Exploring DOOM

But should you choose to get lost and ignore the guiding lights, you’re bound to discover something. And that’s the fun thing about exploration in DOOM: it’s never forced, but it’s almost always rewarding.

“Don’t follow the lights.” This was Gollum’s advice to Frodo in Sam as they traversed the Dead Marshes in The Two Towers. The Dead Marshes were haunted swamps which covered an ancient battlefield. The putrid water trapped the bodies and souls of those who had fallen long ago. Lingering too long could cause one to be lost to the murky abyss. Much the same could be said about DOOM. Except it takes place on Mars. In the future. And there are demons. From Hell. And following the lights is a good thing. Similarities abound!

This does kind of look like Mordor!

I’m playing through DOOM (2016 all-caps version, not the 1993 original) again. Seeing the gameplay reveal of DOOM Eternal at Quakecon made me want to. It’s just as much fun to play now as it was the day it came out. The action is as fast, frenetic, and adrenaline-inducing as it’s ever been. It truly is one of the most-fun shooters to have ever been released. But amid all the action and explosions and flying bullets and bodies, it’s my opinion that part of DOOM’s appeal is often overlooked: the level design.

After all the bullets stop flying and the demons are dead, it’s just you and a totally awesome base on Mars. Players can be forgiven for missing out on the detailed level design, to an extent. But when you stop to admire the sights it’s plain to see: the UAC makes a pretty base. (“UAC” stands for Union Aerospace Corporation, the hyper-villainous entity responsible for unleashing hell on Mars)

Every room and corridor is a lovingly arranged bit of sci-fi aesthetic engineering. Employee lockers have contents spilling out of them, computer screens have data or error messages scrolling down them, safety warnings are plastered everywhere; there’s a lot of detail present even before it’s covered up by the remains of unfortunately dismembered base personnel.

It’s not all cosmetic, either. Green lights guide the way. Present on walkways, railings, and equipment; these lights emit a piercing green glow which serve as a point of orientation. All you have to do is follow the lights for the surest route of more progress.  There’s no way they could be called ‘subtle’, but they never look out of place.  They’re placed smartly enough so as not to be noticeable when looking backward over your path of progression. This is especially beneficial after a disorienting gunfight. Between the lights and the in-game map, it’s almost impossible to get lost. 

But should you choose to get lost and ignore the guiding lights, you’re bound to discover something. And that’s the fun thing about exploration in DOOM: it’s never forced, but it’s almost always rewarding. Exploring is the means by which you acquire upgrade points for your suit and weapons. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon an alternate path to your main goal. If you’re lucky, you’ll discover the hidden lever which unlocks the area where classic maps are unlocked. And if you know just where to look you might stumble upon more than a few Easter eggs, like a skeleton having a birthday party

So the next time you find yourself battling the demon horde in a UAC research facility, make it a point to slow down and take in the sights. You never know what you might find…

RavingLuhn Recommends: Steam Summer Sale 2017

Summer is only four days old and we’re already being bombarded with deals from Steam. This annual event exists for seemingly no other reason than to ensure your backlog of games grows ever larger.

It’s June 26th, 2017. Summer is only four days old and we’re already being bombarded with deals from Steam. This annual event exists for seemingly no other reason than to ensure your backlog of games grows ever larger. Nearly every game in their digital store is discounted, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. With another ten days left in the sale I humbly offer a few tips to help your wallet and your gaming library:

  1. Set a budget and stick to it. You can get a lot of gaming goodness for not much money, so figure out what you want to spend and work within that limit. It will help you prioritize what you really want versus what you’re attracted to just because of the discount.
  2. Check the price history. Sometimes sale prices are something special, sometimes they’re not much of a deal. Use tools like SteamPrices and IsThereAnyDeal to check the price history of the games you’re interested in.
  3. Remember that the games you want will go on sale againJust because something is on sale now doesn’t mean you have to buy it right this moment.  Be patient and stick to your budget. You and your wallet will be much happier if you can control yourself.
  4. Buy something you wouldn’t otherwise. Good prices mean it’s prime time to try something different. Take a risk; you never know what kind of gems you’ll find.

All set? My recommendations for 2016’s summer sale still stand, so check those out if you have a moment. Here’s what I suggest for this year:

DOOM – $14.99
This is the only title from last year’s list that gets a repeat appearance. It was a steal at $60. It was a steal at $36. It’s worth every bit of $15. In the past year id Software have added bots for multiplayer, a fully-fledged arcade mode, and greatly expanded the options available in SnapMap. If you love shooting and over-the-top violence, this is the game to buy.

Wolfenstein: The New Order – $9.99
If DOOM is the best-playing shooter available today, The New Order gets my vote for the #2 spot. Spectacular, gut-wrenching, surprisingly heartfelt, bloody, incredible fun. Shoot Nazis in an alternate historical 1960. Shoot Nazis in the sky, on the ground, on the moon. Use silencers, shotguns, throwing knives, and lasers. It’s a blast. Buy this to get caught up for the sequel coming out in fall 2017.

Far Cry – $3.39
Before the Far Cry series became too self-aware, it was just about running around a bunch of tropical islands blowing stuff up. No pretense, just explosions.

Cities: Skylines – $7.49
The modern city-builder for the modern gamer. While it’s still not as deep or challenging as the Sim City games of old, it definitely offers a similar experience. You can spend as much or as little time as you want detailing the traffic, zoning, tax rates, or community restrictions of your custom cities.

RollerCoaster Tycoon II – $3.39
RollerCoaster Tycoon played via OpenRCT2 is, in my opinion, still the best theme park sim out there. Period. I’ll expand on this a bit more in the next month or two.

