Sorry for not visiting some of your blogs lately -- I am trying to stay as far away from Bioshock spoilers as possible. I can't get the game for a while so hopefully I can stay clear.
Anyway, to my surprise I received an iPad 4 as a gift from moms a short time ago. My mother is retired and I think is spending her retirement funds too quickly. I have never had iPad, iPod, or iPhone, so everything is new to me with it. Not surprisingly, it is on its way to becoming another gaming platform for me. That's not what the gift giver had in mind, I'm sure, but oh well.
Anyone have any game recommendations? Or other recommendations of stuff I should get? There's more stuff than I thought on here, although I imagine much of it isn't too good. I am trying some of the stuff I heard about but never played, like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and I downloaded XBox Smart Glass and am still trying to figure out what the point of it is. But other than that I have no idea, so I am looking for suggestions
(Edit -- Since writing this I bought my first iPad game: Ridiculous Fishing. When I discovered that there was a game called Ridiculous Fishing where you pulled fish out of the water and then shot them with machine guns, I had to get it. It is very fun and addicting and well worth $2.99 I will have to find more. )
It'll be the holidays before you know it, which this year means the release of two next generation consoles -- the Playstation 4 and the XBox whatever it will be called.
There doesn't seem to be a great deal of excitement surrounding these releases though, at least not from what I've seen. There could be many reasons for that -- maybe the technological advances aren't big enough to justify the price, maybe more and more people are finally getting sick of the same old thing, maybe more and more people are discovering that PC and/or portable devices are all they need to get a gaming fix, maybe people have grown weary of the gaming industry, or maybe (like in my case) it's some or all of those things along with other things I haven't mentioned.
I was a PS2/GameCube/XBox owner and part-time PC player two generations ago, and I was a PS3/360/Wii and part-time PC player during the most recent generation. When Wii, 360, and PS3 hit, I was still very happy with the PS2/GameCube/XBox combo and wasn't really ready to give it up, but eventually I knew I'd want all three consoles because I was always someone who was afraid to miss out on a good game, wanting to play every good exclusive that came down the pike.
I don't feel that way this time around. I've gone from being a Nintendo-first gamer back in the GameCube days to now not being sure I'll ever own a Wii U at all. I went from XBox being my least-played console to 360 being the most-played to the point where I don't know if I want to own anything else. My PS3 I mostly use for watching blu-rays these days. Meanwhile, I still dabble in PC from time to time although PC gaming isn't nearly as fun for someone with a bad back, bad neck, and bad hands like me, so I don't play it as much as I'd like. As for exclusives, I'm not sure there are as many anymore to justify owning all three consoles, not to mention I'm not I care as much about missing out on them.
But I don't know... maybe three years from now I will find myself once again with all three. I definitely don't plan on being an early adopter, probably waiting at least a year before considering any new console. Maybe that gap will get me hungry for the new ones. But I'm also very much considering going to the PC more as sticking to things like Steam Sales would be good for my increasingly small wallet.
What are your plans? Are you excited about next gen? Don't care? Somewhere in between? Are you going to buy on day one, or are you going to wait a year or two before making the flip?
It's taken until March 1 to start to dig into my 360 backlog that I built up on Black Friday (and added to the other day by buying games I'm not sure I actually wanted from the current 360 sale just because they were cheap, like El Shaddai), but it's finally time. I decided to play Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story on Wii before getting into the 360 stack. I had no idea I would sink over 150 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles though, so it's taken longer to get her than I thought.
Xenoblade's stunning Eryth Sea zone was worth the price of admission.
Xenoblade Chronicles received lots of love from game reviewers as well as the gaming community, but I can't say I was ever in love with it despite spending that much time with it. It was great in a couple areas -- some of the zones were wonderful, and the soundtrack stood out as well. But I felt that the story, characters and combat system stayed in the range of average-to-above average for most of the game, while a large percentage of the extreme quantity side quests (of which probably took up over half my playtime) too often felt meaningless and grindy. But it did have that classic JRPG feel and did a fine job of filling a JRPG void that has been missing on consoles for much of this generation.
