Reviews: Recent D20 Books for Horror Games

It’s been tough trying to figure out how to write about horror — and horror games, at that — since 9-11. I’m all for the escapist powers of gaming, but horror games haven’t held much appeal for the last month. So, what I’m going to do this time is review the games I’ve bought recently, since I’ve lucked out and ended up with some really nice stuff.

 

 
 

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

I was never a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, exactly. It seemed like the kind of thing that was hard to get into because there was so much out there, and the basic books were always out of date from years’ worth of regional sourcebooks and the like.

But I picked this up, in part because of the dearth of supported D&D; settings in 3rd edition and in part because gosh darn it, the book is just so pretty. And it’s worth it. It’s a $40 hardcover, and it’s still worth it. Honestly, this is the best single-product storebought setting I’ve seen for D&D;, and it’s $40 because there’s so much stuff in it. The much-ballyhooed regional feats are a great idea which I hope are emulated by other D20 publishers. The setting section is enormous, as it should be, and has more adventure and campaign ideas than you can shake a stick at. I have a pick-up game going with my ex and her boyfriend, whenever we happen to have time, and we’ve had a …

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Preview: “Project EGO”

Big Blue Box is one of Lionhead’s satellite studios. Lionhead is the company that brought us the magnificent and innovative Black and White. The Black and White engine is the basis of Big Blue Box’s first game, code named Project EGO.

With such a pedigree already behind it, there are tremendous expectations for what Project EGO will be, and Big Blue Box has made some tremendous promises about what we can expect, mainly in the area of character management.

You start off with a single character, either male or female, who starts the game at the age of 15, and will age realistically. The average lifespan of your character will be about seventy years or so. Once your character dies, another, younger character can be created to take his place, but the details of that process is still being worked on.

As with Black and White, Project EGO gives you the freedom to have your character behave and develop however you like. If you want to be a valiant warrior, just grab that sword and start slapping enemies around. A thief? Put on some black clothing and stick to the shadows. A wizard? Well, you get the point by now. You’re not locked into any particular stereotype, though. If you want your thief to wear the brightest, loudest costume in the land, you are free to do so.

Your character’s appearance will change according to your personal preferences and lifestyle choice. A character that spends a lot of time whacking …

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Video Game Review: Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)

You are Rico Rodrigez, a secret operative sent to the nation of Panau. An area where bribes, murder, and guns talk a lot louder than justice. You have been sent in to find Tom sheldon, a potentially rogue agent who has got missing from the agency.

You enter this game by jumping out of an airplane, dodging mid-air explosions while trying to take a lost item from a dead body soaring towards the ground. Enough said? This game is packed with action, mayhem, and and, surprisingly, a very decent storyline. This game is what the industry refers to as a “sandbox” style game, similar to title like Grand Theft Auto IV, and Crackdown. Just Cause also has a few other similarities such as huge collections of weapons and vehicles, TONS of buildings and people to bring havoc upon, and lots of great one liners!

One thing that cought me off guard, was the storyline, which is something that is normally pretty lacking in most Action games these days. Just cause offers a somewhat deep storyline which teeters on fiction/non-fiction, and had quite a bit of back story, between the lenghy list of characters, and the woulrd itself. Each character goes through a small amount of developement, and changes depending on how the games plays out.

The graphics of Just Cause 2 are much better than I had expected then I put the disk into my Xbox 360. I wouldn’t give it game of the year on that fact alone, but …

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Sequels: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

Some sequels are better than others

  

This week deals extensively with sequels to games and their makers. The developers of perhaps the finest sequel ever have gone out of business; an �unexpected� sequel will be coming in time for Christmas from another; not really a sequel, but one of the best selling games last year finally gets an expansion pack; and a pleasant surprise from the makers of the finest (or at least funniest) adventure series ever. And speaking of sequels, next article will showcase the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in LA where sequel galore could be found.

 
 

Looking Glass Studios is closing up shop, and quitting the development game. The makers of the highly acclaimed, loved by reviewers, ignored by consumers �System Shock 2,� and the �Thief� series of games, have just run out of money. The remaining projects at Looking Glass, including �Thief II Gold� and �Thief 3,� have all been cancelled. Designer Rich Carlson commented on the affect this will have on the gaming business, �I don’t think the industry will ever be quite the same.” Looking Glass Studios will be sorely missed for their substance over style designs and innovation.

 
 

On a related note, something that should have gone under a while ago, but hasn�t, there will be a new �Tomb Raider� game by Christmas time. Supposedly, in the newest episode, the game play will be completely different. Not much is known about the game yet, but to be worth anything the whole game should be …

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Interview: Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns

Steve Hemmesch, the Lead Game Designer for Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, took a minute out of his busy schedule at TimeGate Studios to answer a few questions about the new Real Time Stragetgy game that everyone is talking about (Review coming soon!)

