Tag: Gaming

Lust For Darkness

Despite the works of H.P Lovecraft, especially his Cthulhu mythos, being completely absorbed into the pop culture landscape for years there’s been little success of translating the Lovecraft ‘vibe’ into the world of gaming, despite numerous attempts.

Primarily because the vast majority of games feature the player taking on the role of a protagonist character in a world full of antagonists which the player has to fight to progress through the game. Which isn’t really what any of Lovecraft’s numerous stories were about.  When a game is described as being ‘Lovecraftian’ it’s often just short hand for a game that features large tentacled monsters that look like Cthulhu. This video from Extra Credits explains why games in general fundamentally misunderstand the concept of Cthulhu. Even Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, which is based on ‘Shadow over Innsmouth’, and is one of the better Lovecraft inspired games, is still a first person shooter set in a ‘Lovecraftian’ world.

A major problem being that gaming in general is massively reliant on games with combat mechanics, as high lighted rather brilliantly by Pop Culture Detective in this video essay.  For any Lovecraftian game to really live up to that aim it should be focussing more on a mounting sense of helplessness, unease, creeping dread and the questioning of reality rather than fighting tentacled beasts.  Cyanide Studio’s upcoming Call of Cthulhu shows a lot of promise in this regard.

Something else that’s looking promising whilst not directly based on any of Lovecraft’s stories is Lust For Darkness from Lunar Cult Studios.

Lust For Darkness has the player taking on the role of Jonathan Moon, a man who has received a letter from his wife who has been missing for a year. The letter gives him the location of a secluded Victorian mansion. Players must navigate the mansion and  find clues to determine what happened to Moon’s missing wife.

Taking inspiration from H.P Lovecraft and artists Zdzisław Beksiński and H.R Giger Lust For Darkness puts the emphasis on atmosphere, mystery and a creeping sense of otherworldly dread. Imagine Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ mixed with Lovecraft’s eldritch weirdness and ominous atmosphere. This is aimed squarely at adult gamers too.

What really makes Lust For Darkness stand out though is the way it presents itself as more of an interactive film, where the player is like one of the character’s from Lovecraft’s stories who is stumbling on a secret that threatens to completely drive them insane, rather than a generic survival horror game.  There’s some really interesting ideas too, like players being able to put on masks that grant different abilites, like reading an ancient language at the risk of losing your sanity if you wear the mask for too long.

Lust For Darkness is currently on Kickstarter having raised over 400% of its initial funding goal.

2000AD is a potential treasure trove for gamers

News came out of the 40 Years Of Thrill Power Festival that Rebellion, 2000AD’s owner, is opening up some of their properties for development by games companies.  There have been a few licensed games featuring 2000AD’s characters ,mainly Judge Dredd, with the first appearing way back in the late 80’s. More recently Judge Dredd featured in Dredd vs Death and Rogue Trooper, one of 2000AD’s other popular characters, featured in his own game .

Saying the news of Rebellions intention to licence their properties has immense potential is a major understatement.

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One of the most obvious would be a game set in the world of Judge Dredd in the vein of Rocksteady’s Arkham games featuring Batman. This could have endless potential, a vast interesting world even if it’s restricted to Mega City One, and a vast amount of interesting characters and decades of mythology to mine. Judge Dredd has featured in 2000AD since 1977, that’s decades of stories to work from and then there’s the Judge Dredd Megazine which has been in publication since 1990.

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Whilst there will inevitably will be scores of fans that want to play as Dredd himself there could be more potential in players taking the role of a rookie Judge just hitting the streets of the Big Meg. For a start this could open up the ability to choose whether you want to be a male or female Judge even if it has no real impact on the game itself being able to choose the gender of the character you play as is a big deal . This is something that is generally lacking in most games that default to a male character. This would also allow for unlocking skills, equipment and abilities as players progress through the game which would make more sense for a rookie Judge than for a character like Dredd who is a veteran Judge.

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The main story could feature numerous characters Dredd and Judge Anderson are just the most obvious. Optional side missions could feature characters like Chopper and PJ Maybe. Beyond that there could be DLC for the Cursed Earth, East Meg One, Hondo City. There’s immense potential just in a Judge Dredd game and that’s just one character and world out of many that 2000AD/Rebellion owns.

