Mac gamers, we have finally gotten you some AAA games to occupy your time in this week’s column. We’ve also got the latest installment of the Anomaly franchise, which adds a twist to the formula. Finally, we’ll introduce you to the latest game from Ubisoft’s “art” studio on the iPad.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Mac
If you’re mainly a Mac/PC gamer, you likely haven’t played much of the Metal Gear series. Combining melodrama, philosophy, post-modernism, hyper-stylized character design, and stealth combat, it’s one of the strangest mainstream series you’ll find. And now, a spin off of the series called Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is available for the Mac.
You play as Raiden, a cyborg ninja with a long and complicated backstory. You get some hint of it in this game, but a lot of the story assumes that you’ve played other games in the series. The main thrust is that he is taking on a PMC named Desparado that’s desperate to stir up trouble for more business. They’ve got their own cyborgs, and Raiden will have to fight through all of them.
That’s the key difference between this and the Metal Gear Solid games—you aren’t trying to sneak around undetected. This game has more in common with God of War than the Metal Gear series, but it does keep the long cut scenes and battlefield discussions of philosophy. Raiden hacks and slashes his way through anything that moves, including tanks and giant robots.
They key mechanic is the “free-blade mode,” a finishing move that allows you to slice and dice your enemies into hundreds of pieces. Like a gory horror movie, the free-blade mode ends up so over the top that it’s funny. While it adds a unique twist to the game, free-blade mode is less accurate than you might think. Revengeance is already unplayable without a controller, and even with a controller, this mechanic is pretty much just button mashing (“stick-thrashing” is probably the better term).
That said, this is still an amazing game. I really like the story, it continues the story from the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, while the main series has retreated into the past. The game’s visceral combat is more accessible than the main series as well, and if you’re console-phobic, you can check out one of the medium’s best series.
What’s Good: Great story, fun combat.
What Sucks: Blade mechanic lacks precision, which really frustrates in the later stages.
Buy it?: If you’re a Metal Gear fan who fell off in the past, or were just curious check out Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Pick it up on the Mac App Store for $29.99.
Wasteland 2 – Mac
Wasteland is a classic RPG with a long legacy—we reviewed the re-release of the original earlier this year—and the sequel is finally here after a hugely successful Kickstarter.
Wasteland brings back the difficult party-centric RPG—think more along the lines of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter rather than Final Fantasy. You have to create four characters and choose everything about them. You have a large variety of customization options at your disposal with this game. In fact, if you’re looking to head straight into the post-apocalyptic rabbit hole, you can even write your character’s backstories. This is the type of RPG that’s become less common in the modern era.
Once you get your party set up, you’re dropped into a Ranger training mission that doubles as a tutorial and then sent out to trace a strange radio signal from the wastes. Don’t expect the game to pull any punches: I had to start a pretty early battle over three or four times just to keep all the members of my party alive. You’ll need to space out your party, use tactics, and think through combat in this game. This is punishing but rewarding, just finishing the first quest was extremely rewarding.
Wasteland was released for Windows and OS X simultaneously, a practice every Mac gamer should try and support if possible.
What’s Good: Excellent modernization of classic RPG style and gameplay.
What Sucks: Not accessible to novices.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of the old-school RPG, or even the old Fallout, check out Wasteland 2. Pick it up on inExile’s site for $39.99.
Smarter Than You – iOS (Universal)
If you’re looking to play a more interesting version of Rock Paper Scissors, Eighty Eight Games has the game for you. Called Smarter Than You, the game has you playing one of three attacks: an arrow, a sword, or a counter attack. You accompany these with a sentence you build, which you can use to taunt or encourage your opponent, or to bluff about your next play.
The whole game plays turn by turn via Game Center. The game is free, but after you finish a game you can tip your opponent extra XP by making an in-app purchase. This might be the best use of in-app purchases I have ever seen. There’s no paying to speed up time, small time window events, or any other trick that free-to-play games rely on to generate revenue. Instead, Smart Than You relies on your generosity to donate to both the developers and your opponent.
I don’t think that this will have the staying power of 1000000, Eighty Eight Games’ previous hit. It is, however, a quick little distraction you can play with your friends via Game Center without being dragged into in-app purchase hell.
What’s Good: Fun game concept, amazing free to play concept.
What Sucks: Game isn’t going to hold your attention long.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a fun distraction, try Smarter Than You. Pick it up for free on the App Store.
Anomaly: Defenders – iOS
The Anomaly series has been a fixture in the App Store for the last few years: These games were of the reverse tower defense genre, where you build a convoy to get through a maze of alien towers. Anomaly: Defense picks up after the end of the second in the Anomaly seres where your character refuses to pull an Ender Wiggin, and has you helping the aliens escape from genocide. You are now building the towers to hold off the humans long enough for the aliens to escape each area.
The story reversal is an interesting idea, but tower defense games don’t exactly enthrall me, and Anomaly: Defense doesn’t do much to capture my interest. I’ve seen games innovate in Tower Defense genre, and Anomaly: Defense just feels pretty underwhelming by comparison. If I was more invested in the story, it’d likely appeal to me more. That said, I think that fans of the series might find a lot to like in Defenders. The tech tree is pretty impressive as well, providing some incentive to keep replaying levels to get more weapons to use.
What’s Good: Tech tree, story.
What Sucks: Doesn’t do much to elevate beyond just another tower defense game.
Buy it?: Fans of the Anomaly series will find the next installment with Defenders. Pick it up on the App Store for $4.99
Valiant Hearts: The Great War – iPad
When you make a game about the first World War, you’re going to have to be careful. That war was notoriously brutal, which is why even though you’ve likely killed Nazis in dozens of games, you won’t find many about trench warfare. Valiant Hearts manages to dull the more horrible aspects of the war, while still trying to tell a human story.
You play two different characters, Emile and Freddie. Emile is a French solider who is wounded and forced to serve as a cook to a German division. Freddie is an American fighting for the French on a mission of revenge against the Germans. The story includes correspondence from the people the characters are based on, which adds to the realism.
The game still features some of the more gruesome parts of the war—trenches and poison gas—Though it serves as the background to the story. The game instead focuses on Emile and Freddie’s adventures: The pair must rescue Emile’s son-in-law and defeat a German baron.
The two also have the cutest dog in video game history. Seriously, look up at the screenshots. Just look at him.
The app includes the first episode of the game; you can unlock the rest of the tale for $8.99. You can also buy the episodes individually for $3.99. I don’t think that it will take long for Valiant Hearts to win you over.
What’s Good: Beautiful art style, excellent story telling.
What Sucks: People looking for a traditional war game might be put off by the adventure genre.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a game with great story telling, check out Valiant Hearts. Pick it up on the App Store for $4.99.