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8:25pm on Sunday, 26th June, 2005:

Deep Jungle


Here's another portion of a screenshot from Sid Meier's Pirates!:

That guy third from the left is almost drowning in the grass...

Civilization 4 has an unnecessary 3D engine, too. I hope we don't see this same kind of graphics faux pas there — I'm already unimpressed by the screenshots...

Anyway, back to Pirates!. I finished my first game of it today (almost a year after buying it, but I only got around to playing it last week). It's pretty good. From a gamer's point of view, I like the open-endedness, I like the wide variety of things to do, I like the way the genre has been realised in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion. The game as a whole is very enjoyable. It features several mini-games at various points, though, and some of these are better than others (and I was better at some than at others). I'm excellent at the dance-with-the-governor's-daughter routine of matching movement to music, I'm pretty damned good at the attack-a-town-from-the-land strategy sub-game, I'm so-so at the sneak-into/out-of-the-town mazey sub-game (which I dislike — it's like a stripped-down version of Pac Man, which I don't enjoy even when it isn't stripped-down) and I totally suck at duelling. Sadly, duelling is the one crucial skill I needed...

The game annoyed me somewhat with its attitude to saving: you couldn't do it in a town. You couldn't even load a saved game in a town. This meant that on occasions I had situations like the following when I wanted to duel a criminal, but he was holed up in an enemy town. To get into the town meant attacking it, which entailed a 10-15 minute strategy game. Inside the town, I went to the inn but couldn't speak to the bartender unless I beat an annoying captain hitting on a barmaid. If I succeeded there, I then got to fight the criminal. The criminal would have some super-fast attack or defence that made it hard for me to beat him. If I lost, I got thrown in the jail. But hey, I had a skeleton key and automatically got the chance to escape via the maze sub-game! Except if I didn't manage to then I was back in jail. But guess what? There's a second chance to escape that presents itself! The smart thing to do here was not take it, because then I merely lost some months in jail but not many seconds of real time. when I was released, I could sail from the port, and was at last in a position to reload my original arrival at the town. I could then spend another 25-30 minutes trying my luck against the defending armies, the annoying captain and the criminal again (and the maze, if I failed in either of the duels).

The climax is supposed to be where you find and defeat the evil nobleman Montalban who kidnapped your family. To fight him, you have to find his hideout and then attack it (as it's like a town). When you've done that, then you get to fight him. This is all well and good, except if you suck at duelling like me (not having grown up playing beat-em-up games on consoles) and can't get the special move combinations to work, you siply can't defeat him. I must have taken him on a dozen times in 20-minute interludes (because of the battle you have to fight to reach him) and I'm not sure I managed to hit him even once. He has lightning-fast reactions and lightning-fast attacks. OK, well I also have lightning-fast reactions (in real life, hence in the game) but I don't have lightning-fast attacks. If my character does a high chop or a low slash, it takes 2 time units; if Montalban does one, it takes 1 time unit. The fact I couldn't beat the guy was my one disappointment with the game. Maybe I'll play it again but stay at the easy level the whole time instead of getting to swashbuckler as quickly as possible...

Hmm, now shall I return to Port Royale 2, or the games of Morrowind or Neverwinter Nights I have in stasis? I've played both right through before but they're still fun. Hmm, I have a Railroad Tycoon 3 I've yet to try out, and a Jowood RPG compiliation with Arx Fatalis on it. I'm reluctant to try this, though, because I played Gorasul (also on it) until I downloaded a patch to fix the word wrapping in the speech bubbles and it started demanding a non-existent CD key from me; I wouldn't want the same thing to happen with Arx Fatalis when I install whatever patches are necessary to play it.

Maybe I'll just finish the Civilization 3 game I'm testing out my new Ganymede map on...

Referenced by Bigamy.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).