Wasting Time With Neon!
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance announced for PC literally made me jump out of bed. As in I literally jumped out of bed and shouted "WAHOO!" Literally. Klonoa fans know that feel.
So, I'm going to buy your game. Because your Platinum and I think you're the sh*t.
But let's also get a steady stream of ports going yeah? There are at least two other games I want from your catalogue in my collection again.
And if you want, you can release Anarchy Reigns too. But the other two games are much, much more important. I don't have a 360 any longer and I need these two again. So do something about it, please! :3
Still, I get to fight the Desperado Elite! That's pretty badass in its own right!
That 9 isn't very convincing.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure VanOrd thinks the game deserves a 9. However, the game looks exactly like Metro 2033. Again, not a bad thing, Metro 2033 is a fun and interesting game. For one, brief go around. I'm not fully convinced that Last Light is the major step over 2033 that VanOrd's score would imply. If anything I'd have liked if Chris Watters had reviewed Last Light just to see what he thought of it in comparison to 2033. I think it would have been a good way to guage how much of an improvement Last Light is over 2033.
It looks like a "more of the same" type of sequel and I am not a fan of the story setup. The game assumes we all chose the destructive ending in Metro 2033. Sure, it was a hidden ending, but I chose to let the dark ones live. Not destroy them. Why am I stuck playing a game that forces me to play through a story that I didn't experience? Not every game can be Mass Effect, but if you're going to offer choices in one game, you need to carry them over to the next.
Anyway, I'll probably play Last Light sometime later in 2013. I'm spending all my money on our Eurotrip so no new game purchases for a few months. In fact, no new purchases of any kind until I return and start getting paid again. But videogames in particular will be taking a backseat, at least until September when Ys: Memories of Celceta releases.
If I don't purchase Dragon's Crown, the a**holes win.
With Kotaku trying to spin it as some anti-feminist game, as the politically correct wing of gamers screaming their lungs out at Vanillaware and Kamitani, I can't help but see a close minded group of people so consumed with trying to say the right thing that they don't realize how utterly stupid they are. Then again, these are the same people who try to criticize the almighty by saying it's got an anti-feminist role and totally has a sucky story so we shouldn't play it. Which always makes me want to ask them, "Do you just have like some twisted form of brain damage that we can chalk up to mental retardation or are you just f*cking stupid?"
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what Vanillaware is aiming for with Dragon's Crown and its visual stylings. The way the Amazon, Sorceress, Fighter, Wizard, Elf and Dwarf are all total caricatures of actual artistic representations of each class speaks volumes about them. From the Amazon's cocky confidence and sense of empowerment in the way she moves right down to the bushy-bearded Dwarf and his bulging muscles out of every inch of his body. It's art and character design that's actually highly intelligent.
From artistic influences ranging from Thor.
To the heaving breasts of the Goddesses of Fertility, obviously twisted here to show the Sorceress giving life to the dead through necromancy.
to obviously the Amazon warriors
I mean, I am literally, LITERALLY at a loss for words at how stupidly people are reacting to Kamitani's artistic expression, which he shows how we have viewed each of these character types for our entire existence as a species and to turn it into a "well, he's just a pervert." No, he's not. He very clearly knows what the f*ck he's doing. It's sad how much of this is lost on so many people.
It's stupid. I shouldn't have to draw up comparisons to the waifish Elf, robed Wizard or muscular and armor-clad Fighter. It's very obvious what these guys are doing and it's wonderful, if only because it makes me feel smarter than every other assbackwards person screaming for equal rights at a game that has nothing to do with those issues. If artistic expression bothers you that's fine, but when you twist it, "these guys are perverts, they objectify women" well, you're an a**hole.
Ys I and II Chronicles is a history lesson from the 1980's worth discovering for the first time for those who have never played the games. The story of Adol Christin, the ancient land of Ys, its twin goddesses and the people of Esteria makes for excellent fiction and one of the best action RPGs, Ys I and II sets a template that would later be followed by more popular titles, including Secret of Mana. The bundle of games tells two halves to a shared story and should be played by fans of the genre and the 1980's era of gaming.
As a series, Ys is very focused on combat and intense boss battles and the tone is set in the first two games nicely. Combat in Ys I and II is based on the "bump" system. You run Adol into enemies and he automatically attacks with his sword. There is some strategy involved to it though based on your angle of attack as head-on attacks will allow enemies to attack Adol as well. In Ys II combat is further developed by giving you magic abilities. Only one of them is an offensive spell however, but it allows you to attack enemies with fireballs from a distance to chip health away as they close in on you.
The boss battles in particular are the highlight of the two games. Bosses often have attacks that spread across a wide area that you have to dodge before attacking. In Ys II the majority of bosses must be defeated by magic, as simply trying to attack with your sword will cause the boss to inflict massive damage on Adol. The boss battles in both games are excellent finales to each section you play through.
Unlike many RPGs, the first two Ys titles each take under ten hours to complete, bringing rough completion time to around sixteen or so hours for both games. However, the narrative told across the two games manages to tell a story that never deals with the padding, filler and fluff of many role-playing games. You still travel between various towns and speak to NPC characters, but you are never saddled with silly fetchquests or objectives that fail to add to the game, you simply handle your business as it comes to you. Because of both games' focus, grinding is a non-issue as you generally will be at a sufficient level to progress by simply playing.
The graphics are sprite-based and filled with some of the most beautiful art of the time. From the animated introduction sequences to the labyrinthine layouts of levels, Ys I and II are absolutely beautiful games. But the highlight of the series for many folks is the music. The tracks are absolutely stellar, and help give that nostalgic vibe of the 8-bit era that stands the test of time. The greatest part though is that you can change the music at any time from one of the three options, the 1987 and 1988 versions of the audio, the 2001 Complete version or the 2009 Chronicles version. Similarly the graphics can be slightly changed as well for the anime designs of characters you speak to, although it doesn't effect enjoyment of the game nearly as much as the music options.
I personally find it very hard to understand how Ys never gained popularity outside of Japan. These first two games are an excellent, almost Zelda like adventure. They tell a story that feels ahead of its time for when it released and features timeless game design that never feels broken or cheap. Prior to this year I had never played an Ys title before, but Nihon Falcom, and the talented localization team at XSEED, have provided some of the greatest games ever made. Ys I and II are classic and timeless games that should be played by anyone who has an interest in gaming's history and the Chronicles package on PSP and PC is an excellent way to experience these two stellar titles.
Yup, I'm an addict. Oath in Felghana here we come! Little mini-review over here, but no big deal, not everything needs a colossal review.
After Felghana I'm going to be very sad. I might watch Let's Play videos of Ys IV: Dawn of Ys and Ys IV: Mask of the Sun. I have no idea why Nihon Falcom licensed the game out to two different devs. But there are two Ys IV games out there. Although the new PS Vita game, Memories of Celceta is going to be the new canon entry in the series. All three do take place in Celceta, so I'm guessing the series canon will progress smoothly enough.
Me purchasing a Vita is all but assured at this point. I don't want to start saying things specifically just yet, but I am under the impression that if I get the Vita I can download PSN versions of the PSP game Ys Seven. That'd be suh-weet! If I do go for the Vita it'll be my first handheld since the Gameboy Color, which I only used to play Pokemon Red, Yellow and Gold. This could be a similar issue.
For what it's worth mentioning, I have not paid full price for a game with my own money in a long time. But I have paid full price for Ys Origin, Ys I and II Chronicles and now Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Together they add up to $50. And so far to 48 hours played between Origin and Chronicles.
I cancelled my pledge to Chasm as well. It was actually during their livestream of Rondo of Blood. The team lead said he was pissed off at a backer for saying that achievements and new game+ should be included in the game instead of as stretch goals. Let's be honest, you don't need an extra $25,000 to put achievements in a game, nor do you need an extra $150,000 to include New Game +. That crap gets put in just because.
So the stretch goals felt suspect and his reaction to the backers of "People have the nerve to tell me what to put in MY game" was enough to make me back out. Yeah, people have the nerve to tell you what to put in the game because they are FUNDING YOUR GAME. So good luck to Discord Games and Chasm, I guess. But I don't roll like that. No matter how appealing a Metroidvania type game is, it isn't appealing enough to deal with this team. The money (which I had raised to $50 from the initial $15) will be spent elsewhere. Likely not enough to make a dent in the game getting funded, but if it turns out to be good I'll buy it later, at a heavy discount. Just because.
I loled. I loled so much I had to share it with the world (or GameSpot).
