Wed Aug 25 23:17:19 EDT 2010

wherein you should buy a game immediately

There isn't quite anything like Plain Sight.

The game is an indie FPS about robots with swords who kill each other and then blow up.

I hate falling back on the old cliche of starting off with a confusing description, but, well. Plain Sight is different. By no means derivative, which is not something you can say of the AAA titles, as I have complained of, at length, previously.

Plain Sight is cel-shaded pretty, in the zero-budget indie way; sparse, elegant visuals as a result of not having enough money to clutter up the screen.

Its instructive to compare, as in, "one of these things is not like the other", the orbital "mechanics" of Plain Sight to the venerable Orbiter, which came out ten years ago, and has been succeeded by... nothing at all. If you're one of the two or three people who want a dead accurate spaceflight simulator, then you download Orbiter, and you'll damn well be happy with it. It reminds me of nothing more than the people who were looking for a semi-realistic tactical FPS, started playing Counter-Strike in 2003, and then... never stopped.

To this day, CS 1.6 is the third most played multiplayer game on Steam. The third. A seven year old game.

The second most played game is Counter-Strike:Source.

Plain Sight is not a genre installment, like the endless list of AAA first person shooters who periodically wash over /v/, it is a genre definer.

You want a train simulator? You play RailWorks. You want a war simulator? You play Arma II. You want to play a tank simulator? You play Kharkov 1942. (Or something a bit more old school.) You want Starcraft, but less ugly? You play Starcraft 2, which I'm not going to link, because it's friggin' Starcraft 2.

And if you want to play something like Plain Sight, you're... pretty much stuck with Plain Sight. There is, again, nothing like it.

It is beautiful, extraordinary, but it's not perfect. For one, the game mechanics are oddly tilted.

When one of the aforementioned robots kills another robot with an aforementioned sword, it gains a unit of energy, which is the unit of scoring. Energy is points. But those are not points in the bank, no, in order to convert them into score you have to self-destruct.

The aforementioned blowing up.

Of course, if that was it, then you would immediately kill yourself after scoring a unit of energy. Except that if you manage to kill someone in your explosion, then you get twice as many points. Kill two people? Three times as many points.

And if you're killed before exploding, then whoever kills you gets all your energy.

This is the diabolical twist. You want to get as many points as possible before exploding, and catch as many people as possible in the explosion, except there's an excruciating delay between pressing the kamikaze button and actually detonating, a delay during which you are completely helpless. And the more unbanked energy you have, the bigger you become, and the brighter and more obvious your vapor trail becomes.

So far, so good. No, well, deviously twisted, but whatever. But here's where Beatnik stumbles.

Once banked, energy permanently counts towards your final score. But you can then spend that money on perks, like faster movement speed, double jumping, and longer lock-on radius.

This is absolutely poisonous. An upgraded player is significantly more dangerous, and the people with lots of banked energy are precisely those who you don't want to have gameplay advantages, since they're the ones who are the most skilled.

This is bad. It gets worse.

There is absolutely no visual difference between an unupgraded player and a player who can jump in the air twice, float, kill you from twice the normal charge distance, and erect an unbreakable energy shield at command.

Good games developers, like, uh, Valve, go to enormous lengths to make it easy to identify different types of threats at long range, mostly because it is very not fun to gamble on how dangerous an enemy is.

Despite these enormous difficulties, Plain Sight is still fun. And here's some good news: Until midnight, August 27th, it's only two dollars.

You can pay more than that for a candy bar. Hell, you can pay more than that for a see through horse that doesn't actually exist.

So buy Plain Sight, and do it now.

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