Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A new time waster

You're going to think this is why I haven't been blogging. But it's not, well at least not much. The reason I haven't been blogging is I've had a tiny slice of Katey's life lately with huge deadlines and no time to meet them. But this was why I wasn't posting before those deadlines. I wrote it and forgot to post it, so here you go...

I didn't need this. I really did not. I have plenty of time wasters, and not enough time. And then I have non-time wasters that take time, things like sleep, and eating, and family, and work. So there is only so much wasting to be done. But like it or not, I've got a new one. Meet Hinterlands.

Hinterlands is a small studio game for Windows (no Linux, damnit) that uses a new twist on an old paradigm. Ever since Diablo, point and click "Action RPG's" have had a sometimes huge place in the market. You see a monster, you click it, you attack it, it dies, you get loot. Sounds dumb but it's incredibly fun and incredibly addictive. Witness, for example, the success of Diablo, Diablo II, the Diablo II expansions, Sacred, Sacred II, Fate, and the undoubted success of Blizzard's upcoming Diablo III. Fate, by the way, is an awesome little game that managed to take all the cool elements of Diablo and make them even simpler but just as entertaining and addicting. But I digress. Hinterlands, as you may have guessed, is a variant on these games.

In Hinterlands you play a character who does indeed run around, point and click and kill bad guys. The difference is that you also manage a growing town of followers who can either work in the town or come adventuring with you. If they adventure with you they gain levels, fight, and use items just as you do. If they stay in the town they do one of two things. They either produce food, provide services, and generally make the town a bigger and better place or they produce items that you can use on your adventures (like better weapons, potions, or magic items). What each follower does depends on their profession and how much you develop them in their profession. For example, a craftsman starts building wooden shields and leather armor but, if you upgrade them to a smithy and then a weaponsmith, they end up making enchanted swords and pikes. Upgrades cost money and require resources, which you have to get by clearing out parts of the overland adventuring map. The game ends when you've cleared the whole map, and you get a score based on speed, the size of your town, your resources, your renown, and so forth. Unlike most point and click Action RPGs Hinterlands games sessions are designed to be self contained - you play a game of 1-3 hours and then the character is retired (when the map is cleared) and you can start over. So it's an RPG "lite".

If it sounds complex, it really isnt' when you play it. The problem is that it's one of those games you sit down to play and just don't stop. I was up til 2am the other day (a weekend day though, so I"m not that bad) playing it. So this definitely goes under the Time Waster category. If you're interested, it's available via download or at Best Buy (and I assume elsewhere) - it's $20.

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