Black Mesa – $7.99
Remade or remastered games always have the potential to be a disaster, especially when they’re made by fans. Black Mesa is a project that does everything right. If you’ve seen the original build of Half Life recently, it’s quite obvious the game hasn’t aged well. Black Mesa subverts the effects of aging and presents Half Life to you as you remember it. It’ll get better later this year when the long-awaited Xen levels are released!

Enter the Gungeon – $7.49
I haven’t played this. I don’t know if I’ll like it. But I followed my own advice when buying it, specifically tip #4 from above. It’s a “bullet hell dungeon crawler” top-down shooter, and people I know really love it. We’ll see. Consider my recommendation of it to you an act of gaming spontaneity.

Steam link – $14.99
Bring the gaming goodness of Steam to your living room TV! It works exceptionally well, but you’ll probably need a wired Ethernet connection to avoid lag. It’s great for games that work well with controllers.

Homeworld: Emergence – $9.99
No, it’s not available on Steam. And it’s not on sale. But come on, this is a game that nobody expected to see available in digital distribution. This weekend Gearbox and GOG.com shocked people everywhere with the surprise announcement of the game’s availability. It’s a mix of real-time strategy, space combat, and horror story elements that comes together in an incredibly atmospheric package. It’s Homeworld. Buy it. Now!

So there you have it. I recommend these games because I myself like them. That’s not a guarantee you’ll feel the same way. But if you don’t like them, well… then I’m afraid there’s something wrong with you. Because I’m normal. Totally.

RavingLuhn Recommends: Steam Summer Sale 2016

Ah summer, that time of year for cookouts, outdoor sports, fires, and other activities involving fresh air. It gets everyone else out of the house so you have the computer all to yourself for your gaming binge! The Steam summer sale exists so that you never run out of games for your library. Nearly everything in their digital store is discounted, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. Therefore, with one weekend left in the sale I humbly offer a few tips to help your wallet and your gaming library

SteamSummerSale

Ah summer, that time of year for cookouts, outdoor sports, fires, and other activities involving fresh air. It gets everyone else out of the house so you have the computer all to yourself for your gaming binge! The Steam summer sale exists so that you never run out of games for your library. Nearly everything in their digital store is discounted, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. Therefore, with one weekend left in the sale I humbly offer a few tips to help your wallet and your gaming library:

  1. Set a budget and stick to it. You can get a lot of gaming goodness for not much money, so figure out what you want to spend and work within that limit. It will help you prioritize what you really want versus what you’re attracted to just because of the discount.
  2. Check the price history. Sometimes sale prices are something special, sometimes they’re not much of a deal. Use tools like SteamPrices and IsThereAnyDeal to check the price history of the games you’re interested in.
  3. Remember that the games you want will go on sale againJust because something is on sale now doesn’t mean you have to buy it right this moment.  Be patient and stick to your budget. You and your wallet will be much happier if you can control yourself.
  4. Buy something you wouldn’t otherwise. Good prices mean it’s prime time to try something different. Take a risk; you never know what kind of gems you’ll find.

All set? If you need some suggestions about what to buy, here are some of my very own RavingLuhn recommendations:

A Story About My Uncle – $2.59
I already wrote an article about my experiences with A Story About My Uncle, but the short of it is that it’s a unique experience well worth the sale price.

FTL – $2.99
Take command of a starship and crew as you deliver vital information to the other side of the galaxy in this adventure. The descriptions of “Roguelike” and “randomly generated” mean that no two playthroughs are exactly alike. It’s worth the price for the soundtrack alone.

Just Cause 2 – $3.74
Do you like tropical environments? Do you like blowing things up? Do you like having the freedom to drive of fly any vehicle in sight? If you answered yes to any of those questions, buy Just Cause 2 and be entertained for hours and hours.

Burnout Paradise – $4.99
Freely drive around a massive city and do whatever you want to. Jumps, crash challenges, and shorcuts abound for the times when all you want to do is explore. When you’re ready to race there’s literally an event at every intersection. One of the finest racers I’ve ever played.

The Orange Box – $4.99
Jam-packed with Valve-y goodness, the Orange Box is an absolute steal for five bucks. There’s easily twenty hours of legendary gaming time contained within. Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 are all examples of Valve at their best. Each game by itself is worth the full price of this collection.

Call of Juarez Gunslinger – $7.49
Gunslinger is an absolute blast of a Western shooter rendered in stylish cel-shading and told with more flair than most games would even dare. Its relatively brief length is offset by its replayability. Experience every cliched Western shootout imaginable while having the most possible fun.

RAGE + The Scorchers DLC – $8.74
As someone who has played everything made by id Software, I still stand by my assertion that their misunderstood shooter from 2011 is the best thing they ever made. Yes, even better than 2016’s DOOM. Rage is that good. The lone DLC pack, The Scorchers, is absolutely essential. The nailgun is a game changer.

Alien: Isolation Collection – $14.99
The best Alien game ever. The most atmospheric game I’ve ever played. Run, crawl, hide, and flee through Sevastapol station while pursued by androids, humans, and an unpredicable and relentless alien. Being terrified has never been this much fun.

Homeworld: Remastered Collection – $17.49
Homeworld is the most influential real-time strategy game I’ve ever played. Simultaneously epic and intimate, playing the original Homeworld is one of my fondest gaming memories. Gearbox Software did a tremendous job updating the game for modern times, and it’s worth every penny.

DOOM – $35.99
id Software did the impossible and released a sequel that lives up to the original genre-defining game from 1993. Coming from someone who’s a notorious penny-pincher, I can tell you I paid $60 for the game and don’t regret it. It’s a steal for $36.

So there you have it. Buy these and you won’t be disappointed. I guarantee it.