 

 
 

How was your typical day spent during the design of the game?

My name is Steve Hemmesch, and I was the Lead Game Designer for Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. I was responsible for working with the Executive Producer (Alan Chaveleh), who was also the man who defined the game concept at the beginning. It was my job to take his concepts and story ideas and flesh them out, turning them into working gameplay. I was also responsible for creating most of the content of the game: units, spells, heroes, tutorials, and the campaign. My typical day differed depending on what stage we were at in development cycle. During the height of development, I would spend the morning responding to new bugs and content issues sent to me by other team members. Then I would continue work on the campaign map I was currently focused on, defining its look, adding triggers, and writing dialogue. Then I would round out the day with balance testing of recent unit and feature additions, making tweaks and corrections when necessary.

What did you try and accomplish with Kohan?

Our primary goal in Kohan was to blend the truly strategic gameplay found in most turn-based computer and strategy board games with the exciting, quicker paced gameplay …

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Five Dreamcast Games You Absolutely Must Buy in 2000

The new year is going to be a good one for Dreamcast owners. Although most of 1999’s releases haven’t been very inspiring or long-lasting, 2000 promises to be completely different, with a large number of impressive looking titles scheduled to be released. We’ve decided to pick the five titles we personally are looking forward to, and give brief previews of why they should be in any Dreamcast owner’s library.

 

 
 

Since the Dreamcast’s graphics capabilities pretty much guarantee that all games will look amazing, we decided to base our decisions upon gameplay, story and pedigree information collected across the ‘net, and upon the likelihood of the game actually shipping before Jan 1, 2001.

1. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future

Appaloosa’s vision of the future is one in which humans and dolphins rule the Earth together, protecting the inhabitants of land and sea alike from a group of evil tyrants. In a desperate, last ditch attempt at victory, these tyrants build a ship and send it back through time in order to prevent the historic alliance of man and dolphin from taking place. Fortunately for us, however, Ecco is caught up in the backwash of this ship, and is also transported into the past, where he is the only being capable of saving the future.

Any serious Genesis fan will tell you that the original Ecco the Dolphin was one of the most unique titles to grace the system, and Defender of the Future looks to follow in that tradition, …

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Preview: The Wrath (Xbox)

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The Skinny

The Wrath is a new game developed by the Collective. It is a multi-player action game with strategic elements, which plays similarly to the classic game Archon. The game world is composed of a randomly generated map, over which players move their army. When two creatures from opposing sides meet, the game segues into an arena, where they battle it out, one-on-one. The eventual goal of the game is to eliminate all opposition.

The Sides

There are four dominant forces featured in The Wrath. They are Light Order, Light Chaos, Dark Order, and Dark Chaos. There aren�t any details available yet on what each side�s philosophy and background is, but if you�re familiar with the Dungeon and Dragons character alignment system, then you should be able to make a good guess.

The Creatures

The creatures you control are drawn from various myths from around the world. For the Light Order, we have the giant turtle and the unicorn. Light Chaos features the griffin, fire giant, and centaur. On the Dark Order side, we meet the giant spider and the iron golem. Finally, batting up for Dark Chaos are the harpy, hydra, and arch-demon.

This small list by no means represents all the characters that will be available when the game is complete, but it does give a good idea of where the designers are headed. You can expect other popular mythological creatures to make an appearance.

The Story

No details yet are available about the backstory to …

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Review: Sheep

If you had asked me a month ago whether or not I’d play a game about herding sheep, I would probably have said no. After all, how much fun could that be, right? Well, as it turns out, herding sheep is actually a lot more fun than you’d expect.

In Sheep, you take control of a herder, whose task it is to guide a flock of sheep from the beginning of a level to the end. Of course, it’s not that simple, as each level is chocked full of nasty enemies and traps designed to kill sheep in the most imaginative ways possible.

The game features a total of seven worlds. Each world is built around a particular theme. You’ve got a farm, a medieval faire, a space station, a candy factory, a dinosaur playground, and even a nightclub. Each world is composed of four levels, and in order to successfully complete a level, you have to rescue a minimum number of sheep.

Each level oozes creativity, and at no time does the game feel repetitive. Not only do you have to guide the sheep past dangerous obstacles, but you’ve also got to solve puzzles. For the most part, this means herding sheep onto buttons in order to open gates, but there are some more creative puzzles in there.

As you go through a level you’ll come across machines that will provide your sheep with disguises that help them live longer, and there are also a variety of power-ups that …

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