The Last Story was brought to us by the same person who created the Final Fantasy series (Hironobu Sakaguchi), so it's not too much of a surprise that it felt at times more like a traditional Final Fantasy game than any game in the series since Final Fantasy X. It was pretty experimental (and hit-and-miss) in terms of its combat, so that won't remind you at all of Final Fantasy, but some of the game's more romantic and grandiose moments definitely had that epic Final Fantasy feel to them. The game is unfortunately held back by technical issues and lack of polish, among other things, but I think I actually wound up having more fun with this game than Xenoblade even though I scored it a little lower. I liked the setting and characters, and it had a silly sense of humor too. It was pretty short for an RPG; I ended up with about 39 hours played and probably could have cut that by at least 15 if I had stuck to the main story. It did feel a little thin in that area, but not so much that you feel slighted.
There's a great game somewhere inside The Last Story, but it didn't always find its way out.
I also have to a bit at the Japanese perv factor at work as each game had a way by design to strip all your characters down to their undergarments while still maintaining armor value. So if you ever want to play a game where you can defeat giant bosses while your characters are in their underwear, this is the place to look.
Anyway, those are probably two of the last games I'll play on Wii. I still will probably play Skyward Sword and maybe Kirby's Epic Yarn, but after that it will probably be time to retire the Wii for good. It was nice to spend some time with it after only having played one game on it (DKC Returns) in like two years. It made me feel like I got more of my money's worth than I originally thought.
Well that's all for now; thanks for reading
I'm reading some of the comments in this Dead Space 3 article on GameSpot, and I suppose it was inevitable that eventually I come to something like this:
"So many entitled gamers these days, crying and butthurt because someone made a game that isn't what they wanted it to be... Its easy to tear apart someone elses creation from the anonimity of the internet... People just like to complain these days, nothing is ever good enough for them, or is as good as it once was..."
Complaining about complaining seems to be a common phenomenon in the gaming community from what I've seen. I first really noticed it en masse during the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy, and now it seems to be a matter of time before I see it come up whenever there's a complaint about something else.
According to these people, we're apparently not supposed to complain about anything at all. Don't like the ending to Mass Effect 3? Don't like the fact that Skyrim was buggy and didn't work properly for PS3? Don't like Dead Space 3 becoming an action game? If you answered yes to any of these, or complain about anything else pertaining to a game a game, that makes you "entitled" according to these people (their favorite buzzword). I've seen some of them say that complainers just need to shut up and be thankful that these wonderful, wonderful games exist.
I don't really frequent other online communities too much outside of sports, but from a glance it seems like this is unique to the gaming community. Some people didn't like Skyfall or The Hobbit very much, but I never saw anyone respond to those people with "You're entitled." With games though, apparently we're supposed to shut up and accept it if we don't like something. Even if someone paid for a game and it didn't work (as was the case for some with Skyrim), we're supposed to get nothing and like it.
I don't understand that. Complaints come with anything that is released for public consumption and is part of being a customer, and any business worth their salt values constructive complaints and WANTS to hear them because they can use it to make their products better. And for people like the person above who hate it when someone "tears apart someone's creation," criticism is part of the creative process; music gets criticized, movies get criticized, books get criticized, paintings and sculptures get criticized. I'm not sure why video games should be exempt from this.
(Not to mention that a lot of video games aren't exactly the work of an auteur... I'm guessing the creative direction of games like Dead Space 3 is at least partially controlled by guys in suits whose primary concern is maximizing profit rather than making an artistic statement or keeping artistic integrity... the article in question backs that guess up)
Anyway, keep complaining, complainers. Sure, listening to people complain can get annoying at times, but I don't want to live in a world without you. That goes double for video games -- I can't imagine what some games might turn out like if they weren't subject to the wrath of the community and we were just supposed to accept whatever form they were released in. Don't let the people calling you "entitled" or responding to you with "First World Problems" get in your way. Whether you paid for it or not, you aren't wrong in letting your voice be heard, and who knows -- maybe your feedback can help make that game and/or future games better.
That rant was my first entry here in a while, but I haven't had much to say. When I've been playing games it's been Xenoblade Chronicles, which has unexpectedly turned into a 100-hour game for me, and that's strange because I am not sure I really am in love with the game. But the completionist in me has taken over with this game as some unseen force is pushing me to complete every meaningless and tedious side quest (and there are a LOT of them in this game), unlock every hidden door, and level up until I complete all the skill trees and kill every uber optional boss that I find. I'm not sure how much longer I'll go at it with this game, but right now I'm on a mission to kill all the high-level monsters that killed me when I was a low-level.
