Amnesia: the Dark Descent game banner

Since Silent Hill Downpour failed miserably to scratch my survival horror itch, I’ve been looking for something else to fill that niche. I picked up Amnesia: the Dark Descent on a Steam sale for pocket change, and am very glad that I did.

Mainstream game companies don’t seem particularly interested in releasing good survival horror games. It’s a very niche market and difficult to find mass-market appeal. Modern horror games mostly ape off of Resident Evil 4 by being designed as an action shooter first, and survival horror game second (if at all). The genre is dominated by fast-paced "boo"-scare games like Dead Space and F.E.A.R., and gone are the days of the deliberately-slow-paced psychological games like Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame. The "survival" element has mostly fallen away since resource management is widely regarded as too tedious, and the "horror" is usually just represented with difficult combat.

But where mega-publishers and AAA developers have dropped the ball, the Indie market filled in the gap 3 years ago (Sept 2010) with Amnesia: the Dark Descent.

Amnesia: the Dark Descent - invisible water monster

Amnesia goes to the opposite extreme as Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. This game is not an action game.

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This review was originally published 10/17/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). In anticipation of the soon-to-be-released Brave New World expansion pack, the review has been republished here for archival purposes.

Civilization V

Civilization V cover art

For better or worse, I probably won’t be able to go back to Civilization IV after playing this.

I want to put my review into perspective before I begin. I’m not a day-one Civilization player. I didn’t start playing the franchise until Civilization III (after it had already been out for several years and both expansions had been released). Civilization IV, however, is probably my favorite video game ever -- or at least, my favorite PC game. The only games that I’ve probably logged more hours with than Civ IV are the Sims 2 (plus all the expansions) and the cumulative sum of all the Madden games I’ve played since 2000.

My hopes for Civilization V were sky-high from the moment the first details of gameplay were revealed about a year ago. This was despite my misgivings about the vendor and edition-exclusive gameplay content -- gameplay content should NEVER be exclusive to a vendor or edition of a game; anybody who buys a game should have the right to play any content that is released for the game (even if they have to pay extra for it) regardless of where they got it or when they bought! But now is not the place to discuss industry politics -- I’ll save that rant for another day.

Back on-topic: Civilization V promised a lot: competitive, tactical combat with a totally new rule-set; intelligent, interactive AI leaders; a simpler, streamlined interface; and simpler, more streamlined gameplay without sacrificing any of the series’ trademark depth. I’ve been spending almost every free moment playing this game for the two weeks since release. Does it measure up?

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Civilization V

In anticipation of the upcoming Brave New World expansion pack for Sid Meier's Civilization V, I've been working on some mod projects.

Today, I published a small resource mod called "Just a pinch of salt" that adjusts the yield of the salt luxury resource. By default, salt is a very strong resource to start near, as it provides +1 food and +1 gold base yield. Since it shows up frequently on plains, these tiles give your fledgling city a 2 food, 1 production, 1 gold tile out of the gate. With the addition of a mine, the food and production yield goes up by 1.

Civ V mod - reduced-yield salt Civ V mod - Granary improves salt
Extra food from salt requires building a Granary.

This mod aims to scale back the power of salt a little bit by removing the base +1 food modifier and moving that bonus to require the construction of a Granary building. In addition to it's existing bonuses, the granary now adds the +1 food to salt.

  • Salt: +1 Gold base yield.
  • Granary: +1 Food from salt worked by the city.
Civ V mod - Max salt yield
Total salt yield after building Granary and mine.

Once you have mined the salt and built a granary in the city, the total output of the salt tile is the same as in the unmodded game.

The mod can be downloaded from Civilization V's in-game mod browser by searching for "just a pinch of salt", or through Steam by visiting MegaBearsFan's Workshop (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=145306648).

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Civilization V

In anticipation of the upcoming Brave New World expansion pack for Sid Meier's Civilization V, I've been working on some mod projects.

Today, I published a small resource mod called "Copper Buff" that improves the effectiveness of the copper resource in the game. Currently, copper is a fairly weak luxury resource, since it doesn't get buffed by any buildings in the game. This mod adjusts the Forge and Mint buildings to provide a bonus towards nearby copper as follows:

  • Forge: +1 Production from copper worked by the city.
  • Mint: +1 Gold from copper worked by the city.

Both buildings can be constructed in a city if copper is present within the city's borders.

Civ V mod - Forge improves Copper Civ V mod - Mint improves Copper
Forge and Mint improve nearby copper.

The mod can be downloaded from Civilization V's in-game mod browser by searching for "copper buff", or through Steam by visiting MegaBearsFan's Workshop (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=144822605).

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This review was originally published 05/15/2011 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

Portal 2

Portal 2 cover art

Yes GladOS, we brought you back to life because we really do love to test!

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this game. I love the first Portal, as it was about as close to "perfect" as any game has ever come, but I couldn’t help but fear that Valve might turn this into a franchise, and in doing so, some of the allure of the game would be lost. But the game was released, and it is a triumph. Mostly.

Apparently, a very long time has passed since the first game. The Enrichment Center is very different. Under the care of the watchful AI, Wheatley, the entire facility has been slowly falling apart. The degrading, decrepit test chambers make for much more interesting visuals than the sterile, white and gray chambers of the first game. They are now overgrown with weeds and vines, panels are falling off the walls, broken glass litters the floors, and fallen and bent metal beams and girders obstruct some of your paths. It’s just too bad that with all the debris and vegetation littering the environment, that none of it is interactive. It slightly breaks the immersion when you walk through dangling leaves and they don’t react to your passing at all.

There is a lot of visual variety in this game. You travel through the dilapidated chambers of the early game until the facility begins to rebuild itself. You watch it piece itself back together. Then you get to travel through the deepest guts of Aperture Science. And finally, you come back to see the test chambers tear themselves apart again

Portal 2 - co-op characters

The co-op puzzles are fun, but not terribly replayable.
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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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