The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Valve

Steam Winter Sale 2016

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Josh Billings

The 2016 Steam Winter Sale ended about two hours ago at the time of posting, and today, while I’ve technically got the day off on account of a Bank Holiday, I’ve spent much of the morning working on work-related things. The last and only time I wrote about a winter Steam Sale was back in 2014, right before I took off for a two-week vacation in Taiwan and Hong Kong. During that sale, I picked up Valkyria Chronicles alone, and it turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played through. This time around, I decided to pick up Far Cry 4 and Sim City 4: the former was because I was interested in playing an open-world shooter, while the latter, I decided to reacquire on Steam so that I would not be required to insert a CD-ROM into my computer every time I wanted to build cities (and because my MacBook pro lacks a CD drive). Besides these games, there were no other titles that caught my eye. During the course of the sale, I also accumulated a large number of trading cards, crafting a level two Steam Awards badge, plus badges for SUPERHOTDeus Ex: Mankind Divided and Valkyria Chronicles in the process. Having beaten all of the games I bought through the course of 2016, in 2017, I imagine that between Sim City 4Far Cry 4 and Battlefield 1, plus the other titles I’ve been longing to play through again, I will have plenty on my plate from the gaming perspective to keep me occupied.

  • I’ve found that Steam’s current way of doing things during a sale, by offering trading cards for exploring one’s discovery queue (and then voting on community events) is the best way of doing things: no longer do I have to vote every eight hours or run the risk of losing cards. This year, the community event was The Steam Awards, where players can vote for their favourite games. Some of the titles I’m fond of, including Portal 2 and DOOM, made the finalists for the awards.

  • Just Cause 3 and Grand Theft Auto V remain high on the list of games I’d like to try out, but because they’re open world, I imagine that I would probably not find the time to beat them. At present, the only true open world games in my library besides Far Cry 4 is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which I picked up during the Summer of 2013 for a song and still have not beaten yet.

  • With the crafting of my SUPERHOT badge, I managed to efficiently use all of the money in my Steam wallet. I entered the badge-crafting spree this year with exactly zero dollars and zero cents in my Steam Wallet, sold off all of my excess trading cards, and bought enough cards to complete three badges, returning my wallet’s funds back to zero. Besides the SUPERHOT and Mankind Divided badges, I finally got a badge for Valkyria Chronicles, as well.

  • I’m fond of including profile screenshots as the closing image to these posts mainly because they show snapshots of my Steam profile through time. Perusing earlier posts show how my page has changed through the years, and also give indication of how icons to the applications I use change. Here, I’m rocking the Alicia wallpaper I got from crafting the Valkyria Chronicles, and she remains one of my favourite characters in the game from both a gameplay and writing perspective.

My purchase of Sim City 4 presents with it an opportunity to do a new series of posts for 2017: I’ve done some basic strategy posts in the past, but have never really shown off my cities. Since I upgraded my computer back in 2013, my old cities were lost, and until now, I’ve not bothered to reinstall Sim City 4. Thus, to follow my quest to build a region-filling megalopolis, I will be dropping by on occasion to showcase how the city is doing, and initially, will be playing through Sim City 4 without any modifications. Of old, I used to have mods that enabled for better pathfinding, increased transportation options even further and provided new landmark buildings. Once I fill out a majority of the tiles in the region, I will reinstall some of the modifications and see about extending the game’s features further, but until then, it’ll be interesting to see how my cities progress. On the Far Cry 4 end, I will go through the campaign and explore Kyrat at a methodical pace. There will be a handful of posts about that, as well: it’s time to conclude reminiscing about this year’s Steam Winter Sale and begin enjoying the titles I’ve picked up.

Steam Winter Sale 2014

“The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.” —James Cash Penney

I believe this is the first time I’ve done a talk on the Winter Steam Sale: last year, I picked up Trials Revolution and Bioshock Infinite during the sale: the latter went on a 75 percent off sale, and I sold one of my old Salvaged TF2 crates for twenty dollars, which gave me sufficient funds to pick up Bioshock Infinite. At the time of writing, I’ve beaten the latter, and I’m probably a quarter of the way through the former, which is a consequence of the classic “Steam sale allows players to have more games than they can realistically play” syndrome. It’s Winter 2014 now, which means now it a good time as any to consider which of the titles I have actually made a substantial amount of progress in. The answer is not surprising: “very little”: between The Stanley Parable, Wolfire Overgrowth, Receiver, Skullgirls, Tomb Raider: UnderworldMagicka and Borderlands 2, I’ve played through and gotten several endings in The Stanley Parable, gotten to chapter 3 in Magicka and are presently level 12 in Borderlands 2. I’ve also become accomplished at reloading the weapons in Receiver, and as Overgrowth is still in development, I haven’t played through it much. Skullgirls and Tomb Raider remain completely untouched, and I added Crysis WarheadGo! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ and DEFCON to my library through the autumn Adventure sale. Because I love shooters, Warhead is done, and I’ve also gotten halfway through Go! Go! Nippon!, so I should have some talks for those out at some point in the future.