Green Heart Games recently developed a little simulation game called Game Dev Tycoon. It's similar in concept to Kairosoft's Game Dev Story on mobile platforms. For those not in the know, Game Dev Story is one of the most addicting games available on the market right now, so seeing a knockoff of it at this stage for the PC platform is A-OK by me.
To sum up both games, you are in charge of a videogame company. Awesome job, right? You hire the programmers, coders, artists, composers and so on in order to create the best possible games you can. You start out small at the start of the industry and keep growing. But budgets rise and you need to meet high scores in order to get the attention of the media and public. Your company attends gaming conventions, potentially competing with Game of the Year and maintaining your finances so that the company doesn't go under. All the cool kids know about this stuff, so nbd, but in case you didn't, consider yourself up to snuff now.
But what's truly lol-worthy is that Green Heart decided to conduct a little experiment with Game Dev Tycoon. They uploaded their game on a major torrenting site and pulled a prank that's just too good to be true. Similar to the immortal pink scorpion of death in Serious Sam 3, they uploaded a version of the game where completion would be impossible due to, wait for it... piracy. So everyone who pirated the game gets a version of Game Dev Tycoon where their own created videogames are pirated. And no matter how much money they put into their games they very slowly lose money as budgets rise. They get in all the high scores imaginable, but those pesky pirates keep pirating the game until there's nothing left to do but go under. What can I say, it's a hard knock life.
But it's the complaints from totally legit customers that really bring the chuckles.
Some say it's "not fair" that their games aren't selling. Others ask if there's a way to "research DRM" for their games. The answer is no. No, there isn't. You're going to lose the game every time. And that's funny. That's very, very funny.
Green Heart Games basically turned a mirror on some oblivious gamers/pirates parading around as customers with their little experiment. From the charming little message that comes up once the sales drop to the hilarious lines of frustrated "customers" that read "Why are there so many people that pirate?" is the best way to tell people that use torrents one of my favorite lines of all time. "Hey, f*ck you."
Remember to upvote Game Dev Tycoon for release on Steam via Greenlight and if you do have an interest in the game you can always buy it directly from Green Heart as well.
In non-piracy news, the ever excellent-looking Chasm is roughly 80% funded with 12 days left to go right now. But tonight at 6PM Pacific Time the developers at Discord Games are going to be live-streaming a playthrough of Rondo of Blood (the predecessor to the greatest game of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.... tied with Chrono Trigger, obviously). Get stoked, back Chasm (or download the new demo that still doesn't let you fight the boss :/) and let's hope we get a true Metroidvania style game that kicks as much ass as I think Chasm likely will once it releases! Remember to upvote these guys on Steam Greenlight too!
I beat Ys 1 yesterday and it's insane how different Ys 1 and Ys Origin are. Ys Origin is a hell of a game, lean and focused on combat with story interspersed as you scale the tower. It's good stuff.
Ys 1 feels like an old-school action RPG. Out of what I have played, it reminded me of Secret of Mana the most. There's an overworld, you travel between towns and enter dungeons. Returning to towns is where the story sections play out. Ys 1 features backtracking between the towns as well, so you'll find yourself running between Barbado, Minea and Zepik in order to speak with different characters, purchase items and to advance the story. But it's still really fun and holds up very well.
The soundtrack is absolutely ace yet again, and combat this go around is based on the bump system, where Adol swings his sword automatically as you run into enemies. Revisiting Darm Tower was interesting too. It's interesting to see how in Ys Origin it can take 8-10 hours to scale the tower, but in Ys 1 it takes about an hour or so.
The thing to keep in mind is the backtracking. There were times where I was unaware that I had to backtrack and so I continued forward only to be met with a roadblock. After checking a guide I realized I had forgotten to speak to someone to get an item or something necessary to advance.
Ys 1 took 6 and a half hours to beat, although I hear Ys II is significantly longer. The level cap in Ys 1 is 10, the level cap in Ys II is level 55. I figure that's a strong indication of the game being much longer. Whether this means that's through grinding or actual content is what I'll find out. Although, I did reach the level cap in Ys 1 long, LONG before the final dungeon, so there's that.
Playing through Ys 1 also had an effect of "Ohhh...." when I saw certain items used between the two games. They did a great job of that in Ys Origin. And as far as Ys 1 goes, it gave me a sense of value for some of the events that would have gone over my head had I not played the prequel game. As far as I can tell, after Ys Origin, I and II, the games become standalone adventures, but nonetheless I'm looking forward to more of them. Oath in Felghana is a guaranteed purchase at this point.
Playing through Ys II so far it's the direct continuation. And some surprise bosses from Origin are also on the hit parade here as well. There's magic in Ys II as well, but I'm enjoying just as much.
Ys II: Eternal, or as the giant header over my screen says, Ancient Ys Vanished the Final Chapter. Apparently succinct titles are not a thing the Japanese like. XD
Ys Origin is set 700 years before the events of the first two games in the Ys series. As demons swarm the land of Ys, the two goddesses, Reah and Feena, raise Solomon Shrine into the sky. But just as quickly, the demons build a tower to try and reach the heavens. As the tower nears completion, Reah and Feena leave Solomon Shrine without saying a word. Once its discovered that the two goddesses are missing, a search party of twelve is sent down to the surface, composed of sorcerers and knights. As they descend, a powerful force attacks the group and they scatter. And like that, you begin a journey to scale the tower and find the goddesses.
Ys Origin features three playable characters, Yunicah Tovah, Hugo Fact and a third character that is unlocked after completing the game once. It is worth mentioning that each character has a very specific story. All of the narratives follow the same basic structure of scaling the tower and rescuing the goddesses, but each one features variations on boss battles and dialogue. And to be clear, the third hidden character is the obvious canon entry. But to get the full understanding of various character motivations it is recommended that all three stories are played through, and in the specific order of Yunicah, Hugo and the hidden character. Not doing so will definitely dampen the experience at large.
This is a problem I have noticed with the reviews for the game, and even many of the discussions. They seem to be based on a single playthrough and not the full experience. However, Ys Origin deserves to be played through three times, if not more. Each character brings a different style of play to the experience, Yunicah is the traditional warrior class, she attacks with a battle axe, Hugo is our mage and attacks from distance and moves far slower. The third character is a lightning quick berserker who has to get in close for damage. Each one has different abilities in combat as well. For instance the wind power for Yunicah allows her to whirlwind into battle, attacking enemies on all sides. Meanwhile for Hugo it becomes a forcefield that negates damage as he fires from a distance. So the difference is in both gameplay and narrative.
At its most basic level, Ys Origin is a dungeon crawler, but it stands head and shoulders above any one that I have ever played. This is a better and more fully realized game than any of the Diablo or Torchlight titles. Despite the copious amounts of loot in those games they lack the basic feel of progression in Ys Origin. This is a better game than Bastion, which despite its innovative use of narration, lacks the replayability of Ys Origin. Playing through Ys Origin is a delight each time, and that I found myself compelled to do it back to back to back should say plenty about the games quality. Barring a hatred of RPGs, there really is no reason to not play Ys Origin.
Combat is the meat of the experience and involves basic attacks, magic attacks and the boost ability, along with some platforming sections. Its your job to determine what attacks enemies are weak against and to exploit those weaknesses. Some may be resistant to magic and require the basic attacks, others may be resistant to physical damage, and of course Boost amplifies your abilities greatly for a short period of time. Interestingly, unlike other dungeon crawlers that simply place new power after new power in your hands, Ys Origin opts to let you upgrade your powers instead, so there is a feeling of true progression for players that explore. You will want to max out the potential of your weapon and magic abilities, while expanding on other skills like boost recovery and MP usage.
Ys Origins roots in Japanese design are obvious as well since many enemies, particularly bosses, litter the field with patterned projectile attacks that you have to dodge or counter. Some of the bosses literally scream danmaku in their attack patterns. But its fresh and exciting to fight bosses that are more than tanks and require you to spawn town portals to survive. Ys Origin is a game of skill, moreso than Diablo and Torchlight, moreso than Bastion and moreso than the majority of the action RPG games available.
The boss battles in particular are absolutely stunning! Running across the backside of a giant centipede, hacking away at its armor to reach its head is as exciting as it sounds. Foes are enormous and their attacks can take up the entire screen at times. But the frantic pace of combat makes it all feel like more than window dressing like many games and actually makes them impactful and threatening.
