Reviews: Sequence, DE:HR – Missing Link DLC, Dawn of War II – Retribution
Recommended price: $2.50
Metacritic Score: 70
Completion Time: ~11 hours
Buy If You Like: Playing DDR on your keyboard… with RPG elements
Sequence is definitely one of those “out there” indie games in which the initial concept sounds unappealing, and yet the game is mostly redeemable fun. The premise is that the main character is abducted into the bottom level of a tower, and he must fight his way to the top by crafting keys from the dropped loot of monsters killed by three-panel DDR rhythm battles. The three panels correspond to Spells which you cast to heal/buff yourself, or damage/debuff the monster; a Mana panel which just constantly flows with arrows, with each successful arrow refunding 2 MP for use with Spells; and an Attack panel which represents arrows you need to match, or suffer damage. You lose the battle by either running out of HP before killing your opponent, or if you run out of time. Successful battles gives you XP and item drops, the latter of which can either be equipped right away or combined via “Synthing” into usable items, new spells, or the keys to unlock new floors.
I had a healthy level of skepticism coming in as to how a rhythm game would feel being played on a keyboard, but I can tell you now that Sequence handles itself rather well. I used WASD for the arrows, Q/E to rotate the three different panels, and 1-6 as the Spell buttons. Just like any good rhythm game, there is a decent variety of songs with differing tempos and general arrow densities. The RPG elements of the game also do a decent enough job at making sure you aren’t bored out of your mind in fighting the same enemies over and over again (only 3 different monster types per floor). There is definitely some possible frustration though, insofar as the item drops you need might have a 20% chance and then you end up grinding the same monster 11 times in a row. Also, learning some of the later Spells requires you to achieve a 95% accuracy in a 5 minute song or get 120-note combos (e.g. no mistakes), with failure resulting in losing a ton of XP (since you spend XP to get a chance to learn a new Spell).
Overall though, I had a decent enough time with a fairly unique indie game. I have heard some other reviewers complain about the irreverent storyline filled with pop-culture references, but I enjoyed it. And while my recommended price is $2.50 (which I bought it at during a sale), the default Steam price is just $5. Sequence isn’t necessarily a must-play game at $5, but it definitely will add value to whatever indie bundle it ends up getting attached to in the future.
Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Missing Link (DLC)
Recommended price: <$5
Metacritic Score: 73
Completion Time: ~4 hours
Buy If You Like: Four extra hours of DE:HR
To be honest, the Missing Link DLC to Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of the first DLCs I have ever played which felt like a legitimate “deleted scene” from the main game. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it feels like a relatively seamless addition despite being on its own 2gb installer and featuring the vastly overused (gaming) trope of the hero losing all of his/her powers. Bad in that, well, most deleted scenes are deleted for a reason.
Taking place in the midst of a fade-to-black scene change in the middle of the original game, Missing Link does not add anything of plot value to the game proper aside from, well, around four more hours of gameplay. While you end up getting access to most of the weapons/augments from the main game, I definitely experienced a mental disconnect between the choices I was making, knowing that none of it mattered since no data was going to be transferred. Want to explore every nook and cranny? Okay… but why? No data, no XP, no weapons, no credits, nothing will endure past the final encounter.
Which, incidentally, takes the form of how all the boss battles in Human Revolution should have played out. I was actually kind of surprised when I discovered that I had inadvertently killed the last boss, thinking it was just another dude shooting at me.
Aside from that, and a frustrating amount of pointless backtracking past a 20-30 second in-game “loading screen,” Missing Link is a good enough dessert to the main course that was the original game. Provided, of course, you can snag it for less than the outrageous $15 retail price. Less than $5 or included in a Game of the Year edition would be ideal.
Game: Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II – Retribution
Recommended price: $0/bundle
Metacritic Score: 80
Completion Time: ~11 hours+
Buy If You Like: Dawn of War II, RTS games minus the resources/base management
In the interest of fairness, I absolutely despise the direction the Dawn of War series took when it dropped the base-building and resource management arms of the RTS genre into Dawn of War II. The original Dawn of War was a groundbreaking work of beauty – to this day, almost all other RTS games feature infantry units as little squads, so they can be shown to be killed individually by vehicle units. I played DoW: Dark Crusade for something ridiculous like 200+ hours. Dawn of War II was fine on its own, and DoWII: Chaos Rising was alright. But as I headed into this particular installment, I began to tire of the 4-5 squad “tactical” gameplay that ends up feeling like a WoWVille iPhone app.
As I understand it, there are six “campaigns” in Retribution, but after completing the Space Marines, it appeared as though every other race uses the exact same scripted maps in the same exact order with perhaps a slight difference in the faction you are fighting. For example, at the end of the first map as Imperial Guard you fight a Tyranid hero; at the end of the map as Tyranid, you fight an Imperial Guard hero. While each race has access to different units and general fighting styles, the heavy emphasis on terrain “tricks” (shoot these barrels, take cover here, approach the turrets from behind, etc) means each map plays out identically no matter what you play as. Technically the same could be said about, say, Dark Crusade, but the difference is that a resource/base-focused RTS at least can play out much differently each time.
While many people dismiss the importance of story in Warhammer 40k’s grimdark setting, I genuinely enjoy that sort of thing. And here again, unfortunately, Retribution fails to deliver. While it wraps up the Blood Raven arc (hopefully for good), it lacks any of the subtlety of even Chaos Rising, let alone Dawn of War II. I can only imagine it was so truncated specifically because they felt it necessary to shoehorn all six races into the same story on the same maps in the same order. Even if there are redeeming plot points in the final chapters of the other races’ stories (which I doubt), I am thoroughly unable to bring myself to slog through the game again to reach them.
I just hope against hope that Dawn of War 3 is more like 1 and not 2.