  • Valkyria Chronicles was not on sale during the first day of the winter sale, and I was considering purchasing the game at full price had it not gone on sale. However, by a curious stroke of luck, the title went on sale for 25% off on Friday: I had arrived at the lab and was loading the textures to my cell model, as well as looking over a term paper that I was trying to finish before the deadline. Upon learning about the sale, my first inclination was to purchase the game.

  • However, Friday was anything but conventional: I ended up heading downtown with a friend so he could purchase an HG Tieren All Region Type, and we subsequently stopped for poutine. I subsequently proceeded to finish the paper, and before turning in for the evening, picked up Valkyria Chronicles. The game is now retailing at full price again, but I imagine that it could go back on sale during the encore sale on the final day.

  • I was able to get all of the cards on fairly short notice because I was crafting badges at a fairly high volume, enough to go from level 16 to level 19. Coupled with the purchase of Valkyria Chronicles and some trades, I got all the cards quite quickly. The setup this year, where one vote earns one badge, was much more manageable than the system employed in previous years. Thus, I could go watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and enjoy a dinner with the extended family without any concern for missing vote deadlines.

  • At the end of the day, I’ve got Valkyria Chronicles on discount, the Holiday Sale 2014 badge and on top of that, are level twenty now. Leveling up from here on out will be exceptionally difficult, so aside from the level 5 Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ badge, I’ve also set my sights on a level 3 Valkyria Chronicles badge. This will be the final post between now and 2015, so to all the readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

One would imagine that, with such a vast pile of games, I would probably pass on the Winter 2014 Steam Sale, and they would be correct, were it not for the fact that Valkyria Chronicles went on sale for 25 percent off on December 19. I’ve been interested in playing this game for quite some time (ever since I watched the anime last summer), although it had been available for the PlayStation III only. Back in November, a PC port changed all that, and the game is supposed to handle quite well on the PC. To this end, I aim to complete Tomb Raider before Valentines’ Day so that I may begin Valkyria Chronicles after that. The game is supposed to have around 40 hours of game time, so this will be fun, and I anticipate beating it (hopefully!) by the end of summer 2015. If I make it in a reasonable ways by the time the 2015 Steam Summer Sale rolls around, I’ll probably pick up one of Wolfenstein: The New Order or Call of Duty: Black Ops as my summer shooter, but we’ll see what happens. What I do know is that it’s time to roll out with the Edelweiss and decimate any Imperial forces that I encounter. On another, unrelated note, I’ve finally reached level 20 in Steam, and my remaining focus now is to acquire a level 5 Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ badge for the sole purpose of bragging rights.

Steam Summer Sale 2014

The Steam Summer 2014 sale has been over for a little less than an hour, and we’ve now come a full circle from last year’s Steam Summer sale. Since then, much has happened from my end: I’m now rolling into a MSc of Computer Science in the fall, and half the summer has already elapsed. In that time, I’ve picked up the basics to Unity and learned some C# in the process. Last year’s Steam Summer sale, I picked up four titles and had a blast with them, although the backlog endures: in fact, I’ve only just gotten around to playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Of course, this summer sale saw some impressive deals, as well, and overall, after some forty dollars worth of purchases later, I ended up with The Stanley Parable, Wolfire Overgrowth, Receiver, Skullgirls, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Magicka and Borderlands 2. This is rather more than I purchased last summer, and I doubt I’ll be able to beat everything by the end of this summer, or next summer, for that matter: I have enough games to last well through to next year. Thus, I am now presented with the classic conundrum: will I ever get around to playing some of the titles I purchased (or even finish the titles from last summer)? Given that Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Skyrim and Borderlands 2 are not typical AAA shooters with six-hour campaigns, it’ll be unlikely that I manage to succeed before the summer is over.

  • At the time of writing, I’m level fifteen, and are 24 XP points away from reaching level sixteen. The main incentive to level up now is to get at the extra showcase box so that I can show off my favourite achievements.

