I’m still playing Baldur’s Gate II, and doing well, but I’ve also got a new addiction called Minecraft. I’ve been looking at this game for quite some time now, but have always put it off, concerned that it wasn’t really a “game”. Well, for whatever reason, I decided to buy it the other night and I’m absolutely hooked.

In any game I’ve played that featured an explorable world, be it an MMO or an open world game like Oblivion, I’ve always enjoyed exploring the land. If I see some unique feature off in the distance, I’ll want to head over that way and examine it closer. If I see a mountain in the distance, I’ll want to climb it. This is the beauty of Minecraft; if you see something in the distance, you can go there, you can climb it, you can destroy it, you can build on it, etc.

The game doesn’t tell you how to do anything at all, so I was quite lost when I first started and when night fell had no shelter or tools to defend myself. Sure enough, I was killed pretty quickly. I brought myself up to speed with some reading on the Minecraft wiki and started a new game. By nightfall I had a very crude, very small shelter and waited until sunrise. I could hear a creeper outside, shuffling around outside my shelter and it was definitely kind of creepy. When morning came I burst out of my shelter and managed to kill the creeper with my pickaxe. By the second night, my shelter had expanded, and it has continued to do so and now I’ve got a nice little multi-floor castle complete with a balcony over looking the water to call my own, which you can see a bit of if you expand the above picture.

Each day I ventured further and further from my castle until off in the distance I could see an interesting looking mountain. I figured it would be a cool spot to build a lookout so up I went and started to build. Not far away from my lookout mountain was another peak, just across a wide chasm (pictured above). I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be cool to build a long bridge across to the other side?”, and so I did.

The above picture is my work-in-progress bridge connecting the two peaks. I have just started making a new lookout tower on the other side, and my current plan for that is to build up crazy high for no other reason besides the fact that I can. Eventually I think I’ll make some sort of roller-coaster ride using the rails and carts that links up with my original shelter which is a fair distance away.

Minecraft isn’t for everybody, it’s fairly obvious, but I think if you posess even the slightest bit of a creative mind you’d enjoy it. Since starting to play I keep stumbling into things which make me say this game is so cool! While mining for materials to construct my tower I stumbled into a larger cavern under ground that I just had to go and explore. I got completely side-tracked, and just kept going and going, actually getting lost along the way. I’m finding a tonne of things to do in this game, which surprised me given the number of negative reviews that say there’s nothing to do in it. When I bought the game, I was a little worried about getting my money’s worth out of it, but I’ve gotten that and more. I don’t know how much staying power it’ll have, but I’m absolutely hooked, and as soon as my kids are asleep tonight, I’ll be heading down to the computer to do some more digging and building.

This Time I Mean It, No Foolsies

For years now I’ve been meaning to play through Baldur’s Gate II, and have started it several times, but have never stuck with it most likely due to the interference of whatever MMO I was currently subscribed to. It’s a fantastic game, which I bought on its day of release back in September of 2000. From what I recall, I was quite far into the game (80 hours is the number in my head), when I mistakenly blew away my “games” hard drive and lost my save games.

I’ve started it up again, and this time I intend to stick with it. I’m not playing any MMOs now, and likely won’t be for the forseeable future, so Baldur’s Gate II is “my game” now. I’m currently just a few hours in, but a few things really stand out for me so far. The biggest thing is the complete lack of hand holding compared to modern games. After the opening bit, when the party finds itself in Waukeen’s Promenade, there aren’t any clear indications as to what to do next. There aren’t any exclamation marks floating over the heads of any NPCs; no giant blinking hand pointing the way to go. The party is left to explore on its own and actually talk to people to figure out what to do next.

The game can also be pretty rough; I`ve had my butt handed to me by some guys in the first Inn I came across in Waukeen`s Promenade. After several attempts at defeating them I concluded that it`s a fight best left for another day. In general, it`s imperative to use your characters wisely and actually think through their actions in combat. Just running in and attacking certainly works some times, but things tend to go a lot smoother when each party member is used to their strengths.

Finally, the story elements when Jon Irenicus appears to you during your dreams are simply fantastic. The music, the script, the atmosphere… all extremely well done. It`s easy to see why this game is typically regarded as one of the best cRPGs ever created.

Nostalgia: Might and Magic

If I was to make a list of my top ten favourite computer games of all time, I’d have to sit and really think about it for a while. I’ve played a lot of great games over the years. I can say with absolute certainty however, that one of the top five positions would be occupied by Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra. It was the first computer game I ever purchased (not including my Commodore 64), and I spent hours playing it, making my own maps along the way.

The other thing I know about my top ten list, is that the number one spot would be filled by Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven. It’s been years since I’ve played it, but no game since has absorbed me into its world as much as MM6 did. The atmosphere was tremendous, especially as your party moved further west. The land became more barren, more bleak, and the monsters more powerful. I can remember my sense of dread building as I progressed through the game.

Those are the only two Might and Magic games I’ve played. I bought Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen, but never got around to playing it. It was one of my famous bargain bin purchases, the kind where “I can’t believe that game is in the bargain bin, I gotta get it now!”, but then never play it.

This past weekend, Good Old Games had a sale on all Might and Magic titles. Despite knowing I’ll probably never get around to playing them, I couldn’t stop myself from making a purchase. I got Might and Magic 1 through 8 for just over $13. After downloading the games, I immediately launched Might and Magic VI and was assaulted with a blast of nostalgia as the intro movie began. When the “3DO” logo and voice-over appeared, it felt like only a week had passed since I last played, not the 12 or 13 years that it’s actually been. What a great game.

Shortening the Stack

I haven’t been doing much gaming over the past two weeks, but I did manage to remove two games from the “stack of games I bought and need to finish” pile. The first was Crysis: Warhead, the stand-alone expansion to Crysis. I actually whipped through the campaign fairly quickly, and quite enjoyed it. There was a far greater emphasis on the action this go around when compared with the original game; there wasn’t much time between fire-fights to catch your breath. Other than that, it was basically more of the same from the original campaign, and the game-play did start to wear a little thin towards the end. Still a very nice game though, and well worth the $9.99 that I paid for it off Steam.

The other game I finished, as the picture above may suggest, is StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge StarCraft fan; I much preferred Total Annihilation back in the day, and my progress on the StarCraft II campaign had stalled a while ago due to lack of interest. I ultimately decided to just get it over with however, and forced my way through the five missions that I had remaining. My initial enthusiasm for the game had taken a nosedive as I progressed through the campaign; each mission feeling pretty much the same despite varying little gimicks attempting to set each level apart. The story, of course, was very well done and was the game’s redeeming feature for me.

Continuing Crysis

I finished Crysis the other day and have already started up the expansion, Warhead. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a first person shooter enough to play it all the way through, but I really enjoyed Crysis. I have a feeling however, that once I’m done with Warhead I’ll be ready to leave the Crysis world behind.

Speaking of first person shooters, I fired up the Duke Nukem Forever demo (pictured) and played through the first level real quick. First of all, I can’t believe this game is actually coming out after so many years. Secondly, the level I played seemed cool enough. Obviously I can’t judge the game based off of two minutes of play time, but I was a little bit turned off at the fact that you can pick up a log of feces and throw it around, leaving streaks upon the walls. Really? Is that necessary? I’m still interested in the game though, and will likely pick it up when it comes out, more for nostalgic reasons than anything else I think.