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Other pretty obvious ideas for use of licenses would be Slaine as an RPG in the vein of Skyrim, Rogue Trooper as a third person shooter for the current generation and less likely but just as merit worthy would be using Durham Red as the basis for a Mass Effect style game set in the far future. These are just a handful of the characters Rebellion currently owns and the most obvious gaming adaptations using previous games as blueprints,  all that’s needed is a good developer that doesn’t churn them out as a half arsed cash in.

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Space Hulk: Deathwing

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The Warhammer 40,000 universe has always been an impressive work of dark science fiction, one that has benefited from several decades of lore adding more and more to its already impressively deep and rich world. Although something that I never realised back through the mists of time was that the dark future of 40K is suffering from a profound gender imbalance which is something that 40K has become rather notorious for.

Although the Sisters of Battle are seriously badass. Like really.

There are numerous games set in the 40K world (especially on PC) but one of the more intriguing ones on the horizon lately is Space Hulk: Deathwing an FPS game based on the tabletop game Space Hulk.

Originally released in 1989 Space Hulk was a tabletop game set in the 40K universe. One player played as a small squad of Terminator Space Marines investigating derelict drifting space craft (known as space hulks) via a series of different maps, whilst the other player played as the deadly Xenos (40K speak for alien) Genestealers. The game, like many from Games Workshop, proved popular with other editions released over the years the fourth edition being released in 2014.

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The now defunct Full Control Studios produced a pretty good faithful recreation of the tabletop game which you can get on Steam and a follow up game, Deathwing (which takes its name from an expansion for the original table top game released in 1990) from publisher Focus Home Interactive and developers Cyanide and Streum on Studio is something a little different. Taking the concept of the Space Hulk tabletop game but in the style a first person shooter based around a story co-written by Gav Thorpe who has written numerous 40K novels for the Black Library.

Space Hulk: Deathwing looks set to be heavily inspired by Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels a punishingly difficult and claustrophobic FPS made by Electronic Arts in the early 90’s.  Saying that this newer take on that idea has vast potential is a distinct understatement, an engrossing story featuring numerous missions spread across  various sprawling Space Hulks with a squad of Terminators could be amazing. Outside of RTS games, like the incredibly popular Dawn of War franchise, 40K games seem to come off average at best so it would be really good if Deathwing bucked that trend.

As anyone familiar with 40K will know there’s a mindboggling array of weaponry, some specifically for Terminators. Examples being the default Storm Bolter and Powerfist combination to heavy weapons like the Cyclone Missile Launcher and Heavy Flamer. Terminators also have close combat melee weapons like Lightning Claws or the Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer. How many of these will feature in the game is yet to be seen but some are shown in the trailers released so far.

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Where things get really interesting though is the player character in Deathwing is a Librarian, a special type of Terminator gifted with powerful Psyker or psychic abilities and powers. There’s no indication of how this aspect will manifest in game yet but it potentially adds a whole other level to game play. Whilst Terminators are reliant on their weaponry and armour when facing a Xenos threat Librarians can help their battle brothers with their potentially devastating powers turning defeat into victory. Having the player character be a Librarian potentially opens up skill trees and abilities to learn as you progress through the game which is something I really hope features.

A true Space Hulk inspired game needs to be more than Doom with a 40K paint job though, it needs to be a balance of ominous chilling atmosphere, tactical squad manoeuvres and frenetic action much like a distillation of the films Alien and Aliens which undoubtedly inspired the tabletop game.

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One of the tactical points of Deathwing will be the use of doors in the vast eerie gothic space hulks. Securing doors can slow down Genestealers or prevent them sneaking up on your squad as easily. Genestealers are one of the deadliest creatures in the 40K universe, agile, vicious and devastating up close, they rely on ambushing prey and swarming with Genestealers coming out ventilation ducts, hiding in shadows and various other places in sprawling ships. Another interesting aspect is the localised damage system, if a Terminator’s right arm gets damaged he can no longer use the weapon equipped in that arm which could add even more tension to what promises to already be a tense nerve shredding experience.