There are five difficulty levels in all, Normal and Easy are the two I recommend for first timers. The main difference in challenge is based around how much damage enemies do and how much experience you gain from combat. So grinding is generally a non-issue unless you go for the higher difficulty levels. I found Easy more enjoyable as I rarely went back to clear out rooms of monsters unless I wanted to.
The games level design is spectacular. You spend the entire time scaling the twenty five floors of the tower, but nothing feels cheaply placed. Everything flows and powers, from dashing to double jumping become available at a pace that keeps you coming back for more. Levels range from the basic tower design to water, fire and desert sections only to then hit the more demonic sections of the game.
Each playthrough of Ys Origin takes roughly eight hours, and in those eight hours Ys Origin packs a far more meaningful and interesting narrative with actual character growth and villains with true motives than the majority of the 60 to 100 hour long role-playing games on the market. There is no filler at all, everything makes sense and clicks together. And while the narratives each work as standalone stories, you should still play them all. Yunicah and Hugo both have interesting character arcs and narratives. But the final hidden characters story uses events and character motivations that occur to those two as you scale the tower on your own. So skipping one of the first two to dive into the third one may have you questioning why a certain character acts one way or another. The final story is also just too entertaining and features one of the coolest character arcs to come from a Japanese RPG in some time. And of course, the true ending is as poignant and beautiful as I could have hoped for it to be.
Ys is a series most famous for its music, and I have to agree with all of the praise. Ys Origin has such a cool soundtrack Im almost tempted to call it one of the all-time greats. The music I heard in the trailer afterall is what tempted me to purchase the game and right down to the final events in the game the music is actually used as diegetic sound. Its spectacular and catchy and just gets you pulled into the experience at large. The audio track played for the 25th floor of the tower is by far the singular achievement of the soundtrack and helps to end the experience on a powerful high note, leading up to the biggest and most exciting showdowns against rival characters before hitting the summit.
The graphics are basic, yet beautiful. The art design is very much Japanese in nature, with anime styling all over the game. The tower itself is wonderfully realized and enemy designs are spectacular and often imposing despite the dated look of the visuals. Its hard to imagine this as a 2006 PC release when American developers were releasing games like Gears of War and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. But it takes more than pretty graphics for a game to shine and Ys Origin stands head and shoulders over those two games, and many more, in pure quality.
While it took six years after its Japanese release for Ys Origin to makes its way to North America, it remains as proof that excellent gameplay design can make a six year old game feel better than the majority of modern game releases. Ys Origin is the best dungeon crawl I have played yet and it succeeds because it nails every element a game needs in order to succeed: its fun to play, is spectacularly designed and features some great writing and characters that you will care about. The combination of the beautiful soundtrack with all of these elements helps solidify its place amongst the RPG greats.
For those curious, GS loses apostrophes when I cut something from Word. I'm not bothered enough to go and fix it again.
Also, I just bought Ys I and II. Gotta go in numerical order since after Oath in Felghana is the remake of Ys III: Wanders from Ys. SHOULD BE DOPE!!!
I beat Ys Origin with Yunicah Tovah. It's pretty damn rad.
I just started with Hugo Fact. It's pretty damn different.
I wasn't sure if I would do all three character playthroughs or not, but the game holds up very well for a second playthrough based on the fact that the characters are completely different.
Yunicah was more about getting in close and going on the offensive. When I found her wind magic she was capable of jumping into a group of enemies and whirlwininding through the whole group of them. Hugo's wind magic is a forcefield that lets him float.
Hugo is a slower character and uses range attacks, and I've actually found the first boss fight at the end of Wailing Blue to be much more challenging than I did with Yunicah. When the poison bubbles came down on Yunicah I would whirlwind past them and keep attacking. With Hugo I had to play more keep away from the boss. It makes for a different gameplay experience, which I do appreciate.
The levels and bosses are the same, however, the story is different, or it's from a different perspective. Not sure yet. I remember as Yunicah, the search party was formed without Hugo because they said he was so headstrong he'd climb the tower on his own. That seems to be the case with this playthrough, however, the beginning plays out the same, just with Hugo instead of Yunicah.
I think I prefer Yunicah's more offensive playstyle, however, I prefer Hugo's character. He's got an attitude and brains. Yunicah was kind of clueless and the enemy tended to pick on her, whereas Hugo just seems to piss off the entire enemy team. Although to give credit to the writers, Yunicah does go from a clueless girl who can't control her emotions to a capable warrior by the game's end. As Kishgal tells her, she's had to step over the bodies of a lot of loved ones to face him and it seems to have toughened her up. Also, Kishgal is a badass.
Either way, I'm in the Flooded Prison now, (I actually really liked that area of the game) and will keep on going through the game. I look forward to seeing the third playthrough with our clawed friend as he seems to be the canon character.
Those are words I never thought I'd say, man. Ys is the SH*T!
To say that I've been bored with videogames after BioShock Infinite is an understatement. I beat it and then nothing held my attention at all. I tried to play Shogun 2, The Longest Journey, Noitu Love 2, Frozen Synapse and other games generally considered to be fun. None of them clicked.
I beat Evoland in one sitting, it was OK. A nostalgia ride, nothing else, and it took like 3 hours. Fun but forgettable. But it was the one game I did beat. And then I found myself playing the demo for Chasm before deciding to toss a few bucks their way. It was fun as hell and I want to see that Kickstarter succeed and they release that game ASAP!
But it was that old-school vibe that was sticking with me. For all of BioShock Infinite's exposition, I couldn't sit through the dialogue heavy The Longest Journey. I couldn't deal with playing politics in Shogun 2. Noitu Love 2 was entertaining but lasts an hour. Frozen Synapse was unique but ultimately did little for me. But the demo for Chasm had me excited, and when it cut short at the large boss I knew I wanted more of it.
So for reasons I can't explain I came across Ys. It's a series I generally cast aside as a generic JRPG despite having never read much about it. Just that it was typically on the PSP and looked like a game I should avoid. WRONG!
So Ys is a PC series, the PSP games are ports. Go figure. And it's one of the best action, hack and slash RPGs I've played. I bought Ys Origin, as it's the prequel to all the games. I figured it'd be a good place to start since it's set 700 years before the first two games. All I'm going to say is that those bosses are freaking dope! OMFG! I love boss fights and running alongside the back of a giant centipede while hacking away at its plates to make your way to the head is as fun as it sounds. The boss fights are huge and challenging!
I'm actually playing the game on Easy for my first run since there are three characters. I'm not sure if I'm going to go through the game twice or three times. The characters are Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact and The Claw. Apparently The Claw is the canon character with the story that carries over to the other games. I started with Yunica as she seems to be the best fit for a first playthrough. But God DAMN is this game fun.
Scaling the tower is just too cool. I've made it to the tenth floor, the Guilty Fire, though the Flooded Prison was pretty damn awesome! The music is stellar, the hack and slash is stellar, the graphics are actually really nice and all the keys are customizable! I'm playing with the gamepad right now, although I customized two controller input methods.
You can set the buttons on the gamepad to be whatever you want. So I have a custom keyboard and mouse configuration as well as a custom gamepad configuration. When I start the second playthrough I'll be playing with the keyboard and mouse since I've got movement mapped to WASD, jump to Space, Boost to Q, Camp to Tab and attack and magic to the mouse buttons.
On the gamepad I've got my skill swaps on the bumper buttons, while boost and magic have been switched. The customization options are neat and let me play how I want to, which is rad. I can't wait to see who the boss of the Guilty Fire is. That's literally the best reason to keep moving forward, to get to boss fights!
Anyway, whether you game on PC or PSP or whatever, pick up one of the Ys games. Origin is sweet, and Oath in Felghana will be one of my next likely purchases. I'm hoping my friends with Vita systems are stoked for the remake of Ys IV, Memories of Celceta. That or go for PSP's Oath in Felghana. I'll be at that one in a while, I'm sure. PC version of course.
What a weekend man. On Friday all of LA croaked. Girls cried, guys couldn't say anything. For 17 years I grew up watching Kobe Bryant and everyone around just shut up. But seeing him walk up to take his final two shots and make them before being escorted off is something that will be written about as one of the most inspirational moments of his career.