That's all for now; thanks for reading
Sometimes I can't decide whether or not my overall interest in games has declined recently, but I definitely know for sure that my interest in being an early adopter is no longer there.
This has led to me going from being able to confidently do year-end best of lists in 2009 and 2010 to not being able to do one at all because I haven't played hardly any games of note to come out this year.
Below is my small list of games I played that came out in 2012.
- Choplifter HD - Playstation Plus freebie. Not a great game but I had fun with it. A guilty pleasure.
- Double Dragon Neon - Playstation Plus freebie. I like the old school flavor but I wound up quitting after about an hour out of lack of interest.
- Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition - I bought this game on accident a couple days ago when I thought I was downloading the demo but instead clicked purchase. This is the third XBLA game I've bought on accident. Has anyone else had this problem, or am I just a moron? I've played it for about an hour. It's not as good as my other two accidental purchases, Super Meat Boy and ilomilo.
- Happy Wars -- Free XBLA game. It was ok for a free game but I quit after discovering that it forces you to play multiple rounds of not-that-good online multiplayer in order to advance in the single player.
- Hotline Miami - Now playing. I don't know if this game is quite as cool as it thinks it is or a lot of critics think it is, but I'm finding it to be kind of fun.
- Journey - For the first half of this game I felt like I had gotten ripped off, but towards the end I started to understand and found the last half-hour or so to be a profound gaming experience. After that, it was more enjoyable to play through a second time. I didn't come away thinking it was GOTY material, but I haven't played the rest of the contenders, so I can't say for sure.
- Mass Effect 3 - I agree with many of the criticisms about this game, but at the same time, I probably put over 100 hours in between the single-player and multiplayer and had a lot of fun with the latter. It's very rare for me to spend any extended time with a game's multiplayer, but I did it here.
- Persona 4 Arena - Now playing. I've managed to fall asleep four times so far during this game's wall of text story mode. I really like the Persona games and was very excited to play this, but not every character's story has kept me awake. As a fighting game though, it's pretty fun.
- Quantum Conundrum - Playstation Plus freebie. Pretty interesting game but I stopped playing it once my Black Friday games arrived. I'm not sure if I'll pick it up again.
- Quarrel - Fun but flawed word game. At the time of release, the single-player AI was way too hard, and it was too easy to cheat online. I don't know if those have been fixed since then, but given its low price, it was a good buy.
- Silent Hill HD Collection - Konami did a pretty lackluster job in putting this collection together, and I hated the controls at first. But I will never forget how bleak and relentlessly oppressive the atmosphere of Silent Hill 2 was once the game got going.
- Skullgirls - Quit after a while out of a combination of extreme difficulty and being too lazy at the time to learn a new fighting game (and in this game you have no choice but to learn it, otherwise the AI will destroy you).
- Skyrim Dawnguard - Nothing spectacular but if you like Skyrim, you'll like Dawnguard. I'm not sure what else to say about it. Wait until you can get it on sale though.
- Walking Dead - I played through the first two a while back and just bought the rest. I really enjoyed the first two and am looking forward to the next three. I have been skeptical in the past as to whether or not episodic games would work, but after this I am excited about the future with this format.
Pretty weak, but maybe by the end of 2013 I will have played enough 2012 games to do a best-of list.
Overall though I wasn't excited about much to come out this year. It seemed like a down year for games. Maybe I'll be proven wrong once I play through the big backlog of 2012 games that I have piled up over the last few weeks though -- XCom, Dishonored, Forza Horizon, Assassin's Creed III, FTL Faster Than Light, Max Payne 3, The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles (does that count as 2011 or 2012?), and a few other things. I also want to get my hands on Dragon's Dogma and Kingdoms of Amalur, both of which were available for just $9.99 during the short-lived greatest Black Friday sale ever at the Microsoft Store, but I missed it.
I also played some games from previous years though, my favorites being:
1. Dragon Age Origins -- I had already played DA:O on the PC but played through it again more than twice on the 360. I'm a big DA:O fan.
2. Rayman Origins -- So goofy, lovable, and fun. The antidote to being worn out on stuff like too many shooters.
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution -- I loved the cyberpunk setting and the different ways you can play the game.
