My quest for hidden gems: Jazzpunk

quest

I sometimes buy game bundles that come with a bunch of codes for games I never even looked at before… or I can’t resist that sweet tempting “mystery game for 0.20 €” offer. Either way, these games are often not even looked at once I have them (well, more so for the bundled games than the one I actually did buy even if I didn’t know what game it will be). I figured I should devote this column here to these games. On the one hand, it makes me actually look at the game and on the other hand, sometimes I buy bundled games because I want to get game A and then I end up ignoring it because one of the other games in the bundle turns out to be much more fun!

I have a bunch of games that qualify for this column and wasn’t sure which one to pick. Then I saw something that looked… weird… but the name sounded rather bland, actually. So this is what I chose: Jazzpunk by Necrophone Games. I bought it as part of a bundle with Overlord.

Let’s take a look at the game: The introduction video sequence is very… colourful, at least. But it doesn’t tell me what this game is about. I actually only read this one sentence before jumping into the game:

“Jazzpunk is a comedy adventure set in an alternate reality Cold War World, plagued with corporate espionage, CyberCrime, and sentient martinis.”

I decided not to read too much about each game before playing it. Without much prior information, I figured I would experience the game in a much less biased way. I made one mistake here, though: I should at least check whether a game is in first person view or not, because it does give me nausea. Jazzpunk’s graphics are very basic, and putting mouse sensitivity on very low lets me play this game for a bit longer than other games before I need to take a break. But the next games I will look at will not be in first person view. It’s just not fun to play and write about a game that makes you feel sick, right? But something still made me want to give it a try, at least.

In the opening scenes, I see that I apparently flew in (to where, I don’t know… but there are Asian symbols, I think…) in a man-shaped suitcase. Very subtle, right? And then I am… somewhere… and get my first mission from a guy who claims to go to his wine cellar after briefing me but actually just lay down to sleep on the floor behind his desk. I have to take some kind of pill for the first mission to start. No idea what that part is about, really. I assume I would find out later on in the game.

jazzpunk intro

Now the bad part is that the voices are all kind of hard to understand and there is no option for “real” subtitles. In most cases, there is a short line repeating what the characters said in a short sentence. But still, a lot gets lost unless you have the sound up and understand them.

Bookahnerk was watching me play and remarked that it seems to be similar to the Stanley Parable. I guess that’s right as I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. My task was to infiltrate a building, but that’s the only pointer I got. It’s not like Stanley Parable in that a speaker narrates what I’m doing. Instead, in Jazzpunk I can actually interact with objects and after using a copy-machine for taking pictures of my character’s naked butt, I used a picture on the wall (with a face, not a butt) to fool a camera-activated door to open for me. So it is a puzzle adventure game, but the atmosphere reminds me of Stanley Parable. Jazzpunk tries to stay light-hearted with silly jokes, though. One more example: The room where I took butt-pictures also has two microscopes. One let me play asteroids. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but it was fun! Too bad it was just one level.

I played through the first mission now after looking for a walkthrough online. I admit, I suck at puzzle games, but I still like playing them once in a while. My usual method is to try to figure out how to solve it on my own first and when I get stuck, I look at a walkthrough. My main motivation is not to solve everything on my own, but to get some entertainment value out of it which means that the storyline also has to be good. Fortunately, this seems to be the case here. Of course, having done only the first mission (with help), it’s a bit early to say the story is fantastic or even whether the story will still be good later on. But at least, there seems to be an overarching story behind me doing these missions.

The downside of this game is that even though the graphics are simple, I cannot play the game for longer than 10 minutes at a time. I wish I could, though! It’s silly and seems to be done really well. The interface is confusing at times, though. It says to hit X to cycle through my inventory, but when I picked up a second item, the first item was not in my inventory anymore. Instead, I later found a cereal box that I had already picked up and emptied on the table again just as if I had never even touched it.

Since I cannot really delve into the game longer, I’m looking at the Steam reviews: The game recently got 99 % positive reviews. The overall percentage of positive reviews is at 90 %. So, if you like puzzle games and weird silly stories, this seems to be a great choice! But only if you can play with first person view. For me this one simple thing means that it is not a gem and I will uninstall it again.