When guys like Lebron, D. Rose, Paul Pierce or whoever the hell else is supposed to be one of the all time greats are taken out in wheel chairs, or carried off or whatever the hell it is, Kobe walks off without an achilles. When Tony Parker sprained his ankle he missed weeks, when Kobe sprained his ankle he was a gametime decision. There's something about that old-school warrior mentality that so many players don't have now. I forget who it was, but someone dislocated their shoulder and were put in a wheelchair. Kobe busted his achilles and he walked off. On Friday night I got a call at like 1:30 from my buddy because he couldn't sleep. We were all so bummed. Kobe will be back, he'll finish his final year, maybe play one more afterwards or so. But across these 17 years the people of this city have seen him as the greatest Laker of all time (sorry Magic). But it was felt again in that final moment. We knew he was done, he could have been escorted off, but our guy walked on one leg, shot on one leg and left by doing his job right. It was a scary night, but it's also why we view him as a living legend in the sport. For all the talent of the younger generation that's come up, Kobe has maintained the same level of play in his mid-30's.
I also helped kick a few bucks to Chasm on Kickstarter. I wasn't sure if I actually wanted to or not after reading about it, but Chasm has something going for it: It's a Metroid-vania style game being developed by Discord Studios, and as you all know Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is what I consider to be the best around. So, with that in mind, I looked to Chasm, not particularly sure what to think of it.
But these guys provide a demo. It's short, but I figured I'd give it a spin. Afterall, I've been bored with gaming in a post BioShock Infinite landscape at the moment and haven't really played anything for more than 30 minutes before setting it down. Just not in the state of mind for these games right now. It happens, so I'm focusing on basketball at the moment, both watching and playing. Still, the demo was actually pretty good. A little rough, but I knew I had to pitch in some money to the kickstarter campaign as soon as I reached the end of the demo and I just said, "NO!" I wanted to keep playing. Go figure.
It's not a proper Metroid-vania. The levels are randomly generated, but they provide an interesting combination of Metroidvania and Diablo. You delve deeper and deeper into this chasm, but the levels are bigger and bigger, with more interconnected rooms and treasures. It was pretty fun.
That's all I needed to know to toss a few bucks their way. I wish Shovel Knight had a demo as well. That one looks like a neat action platformer as well. But Chasm was pretty fun, and I hope this thing gets funded. I really want a Metroidvania style of game to do well. Still, Shovel Knight's beautiful graphics and themed bosses did enough to convince me.
Shovel Knight is coming to PC, WiiU and 3DS.
Chasm is coming to PC. But I'm curious if stretch goals will change that. There are backers requesting a Vita version, so that might catch on.
Since December I've been questioning the merits of Game of the Year awards. Both critical and user-based. I understand this puts me in the minority since most people love their GotY awards, but it feels so forced and artificial. These days it's less of a celebration of all the good that came and more of a 'this game is the best that I played so it's the best!"
I spent months trying to figure out what I would say is my Game of the Year. I even found myself looking back at my older blogs to try and figure it out with older GotY posts, and then I realized I hated those too. I hated that I had the games ranked, and so I dropped the ranking of games. Because even as I ranked them I started to hate that one game was higher than another when they offered excellent but wildly different experiences. The numbers should never play a role in the enjoyment of a game, that goes from score (I rated Evoland a 5.5 but I enjoyed it a lot for those that haven't read the review) to ranking. So I finally figured that if it came to it, I'd just go unranked and only with the games that I believe mattered. If there were 20, the list would be 20 long, if there were 2, the list would be just those two titles. I've grappled with the idea for so long, ultimately not believing in a game of the year.
However, with a year as monumental as 2012, with the gaming landscape changing so much, it would be foolish to not discuss the games that made a genuine impact in meaningful ways. The medium is evolving to where critical discussion is becoming more important than mere product reviews. And with that in mind I decided that if I was going to have a discussion about what makes each game so special I'm going to do it in a way that doesn't involve numbers and doesn't belittle the accomplishments of individual greats based on people's perceptions of numbers. So here are the essential titles of 2012, and hopefully it helps you find something fun to play in these slower months of 2013.
Borderlands 2 by 2K Games and Gearbox Software
Notable for Excellence in World Building, Character Building, and Visual Design
Borderlands 2 is the sequel that could. It's big, insane and so funny that it speaks to your inner-adolescent/college student in the best way possible. And much of the game's excellence comes from it being so funny. The characters aren't anything special, but the scenarios you see and hear make them feel like your friends who you're often embarrassed to introduce to your family. That humor carries over into the game's design. One early sidequest has you helping one of your friends, Sir Hammerlock, try to rename the Bullymong into something more appropriate for the creature. But as you play he runs into so many problems that he decides to just call them Bonerfarts. And the game humorously has the enemies listed as that, and so you play, killing them off until he gives up on the entire endeavor. And of course, Handsome Jack, the villain, the biggest jackass in gaming in quite some time makes your goal of stomping his face in a hell of a good time. Borderlands 2 is designed for the 14-year old market with its potty humor and comic book style. And I don't care. I was too busy giggling at all the shrieking suicide midgets to care about how lowbrow the humor was.
Dishonored by Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios
Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building and Visual Design
Dishonored is the first-person adventure that likely took everyone by surprise. But the intelligent design of the game left an adventure that you could play however you wanted. This isn't a matter of simply saying you could play it lethal or non-lethal like the recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but in that you had true creativity in how you chose to play with the powers available to you. Dishonored is a game about choice all the way through, whether you chose to mingle with party guests or straight for your objective, or maybe you chose to rob the house blind of any treasures you could find. Dishonored brought about an emergent narrative that you let shape the destiny of Corvo Attano and the empire at large, and the creative mission designs, from infiltrating a brothel to a masked party to the flooded districts where disease ran rampant helped show a world where the poor suffered and the rich still had their way. There is no one element to Dishonored's gameplay that stands out on its own, but the freedom, true freedom no less, to do what you like, created one of the most important action adventure games of quite some time.
Hotline Miami by Devolver Digital and Dennaton
Notable for Excellence in Game Design, Narrative Writing and Audio Design
Hotline Miami is an indie darling. Not the most obscure title, but with just enough media attention to send users flocking to it. Hotline Miami's message on violence is clear. It's a stealth murder simulator at its best (the politicians will love that). You use the levels to your advantage, to get to your enemies at just the right time and go for the kill. Melee weapons will leave you undetected but firearms, which will draw unwanted attention, could help put some distance between you and the people you're killing, assuming you have the quicker trigger finger. The story is minimalist but absolutely thought-provoking. And in terms of game design making a statement, being forced to walk back to the exit, past all your carnage, with the music completely turned off, gives you a sense of weight that only grows stronger the more you play. The audio design is a crucial element of Hotline Miami because the music will get you into a rhythm to begin killing, but only after you're finished and the music disappears do you take in the sight of your murders. It's an important game, and one that should be played not just because of the message it leaves behind, but because despite that message the game is just so well designed that you will continue to play it.
Mark of the Ninja by Microsoft Game Studios and Klei Entertainment
Notable for Excellence in Game Design, Visual Design and Audio Design
If there's one thing Microsoft knows how to do, it's publish some fantastic indie games, and Klei Entertainment have delivered the single closest product to gaming perfection since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in 2010. Mark of the Ninja is the 2D answer to Dishonored's 3D question. The game might just be the greatest stealth title I have played, and so much of that comes from Mark of the Ninja never trying to be anything more than a videogame. It doesn't send the messages of other titles like Journey or Hotline Miami, it instead opts for sheer gameplay brilliance and achieves that not just through sublime level design but by utilizing that level design in absolute harmony with the visual and audio design. You are always aware of your abilities, when you are hidden, when an enemy can see you, when an alarm can detect you and so on. Every piece works so smoothly to create an experience that works better than any other game on this list. Time will tell if I move Mark of the Ninja up to the coveted 10 out of 10, but it is the first game in two years to come close and it showcases the talent and ability of Klei Entertainment better than any game they have ever released.
Mass Effect 3 by Electronic Arts and BioWare
Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building, Visual Design and Audio Design
Mass Effect 3 is without a doubt my favorite game of the past few years. As you can see above, it's notable for every single category I have available. But it's notable for an entirely different reason as well, it showed me how wrong I was about Mass Effect 2, and the trilogy as a whole. I loved my first run through Mass Effect 3 so much, that I chose to repurchase Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 on the PC this time. And even moreso, I chose to purchase all of the downloadable content as well. And after completing Mass Effect 3, I played through the entire trilogy and all the pieces again. Mass Effect is the single most important intellectual property of this generation. It is created by a cohesive vision that is never broken and makes for the greatest gaming universe that we have ever been exposed to through strong characterization, distinctive visual and audio design, engrossing narrative writing and game design that invites the possibility for completely different playthroughs as you build bonds with characters and shape how the galaxy perceives you all while utilizing different play methods in battle based on your class. There's a sense of sadness I feel because the trilogy is over, leaving the door open for useless sequels that could dilute the brand. But there's also a sense of calming pleasure knowing that I will be able to go back to the game and begin a third playthrough from the beginning. All to experience what can only be described in three words: Simply the best.
