Day 23 - The Dark Mod 

If I had to describe myself as a gamer, "fan of the first two parts of Thief" would pretty much summarize it. Sure, I play and like other games (the Gothic series comes to mind), but Thief will always have a special place in my heart, and be one of my greatest inspirations. I remember the moment when I played it for the first time, on my new Pentium. I couldn't believe a game could be that awesome. The immersive sound design, the enthralling story, the believable NPCs and enemies, the great level and mission design, and yes, I even love the graphics.

When I played Thief – Deadly Shadows, the third part of the series, it felt like the magic was gone and couldn't never be brought back. Well, to some extent I was wrong! Not only awesome fan missions for Thief 1 and 2 exist; for quite some time now there is also a mod for (the still good looking) Doom 3, called The Dark Mod. And this might be the best thing since sliced bread. It removes all the stupid stuff normally found in shooters (like guns) and implements everything from the Thief series: a bow with broad arrows, water arrows (for turning lights off), rope arrows and fire arrows, flash bombs, lock picking, leaning, hiding in shadows, and so on.

And then the map makers came. The Dark Mod gives people the tools – the people give you great Thief-inspired missions. And you can download new maps comfortably via the interface, no need to get them via a forum or so. This way it feels like a complete game, especially because some of the missions are really top-notch, even when they don't try to copy the feeling of Thief completely. For example, I played a horror-themed mission where you have to kill one man and are constantly on the verge of getting discovered by unkillable ghosts in a haunted mansion. Although you can/must steal valuables, too, being an assassin doesn't sound like Thief – yet the atmosphere is right, and it was extremely intense. So just don't consider The Dark Mod canonical and you're golden.

One of my favorite ways to play Thief is trying to ghost through the whole game. Which means the AI should never even know I was there – hiding in the shadows, leaving no traces, and not a hint of violence. This doesn't work always (especially with those nasty spiders), but Thief still embraces it, instead of forcing you to use your sword or arrows. All missions offered by The Dark Mod that I played so far are the same, and for that I am thankful. It also shows me that this kind of gameplay is actually loved by other people, too. Nowadays in games "stealth" means "grabbing your enemy from behind, snapping their neck, hiding the corpse" too often. I'm all in for looting, but killing should be optional only.

The only gripe I might have with The Dark Mod are the stiff character animations, but I guess not everyone can afford a motion capturing system. :-P By the way, there is a a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 (called Thievery), also transferring the rich and deep gameplay of Thief into the guts of a simple shooter. It's a bit older, from 2006, but you get multiplayer! Unfortunately I never had the chance to explore this further as I can't find anyone playing with me. Master thieves sure are lonely ...
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Day 22 - Of Guards And Thieves 

Of Guards And Thieves is a game currently work in progress, but open beta and already a lot of fun. The most interesting part about it is that it's an asymmetric multiplayer-only game – either you play as the member of the guards, defending valuable stuff and shooting the thieves, or you're a thief, trying to steal said stuff (and sometimes killing the guards). While the thieves have the ability to hide in shadows and crouch through funnels and windows, the guards mostly have the firepower.

Both parties can use their flashlights, but this only really makes sense for the guards, as they can't see anything in the dark like the thieves. Thieves can use their flashlights for confusing the guards, though (so they have some kind of a disguise as guards). The game generally is pretty dark, but a lot of rooms in the neatly designed maps have light switches – constantly turned off by thieves and turned on by guards. It's already a delight to watch this. ;-)

As I said before, the game is still work in progress, and a lot of parts of Of Guards and Thieves show this. There are only two modes implemented currently: thieves versus guards (thieves have to steal one of six possible items), and survivors versus zombies (where the guards defend a Big Brain, which has to be eaten by the zombies). I didn't notice a big difference between the modes, sadly. There are only a few maps, and at least one of them is far too big for less than 8 players, so you will not see a lot of variation on the servers. A lot of the buttons don't work yet, like "Training" or "Tournaments". But overall the game just feels right and already polished, and you should join me in watching it grow to something awesome. Especially because there are always some servers online.
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Day 21 - DataJack 

I only discovered DataJack very recently on Desura, and at first the graphics threw me off a bit. While the pixel art is more than good enough and atmospheric and the general aesthetics pleasing, the game unfortunately has a fixed resolution which makes it hard to recognize everything. There is a fullscreen launcher, but on my monitor it deforms the pixels (unacceptable!).