4. Gears of War 3 -- Mostly more of the same, which is the case for many shooter sequels... but it's still Gears, and Gears is always a lot of fun.
5. Alice: Madness Returns -- A little lacking in some ways but is an underrated game that is often fun, sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes trippy.
6. Donkey Kong Country Returns -- Fun, and very difficult. It's hard enough to beat the main story, but completing everything there is to complete in this game is definitely one of the hardest objectives in any game this generation.
7. Just Cause 2 -- If you are looking for a brainless game where you can just mindlessly blow stuff up, here you go. Pretty fun stuff a lot of the time.
8. The Binding of Isaac -- The definitive "I can't stop playing this and I don't know why" game.
9. Might & Magic Clash of Heroes -- I had this sitting on my 360 hard drive for months. Pretty fun game once I got around to it.
10. Assassin's Creed Revelations -- Not much new here, but more of one of this gen's best games (Assassin's Creed II) isn't a bad thing.
11. Infamous 2 -- Brings a lot of the fun of the first game plus a cool new character, but I felt it really wasn't much of a step forward from the original.
12. Dragon Age II -- I expected the worst coming in given how much hate it got. It really is a major departure from Origins, and not always in a good way... but it's still not a bad game. It's just nowhere near as good as Origins.
13. Shadows of the Damned - A bizarre game with weapons named Hot Boner and Big Boner and dialogue such as "These demon pubes are blocking the door!" If that sounds like your thing, then this game's for you.
14. To the Moon -- Probably gaming's greatest love story, but it unfortunately isn't much from a gameplay perspective, plus I felt it was very uneven at times in how it flip-flopped back and forth between serious subject matter and comic relief.
15. The First Templar -- Another guilty pleasure... a budget game that isn't that good in some ways but is still surprisingly enjoyable much of the time and actually has a couple parts that are pretty cool.
Hmm, maybe I played more than I thought this year. I didn't even get into the stuff here that I didn't like that much.
Next year, I'm looking forward to Dragon Age 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and... I don't know what else. I think I'll be playing through mostly older games for much of the year.
Have a safe and happy new year everyone!
First blog in a few months. I haven't been too excited about gaming over the past half year or so, and I could write a long whiny rant about why, but I won't, because Black Friday is here, which means it's time to get excited again and build a backlog.
Bought so far:
Dishonored (X360) ($25)
Sly Cooper Collection (PS3) ($10)
Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition ($20)
Saints Row The Third The Full Package ($25)
Persona 4 Arena ($30)
Max Payne 3 ($15)
Forza Horizon ($15)
Probably will buy:
Assassin's Creed III ($35)
XCom: Enemy Unknown ($35)
House of the Dead: Overkill (PS3) ($13)
Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition ($20)
Kirby's Epic Yarn ($15)
I will get XCom for sure sometime, but I was kind of hoping it would go lower than $35. I think I might wait a little while longer, although I haven't decided yet. The other three games are games I'm just not sure I want.
With $44 worth of Amazon points to use, my broke self should be able to get all that crap for somewhere around $125-$150.
I think I might be most looking forward to Persona 4 Arena from that list, and Assassin's Creed III as well even though the review scores were lower than I thought (but still not bad). Honestly, some of the others are games I really wasn't too interested in playing (Max Payne 3, Forza, Sly Collection, Fallout NV, Saints Row), but the prices on them changed my mind. Honestly I was only expecting to buy three or four games this year, but I guess I'm buying some more.
Hope everyone has been well. I haven't had much to say about games, so I haven't written anything here. I've played some over the past several months, but I'm not really sure I enjoyed too many of them. Off the top of my head, I liked Alice Madness Returns (an imperfect game but I had fun and loved the trippy worlds, and kudos for having the balls to explore messed up subject matter and do it gracefully), Walking Dead 1&2 (Playstation Plus please be nice and put the rest of them out for free like you did the first two), Might & Magic Clash of Heroes, Just Cause 2 (silly game in some ways, but perfect if you are in one of those moods to just mindlessly blow as much stuff up as possible), AC Revelations, and to an extent Infamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2. I hated Dead Space 2, which surprised me, and got bored with Darksiders and quit halfway through. I've messed around with some other things that were freebies from Playstation Plus, but I don't feel like writing about them. Right now I'm playing Quantum Conundrum from PSPlus and it's pretty decent.