Spec Ops: The Line by 2K Games and Yager
Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building, Visual Design and Audio Design
Like Mass Effect 3, Spec Ops: The Line makes a full sweep. This may come across as contentious to some, but I believe Spec Ops: The Line is the most important game of 2012, one that deserves discussion and constructive criticism as it helps move not just the genre but the medium itself forward. Through the game design I tired of killing people. But that was the point. Through the artificial world built by Walker I was led to believe everything was real. Through the narrative I was broken. Through the character I noticed my personal disconnect with his feelings. Through the visual design I saw the battered and broken faces of my squad. Through the audio design I could only hear the words of the fallen who I was so deaf to. Spec Ops: The Line is a monumental experience that faced the misfortune of being judged as a product rather than an experience that will help move the genre ahead. A game that is only possible as a game and nothing else, it brings a scathing criticism of the military shooter and rubs in your face the acts of murder you have committed. It asks you to step away and stop playing, but every time the cursor hovered over someone, I pulled the trigger. Like clockwork, I felt trained to do it, and was left breathless by the most unforgettable shooter I have played. For those who stick around, Spec Ops: The Line is a vision of Hell like no other ever created.
The Walking Dead by Telltale Games
Notable for Excellence in World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building and Visual Design
Telltale's The Walking Dead puts them on the map. Expectations for the team are raised, not just because they have single handedly brought the point and click genre back to the forefront of gaming, but because they have taken the single greatest step forward for the power of interactive fiction. Similar to Spec Ops: The Line, The Walking Dead raised emotions in me that I never thought a game could. It wasn't simply because the game left me in tears, but because I had an attachment to the characters. And my decisions would shape how they viewed me. It was important to me to get them to view me the way I thought would be best. Whether it was developing a potential love interest or seeking acceptance from another character. A grand tragedy began to unfold, and by the end of it there was the single ultimate emotion: Love. I would do anything for Clementine. I would never let that child feel pain, not as long as I lived. It was something I had never felt before and it left me in tears. The Walking Dead is the new bar by which all interactive fiction will be judged by and with its success comes the rise of Telltale Games as one of the potential, prominent studios in the medium.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown by 2K Games and Firaxis Games
Notable for Excellence in Game Design
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a game from a genre I never thought I could enjoy: strategy. And yet I found myself hopelessly addicted to it. It shines because of how well designed the game's design and rules are. You play XCOM: Enemy Unknown simply to play it. Not because there's a story to pull you along, or a rich group of diverse characters, or a world worth exploring. It's about risk and going into the dark to fight the unknown when no one else will. And XCOM: Enemy Unknown is Firaxis' grand success story. For all the praise that their massive and often daunting Civilization series has received, it is the more personal and smaller scale XCOM: Enemy Unknown that has made them known as a development team that can create a strategy game to both appeal to old fans and gamers new to the genre. It is the pace at which discoveries are made that new possibilities arise. And the ever looming threat of perma-death makes it all one of the most nail-biting experiences to be released in some time. It has given me hope for my future enjoyment of the strategy genre, and that's something that can't be understated in the least.
Other Fun Games
Not everything has to be essential, and these games provide a good time for fans of their respective genres. Check them out if you haven't done so yet.
Binary Domain by Sega
Developed by the Yakuza team, Binary Domain does Gears of War better than Gears of War. It's a Third Person Shooter that relishes in the dudebro idealogy of the genre and makes it one of the most light-hearted and entertaining romps through a TPS. And it has surprising depth to its characters. Go figure.
FTL: Faster Than Light by Subset Games
The little Kickstarter project that could, FTL is one of the best strategy, space sim, commander, roguelike hybrids ever. Whatever that is. All you need to know is that the game is cheap (in price), fun and addicting and you will find yourself engrossed at the different ways you will meet your end until you finally make it to the end of the game... if you make it to the end of the game.
Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy by Marvelous AQL, Playism and Opus
This excellent parody of the JRPG genre manages to provide a fun and hectic adventure that also highlights the needless padding of the genre's design. In a few minutes of playtime you will accomplish what some JRPGs take five hours to do. The Hero Mode is my favorite and took me on dozens of hilarious quests against evil lords out to destroy the world. It's a great time and worth checking out by fans of the genre and even people who hate the genre.
Max Payne 3 by Rockstar Games and Rockstar Studios
Max Payne 3 is a badass shooter of absolute cohesion. The game has a singular vision and never strays from it, and while not as fun and breezy as Binary Domain, this third person shooter brings a hefty dose of grit that genuinely works in its favor. The character of Max Payne is a compelling character study of a broken man, and it takes some awesome twists that make it worth checking out.
Sleeping Dogs by Square-Enix and United Front Games
Sleeping Dogs is one of the best open world games I've played despite being absolutely derivative. There's no innovation to be found here, and yet it's not something that anyone will use as a complaint against the game because it's so highly polished and well made. Sometimes you just need a game that can properly utilize all of its mechanics and Sleeping Dogs is just that game. And the Hong Kong setting is brillaint as well!
Torchlight II by Runic Games
Torchlight II is the real Diablo III. Say what you will, but this hack and slash loot and clickfest is the best example of the genre at work since the sublime Diablo II. It's even more fun in cooperative play and definitely worth checking out for fans of the RPG genre. I put in over 20 hours and I still think of returning to it. All that at a third of the price of Diablo III.
Notable Publishers in 2012
Notable Developers in 2012
Dishonored is one of the best action-adventure games I have ever played. It is a game that fully embraces choice. Not choice through a dialogue system, but choice in how you play. From the fantastic level design to the wide variety of powers that you can utlize. The actions you make ultimately shape the world. But I never thought they would shape a DLC.
I'll be honest, there are only two games where I have actively paid for DLC: Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. The Mass Effect 2 DLC were generally better, you just can't mess with Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, after all, but now having completed BioShock Infinite I want the whole damn series of DLC.
But let's ignore Mass Effect and BioShock for a second here. They both offer what is traditional DLC in games that have very definitive endings. But Dishonored is taking an approach to its DLC that could make it the most interesting piece of downloadable content I could have ever asked for.
The Knife of Dunwall is the story of the master assassin Daud. The man who killed the Empress. As Corvo Attano, you fight against Daud. But you have a choice, kill him for his actions or let him live with the weight of his guilt. This brings up something pretty powerful, because you can play this add-on however you like. You can play it Low Chaos or High Chaos as usual, but it can mean something now. As far as emergent story-telling goes, The Knife of Dunwall could be the greatest add-on we've seen from a DLC perspective.
I allowed Daud to live. A part of me wanted to kill him when he asked for mercy. The narrative in Dishonored is generally weak, but as you play the game, a story unfolds for you based on your actions and that means just as much as a traditionally written tale. I started out killing everyone, and once I saw the effects of my actions on the world I amended. I didn't need to make the world darker. And so as I stood over Daud I let him live based on a lesson I took away from earlier actions of my own, and he carried his guilt with him for the rest of his life.
But we never knew how Daud got to that point. I now have that opportunity. I could play Daud as a non-lethal character who is broken by what he did and hopes to amend. And maybe that was enough to come short of truly dueling Corvo and for him to beg for his life. Or I could play him as a ruthless killer. And maybe he did go all out against Corvo, but as he lost and begged, and as mercy was shown he came to realize his guilt.
And maybe someone else killed Daud. And depending on how they play him, maybe they chose to play him as a character seeking redemption for his murder, only to fall to the hands of Corvo for committing an unforgivable crime. Is there any redemption for throwing a nation into chaos? Or maybe you play him as a ruthless murderer who simply meets his match at a far more ruthless assassin in Corvo.
There is potential here like never before to genuinely enrich the base experience of Dishonored. We all know the fate of Daud as we chose it. Now it's time to learn his story through how we play, and I honestly have never been excited for DLC quite like this before. It will be interesting to see if The Knife of Dunwall will succeed, and it will be interesting to see just how people shape their character. As a tragic figure who must endure the pressing weight of his guilt, or a doomed figure who wrote his own death sentence. The Knife of Dunwall releases in four days, and I intend to find out.
You have to admit, reading the news stories of these two shows just how ridiculously out of touch they are with their fanbases.
