Open Sorcery

Here’s another deliciously cheap yet good game on Steam sale:

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Open Sorcery is a primarily text-based interactive fiction game written in Twine, with judicious amounts of pauses and scrolling text, sound effects and the rare picture for narrative impact.

You play an elemental firewall (the game title “Open Sorcery” a pun about open source code) on the verge of gaining a kind of sentience.

The world cleverly mixes a dose of technological computerese with a shade of the elemental fantastical – where aetheric firewalls protect against possibly malicious spirits formed by the base elements of water, air, earth, fire, life, death, love and fear.

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Along the way you meet various characters and interact with them, developing relationships and occasionally taking surprising twists and turns, depending on your choices.

One of your first encounters is with a Air-Chaos spirit, an impish poltergeist.

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This is a screenshot of my second playthrough, and you can see I have a new option learned from the first game – where I decided to speak to it and it challenged me to a riddle contest.

Solving its riddles three made it throw a bit of a hissy fit, but also successfully persuaded it to leave peaceably.

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Besting it also taught me a new element, Chaos, that I could utilize alongside my basic Fire.

The lovely thing about Open Sorcery is that nearly all of its choices it offers you are significant choices – story changers in their own right. You can take matters into your own hands, consult with your creators, use what you’ve learned in earlier encounters and some of these might just come back to roost in the following days.

The poltergeist, for example, came back to the place I was guarding and extended an invitation to meet his queen Titania… but which meant I, a firewall, would have to leave the place I was guarding. Something which just might end up flagging me as malfunctioning to my creators.

Talk about awareness emergence, AI sentience and tricky choices.

For a Twine game, it gets non-linearity right. (I’ve played one too many Twine games which are mostly linear exercises in clicking the one-and-only next highlighted word.)

By the end of your first playthrough, you’ll be aware of the paths you didn’t take, especially if you peek at the achievements that hint to the other possible story branches and endings.

I don’t know that I’m raring to go and play through too many more times – the repetition may get to me sooner than later – but it does say something that I’m immensely content with the first ending that I got.

On the whole, it doesn’t try to twist your choices out from under you. What you choose is generally what you will get. The impact comes from the tradeoffs of that choice.

If you spend Fire to solve a problem, you will naturally be weaker for having spent that energy, which might no longer be available to solve a second more pressing problem. If you take matters into your own hands, you should not be surprised if that independence freaks people out. Yet if you fall back on humans to solve your problems for you, you might never discover potential new learning/growth opportunities and relationships of your own. And so on and so forth.

For anyone interested in some choose-your-own-adventure narrative, this is a nifty game. Short, sweet, some replayability, and currently 66% off on Steam.

(Caveat: it’s gone down to 75% before, but we are literally talking about the difference between $0.99 and $1.35. For around a dollar, this is a fun experience.)

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Holy Jumbo Humble Bundle!

Oh man, I am excite!

So excite I r losing powers of grammar! N speling…

A whole host of games that have been on my Steam wishlist for a long time just came together in one super mega awesome Jumbo Humble Bundle 6.

I practically threw money at the screen when I idly checked out the website this evening.

For $12 USD, I got:

Grey Goo – an RTS I’ve wanted to check out for some time, but was holding back due to mixed reviews

Magicka 2 – a sequel that never seemed as well-received as its predecessor, but that I was also interested in checking out some day

Warmachine Tactics + Mercenaries DLC – another mixed review game that trended towards negative, but which I was keen on checking out due to its miniatures background

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown – apparently some kind of semi-disappointing multiplayer-esque game ostensibly set in the Shadowrun universe, but what the hey, at this price point, can’t hurt to try it and dump it if it sucks

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas – a relative unknown to me, but is apparently Zelda-like, and might pleasantly surprise

Dreamfall Chapters – some kind of adventure game. I didn’t really like The Longest Journey, never tried Dreamfall, but I’m perfectly open to seeing if the universe clicks with me with their third game

I “lost out” on Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut, in that I already owned the game a long LONG time ago, but this is a stellar standout RPG in the fantasy cyberpunk Shadowrun universe┬áthat anyone should give a go if they haven’t yet.

And there’s apparently more unrevealed games coming soon, which would be an utter bonus icing on top of the cake thing, whatever they are.

Steam Sale Recommendation: One Finger Death Punch

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This game is nuts. A good kind of nuts. Crunchy. Flavorful. Nuts.

The stick figure graphics look absolutely cheesy, in a low budget mobile app kind of way, but hiding behind that is a gem on the level of Cook, Serve, Delicious or better.

You press two buttons. That’s it.

Left and right mouse buttons. Or if you’re a keyboard warrior, you get the options of left/right arrow, S/D or B/N.

Everything else is in the timing, plus the combos and skills that change up the timing.

This game distills that mechanic into its utmost purest form. (A one-button clicker would lack the confusion of one’s fingers trying to decide which button to press now.)

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I suppose you might call it a rhythm game meets a fighting game side brawler or something, but whatever you call it, it’s definitely worth a play.

It will teach things like anticipation, watching the enemy’s coming attacks, planning of your next few moves and improve one’s reaction time.

Skills that can be applied to any other action-combat game you’re playing, like say, *cough*, GW2. (I weep inside every time I see a player get knocked down by a champion wurm’s tossed rock. It’s one of the easiest things to practice dodging on. The player just has to make the mental connection that dodging it -is- actually possible.)

It will punish button mashing with tit-for-tat ruthlessness.

And still it will feel completely fair, because it will only attack you when you slip up and make that mistake. Press one button that failed to connect and missed, and an enemy will hit you in response. Fail to dispose of an enemy, and it again will hit you.

Get the timing and anticipation perfect, and you are rewarded with sequences of absolute martial arts combo perfection as you slip into a flow state and your corresponding stick figure glides like water and smashes the crap out of his enemy stick figures.

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Each level lasts a fairly short time, so it’s great for those quickie entertainment moments when one can’t afford to fire up a longer game (or say, when one is waiting for 15-30 minutes IN a longer game waiting for something to start.)

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And yet, there are a TON of levels with a bunch of┬ávariations to choose from (the above pic is like one small part of the whole continent map – the graphics look like shit, yes, but thankfully you don’t have to stay in this level select screen long) plus survival mode plus god-knows-what difficulty modes, so there’s plenty of game in this game.

Ultimately, you wanna pick up One Finger Death Punch for the fantastic demonstration of how merely pressing two buttons can add up into an entertaining game, and for the cartoon stick figure carnage amidst punchy sound effects that work really well.