Ultimately Space Hulk: Deathwing looks  impressive but one of the major factors will be how AI factors into the game for both the players squad and the enemy, Streum On Studio has commented about their use of adaptive AI so the enemy aren’t just aimlessly blundering into the line of fire like cannon fodder. Just as important though will be the AI of your team, there’s nothing more frustrating as a gamer than having a character that’s supposed to be helping you get in the way or worse just stand there whilst you’re fighting for your life.

Deathwing is due for release sometime in 2016 on PC, PS4 and XBOX One.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut

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Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut is the follow up to Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun Returns, the oldschool RPG game based on the paper Shadowrun RPG. Shadowrun Returns was the subject of a phenomenally popular Kickstarter campaign. A campaign which was so popular it lead to the creation of Dragonfall as an expansion campaign.

One of the things that’s always made Shadowrun so appealing is the world the game is set in. The year is 2054 and due to an event referred to as ‘The Awakening’ there has been a resurgence of magic. Long dormant creatures have awoken and other races have appeared with Dwarves,Elves,Orcs, andTrolls referred to as ‘metahumans’ living alongside man. Technology and magic collide, with mega corporations vying for more control and influence and trampling over those beneath them.

You play the part of a shadowrunner, a mercenary living in the shadows of this new world taking on jobs from anyone who will pay. When the powerful or the desperate need a job done, you get it done… by any means necessary.

The world of Shadowrun mashes up fantasy and cyberpunk to impressive effect. Mages that are just as likely blow your head off with a pistol as throw a fireball at you, Deckers Shadowrun’s hackers who specialise in tech, hacking computers and jacking into The Matrix where they wreak havok and battle Intruder Countermeasure “IC”  programmes in the digital world, Riggers who utilise drones for scouting and combat and can control machines, Shaman who utilise fetishes to summon spirits, Street Samurai who utilise cybernetics, firearms and melee weapons while Physical Adepts use magic to boost their impressive close combat skills to survive on the mean streets of 2054.

These classes or “archetypes” are loose though and you can develop your character however you want by accumulating karma points to learn various new skills.

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The world of Dragonfall in presented in a lush painted 2D isometric view, with characters each having portraits that pop up when engaged in dialogue. The game also features an excellent atmospheric and pulsating synth soundtrack. Combat is turn based and utilising your party’s action points well and understanding tactics is the key to victory.

The team at Harebrained Schemes have tweaked the few problems which fans pointed out in the first game, like being able to save the game at any point. One of the biggest appeals of the stand alone Dragonfall ,besides the setting of Shadowrun itself, is the characters that make up your party. Whilst Shadowrun Returns featured NPC’s like Jake Armitage, the character featured in the fondly remembered SNES game, the characters were generally not that memorable.

This time around your party is made up of memorable and distinct characters, Dietrich a veteran elf Shaman , Glory a stoic human cyborg with a mysterious past who is lethal up close in a fight, Eiger a taciturn troll weapons specialist whose respect has to be earned and Blitz a decker that joins your crew after being emancipated from a rather unpleasant gang.

They will often give opinions or make recommendations before and during missions or “runs”. Talking to them between runs will glean further information about their backgrounds which adds more to the rich tapestry of the setting. These characters become such a core part of the game that even though you can hire other runners to join you on runs you find yourself just sticking with the default team.

The core party members also gain skills as you progress.

Whilst the game has a linear campaign story there are numerous side quests you can take and these are often filled with the kind of moral ambiguity that Shadowrun is steeped in. Will you do anything for Nuyen or do you have a moral code?

Dragonfall’s text based dialogue and story becomes utterly engrossing as the narrative progresses. A sort of interactive novel of the best kind. One of the really surprising aspects of the game is how incredibly easy to play it is, with a slick interface and easy to navigate menus players don’t even need to touch the keyboard to play the game. This makes it ideal for anyone that might not usually play games on their laptop but might want to check it out due to being a Shadowrun fan.

Harebrained Schemes have also mentioned they are planning on a new Kickstarter for a further campaign in 2015.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Directors Cut is available from Steam just go here

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