This week I saw both ends of the gaming spectrum.
I've said a lot lately about my loathing for corrdor-based paint-by-numbers money spinners like the latest Tomb Raider appears to be aspiring too. However, until now I had never played a game that unticked absolutely every box on the good list.
The offending title is Dead Space 3. I downloaded the demo off PSN in the hope of witnessing something special and a reason to reinvigerate my love for gaming. Instead, I merely found another game to add to my burgeoning list of recycle bin demos.
Dead Space 1 and 2 were works of art. Well, perhaps the first more than the second but both were solid titles full of quality gaming. It is an irony that the only reason I am yet to complete them is the one reason that makes me praise them so highly - they are just too good at what they do. Simply put, they are very scary! They invoke a true feeling of isolation and helplessness (again, the first more than the second but that is a subject for another blog post) and really draw the player into the envioronment and the story. These two games are an example of the best EA can deliver.
So it fills me with dispair and anger that Dead Space 3 makes a gigantic 180 on these brilliant gaming traits whilst simultaneously handing a proverbial slap in ther face to their loyal investors (i.e. us gamers) by talk of their latest DLC plans. Hot off the press is news of an expensive tree of thankless DLC available on release day that appears to transcend 'nice to have' by actually being rather essential.
In summary, the DLC revolves around the Scavenger Bot - something to help the player pick up weapon parts and thus make the process of becoming awesome quicker and more efficient. The many news stories I have read about this suggest that to fully enjoy the game and to become as good as possible, this bot is nigh on essential. Its pretty expensive too - around £15 for all the bot enhancements.
It seems these days that to get good you need to spend dollar. And more dollar than ever before.
As alluded to above, aside from the scandalous DLC plans the game is also a bit rubbish. Actually, a lot rubbish. Tight corridors, invisible borders, predictable scares and it is just plain boring. Stuck in a snowy environent (which tries to generate even more tension by over-use of snow drifts and an immense amount of fog) the game developers have tried to think outside the box and become creative by setting the game outside of space but have fallen flat on their face with over-use of tired genre cliches.
Needless to say, this one is staying out of my Steam Library for good.
However, as per the title of this blog post there are still plenty of reasons to remain optimistic for the future of gaming. One word: Borderlands!
Whatever DS3 has got wrong, Borderlands seems to just get right. I recently downloaded the season pass for Borderlands 2 having read glowing reviews and still being enamoured for the main game. I don't normally buy DLC as I tend to tire once I complete a game so this represents a new direction for me.
Actually. as of writing I have invested 54 hours in this masterpiece and I can easily see myself passing the magic 100 mark. Not since Fallout 3 have I devoted so much of my spare time to one title. It really is just so much fun.
The developers have really nailed the 'sense of progression' that games of this ilk really need. To get to the holy grail of level 50 you need to put in a helluva lot of hours. To encourage players to play that much, you need to maintain interest in the game and make the player feel they are really progressing instead of just climbing an aritrary number board.
The DLC packs really help with maintaining interest. Even for a Borderlands veteran like myself, I have found enough new content to encourage me to level 50. This is an example of DLC done right. The price point is also pitched quite perfectly. I paid far less than RRP owing to a pre Christmas flash sale on one of the UK's popular download gaming sites. However, even at the standard retail price of £20, this pack is extremely good value.
New environments, more fantastic humour, new guns (lots of new guns!), interesting quests and consistently excelllent graphics elevate this latest DLC and the game in general to 'top 10' status. Maybe even top 5. This and Fallout 3 are examples of the best of gaming and I hope that the developers continue to release such great titles in the future.