This is day one of my Lent 2013 Steam Game Back Catalogue Challenge.
A.R.E.S. – Extinction Agenda is a side-scrolling shooter – you play Ares, a robot immune to a weird gas that has troubled at least two expeditions to the….the place the game is set. You are despatched to rescue the survivors, now being held hostage by robots. There are platformy elements, a double jump, different weapons, suits, upgrades, and you can build things out of the scrap you collect as you kill enemies.
There are two difficulty modes – easy and hard. When going through menus before I started, I chose Easy. However, when the game started, it asked me to reconsider, and properly guilted me into choosing Hard.
Ten minutes into the game, I died. I had been struggling with the keyboard & mouse combo, and generally being useless at this kind of game. So I plugged in the XBox controller and tried again.
It was suddenly differently hard. I didn’t get as far, sadly. Tragically. Humiliatingly. I suspect the next 40 days may be one long, awkward embarrassment. It feels like it should be a twin stick friendly kind of game – but I suddenly wanted three thumbs to be able to play it properly. Presumably this just meant that I was missing a trick. I unplugged the controller, resolving to attempt to accustom myself to WASD again. Later.
Meanwhile, Polly had been watching a video of a weird Japanese cake making kit on YouTube. It looked more compelling, somehow, though at this stage I was probably still only three normal person minutes into the game.
I obviously do not make a very good robot. It was at this point that I decided to watch the trailer on Steam. Action! Boss battles! I hadn’t met a boss yet. Just a couple of turrets and maintenance robots – yet somehow even these had bested me. I watched the action on the video and just figured this game is obviously not for me.
It was time for lunch.
Later that night, after Polly was in bed, I figured I’d better give it another go. I started right from the beginning so I could ensure I wasn’t missing anything tutorial-wise.
Suddenly it all clicked. I didn’t suck so bad. I didn’t die so much. I worked out how to do the double jump less cack-handedly. I flew through a couple of boss battles. That was better! I got some new weapons, I discovered the database, and I worked out how the hit combos added up (no, I’m not sure how I managed to misunderstand before). The enemies respawn in each area, so you can walk up and down a corridor, blasting like mad, gaining massive combos and loads of materials for building repair kits and grenades, which feels like a bit of a cheat really. However, having a bit of a cheat is probably quite essential for as terrible a player as me.
Now I’ve spent about an hour in total in-game. Sadly, half of that was my daytime bumble. The second half was MUCH more fun.
Clearly, some games are not ideal for when you have a toddler sat on your knee surfing YouTube.
Would I play it again? Yes, actually! It ended up fun. I suspect there will be a skill ceiling beyond which I will be unable to pass, but it was certainly an enjoyable ride once I worked it out. Had I not made myself go back to it this evening to make up the hour I promised to spend per game, I suspect I’d have never given it another go.