I'm hoping I'll love some of these games I'm buying rather than feeling like I'm playing them just to pass the time or just to dig out of a backlog.
Thanks for reading
Back to Skyrim I go... back to a vast fantasy world where you can lose yourself and stop and stare at the sights while soaking in the near-perfect soundtrack... and back to the bugs and sloppiness, back to loading screen after loading screen, back to occasionally awkward combat, back to unwanted dragon fights interrupting your game
I do think it's true that the more you play Skyrim, the more problems you find with it, or at least that's been my experience. I keep on playing this game thinking that it should be one of the best games ever made but it too often stands in its own way of becoming that.
It's still fun enough though, so wound up picking up Dawnguard, Skyrim's first expansion, and at first I was excited to be coming back to the game after months. It didn't take long to see the game is still buggy -- my quest log was still filled with bugged-out quests that couldn't previously be finished (some of them were fixed, a couple of them disappointingly are still unable to be completed), my inventory still has items from those bugged quests that can't be removed, and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of random bugs that still happen when you play the game.
There's quite a few people out there who defended the game upon release, frequently citing that the game's size makes it very difficult to troubleshoot and that some bugs should be expected. That's true, although I also think it's true that upon release there were still too many. Seven-plus months have passed since the game's release, and only some things have been fixed. Some haven't. I don't really know what the defense for that would be.
Louis Letrush hangs out right outside of Whiterun. Sometimes there's one of him, sometimes there's three, sometimes there's more than three, sometimes he's sticking out of the ground, and sometimes you get interesting combinations of those. Poor Louis has had this affliction since November.
Anyway, on to Dawnguard. I've only played some of it so far, and while there's some good things in it (the storyline seems interesting enough, and the new companion you get is likable), it also feels like more of the same -- fetch quests, dungeon quests, etc. So if you're expecting something like Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion, which introduced you to a strange new land and felt like a separate experience from Oblivion altogether, you'll be a little disappointed in that respect. I haven't really gotten into the new werewolf or vampire powers too much though and still have a ways to go with the questline, but so far it's just more Skyrim.
That's not necessarily a bad thing as warts aside, Skyrim still puts you under its spell, and if you got hooked on it before you'll get hooked on it again, unless you're sick of the game. I do wish they would have come up with a way to lessen the dragon encounter rate for people who don't need or want to fight them though... whenever one attacks I just reload the last save file and warp across the map away from it. Now that I'm done whining though, I should really get back to playing it some more...
Mass Effect 3 released its new and improved endings on the same day as Dawnguard, and I was able to put down Skyrim long enough to see how things played out. Some people hate them, some people like them. I thought the endings were better, or at least it felt like a more fitting ending to a trilogy of games and not something that felt a little rushed and uninspired. There's more closure on several fronts now. If you haven't seen them yet, your choice is to either watch them on YouTube or play through the last 2-3 hours of the game again. If you choose the former, there might be a couple scenes that you miss out on that happen during the final mission.
I think I'm going to look at hanging out at Giant Bomb some more. I'm getting a page started here. I'm not going to leave this site but I think I might do some combination of the two, like making some lists over there and writing stuff here, or something like that. But my blog page has felt a little bit like a ghost town lately, and since the other site I like to comment at (Kotaku) implemented an overly complicated new comment system that is driving people away, I'm thinking of getting into a new place more.
Also, if you haven't seen this, check it out for a laugh. Cracked.com ran a thread recently called "If video game titles/covers were honest." Click here.
These were probably the non-obscene ones I liked the most:
I haven't really played my PS3 much over the past couple of years. I watch blu-rays on it all the time, but game-wise I think I've only played Uncharted 3, Journey, and Super Stardust HD in the last year and a half.
It looks like that will change though, thanks to the nice Playstation Plus deal going on right now. In case you missed it (I hadn't seen it up until a few days ago), they made 12 games available for free play to their subscribers:
Little Big Planet 2
Just Cause 2
Saints Row 2
Warhammer Space Marine
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Ratchet and Clank All-4-One
Sideway New York
Contra Hard Corps
Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
I haven't really ever even considered signing up for Playstation Plus, but after seeing that deal and wondering how many future games might be made free to play, I decided to give it a try and give my nerdrage32 account a year's subscription. Maybe there's a catch that I'm missing other than the fact that you don't actually own copies of the games and that they'd take forever to download on PSN and that my hard drive isn't big enough for them all, but I haven't seen it yet if there is.