  • Compared to last year, I purchased more games, but I should also be good for the next while as far as buying things during Steam sales should go: there’s enough content here to last me at least two years (with the way I progress). I probably won’t buy anything during the Winter 2014 sale this year, as I more or less have everything that I was looking to buy since last year (MagickaTrials: EvolutionBorderlands 2).

  • After initial rumours that the teams were rigged to win fairly, Red Team won consecutively for four days in a row. I was assigned onto Pink Team after crafting a badge for Portal 2, and ultimately, Pink Team was able to disrupt Red Team’s streak. The setup allowed me to craft two Summer 2014 badges, which are cosmetic but do add a bit of customisation to one’s Steam profile.

  • With all these games on my plate, Battlefield 3 is something I will set aside for the present. Besides the new games, I’m also doing more pencil sketches and have finally made progress in my books from last year. Over the weekend, in a strange twist of déjà vu from last year, I went out for dinner at The Green Chili for Indian cuisine, then watched How To Train Your Dragon 2). I also finished building the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn Gundam (Destory Mode) model that I had acquired during Otafest 2014. We now reach the halfway point of summer, and with the time remaining, besides hanging out with friends for wings, I should also resume biking.

Now, that isn’t to say everything is doom and gloom: from the looks of things, I have enough games to last the next while. Moreover, games like The Stanley Parable, Magicka and Skullgirls can be played at a more casual pace. For the present, I’ll probably alternate between Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Magicka. At some point later this summer (say, late July to early August), I’ll start Borderlands 2 and Tomb Raider: Underworld (after I find a software for capturing screenshots: Steam Overlay doesn’t work with the latter). I will also find time to get back into Skyrim and finish the main quest line near the beginning of August. Over the course of the sale, I also was able to level up from rank twelve to rank fifteen by crafting badges. Through voting and contributing points to pink team, I contributed 24 points, acquired 26 cards to craft a level two Summer 2014 badge, and with that, I’m getting closer to rank twenty (which means an additional showcase for my profile). I understand that there was quite a bit of heated discussion on social media surrounding the whole “earn points for your team” mechanic, but at the end of the day, what really matters is the sale, and that for now, I should aim to complete at least Deus Ex: Human RevolutionMagicka and Tomb Raider: Underworld before term starts in September.

Half-Life 2 Episode Two: A reflection

Half-Life 2 Episode One was good, but Episode Two was phenomenal. After the train derails, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance attempt to make their way to the White Forest base to deliver a code that will collapse the Citadel’s portal. En route, Alyx is mortally wounded by a Hunter, powerful and resilient enemies with a flechette cannon and wickedly sharp claws. The player fights through an antlion colony to retrieve the extract necessary to heal Alyx, before driving through the countryside to reach White Forest ahead of the Combine. Once the rocket is launched, Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor, and the game ends after Dog drives off the Advisors. Of all the Half-Life 2 games, Episode Two is set in the countryside and therefore feels a lot more open compared to its predecessors, even though it is as linear as Episode One and Half-Life 2. My first experience with this game was back in March 2008; after finishing my chemistry, English and calculus coursework, I spent the remaining three days of Spring Break playing through this game, although looking back, I feel that the experience is far more enjoyable with a larger screen.

  • Episode Two is an amazing experience all around, but its most infamous achievement is the “Little Rocket Man”, which is notoriously difficult to complete. I might go back and try to get it later, but for the present, I’m occupied with Battlefield 3. So…the preview for posts are as follows: I’ll have a final impressions post for Infinite Stratos² and Non Non Biyori by Christmas Eve at the latest.

  • I’ve omitted the antlion colony level from the screenshots simply because those levels were a shooting gallery, and I was admittedly having too much fun squishing antlion larvae to obtain screenshots. Before picking up the vehicle, the player must take down both the antlion guard and the antlion guardian. There are many explosive barrels scattered throughout the region, so even if one is short on ammunition, it’s possible to make use of these barrels and the Gravity gun to take down these mini-bosses.

  • The remnants of the Citadel can be seen way out in the countryside. I’m about to reach the radio station and fight the Hunters for the first time. Guides recommend using the energy ball to take them down quickly, but the shotgun is also effective. Using bunny-hopping to perform hit and fade assaults, the Hunters are no match for my über-micro skills.

  • This abandoned farm is where the player first encounters a Combine Advisor: be prepared to be impressed by the Source engine when one of the Advisors uses telekinetic powers to crush a barrel. Even the super-powered Gravity gun can’t do that.