Giving Skyrim another chance

It’s been years since I last played Skyrim. While I generally like being able to use mods for a game, I don’t really like having to rely on them to enjoy playing. The way I’m using my PC, I absolutely need a windowed mode when playing a game and I cannot stand the regular non-windowed mode. On top of that, there was some bad mouse lagging in Skyrim and no matter what I did, I could not fix it. The Special Edition does not seem to have this issue anymore, so hurrah for that! And the game now has a borderless windowed mode which does not work exactly as I would imagine, but it’s good enough to at least give Skyrim another chance. When I am in the game and want to e. g., switch to my browser, I have to click with an invisible mouse hoping that the mouse is actually outside of the game. Otherwise, I just attack whatever is standing in front of me… oops. So, this mode still isn’t working too well, but I think I can handle it (opening settings before switching out, for example).

My main problem – as always – was trying to figure out what kind of character I would want to play now. I considered re-creating my lizardlady that I had when I first started playing Skyrim, but I wanted to start “fresh” with a different character. I am not a fan of elves, so those were out immediately. That left the cat-like race, the orc and the zillion different human kinds. I finally chose a redguard and started playing her. I figured playing something more “like me” (at least, more like me than a cat or a lizard :p) would be easier to roleplay. But as soon as I started, I knew it was a mistake. All I could think of was: She’s missing something in her face… like… teeth. Sharp pointy little teeth like the orc lady I had considered choosing during character creation.

skyrim female orc character

So yeah, I now have an orc lady! I mostly see her from behind anyway, but knowing she’s not a regular boring human is good enough for me already. I guess I should add “boring humans” to the elves above. No boring elves or humans for me!

The next question is what kind of playstyle I want, although I chose sword and shield for the time being – I’m still at the beginning of the game – because it’s often the easy and carefree playstyle. Perfect when I want to concentrate on the actual world and not having to try to stay alive in fights. So I am all set now, I guess, and can finally go on my adventure – while perfectly ignoring all the other issues I had with the game years ago. Now that I know what to expect from the game, I am sure I will not be disappointed anymore. :)

A few hours in Civilization VI

Bookahnerk had pre-purchased Civilization VI for himself and for me and we’ve both been looking forward to the game’s release for weeks now. Since I’ve spent the week being sick while still going to work every day (thank you, painkillers, for helping me out), we spent Friday evening being very lazy. He brought home Subway sandwiches, so I did not have to cook. I had started a single player game on Friday morning before work, but in the evening, we decided to start a game together. Difficulty setting “Prince” gave us a very unpleasant experience. Within a couple of turns, we were both occupied by barbarians with no force to counter them.

Civilization VI playing as France

We restarted both with “Warlord” which is one difficulty setting below “Prince”. I think Warlord is too easy for us, but it worked fine to start and get to know the game. Especially if you’re playing together, it’s just too frustrating if you need to restart all the time because one of you got overrun by barbarians. ;)

In the single player game, I had chosen England as my civilization while I tried out France in the multiplayer one. The introduction video for France says that it’s a perfect civilization for those going for a cultural victory. I really like and prefer going for the non-domination victories, so it sounded like the perfect choice. But I’m not so sure right now. But that’s probably because I have not seen too much of the game yet and am not really sure what I’m doing, especially when it comes to focusing on one path for victory. I just always love the exploration part and England seems like a better choice there as it gives you an advantage in naval movement. It also seems that I go for the female leaders more than the male ones. Come to think of it, I don’t remember when I last willingly played a male leader in the Civilization games other than getting a random leader. Most of the time, the female leaders have the attributes or bonuses I want, though. Especially England!

The biggest controversy before the game’s release was probably the graphics. I even saw lots of comments about how the game was “dumbed down” which seemed to be related to the impression they got from the graphics (Halo Effect at its best, I assume). I myself was not a big fan of the graphics changes, but I also said from the beginning that the actual gameplay was much more important to me than the look of the game. My impression so far is that it does not look or feel like a “mobile game” at all. After all, it’s not even the graphics alone. It’s the combination of graphics, user interface, animations, sounds and music. If there were such a mobile game, I would probably start playing games on my mobile phone. :p

I had also heard the game’s main theme before playing and I was… disappointed. Of course, after Baba Yetu, it’s difficult to come up with something better if you ask me, but this song, “Sogno di Volare” just seemed so boring. However, I started the game and watched the introduction video which is where the main theme slowly starts playing and I can tell you: It fits perfectly. It’s no Baba Yetu, but it’s definitely a great song for the game. I also received a newsletter mail from the composer, Christopher Tin, who let us all know that the song can also be bought on several sites like Amazon or iTunes – just in case somebody is interested. :)

So altogether, after playing for a few hours, I can say that I am definitely not disappointed with the game. I have not found anything to be “dumbed down” so far and I really like the addition of the city districts. The builders only having a number of “charges” to improve fields before you need to build another builder is annoying, though. Probably very good, but annoying. I keep building other stuff in the city (like fighting units etc.) and forget that I also need builders to improve my city. It adds another strategic element, though, as you need to consider even more what you need to build in your city next and what you want to focus on.

