Monthly Archives: July 2012

Review of Legend of Grimrock

Avery Abernethy, 29 July 2012

Developer: Almost Human Games; Publisher: Almost Human Games


Legend of Grimrock is a PC game in a unique niche. It is a four character, party based, puzzle heavy dungeon crawl. Although there is some combat, the real challenge is in the wide variety of puzzles.

The Basics

The game employs many conventions of medieval/magic based role-playing games. The player can create their party of four characters or use a preset party. There are four races (human, minotaur, lizardman, and insectoid) and three character classes (fighter, mage, and rogue). There are four ability scores (strength, dexterity, vitality, and willpower).

The party of four moves around the dungeon tiles from area to area trying to get past locked doors, teleporters, moving floors, pits, hidden rooms while battling the occasional monster. There are places which fully heal the party. You can save at any time. If successful the party finds their way to the stairs leading down to the next level.



Retro Tactical! A look back at Crusader: No Regret

by Andy Mills, 20 July 2012

Back in 1996, I spent weeks playing one of the last great PC games of the DOS era – Crusader: No Regret. This game remains a true classic in the world of isometric tactical combat and even now, more than a decade later, many players are still discovering the fun of this venerable title.

History of the Crusaderscrusader

The two games in the Crusader series (No Remorse and No Regret) pit a renegade soldier against a corrupt and brutal empire…err… I mean government, known as the World Economic Consortium (WEC). The soldiers in the game are known as “silencers” because they systematically eliminate rebels and those who dare speak out against the corrupt WEC regime. The “silencer” at the centre of the Crusader series turns against the regime when he refuses an order to kill innocent civilians. This sudden change of heart greatly disappoints the leaders of the WEC and he is slated for termination. Unfortunately, for the evil leaders of the WEC, our hero decides to work with the resistance to exact his own form of run-and-gun justice against his former employer.

While No Remorse established the backdrop for the action, No Regret allowed the game designers to develop various aspects of the Crusader universe in greater detail. While some of the designers denied that the Crusader universe shared a common lineage with other Origin Systems titles, such as Wing Commander and System Shock, there does appear to be some loose connections.  For instance, the game uses the same calendar system as in Wing Commander and a newspaper article in the game mentions SHODAN and the disaster that took place at Citadel Station which was the setting for System Shock 1. These tie-ins and even some cleverly recycled dialogue from Star Wars worked to hold the interest of the player and make the experience more enjoyable.

Going Tactical

Like No Remorse, No Regret was a third person shooter that required the player to use a mix of strategy, cunning and good ‘ole brute force to achieve his goals. Sticking with the same basic engine as the original Crusader, this game followed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy and worked to provide the player with a familiar interface to explore 10 sprawling, multi-level environments. This second installment in the series featured enhanced combat maneuvers, such as the forward roll, which added to an already impressive repertoire of tactical possibilities. No Regret also added to the number of weapons in the already jam-packed Crusader arsenal, which included sub-machine guns, rocket launchers, micro-wave broilers, Bouncing Betties, det packs and autonomous robot spider mines. Setting enemies on fire, freezing them, or turning hapless troopers into puddles of goo just never seemed to get old. Added touches, such as allowing the player to access scout droids or gun turrets, kept the action fresh and allowed for many missions to be accomplished in a variety of different ways.

Book Review(s): A Tale of Two Snipers

Comrade Zabek and Oberhauptsturmfeldwebel Zabek face off over dueling accounts of sniper action on the Eastern Front of WWII.

Double Book Review of Red Sniper on the Eastern Front by Joseph Pilyushin and Sniper on the Eastern Front by Sepp Allerberger

This summer my reading list seems to have drifted to first-hand accounts of memoirs from the Second World War. Amazon, ever helpful in suggesting all kinds of temptations, served up two gems, both accounts written by men who were snipers on the Eastern Front, one Soviet, one Austrian. Both accounts are compelling for several reasons.

Perhaps most notably, both snipers served for years on the Eastern Front and returned home alive to share their experience (Allerberger began in 1943, Pilyushin in 1941). Also interesting is their experience on opposite sides of the war. Additionally their personal accounts are a study in contrast, with Allerberger’s discussing many details and techniques that helped him survive and even thrive, while Pilyushin’s account is written from a perspective that concentrates on the people he served with, almost completely devoid of a discussion of techniques and methods used in his craft.

Of the two books, Allerberger’s is the easier to follow. His narrative is clear in describing places, terrain,and other events. It comes across as a much more authentic memoir because of all these details. Caution should be exercised in reading – the account is at times disturbingly graphic in its discussion of war crimes witnessed by Allerberger.

These accounts remind the reader that the fighting on the Eastern Front was a savage as any war might possibly be. Allerberger, having fought for the Axis, naturally views these accounts as those perpetrated by the Soviets on the Axis. On one account Allerberger is particularly clear – the use of exploding bullets by snipers. He freely admits to using them, but his use of them is permitted because of a captured Soviet sniper rifle and ammo stock, not because he had been provided exploding bullets by Axis quartermasters.

Pilyushin’s account is a contrast to Allerberger’s, and reads less factually and more like a tragic play. The translator’s introduction explains that the account is devoid of most of the Soviet Communist propaganda that usually accompanies similar memoirs. He goes on to explain how popular the book was in the Soviet Union with readers.

Most of the book centers on Pilyushin’s time spent in and around Leningrad, and perhaps it is because the siege of Leningrad was assumed to be well understood by the reader that we read so little of the technical details of being a sniper. Much more prevalent is the discussion of Pilyushin’s friends and family, and there are hints of a romance with another (female) sniper. Pilyushin’s account is ultimately tragic; his family dies during the siege of Leningrad and his subsequent relationship with a fellow sniper ends tragically. The translator also shares insight that ultimately Pilyushin’s head wounds cost him his eyesight.

Both books are recommended for readers seeking insight on a personal level to the Second World War. Of the two, Allerberger’s is more technical, while Pilyushin’s is quite personal. Together the reader will gain perspective of the war from two sides, with completely different approaches and perspectives from people who performed nearly identical roles. Both belong in the collection of military history buffs and they are highly recommended.

Editors note: Both books were read on a Kindle Fire, so both are available as e-books for readers who want them in a digital format.

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GrogHeads Reviews Empires in America

Designed by Joe Miranda for Victory Point Games

By Brant Guillory, 13 July 2012

A perfect blend of size, simplicity, and skill, Empires in America challenges players with an interesting variation on a tower defense scenario, well-blended with a nice dash of history.

Victory Point Games is still considered by some to be a “small” publisher.  If so, I’m curious what the definition of “small” is.  These guys churn out a game a week – and excellent games, too.  One way they’re able to do so is by relying on some well-tested basic mechanics, such as the solo game rules known as the States of Siege series.  These card- and track-movement-driven games provide a player with a significant and well-balanced challenge, in a variety of genres, including the Israeli War for Independence, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Empires in America, the third entry in the States of Siege series, covers the French and Indian Wars in North America.  A precursor to the American War for Independence, the French and Indian Wars were the battles in New World as a part of the larger Seven Years’ War across the globe between various European powers.