  • The mountains and atmosphere in these parts are somewhat similar to that of the Rocky View County region during autumn, when grey skies and the vast prairies end in distant mountains. It’s a very calming place to be, even when it’s overcast. Here, another assault chopper pursues the player, but upon reaching a Resistance base, there is a chance to square off against it using the Gravity gun and the chopper’s own mines.

  • This is the White Forest Inn. More Hunters and a Combine unit show up. I recall that Sunday in July when I had taken down the last Hunter; the basement television was on and the news was broadcasting Prince George of Cambridge’s birth. Though I am not too terribly interested in the British Monarchy, the event itself was particularly noteworthy from a historical perspective, and so, this part of the game will forever remind me of this event. It’s been some five years since I last played this, so I don’t have any memories attached to this part of the game from back then.

  • The Magnusson device is the ultimate weapon against Striders but requires precision aiming to operate. During the last mission in Episode Two, the player is tasked with defending the White Forest base long enough for the preparations for a rocket launch to be completed.

  • It looks like one could take out a Strider with a single shot from the USP Match here; in a sense, this is now possible. After sticking Magnusson device to the Strider’s underside, the pistol is the recommended weapon to use: the 9mm rounds are enough to trigger the device, and the pistol has a reasonable firing rate. It is very satisfying to bring down the Striders using this weapon.

  • As the battle wears on, the Striders begin targeting the buildings housing the teleporters. The vehicle can carry one Magnusson device at any given point, so it is imperative to make every shot count. Hunters escort the Striders: they represent additional firepower and should be dealt with quickly, although priority should go towards taking out the Striders.

  • After the last of the Striders are downed, the player has the honour of launching the rocket. The codes the satellite transmit are successful in shutting down the Combine super-portal, but there isn’t a happy ending: Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor, leaving behind more questions than answers. With the release date for Episode Three is nowhere in sight, I have no idea what the Borealis’ role is, or even where the next game will take place. Over the past few years, April Fools’ jokes surrounding Episode Three have been made, leading some fans to believe the game was available for sale for 29.99 at one point.

At present, Half-Life 2 Episode Two reminds me of two moments during the summer. The first memory was on July 20, when I am driving down a railway track to a Resistance hideout to get the radar installed. I was set to go on a short outing to Canmore at this time: for most of Summer 2013, the floods completely threw my hopes of travelling in the mountains out the window. I had made donations to help flood victims and also to flip the bird at the weather for having caused the flood to begin with, but by late July, when I had reached this point in the game, much of the Trans-Canada highway had been repaired. This trip succeeded in giving me a brief  but much-needed respite from work. I spent a sunny afternoon in the mountains, partaking in a hike before having afternoon tea at the Communitea teahouse. A few days later, on July 22, while the media was buzzing with announcement about Prince George of Cambridge’s birth, I reached the White Forest Inn. Admittedly, I am not particularly interested in the Royal family, but the announcement meant that the mission “Under the Radar” would be associated with this historic event in my books. I beat Half-Life 2 Episode Two a few days later. It’s been some five years since I first played through the Half-Life 2 episodes, and although clues about Aperture Science’s Borealis are tantalising, Half-Life 2 Episode Three or Half-Life 3 show no signs of release anytime soon. So shrouded in mystery these games’ statuses are, that I’m willing to bet that I’ll probably be a few years into my full-time occupation before it comes out.

Half-Life 2 Episode One: A reflection

Released in June 2006, Half-Life 2 Episode One is set immediately after the events of Half-Life 2: Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance return to the Citadel to stablise the reactor, before leaving via train. The train derails, and the two fight there way through the remains of City 17, eventually aiding other survivors in their evacuation. Recalling the friend who lent me the episodes back in the Spring of 2008, I was in several of his classes during my secondary education, and he expressed boredom that very few individuals at our school had actually played these instalments because of hardware limitations. At the time, the Dell XPS 420 had been in service for a year, replacing an eight-year-old IBM desktop (rocking the 600 MHz AMD Duron processor), and thus, I was now wielding one of the most powerful desktops of anyone at my high school. With the means to play the game, I installed his copies of the game and shot through them during the Spring Break. My initial impressions were positive: the episodes captured the spirits and atmosphere in as effectively as Half-Life 2, retaining all of the gameplay mechanics and more impressively, giving Alyx a far greater role as the player’s companion. After beating Episode One, I would, in subsequent years, remember it for the Citadel and long stretches of underground fighting.

