I think I’m done with King’s Bounty: Armored Princess. But it was a hell of a ride. I played through it almost three times. It’s just really well done for what it does, with just enough challenge. There are a lot of cute touches, like the slight glunt that the Cyclops utters when he’s hurt, or the alert-seeming idle animations of the Droids. I like the fact that achievements give you perks. And there’s some gentle humor in the quests if you actually read through them. (It’s rather amusing that at the end, after she’s saved two worlds, the princess’s father decides that what his warrior princess needs is to get married. He’d better have a good army…)
I tried playing as a Mage; you do get some serious damage with spells, but I found it a little too challenging… it wasn’t so fun when every enemy I ran into was annotated as Strong or worse. Warrior is definitely the easiest. I had some trouble with the final bosses till I looked over some of the wonders of Wanderer magic– e.g. spells to increase leadership by 20% and attack and defense by 10; they only last a battle or two but that’s all you need. (The bosses spawn minions, but they do this less if you’re winning. So the game does punish you for not being strong enough to take them on.)
I see from the final stats page of my last game that my Polar Bears did 20% of total damage, and Red Dragons and Guard Droids 17% each. Paladins aren’t far behind. There are some tasty perks if you win battles without a loss, so I focused on this; Paladins are great because they can give a resurrecting group hug, and Repair Droids can resurrect Guard Droids (while also being pretty good ranged attackers). At first I’d inevitably lose a bunch of Repair Droids (who can’t be healed by the Paladins), but then I discovered that you can cast Phantom on them, creating a weaker temporary troop, which can be used to resurrect the Guard Droids.
I like Lake Fairies too, but in this last game I never found an endless supply of them. Too bad; they could regularly deal out five figures of damage. But Polar Bears could do even more. I tried out a bunch more critters, which adds variety to the game, but I mostly stuck to my favorites.
Other games are a bit sloggy right now. I’m back in Fallout New Vegas, in a weird bit of the plot… I’ve been tootling around Freeside and then the Strip, and haven’t actually shot anyone for a long time. The Strip itself is impressive and yet something of a letdown. Mass Effect 2 is much better at making nightclubs that feel energetic and crowded, while Grand Theft Auto IV captured more of the fratboy sleaziness. FNV is very good at evoking brutality and squalor; it just can’t evoke either sexiness or extravagance. Its casinos feel dead, populated by automatons.
I’m also in the middle of Dead Space. It’s great at evoking Space Horror, but it’s also just not as fun as (say) Half-Life 2. What they really get down is the feeling of having to be careful because the next corridor could contain something ex-human that wants to rip you apart. But it’s frankly kind of repetitive. Well, maybe it gets better further in.