One. There’s a lot more going on, but plainly, ‘riding dinos’ is the hook – it’s right there in the game’s cover art, which features a Lara Croft knockoff wielding a machine gun and straddling what appears to be a Utahraptor with a red mohawk.

    It’s far too early to give  ARK an ‘official’ review. In a sense, Steam’s Early Access is the bane of game reviewers, as titles can be released and making money for months or years before we feel comfortable really critiquing them. But I spent a few days getting a feel for the game and came away with some hands-on impressions.