OS X Gaming Journaled: Tales of Mac Enjoyment

Mac Gamer HQ has returned from limbo (but Ric needs help). There seem to be fewer sites dedicated to Mac gaming now than last year, so go see if there’s anything you can do, or just offer some words of encouragement (or you know, anything other than “Mac Gaming sucks, get a PC”). And for some similar news: I’m afraid I’ll have to reduce the frequency of reviews and whatnot here, as I’m about to start a significantly more demanding day-job, and will barely have any time to play games, let alone review them. I’ll still be trying to post brief updates on Twitter, but it seems unlikely I’ll be able to maintain my current (theoretically) weekly schedule of reviews. We’ll see.

So anyway, back to the most important thing: Mac games. Since freeing myself of the immensely pleasurable time sink that is Divinity: Original Sin, I found my desire to play RPGs has returned. So it was that I launched Dragon Age II, which I’m pleased to report now only hangs 50% of the time on launch (if you’re interested in playing the first one by the way, you’re out of luck as the store page no longer considers a Mac version of the game to have ever existed). I’d largely ignored the game because of all the negative reviews, but with the third instalment on the way (not announced for Mac, indicating that EA’s love affair with OS X is over, take your stuff and leave), I figured it would be a good time to fire it up and take a look. I had a character about 6 hours in, but I couldn’t remember anything that was happening or why, so I started from scratch.

Dragon Age II is not the completely awful game I expected. It’s a terrible mess of a game, with bonus DLC (much of which now seems to be free) that completely upsets the balance of the game to the point where combat is a matter of spamming abilities MMO-style and just waiting for it to be over. Still, I appreciated the faster pace of battles, and the flashier effects. It’s been stream-lined in a lot of ways, there’s less clicking and generally faffing about than there was in Origins, but on the other hand, it’s a game completely and utterly without soul. Everything is bland, from the characters to the plot, to the NPCs. Everything worth interacting with is highlighted, and the sheer number of rooms, filled with people and furnishings and absolutely nothing to click on leads to a very shallow experience (maybe it’s telling that they couldn’t even come up with a subtitle). I stopped playing after a few hours, and went in search of a game that the creators actually seemed to give a damn about.

Steam’s latest beta lets you assign multiple categories to games now, so I spent far more time than I should re-cataloguing my games library, which had the added benefit of re-discovering a bunch of games. I returned to The Wolf Among Us, having only completed one chapter previously, now that the entire game is available to play. And I don’t know, do Telltale have any Macs in their offices for testing? Because it seemed to me that the performance was just awful when I booted it up, and for some unknown reason it appeared to be accessing the optical drive the whole time (the two may be related, I’ll have to try again without a disc in the drive), like a game in the late 90s.

The Fall seems like a terrible title, but a good time: one of those highly rated monochromatic side-on indie games set in a cave in space or something. The twist is that you control the spacesuit (or rather, the spacesuit’s artificial intelligence system) as opposed to the human inside, and that it also has a disastrously bad control scheme that may well prevent me from playing it any further. What’s good about it is that it’s more like a point-and-click adventure than a bog-standard puzzle-platformer (as the visuals might suggest), and that the characters, being robots, are hilariously indifferent to their own (or each other’s) demise. Maybe one to watch on YouTube rather than experience first-hand, assuming of course, you can find a let’s play of it where the player actually shuts up and lets you hear the dialogue.

The game that sucked up much of my free time of late is Tales of Maj’Eyal (formerly Tales of Middle Earth, before the law won). It’s a roguelike in the most traditional sense… sort of. It’s got a ton of roguelike-y stuff going for it, but it’s also got a fairly decent mouse-driven graphical UI (though I think of it more as a set of training wheels, as it was a markedly better experience once I’d mastered the basic keyboard shortcuts), an open world to explore at your leisure, a quest log, as well as SteamWorks fluff like cloud saving and achievements. Ah the achievements need to be mentioned.

Right, so ToME has 1,306 achievements. 1,306! And if you’re shaking your head in dismay, consider this: in 7 hours of playing, I’ve unlocked 10. Not even 1% of them. This is a very, very deep game, and it’s a real blast. As with all roguelikes, there’s a steep learning curve, but there’s a fairly decent in-game tutorial, and a comprehensive wiki. This has probably replaced Dungeons of Dredmor as my go-to roguelike, mainly because starting over doesn’t mean having to run through the same set of levels each time. I’ve not touched Diablo III in weeks as a result. Highly recommended.

Oh and out of curiosity, I thought I’d boot up the Mac App Store to see what the recommended new games were. This is what I was greeted with:

The game invites you to “join Kim Kardashian on a red carpet adventure”, something I’ve always wanted to do, and in addition to that, you can “date and dump celebs”, as well as “take over LA”. There’s already some positive reviews for it too: “Good but not equal to iOS version”, for which “Appmanbattery” awarded 4 stars, but noted that they would prefer “if there were adverts to watch to get cash, stars or energy”, and that the game “crashes when cancelling an in-app purchase”. Other reviewers also note they can’t find their friends via Facebook, and cite other problems with the IAP. Still, if you’re looking for a way to spend in excess of $99 on otherwise worthless in-app purchases, this might be worth a look. 10/10.