J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Adventures in Kickstarter: A gamer’s take.

A few years ago, something happened that turned the video game industry on its ear.

I remember it vividly. A few of my gaming buddies asked me if I was going to back the new Double Fine game, and sent me a link to a site called Kickstarter. I’d heard of it in passing, but not enough to really know much of anything about it. As I quickly learned, Tim Schafer (the man behind such great games as Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, and many others at Lucasarts) wanted to make a game. Game publishers did not want to pay him to make it. So instead, he turned to the fans by way of Kickstarter, telling them that if they could raise $400,000, then he would make the game for them.

Would YOU buy a game from this man? I would.

He ended up getting over $3,000,000. A message was sent that day by fans: they wanted games from creators and genres that traditional publishers didn’t want to back anymore. And if they had to pay through Kickstarter to get those games, than so be it. As Chris Avellone said once “It cuts out the middleman. It lets us make the game directly for you, and not have to worry about being beholden to investors.”

Yes. Investors. Somewhere along the way, the business of video games started sounding a LOT like the business of movies.

Of course, the campaign to make the game that would eventually be known as Broken Age was only the beginning. Once Schafer proved the concept, many other gamemakers stepped forward with similar offers, and also succeeded. I myself backed quite a few of these projects. I thought I might discuss and rate my experiences with them here, to give myself and anyone else reading an idea of how viable this Kickstarter trend is toward making actual great games.

Shadowrun Returns

Why did I back it? Even though it was not the first Kickstarter campaign, it was in fact the first Kickstarter game I backed that came out. I grew up playing Shadowrun on my Super Nintendo, and when Jordan Weisman (the guy who made that game) said he wanted to make another one just like the SNES version, I was on-board in a hurry.

How much? $30.

My impressions: It really does have the feel of an updated Shadowrun game. It’s got the heady mix of sci-fi/fantasy, the dark and gloomy alternate future, and the turn based strategy I knew I was paying for. I rolled a Street Samurai, put my attribute points into strength, body, and dexterity, and wrecked everything with my katana and shotgun combo. I had a lot of fun with it. That being said, there were polish issues. Saving your game was an awkward endeavor, in-game environments seemed sparse and lacking the polish and detail I was hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s retro-gorgeous.

But the bigger problem at hand, though, was that for an RPG, it was incredibly short. Like, 10 hours in a genre known to go at least 50 kind of short. I remember thinking “Really? I’m at the end already?”. It made sense in the context of the story, but I remember being disappointed at how abbreviated it was.

That all changed, though, with the release of the second campaign: Dragonfall. It had everything a good RPG needs: an excellent story, memorable characters, lots of quests, and choices*. And the best part? Since I helped back the game, I got this second campaign (which really was another game entirely) for free as a bonus. While this game was not particularly long either (20-30 hours or so), it was much more satisfying.

*A role playing game without choices isn’t a role playing game at all. It’s just a story in video game form.

Was it worth it? $30 for about 40 hours of game plus the nostalgia trip? Definitely! Dead Man’s Switch was about a *** game, but Dragonfall was a solid ****.

The Banner Saga

I was sold as soon as I saw the art style, honestly.

Why did I back it? It looked like the love child of Fire Emblem and The Oregon Trail, conceptualized by a trio of guys who used to work at Bioware. I was on board as soon as I learned of it.

How much? $10. Yep. Only $10.

My impressions: I got exactly what I paid for… with a few wrinkles. The story was well written, and the interactive story points where you make decisions, and see the consequences of your choices, are all superb. You never know when a seemingly innocuous decision will get one of your most loyal companions killed when they’re not even on the battlefield.

But… about that battlefield…

The game fell short in the actual battle gameplay. Most games of the genre, like Fire Emblem, X-COM, or even Shadowrun, spice up the basic grid based game of chess by changing the environment. Sometimes you’ll be fighting in a busy city. Sometimes you’ll be in a castle. Sometimes you’ll be in a plain old wide open field. It’s important for a variety of reasons: you have to change your strategies to suit the environment you’re in, to give you a sense of progression, among others.

The Banner Saga did none of this. 95% of the battles you will fight will be on the same basic grid, with MAYBE a couple of objects here and there.

The gameplay is chess inspired, so it fits, I suppose.

As a result, it was the odd game where I liked everything EXCEPT the game itself. Because it got repetitive. Here’s hoping the sequel fixes that. As is, this game gets a **.

Was it worth it? For ten bucks? Yeah, I was fine with paying that.

Wasteland 2

Why did I back it? The sequel to Wasteland, the great grandaddy of the Fallout series? Why wouldn’t I back it?

How much? $30.

My impressions: The game is great. Much like the first two games, it was a turn based strategy game, with one minor twist: you got to build your entire party of Rangers to traipse the wastelands, and dispense justice on mutants, zombies, and oversized scorpions. I always have a ton of fun theory-crafting and building my entire group from the ground up, so this was a huge plus. There was plenty of quests (with choices to make!), plenty of loot, plenty of challenge… this is a great game.

It also has giant robo-scorpions, too.

However, it was also riddled with a bunch of bugs that made it crash. It gave my PC crashes that were so nasty, I had to do a hard restart every time. Nonetheless, it was a great adventure, and I really enjoyed it. I’d give it a solid ***, **** if not for the bugs.

Was it worth it? Heck yes, it was. I’m a sucker for the post-apocalyptic genre.


This post is already running long, so I’ll resume this series next week. Happy Friday, everyone!



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This entry was posted on April 17, 2015 by in Reviews, Video games and tagged , , , , , , .
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