I'm wondering if part of this move might just be Sony's answer to Onlive. A subscription to Onlive will get you more titles, but it's more expensive, and many of the titles aren't that interesting. When thinking of Sony's library and all the current and older games they could someday make free, I think it's pretty intriguing. I wonder if XBox Live will do something similar someday. Hopefully they will, although I have a feeling they won't.
So I guess I have a bigger backlog now I don't know if I'll play all those games in the year's subscription, but I think I'll play through at least half of them.
I also dusted off the Wii a few days back for the first time in about a year and a half to play Donkey Kong Country Returns. It had the reputation coming in for being hard as hell, and after clearing four chapters of the game I can say that the reputation is pretty well deserved in some parts. There have already been a few F-bombs tossed that game's way on my part It's a little strange actually because on the surface, the game comes off as being targeted at young kids, but I can't think of many young kids who would be good enough and/or patient enough to make it through this game.
I was thinking for a while that over the next few months I might just play through the few Wii games I still want to play (Xenoblade, Last Story, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Zelda Skyward Sword, New SMB Wii, and maybe a couple others) and then box up the Wii for good and close the chapter on it, but I'm wondering if DKC Returns might be my last game on Wii. It's a good game, but I'm just having trouble getting back into the Wii. Plus I've been reminded while playing it how much I don't really care for motion controls. So I don't know.
Plenty of negative words were written and said after this year's E3, but maybe the most attention-grabbing piece was this one from Gamasutra editor-in-chief Kris Graft called The E3 of Disillusion. He was quite pointed in his criticism of E3:
"On the grand stage in L.A., at the event that I've heard called the "Super Bowl of Video Games," the world's biggest video game publishers made clear at whom they would direct hundreds of millions of dollars of investment: Bloodthirsty, sex-starved teen males who'll high-five at a headshot and a free T-shirt."
"E3 2012 was unabashed pandering to the lowest common denominator, more than ever before. The video game industry wants to be respected as a medium that can be held up to the same creative standards as a New York Times best-selling book or an Oscar-winning movie. Instead, the games industry is complacent in further developing its relegation as a semi-interactive Michael Bay mocking bird."
"If you witnessed E3 as an intelligent enthusiast of video games, you realized the sad truth: The joy is dead, delight is gone. Joy and delight just aren't worth the monetary investment anymore for big-budget games. Joy and delight are replaced by 'I ****** your **** up, and I'm a bad-ass, let's crack open a Dew.' It took all of these games in one place for me to finally, reluctantly, admit that this is what triple-A video games are now. At least that's how E3 and triple-A game publishers apparently want to portray the world of video games. Are you not entertained?"
Wow Was it that bad?
I didn't pay much attention to E3, so I can't say one way or another, although from a distance it seemed kind of bad. I haven't been that interested in it for some time, really. I guess the thing Kris Graft complains about is what I have felt for a while now -- E3 is an event that is focused more on hyping up sequels and big-budget releases with less of a focus on new IPs, and since I tend to not get as excited about that stuff as I do new IPs and games that go in fresh directions, I don't pay much attention. I suppose I'm an enthusiast, to use Kris Graft's word, and while I'll play a lot of those sequels and probably have fun doing so, there's still a boring element of familiarity with them that doesn't get me too excited. But I guess there were also a few new IPs of interest there too, buried underneath all the noise.
That's the gaming industry in general these days though -- the big money and big hype is going to be pumped into what sells, just as it is in the movie industry. Anything that takes a chance or moves in a new direction is likely to be lost underneath the blockbusters -- it's still out there, you just might have to look for it a little bit.
Plus, there's an age factor... I'm not old in human years (sometimes I physically feel like I'm 80, but that's a discussion for another time), but I'm getting up there in gaming years. You're never too old to play games, don't get me wrong... but most of the gaming community is young, and you reach a certain point where you don't really feel a part of it anymore. With E3, it feels like most of the products are being pitched to that crowd, so a lot of what goes on there doesn't feel aimed at me.
