Game Central The gaming world of K. Fields
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Trine: Enchanted Edition

I finished Trine today. It only took me a few days because I enjoyed it so much. I played the Enchanted Edition, which is an updated version of the original game using the Trine 2 engine. Trine is a side-scrolling puzzle platform game. There is combat but a lot of the action involves running, jumping, and figuring out mild puzzles to progress. Trine uses NVIDIA's PhysX physics engine and it definitely comes into play with the ways you can traverse a level. Instead of a single character, you are given three to play: a wizard, a thief, and a knight. The nice thing is that you don't have to choose a single character in the beginning. You can change between them freely, even in the middle of a level. There are 15 levels in the main story plus a bonus level after the main story is completed. With a fair number of checkpoints, Trine was challenging but not too frustrating. I liked the game mechanic of switchable characters. It was fun to use all of them and their unique skills to finish each level. The wizard can summon and levitate objects, the thief has a bow and grappling hook, and the knight is the best melee fighter. As you gain experience, you can add and increase the characters' skills. There are also special items that you discover and add to each character's inventory.

As a platform video games go, this one was one of my favorites.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

I've had hit and miss results with first-person shooters. Motion sickness is always a concern for me. I previously had positive experiences with the Call of Duty franchise so I wanted to play Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. My Amazon copy of the game was a bust so I gave it a try on Steam. The Steam version worked fine and I was able to finish the campaign without any problems. Many of the military FPS games I've played were set in World War II. Some had futuristic settings. I haven't played too many with "modern" settings and present day storylines. Other than Soldier of Fortune, no other title jumps to mind.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was pretty fun to play. The campaign's 18 levels took me about 8 hours to complete, which felt just about the right length. There was a mix of mission types: run and gun, stealth, sniper, and "shooting gallery." You play as both a member of British SAS and as a U.S. Marine. Computer controlled teammates give a bit of multiplayer feel even in single-player mode. There are times where you have to take the lead but oftentimes your fellow soldiers will forge ahead and do their share of the work. The story is set in 2011 and involves a Russian civil war and ultimately the threat of nuclear weapons.

Unlike a lot of FPS players, I'm not interested in online multiplayer. Therefore, my time with CoD 4 is done. Next up on my play list is Trine.

The Battle for Wesnoth

Several years ago, I played Fantasy General and it was my favorite game of the year. I found a spiritual successor in The Battle for Wesnoth. I've put in over 50 hours with it so far and it has become another favorite of mine. Like Fantasy General it is turn-based, which I usually prefer for strategy games. In version 1.14.15, there are 17 different fantasy campaigns available. They vary by difficulty and length. I started with A Tale of Two Brothers, a short (4 scenarios) campaign for first-time players. Next I tackled Heir to the Throne, which is the game's original campaign. It was longer (two dozen scenarios) and more difficult but not frustratingly so.

Battle for Wesnoth plays like a board game or tabletop wargame with hex maps. At first, the strategy seemed simple and straightforward. As I progressed, however, I learned discovered more depth to it. There is a nice variety of units from various races: humans, dwarves, elves, merfolk, orcs, undead, and many others. Some are melee-focused while others focus on ranged weapons or magical attacks. Units have alignment, specialties, traits, and abilities. They differ in types of damage (blade, impact, pierce, etc.) and defensive bonuses according to terrain. Beyond optimizing your battle tactics, there is also strategy in efficiently spending gold to recruit an army with an effective mix of units. Units earn experience from battle and can level up. As you can recall units from previous scenarios, it is always depressing to lose a veteran unit that has been with you for a while.

The primary protagonist of
Heir to the Throne is Konrad, the last surviving nephew of the late King Garard II. He opposes the rule of Asheviere the Dark Queen. Along the way, Konrad receives support from legendary archmage Delfador the Great, Elvish High Lord Kalenz, and the queen's daughter Li'sar. As expected, the story builds up to a climactic battle between the forces of Konrad and Asheviere.

For a free open-source game, I enjoyed The Battle for Wesnoth as much as any commercial game.


Overlord II

I played Overlord, which I liked quite a bit except for its crash-prone tendencies. I expected more great gameplay in Overlord II and hoped for more stability. Unfortunately, it crashed even more than the first game. I estimate I was over halfway through the game when I had to pull the plug on it. If it had the ability to save progress at any point, I would have stuck with it. Instead, both games support autosaves only in select areas. It became too frustrating to play certain parts over and over because the game kept crashing before I could reach the next autosave point.

In this sequel, you play as the son of the Overlord from the first game. As the new Overlord, you start from scratch building up a tower, finding mistresses, and discovering the brown, red, green, and blue minions. The action typically involves recruiting the most appropriate mix of minions to do your bidding. However, the Overlord can engage in combat and cast spells as well. There is a bit of light puzzle solving in some sections but nothing that is too difficult. You also have decisions to make about how best to use your resources. In the time I played, I crafted two items in my forge—a sword called the Smooth Slicer and the Evil Eye, an item to enhance lifeforce absorption. Even though I wasn't able to finish Overlord or Overlord II, I still liked them well enough to add them to my All-Time Favorites list.

Overlord II - The Overlord
The Overlord (Son of the Original Overlord)

AI War: Fleet Command

I spent a little bit of time with AI War: Fleet Command. It is advertised as "a grand strategic 4X tower defense RTS" which "plays like an RTS but feels like a 4X." I must give it credit. As strategy games go, it seemed rather unique. You can play solo or with other human players. However, you always play against two AI opponents. Another interesting aspect of the game is that you draw more attention from the AI as you become more powerful. Therefore, it is a delicate balancing act to expand and grow more powerful but not too much or too quickly.

This is a game that really demands an investment of time to learn it well. Unfortunately, I didn't feel up to it. I played through all of the tutorials and started a regular game afterwards. There are a lot of different units at your disposal, both military and non-military. As I tried to progress in the game and become acquainted with the game interface, units, and overall strategy, I was constantly distracted by enemy attacks on my home system. Instead of devoting many hours to AI War in order to become proficient in it, I think I will save that time for other games.