EA was voted the worst company in America. Again. And again, it's an over-exaggeration based on internet users' annoyance with them, so it's unwarranted. But apparently, Peter Moore realized that an apology was due in order. So he gets on his soapbox and says they can improve, but that the hate aimed towards EA is based on homophobia, the choice of athlete on the latest Madden cover and the ABSOLUTE MISUNDERSTANDING that the DRM for SimCity is somehow DRM. It's not. Peter said so. It's always online for a very different and valid reason. No one really knows what that reason is, but I like to take the things Peter Moore has to say at face value. So folks, the DRM in SimCity, ISN'T DRM. Although to be fair, I could use a new cover for the next Madden.
Seriously though, homophobia? Yeah, that's a great way to talk to your fanbase after you were voted into the damn contest. Tell them that they're homophobic. And the Madden cover? Does anyone even know who the hell cover athlete is? Who cares? And then that there's a misunderstanding for WHY SimCity is always online, because it's not meant to be a restrictive DRM in any way. Yeah, because on the internet we all eat grass. Peter Moore's "apology" is all you need to see just how out of touch this company is. They're dead set on competing with Call of Duty. They like to talk about the "shooter crown" whatever the f*ck that is, I'm guessing it's massive sales. And the thing is, no one cares about that. Would it kill you to give gamers some new and exciting games that aren't always online, without calling them homophobes? What happened to the EA of 2008? The EA that released visionary titles like Mirror's Edge and a spirtual successor to System Shock 2? The EA that purchased BioWare and had a vision for the future of the role-playing genre. Where are they? Because the current vision at EA is to release sequels to a trilogy that came to a very definitive end.
Whereever that 2008 version of EA is, it's long gone. We're stuck staring at Battlefield 4. Hooray! Not.
And Square-Enix. Holy crapballs, Square-Enix. A restructuring of the company because they're going to be facing a colossal loss? Is that, is that what I'm hearing? OK, it makes sense I guess right?
Actually, not at all. Square-Enix are disappointed by the sales of Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs. Let's take a look at what they have here for a second. A reboot to a classic franchise that genuinely lost its way a long time ago. A sequel to a stealth series that was never really all that popular. And of course a rebranded game that was meant to be the sequel to True Crime, a game no one on this planet cared about. Not the highest pedigree, right?
Yet, miraculously, each game received quite a bit of praise. And they sold a ton. Tomb Raider sold about 3.5 million, Hitman sold about 3.5 million, Sleeping Dogs sold just under 2 million. Those are a lot of games sold. And let's be real, those are massive sales. Let's view Uncharted 2 as an example here. It's one of the highest scoring games of this gen at a 96 on Metacritic, it's considered a killer app for Sony and their premier first-party title right now. Uncharted 2, in two years, sold 5 million copies. UNCHARTED 2.
I know, I know, it's exclusive. So let's take a look at Portal 2, which released in 2011. It took a year for Portal 2 to hit 4 million in sales. It has a 95 on Metacritic.
So Square-Enix, with their raggedy ass bunch of unlikely games that managed to be hits in their own ways are disappointed by those sales numbers. Tomb Raider is considered the fastest-selling Tomb Raider ever released. You're telling me roughly 3.5 million on that game isn't enough in a month, but 4 million for Portal 2 in a year is fine.
What's absolutely hilarious is that Square-Enix NEVER, NOT ONCE, mentions their Japanese devs. Oh, you guys lost money? Nah, it's cool, just pretend like Final Fantasy XIV never happened. You know, it's not like you released an expensive dud and then decided to go back and overhaul it to re-release it. That's cool.
Let's pretend like the travesty with Final Fantasy XIII never happened. I like Final Fantasy XIII, but so many people hate that game that the decision to release a DIRECT SEQUEL to it had to be one of the worst ideas tossed around. And it sold less than Final Fantasy XIII. But aside from FFXIII's ending not leaving ANYTHING open for a freaking time-travel story, you decide to not end the damn game and now Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is going to release. Are you for real? A sequel to a sequel that no one liked to a game that no one liked is going to be released, and that's not to blame for your issues as a company? Sales of Tomb Raider for whatever reason are to be blamed.
And don't get me started on Final Fantasy Versus XIII. That game's a total loss. And Kingdom Hearts, what happened to that? In 2006 Square-Enix was on top of the world. They had Kingdom Hearts II and Final Fantasy XII release to a ton of praise and fanfare. We never got Kingdom Hearts III. It's been seven years. Should that game be announced I fully expect half the world to roll their eyes and move on. And while I understand that every FF game is different, it's very obvious that FFXIII was not a hit with critics or consumers, so move on to the next game. I don't understand why there were two sequels to it. I don't understand why FFXIV was released as such a busted game to begin with and then was overhauled to, I guess still suck.
None of that is to blame for Square-Enix's losses. It's instead the sales in North America of Tomb Raider, Hitman and Sleeping Dogs. That is some serious denial on their part. Sleeping Dogs is a great game. I'm sure Tomb Raider and Hitman have their own merits, but expecting higher sales for three games that have had tarnished legacies in the past is silly. If anything all three of these games should be considered absolute successes. Instead we're stuck with these guys blaming North American sales of these games rather than looking at their overblown JRPGs that have brought little to no merit to the genre this gen.
When they develop a new IP, they develop crap like The Last Remnant, which is just a poor excuse of an RPG. And then they spend their time creating an expensive target video for what their games should look like on some new engine without a game to show off. Yeah, great target video guys. We're all impressed over here and can't wait for Final Fantasy XIII-3 and Kingdom Hearts: Eternal Dreaming Mouseketeers 2.
I really can't tell which company is more out of touch. But it's amusing to see these former giants lumbering around. Meanwhile in Japan, Atlus are kicking JRPG ass all over the place and then we have Square-Enix who haven't released a proper JRPG since 2006. In other parts of the world we have 2K Games who can look at the sales of Spec Ops: The Line and say, "We don't care if it didn't sell amazingly well, we need more games like this." Who can go and release a BioShock Infinite without any multiplayer and a focus on narrative regarding choice (don't argue with me). And then, we have EA who are incapable of understanding what the people who are willing to pay for their games actually want.
Both are out of touch and both are making me laugh more than I should since according to one their JRPGs are not to blame and according to the other I'm a homophobe who's pissed at the Madden cover and has no understanding of what always-on DRM actually is.
Well, that happened. I bought, downloaded, installed, played and completed Evoland today. The way I say that, you'd think all I did was play videogames all day. NOT THE CASE! Evoland just happens to be three hours long and 78MB. It's fun enough, but nothing memorable. You can read the review here if it interests you.
It's hard to follow up a game like BioShock Infinite. The general consensus is that it's a good game. Some people say it's too narrative focused and not enough on gameplay, others say it's the best shooter released in half a decade, others say it's anti-Christian. One of those three is a lie, the other two are acceptable opinions and anything that falls in between them is also acceptable.
I'm going to go off into the adventure genre, I guess.
The Longest Journey is supposed to be a classic, and I did pitch in for the Kickstarter to the third game in the series. I also have Sam and Max, which I hear is funny, though nowhere near as good. Not sure which I'll start with, but I'm installing both right now.
BioShock Infinite is not the game that I thought it would be, nor is it the game that I wanted. Before diving into this shooter a few things need to be made clear: BioShock Infinite has very little of importance to say on the matters of racism and racial purity, overzealous nationalism and religious extremism and the various social issues that are present in the game. They are merely window dressing in order to tell a character-based fantasy story. They have their moments in the narrative, but are far from the main focus. For those who may have held onto the hope that BioShock Infinite would make a significant social statement, temper your expectations.
But as soon as that disappointment wore off, the game had me. Those that are looking for the best first-person shooter released to market in years are going to be in for a treat, and should also avoid reading everything there is on this game until they complete it. Cast as Booker DeWitt, you begin the game with a goal, "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt," and an unimaginably beautiful place, Columbia, the city in the sky. Both that opening line and the city are two of the driving forces behind the game. BioShock Infinite is a game of absolute cohesion, and it never breaks from what it sets out to do.
When you first land on Columbia a sense of sheer wonder begins to flood over you as you explore the city and take in the sights. Exploration is ultimately so enjoyable that I found myself wishing that BioShock Infinite was a non-combat game, and instead a puzzle-based adventure where I could explore the sights, rescue the girl, use vigors to help get us out of the city with wits, and deal with the racist population and their extreme religious views. I wanted ammunition to be limited so that if I had to kill someone it would take a toll on Booker and Elizabeth. That fantasy of the game I wanted quickly came to an end of course, as I was typically forced to view the world of Columbia down the barrel of a gun. You get what you pay for however, its hard to condemn a first-person shooter simply for being a first-person shooter, and BioShock Infinite is one of the best in years.