My conclusion so far: It feels like a true Civilization game and a worthy successor to Civilization V… but I still don’t like the way the trees look. :p

Primalist and cross-promotions

All of Trion’s own games (Defiance, Rift and Trove) are receiving some cross-promotion rewards when you log into their newest game, Atlas Reactor, this weekend (to be more precise, between Friday, Oct. 7 at 5:00pm (PT) and Sunday, Oct. 9 at 11:59pm (PT)). In Rift, everybody gets 15 days of free Patron time. If you’re in the USA, you can also win a pack with all of their mounts. In Trove, you get two Empowered Gem Boxes. In Defiance, you get 15 days of Patron time (if you’re playing on the PC) and 2 x 15 inventory slots (both for PC and console players).

Logging into Atlas Reactor seems to be enough to get these rewards. So if you really don’t care about the game, just install it briefly, log in, check if you got the rewards in your game(s) and uninstall the game again. Or… give it a try! :p Despite it being advertised as a turn-based PvP game, you can perfectly play it as a PvE game with or without other players, by the way!

So with 15 days of Patron time in Rift also comes a 10 % discount in their store. I completely missed that they had reduced the cost of their additional class, the Primalist, back in April. It’s still not cheap if you ask me, – about 28 € without the discount – but with the discount, I decided it’s time to get the Primalist. I like having all classes unlocked in my MMOs! What I had not considered was that I also needed another character slot. Thankfully, I was not at the maximum amount already (12) and “only” had to buy another slot and character slots are reasonably cheap.

After that, the usual “obstacles” occurred. Do I really want a 5th dwarf? I already have one elf in both factions and for me, that’s about 1.5 elves more than I have on average in most other games that have that race. ;) I chose to try out a human on guardian side (a Mathosian) instead since I do not have one. Yeah, I’m not a fan of humans either, because they are too ordinary for fantasy games. So I’m not really sure why I chose this one… I just figured it might be nice to have something non-dwarf for once and the other non-elf non-human is the Bahmi race which I found too big and bulky for my taste. So, welcome, little Ghamina. May you grow a few levels before the expansion arrives and you’ll be put back on the shelf as my dwarf cleric will take over again! Also, I can’t believe I had not saved or used the name Ghamina on that shard until now…

rift_primalist_ghamina

Atlas Reactor: Win 1 of 5 Lockwood Citadel Skins

(Update: Giveaway is closed. Winners will be receiving their codes shortly – We decided to give away 6 codes instead of 5, so everybody’s a winner! :D)

Atlas Reactor entered its headstart (which you can join immediately if you purchase the founder pack). If you don’t own a founder’s pack, you will have to wait until the game’s official launch to play the game for free. But don’t worry: This day is tomorrow!

The launcher states that the game will launch at 8 am PDT (click the link to see the time in your own time zone) – so in less than 24 hours! And to celebrate this occasion, we were given special skins (Lockwood Citadel Skins) to give away to our readers! Skins are purely cosmetic, of course. Lockwood is the freelancer you get to try during the tutorial, by the way. He is one of my favourite freelancers and I think purple suits him very well! So if you want one of these skins for yourself as well, read the rules below and leave a comment. :)

Atlas Reactor Lockwood Citadel Skin

  1. Rules and Important Notes – Read these before participating in our giveaway! They will tell you what to do in order to enter successfully.
  2. This giveaway will run from today until 8. October (9 pm our time!). Click the link to check for the time in your timezone.
  3. Leave a comment saying “I have read and agree with the giveaway’s rules” if you want to enter the giveaway for the Lockwood Citadel Skin. No other keyword is necessary here (since we only have this skin to give away in the first place).
  4. The codes will expire on November 6, so if you win it, make sure to enter it before that date!

Last but not least, good luck to everybody who participates!