As far as a I got into it, DataJack is a cyberpunk adventure where you play a mercenary, doing some tasks one could describe as crimes – the very first mission is about robbing a Burger World, the second one about hacking a TV station. As a big fan of stealth I adore the possibility to crouch and generally being a sneaky guy. Every mission allows a varying number of deaths, sometimes even civilian casualties, and an abstract number of damage and chaos. It's up to you to undermatch these requirements.

It plays a bit like a low-fi version of Deus Ex. You can heal and upgrade your character and equipment in-between missions, in an adorable city hub where you find a clinic, a gun dealer and so on. What I yet have to see is some kind of a bigger story that glues the missions together or explores your motivation, and I'm suspecting there is none. At least you can find some lore about the world in the in-game computers.

What I can testify definitely is that the sound design of the game is great; it actually isn't what you would expect from the retro-craze nowadays and from the graphics of DataJack. Overall it's more realistic, you hear the typical buzzing from machines, and your footsteps can matter when you try to be stealthy (just don't walk on metal surfaces). The music complements the cyberpunk atmosphere perfectly.

I'm eager to try more missions soon! Oh, and did I already tell that the game is free? Unbelievable!
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Day 20 - Space Team 

In short: Best game of 2013! Space team is fun and super hilarious. It triggers all my child memories of role-playing and pretending to be a super hero in a rescue situation. Or watching Star Trek and being fascinated by alien space ships and flashing interfaces. And now you can have these moments back, while meeting other adults on a conference or in the train or in a bar, tablets pulled out and everybody is concentrating as if the incident on the space ship is real.

Space team has no barrier. The game is free and everybody with a smart phone or tablet can connect and play, if the wifi or bluetooth connection works. You don't need to be into games. Space Team is so intuitive through the interface and low requirements, every newbie I watched playing will be in no time into the seriousness it takes to be in a Space Team.

All you need is communication skills and a fast recognition of the techno bubble on your screen. The idea is simple and brilliant: every member gets instructions to pull triggers, rotating switches, press buttons or adjust sliders that are mostly on the interfaces the other players see. So you need to work together – as well as calm down – in order to be able to communicate all the instructions. The more players and the more different languages you have in the team, the more interesting Space Team gets.

Rig Tetasensor to Fluxdriver! Now!!! Also on Hyper Detectors!

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Day 19 - QuestLord 

That damn shard! I still have to find it!

But besides from my personal quest for the typical last artifact, I adore QuestLord, especially for what it is. It doesn't try to innovate where it isn't needed, because games like QuestLord are seldom enough on mobile. It's a neat dungeon crawler in the style of Eye of the Beholder and similar oldschool titles; that means it's turn-based, and you look and walk in cardinal directions only. There is a good amount of story and lore in the game, and a bit of humor now and then. Everything you want from a retro RPG is included, like dwarves, elves and monsters, swamps, mountains and forests.

At the beginning you choose one from three distinct races with varying skill distribution (there are three different skills). Depending on the race you get different gear and start at your home location in the big, connected world. Which I think is super neat, and could have been explored a bit more in the game, like special locations for each character later in the game.

As usual, I chose to be a dwarf, because dwarves are one of the more interesting races in most RPGs – elves are mostly the typical snobbish guys in spandex, and humans, well, they are humans. As a dwarf you don't use magic from the beginning, and it's kinda rewarding to find a spell book later in the game. But mostly I hack my way through the atmospheric pixel-y dungeons dwarf-style, i.e. with melee weapons and without a lot of thought. If you do it right, the difficulty is just right, and if you want a much bigger challenge you can choose a roguelike mode in the start menu, with randomized dungeons and permadeath.

If I had to name some negative points, it would probably be the missing variation in the story (for example, all quests involve killing and/or fetching an item); and I'd also like deeper dialogs – they are mostly one-liners. Oh, and if some of the dungeons also could be a bit more diverse, that would be nice.
Sure, one could mention more things, but that all would be a matter of taste mostly. QuestLord is what it is, a homage to a style of RPGs from long ago, and you can play it on your Android or iPhone. Awesome enough, in my opinion!
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