The quality of exploration is spectacular, all due of course to the magical feel of Columbia. But the same issue arose in the first BioShock, where exploring Rapture was a joy, but combat was rather dull. Thankfully that is not the case this time around. BioShock Infinite is a spectacular combat experience that has you utilizing your weapons, vigors, gear that you have found and the verticality of the battlegrounds to defeat your opponents.
As with any first-person shooter, the main method of combat will likely come by firing your weapons. Most of the guns have two weapon types with the exception of the RPG and Sniper Rifle. I did however have certain preferences, so it was nice to have the ability to run with a machine gun that I actually enjoyed using. The shooting is nowhere near as floaty as in the first BioShock, this time around it feels weightier and more substantial. Weapons have the ability to be upgraded just like in the first game, although this time around the design of the guns does not change into the elaborate models of the first game.
Vigors, essentially Plasmids from the first BioShock, are an important part of combat as well. You can play the game without really using them, but it would be unwise to do so. There are eight vigors in total that allow you to possess enemies, use the elements, and for reasons unknown, launch crows from the palm of your hand. Each of the vigors can work in tandem with one another, for instance, shocking mechanical enemies with electricity to stop them, while possessing a rocket turret that will blast them from behind is as cool as it sounds.
Gear is a little off in BioShock Infinite, however. For reasons that never make any sense, you can wear pants, hats and other articles of clothing that will aid you in combat. Sometimes by letting you reload faster, other times by causing a fiery explosion every time you land from a skyline. It is an immersion breaker; however, you will quickly find your favorites and stick to them. There are many variations to be found, for instance, those more focused on aiming down ironsights will prefer a hat that gives them added damage when they aim, but gives reduced damage when they fire from the hip. None of the gear is upgradeable so it is simply a matter of finding the pieces that work with your playstyle.
The most impressive part of combat however is the level design. Skylines connect various parts of the game world together and let you get a jump on your enemies or escape from difficult situations to catch a breather. Enemies can be above or below you, not just in front of you, and dealing with that verticality is the key to survival. However, you are not the only one who can use the skylines, so be prepared for a few rollercoaster like chases in larger encounters.
Enemy AI is a bit improved from the first BioShock, but much of that is due in large part to the more open level design. Thankfully, enemies do not become more powerful as you progress through the game. This was an issue in the first BioShock where you would shoot an enemy with your shotgun and they simply would not die, despite upgrading the weapon. That sort of level scaling is not present here. Enemies remain the same, so when you upgrade the damage of your weapon, your opponents wont be negating the effects you paid for.
BioShock Infinite also understands when to utilize enemies. The first BioShock had you facing down Splicers and Big Daddies. The Big Daddies were meant to be enemies that would produce a sense of fear, but it ultimately failed because you fought them so frequently. They just felt like beefier opponents, albeit ones with a very sad backstory. BioShock Infinite avoids that hurdle, often forcing merely human opponents and mechanical presidents to do battle against you. But it also saved the imposing enemies for a select few encounters. The use of the Handyman in BioShock Infinite is spectacular. There are only a handful of encounters with this opponent and each of them feels like true mini-boss battles that get you on edge. The design is not nearly as iconic as the Big Daddy, and in terms of narrative they dont necessarily work as well as the Big Daddy, but in terms of gameplay, each encounter with the Handyman is a thrilling battle.
Columbia is a rich and beautiful game world with quite a bit of darkness to it. The beauty of this game lies in how dreamlike the city feels. You almost expect a whimsical journey to take place. The way the clouds float across the city, to the architecture and design of Columbia itself. If anything can be criticized about the game's graphics it is the repeated character models for NPCs. There aren't enough unique bodies and it is a little silly to sometimes see an entire group of characters having a discussion, all with the same character model. Another thing is how every NPC magically disappears during combat, rather than having to deal with the horror of seeing murders take place in front of them. But that is more than made up for with the beauty of the environments you will explore, as well as the beautifully animated Elizabeth, who simply comes to life on-screen.
BioShock Infinite also has some of the finest sound mixing and editing that I have heard. Most games in the genre tend to go for explosions, but BioShock Infinite utilizes audio throughout the game perfectly. In one scene you are trying to talk to a teller to get tickets to an airship. But as the conversation progresses, the music and dialogue die down and the ticking of the clock picks up. The audio mixing creates a sense of place, and most importantly, paying attention to the audio will begin to give you clues to the narrative as well. BioShock Infinite is a game that is at its best when it is listened to, and this rarely applies to the majority of videogame releases. Combine this with one of the most beautiful soundtracks composed for a shooter and BioShock Infinite is an absolute joy to listen to.
BioShock Infinite is a game best played at your own pace. While combat is fast-paced, the explorative gamer will see and hear things that the objective-focused gamer will miss out on. The audio logs are spectacular, the kinetoscopes are fantastic pieces of propaganda and seeing and hearing each of them is vital to enriching an already fantastic experience. Average playtimes of BioShock Infinite seem to take about twelve hours, however, my playthrough took almost twenty hours, and I still missed out on some of the kinetoscopes and audio logs. If you have not played the game, than by all means, avoid reading any of the discussions on the game, avoid listening to overly excited friends who want to boast about what they have experienced, and just go dark. It is the best way to experience BioShock Infinite. While it is a shame that the narrative is not the meaningful experience I had hoped it would be, it still provides an excellent fantasy story that will have you hooked to see more of it, and almost without a doubt, ready for a second run through it all again.
Beat Citadel and saw the Extended Cut endings for the first time.
Citadel is hilarious. The plot is almost non-existent. It literally serves as a way of getting the ENTIRE team involved and to crack jokes at the inept enemy they're dealing with. It's the most light-hearted DLC to the Mass Effect series, and while not the greatest DLC the series has seen, that honor goes to Lair of the Shadow Broker, it is a funny and entertaining piece, that while clashing with the overall tone of Mass Effect 3, still provides a good bit of fun due to the fanservice. It exists to make you laugh and see your crew in full force. The lighter side of Shepard is hilarious as well, and the crew always feels in control of the situation, despite what the enemy may think. It's total cheese. But it's the best kind of cheese.
As far as Mass Effect 3 goes, when I first the beat the game I avoided the Extended Cut because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. At the end of the day I thought the ending was fine. Nothing that should have caused the uproar that it did. In fact, the ending does everything the series set out as your goal: stop the Reapers. You do that.
Some people call it a deus ex machina, but I disagree with that. Now, after having seen Mass Effect 3's Extended Cut endings again, they add to what was already there. Some narration and all that helps a bit to understand your choice. But ultimately, Mass Effect 3's endings are actually compelling in that it feels alien, and would you have it any other way in that series? It explains things, as best as it can for you, in a way that makes sense but still feels foreign.
Some say there is no choice, but Mass Effect 3's ending choices are based just as much on selecting one as it is based on your personal beliefs. There's that inner-American in me that always compels me to select one ending over the other three. It's the one that feels right to me. And the differences are expressed very clearly. Sure, you make a predetermined choice, but the effects are big changes between the three and it just feels like people are bitter because they wanted different cutscenes or something.
Mass Effect 3's ending leaves much to interpretation and I can't help but think that so many people just wanted an ending where their FemShep and Liara got together and had blue babies for the rest of eternity. What I got trumps that. It's a hell of a trilogy and later on I will be starting a third playthrough from the first game. I might just start as a female Shepard this time, or maybe another male. All I know is I want to play a Tech character for the third time around. I played twice as a Vanguard, Sole Survivor (of course), but this time I'll be going for something else. Maybe Sentinel, Earthborn, Renegade. Might be an interesting combo.
I did have the benefit of playing Mass Effect 3 without any data carried over from Mass Effect 1 and 2. This provided a dramatically different game. And while people will deny this saying that "oh, the quest goes on without that guy, so it's the same damn game" the answer is no. Everything feels different just by the presence of a single character. It provides dynamism to the experience, and this second playthrough was the first time that I really saw all of my decisions carry through.
The fault of it all is obviously because I played the series on Xbox, but once mine broke I picked up Mass Effect 3 on PC. But with a proper playthrough done, I have to say, this is a spectacular series that I will look back upon very fondly. Stupid, self-entitled fans be damned, Mass Effect 3 kicks more ass than any other sci-fi game on the market.