  • Before I go ahead with this post, I’m going to mention that every screenshot (except one) features the Gravity gun because the play-through I took screenshots on was also the play-through I decided to go for the “One free bullet” challenge. I got it, of course, and I’ll immediately clarify that using the shotgun once to break the lock works only if one uses the primary fire. Using the crowbar, grenades and RPG rounds are perfectly acceptable.

  • The challenge isn’t so bad initially, when all one has is the Gravity gun (or the super-powered version of the Gravity gun). Armed with a gun that can perform what is essentially magic makes the first part of Episode One entertaining (and perhaps a little too easy). There is one thing I long to try with the super-powered Gravity gun: I’d love to see if I can kill barnacles with it.

  • One viable trick to surviving is to use the flashlight and direct Alyx’s fire towards hostiles. The gravity gun can also punt headcrabs and antlions, although here, the latter will spawn endlessly until a car is pushed on top of the spawn points to block them. Apparently, the term parkade is strictly a Canadian term: in the United States, they call them garages, and they’re known as car parks in the United Kingdom.

  • I included this image solely to illustrate just how dark it is at some places in the game. The darkness makes it difficult to figure out where enemies are, and armed with the Gravity gun and a crowbar, death from carelessness is always just around the corner.

  • I spent the entire time waiting for the lift bunny-hopping around the map with flares or explosives in hand, lighting up all zombies that were spawning. This is considered to be one of the toughest sections in the game for the low visibility and large number of enemies. Even when playing with firearms, ammunition is short, making accuracy and smart play important.

  • No matter how dystopian the outside world looks, I prefer to be above ground rather than underground with all the zombies.

  • According to Valve, this hospital was inspired by one in Chernobyl, from which the surgery lamps and the overall white and yellow color scheme were derived. The tile work, high archways and metallic bedsteads give the institutional an old European feeling, making it an unnerving place to be: in general, even though they are home to some of the world’s most cutting edge medical technologies, they are unsettling, and old hospitals are doubly so simply because they represent an era when medical science wasn’t as well-developed, leading patients to suffer in often degrading conditions.

  • The hospital basement is partially flooded and barnacles block critical passages. The crowbar is thankfully allowed by the “One free bullet” achievement, whereas the Gravity gun challenge in Ravenholm forbade use of anything other than the Gravity gun. Of course, the former is more challenging since it applies to the entire game rather than one mission.

  • I got a bunch of Facebook messages telling me that a gathering with some friends was cancelled owing to an impending storm in July. With the event cancelled, I decided to game and made it to the train station. For a moment, recalled that night in March 2008 when I beat Episode One for the first time. I had spent most of the Spring Break studying chemistry and physics, but nonetheless, high school was a period characterised by a lot of free time. The content isn’t particularly difficult by any stretch.

  • The portal explosion causes the train to derail. What happens next are the events in Episode Two. I’ve already beaten the game once using only the Gravity gun, and on my next play-through, I’ll allow myself the luxury of using firearms. This achievement just goes to show how versatile the Source Engine is, if players can finish the game by firing exactly one bullet. I know I’ve gone on a fair amount about this achievement, but that’s because I’m in the top 97.6 percentile of players who are pro enough to have the achievement unlocked, even if it means that around 33 600 of 1.4 million players (as of December 3, 2008) actually have the achievement.

When I caught wind of the fact that Episode One and Episode Two were on sale for 2.49 each during the summer, I sprang on the chance to purchase the episodes. The episodes are still as immersive as they were when I first played them (perhaps even more so, because I’m now experiencing it on a 24-inch 1080p display). It was July 13 when I had beaten Half-Life 2, and I recall recieving word that a gathering was to be rescheduled on account of a thunderstorm when I had reached the train station in the final mission. I decided to finish the game, since the event had been moved, and upon completion, I was granted the “One Free Bullet Achievement”. I had used the shotgun to blast open the lock and spent the entire remainder of the game using the Gravity Gun and crowbar, but wondered if the shotgun’s spread counted as more than one bullet; however, here, I confirmed that the shotgun or pistol could be used to unlock the achievement. This accounts for why every single image I have depicts me with the gravity gun, crowbar or RPG (explosives are allowed). The achievement may be difficult to unlock because some portions of the game feature hordes of zombies, but there’s a solution for that: Alyx will fire at zombies illuminated by the flashlight, illustrating the strengths of the behaviours of NPCs in the game. At the end of the day, this achievement is a worthy one and thanks to the game mechanics, isn’t that difficult to unlock, even though records suggest only 2.4% of all people who own Half-Life 2 Episode One actually have the achievement unlocked.