And now, the time has come. FOR BIOSHOCK INFINITE.
I'm about to dive (well, fly) into it. This is a game that I'm hoping is as great as it looks. I hope I'm not left disappointed by it. But even so, it's ambition is enough to catch my attention. There's a lot of ridiculous praise being tossed around by some guys (like lightwarrior) and while I have refrained from actually reading anything about it or watching anything, it has helped a bit to keep my expectations as my own. I'm well aware of the high metascores, but BioShock stands at a 96 and I would never put that game so high. So the numbers are meaningless. But I do expect a cool game. So hopefully it lives up to my expectations. And if not, well, there's a replay of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 with my name on it to make up for any bitter aftertaste that might remain.
Of course, I'll be starting on Hard. Cuz I'm on Neon-frakking-Ninja and that's how I play shooters.
Got a gift card to Amazon. Bought Infinite. BAM! nbd
Still need to finish Mass Effect 3 before I go through Infinite though. I only have one more DLC and the endgame to go through, so it would be stupid to leave that behind and start a new game.
I also realized that when the family children visit they tend to play the same game: Sonic Generations. Now that I have Rayman Origins, and they're totall playing that too... well, it looks like children's games are going to top my Steam list of most-played games. XD
Kind of a bummer, but whatever.
Hope everyone had a great Easter.
I just beat Mass Effect 3's Omega DLC. It's a fun add-on. A little too action-focused. As fun as Mass Effect's combat is, three straight hours of it with little to no character exploration kind of goes against what the series is about. Still have no clue who Nyreen is outside of the basics that she told me. And I still have no idea who General Oleg Petrovsky is other than, he took over Omega and I beat him.
There is one thing that bothered me: fear. Or the lack of it.
A new enemy was introduced, based on Reaper tech. They are the Adjutants. Apparently, they're supposed to be badass motherf*ckers. And yet, I'd fight four or five of them at a time and take them down. Apparently, they could kill people and then change them into more adjutants. But the DLC doesn't do this heightened sense of fear any justice. Some of the characters are scared, but there's a disconnect when one character tells another that they fight differently in combat against those adjutants, as if they're terrified of them and can't move. That'd be fine if that same character wasn't standing knee deep in adjutant guts with me.
It is to my understanding that the Omega DLC was done by another studio, not the main team at BioWare. For a first effort I guess it's fine, but ultimately Mass Effect 3 proper introduces fear on the battlefield much more believably, namely with the Banshees. They screech before they arrive on the battlefield and they're a pain in the ass to fight (in a good way). Granted, Mass Effect as a series never really went for that sense of fear, so much as awe. But the point is that in this DLC these monsters are hyped as something fearsome, but they're only cannon fodder.
Some games have nailed a sense of heightened nervousness or fear really well. Resident Evil 4 nailed it in every situation. From the start, to the boss fights. There was one fight I remember that you had to run away (unless you froze the guy, but that was on my second playthrough) and you just had to book it or you were dead as hell. Or whenever the damn chainsaw guy showed up, or if there was two... oh man, you were on edge, ready to fight. Or the first experience with the Berserker in Gears of War, or the first experience with the Big Daddy in BioShock. Or when you first met the Flood in Halo. There's a sense of panic and excitement when you face those enemies because it works in the game design. But when characters discuss how frightened they are of these things and yet they swarm you a dozen at a time and go down with two shotgun blasts, there's a major disconnect between the player and the game.
Anyway, it was an interesting return trip to Omega, though the highlights of finding Mordin or the Archangel (MAH ROAD DOGS!) in Mass Effect 2 are a far cry from what was on offer in 3's DLC. If you're as big a fan of Mass Effect 3 as I am, you likely purchased the DLC just to see what's up, but really, it adds nothing of significance to the journey. Just a 3 hour long shootout that doesn't explore the characters present.
As I finish up my Mass Effect 3 playthrough, I'll also be going through the Citadel DLC, which I've heard much better things about. Apparently, same team as Omega, so it will be interesting to see how that piece turns out.
Is that.... Final Fantasy FIVE there on the App Store. Today?
Talk about your stealth launch, man.
Now I just need to get into a JRPG mood before getting it. Still need to finish The World Ends With You, after all. But it's hard to care about mobile RPGs when I'm still thinking of BioShock Infinite every damn day. It doesn't help that some of you disgusting peasants are playing it and all I see on my damn Steam activity is "psn is playing BioShock: Infinite, DarkLink is playing BioShock Infinite" you know what? Screw you guys. Screw you!
In other news, Tomb Raider is already on sale. $37.49 at the moment on Green Man Gaming. Just saying. This is why I haven't bought Infinite yet. As much as I want it, and as much as I'm dying to play it, $60 or $50 is too much when the damn game prices drop after the first month.
And Square-Enix's Hitman: Absolution is $10 for the weekend. That's been out for like 3 months or something. I'm just saying, me and $60 don't get along with the way game prices work.
But dat Final Fantasy V. I like. I'll get it later in the year. I'm in "new game" mode right now. Plus I don't want to stare at a tiny screen right now, so there's that too. BUT FINAL FANTASY V STEALTH LAUNCH, SO SOON!
I'm not paying $60 for it. I have other things I can spend that sort of money on. I've spent about $30 on videogames in 2013 thus far, purchasing:
Total War: Shogun 2 Collection for $12
Rayman Origins for $6
Dragon Age II for $6
Hard Reset for $5
Noitu Love 2: Devolution for $2
And I was gifted a copy of Frozen Synapse by lightwarrior.
But I really, REALLY want BioShock Infinite. The shooter genre has grown stale since the glory days of 2007 when Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Crysis, BioShock, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and many more games each provided unique gameplay experiences. Compare that to now. The vast majority of shooters have adopted the style of the most popular game out of that batch from 2007 and we've all been dealing with a genre that has not been impressing very much.
Yeah, Vanquish is an adrenaline rush, Spec Ops: The Line is an important game and apparently FarCry 3 is the first true successor to FarCry and Crysis (the irony should not be lost on anyone). But few exceptions aside, like the named games, ARMA and a few others, we have mostly been stuck in a rut.
While I had a few problems with BioShock after playing it, I did admire the risks taken to try something new. And it's not hard to continue to admire what Irrational are attempting with Infinite. But it looks better, with large-scale battlefields and a living city, rather than the empty halls of Rapture.
I've dealt with my fair share of disappointments in the shooter genre. Rage, while fun to play, was not the game-changer it very clearly could have been had Id focused on fleshing out its various pieces. And that's just one case of a great shooter that really could not challenge the norm set by Call of Duty. But for some reason I really doubt that I will feel disappointed in BioShock Infinite. The more I see of it, the more I want it. I'm likely going to avoid reading everything there is about it because I don't want a story-focused game ruined for me. But I'm also not going to rush out to the store tomorrow to buy it (also because I work tomorrow, but that's besides the point, I could buy it digitally and preload it).
I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'll either give the first BioShock a spin to see how I feel about it. Lord knows I've been giving games second chances after hating them and coming away with a far greater appreciation for what they offer (Mass Effect 2 anyone?). I've also given some games second chances and realized I was dead on about how unremarkable they were (Quake 4 anyone?). But I'm curious to know if six years after playing it, I'll come out of BioShock with a greater appreciation for what it offered rather than the 17/18 year old that played it and just wanted sharper gunplay out of it. Time does change how we view certain games (again, Mass Effect 2, anyone?).
Speaking of second chances, that's why I bought Dragon Age II. I initially wrote it off as a stupid and unnecessary sequel. Than I read lightwarrior's criticism of how it basically was that... go figure. But something struck me about the game. The fact that it attempted something new with its narrative. That the game focused more on character and less on "we have this rich backstory, but hey, go kill the big dragon monster and save the world!" And that's interesting. It could still suck ass, but it's still interesting and something I'd like to see first-hand.
I also want to play Noitu Love 2: Devolution and Rayman Origins as well. I played a bit of Rayman on the Wii and was floored with how well made it was. I bought the PC version as soon as it went on sale. And Noitu Love 2's bullet-hell inspiration for a 2D platformer did not go unnoticed by me. I love great platformers and so I'll likely give these two a spin sometime soon, along with BioShock. I'll just have to focus on which platformer I want first, I guess.
After BioShock I'm not sure what I'll do. Maybe Frozen Synapse and see if I can start diving further and further into the strategy genre. And yes, this is a thing that changed with time in a way. I used to avoid the genre all together. Now I've spent money on a Total War game, my first Total War game since the first Shogun was released.