Ironically though, it's quite possible that the game discussed at E3 that I might be looking forward to the most is the one that will probably turn out to be the crudest, filthiest, most immature one of them all...
Game-wise I've mostly just been spending time with Dragon Age over the past few weeks. I went back to replay Origins after having played in on PC a couple years ago because I wanted to get a save file going on my 360 that I could import into Dragon Age II, which I had decided to play on the 360 instead of the PC. I thought I would just whip through Origins real fast, but it was like rediscovering an old friend. I wound up playing through it two times in full with a few other characters started just to mess around with. It's a better game than I remember, maybe my favorite RPG of this gen. They did a good job too adapting what was really a PC game by design to the console.
After that, I got into Dragon Age II, the game that many Origins fans have said is a terrible travesty. Well, it's not terrible, but it is just so... different. It's stunning how far removed the game is from Origins in many ways. It's still a pretty solid game, but if you love Origins, you will definitely be taken aback by how many things have changed and how many changes seem unnecessary.
Once you get past the adjustment period, there's some good stuff in Dragon Age II. The cast of characters turns out to be likable, or at least the females do; the male characters on your team with one exception are peckers. I think my favorite was Merrill, the nervous, naive, socially awkward forest elf. I imagine she got on some people's nerves, but her story was the most interesting one to me.
Depending on your taste, Merrill's fish-out-of-water cuteness will either put you under her spell or make you want to push her into traffic
I definitely was let down by by how little the characters from Origins were seen in Dragon Age II. In fairness, the ending of Origins did kind of wrap up those characters pretty well, but I was still disappointed to not see more of them. And the one major character from Origins who did seem bound to play a major role in future installments -- Morrigan -- isn't even in the game at all. Plus the game in general left as many questions as answers storywise. Overall, it was a tad bit disappointing but at the same time, I liked it more than I thought I would, probably because I was expecting the worst based on all the hate the game gets.
I think I will play a little bit more of Dragon Age II before moving on. I have Dead Space 2, Just Cause 2, Darksiders, and newly-added-to-backlog games in Assassin's Creed Revelations and Donkey Kong Country Returns to decide from. Maybe Assassin's Creed since ACIII is the only game right now I can think of that I'm considering buying on day one this year, and I want to catch up with things storywise but also give some time between Revelations and III so that I don't grow sick of it. I'm also trying to decide if I want to add Final Fantasy XIII-2; I was never really too interested in it but it's $19.99 right now at Amazon.
Other entertainment stuffs have included the NBA Playoffs and Game of Thrones.
Speaking of peckers...
After sitting in the waiting queue for months at Netflix, I finally got the first season of Game of Thrones sent to me recently. I'm through season one, and now the challenge of how I will watch the recently completed season two is upon me. I don't think I have it in me to wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray, so I might have to subscribe to HBO. If you are at all into high fantasy, definitely check it out. Once the show starts picking up the pace in the later part of season one, it is very entertaining and hard to pull away from, unless you're not into gratuitous sex/boobs/butts/wangs and violence (actually there's not THAT much of that stuff, but when it does happen, the show is not afraid of going a little overboard with it ). I can't wait to get into season two, even though I've had some of it spoiled for me (it seems near impossible these days not to stumble across spoilers for this show online).
Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading
It seems like there have been many people writing unhappy blog entries about the changes in GameSpot's commenting system. You have influenced me to write my own! Kind of
I haven't wanted to comment much on any of it because past experience working for a web site has put me on the other side of stuff like this, and it's tougher to handle than you think. Multiple times have I been on the other side during a complete web site overhaul and had to see to angry user after angry user voice their displeasure and talk about moving to a competitor, all while I and other workers are panicking to help fix stuff that worked just fine in beta but now all of a sudden doesn't work at all once it was made live. One of those site overhauls resulted in every single user on the site unexpectedly being logged out and having to log back in, which resulted in a total mess of people who couldn't access stories they were paying extra for and people who had long forgotten their password to log in and had an e-mail address that no longer worked attached to their account, so they couldn't be mailed a password. I've also been through having to deal with irate users after popular site features were removed for the sake of saving money.
It felt sometimes like decisions were made that left some members of community behind. The decision makers were concerned with the community, but the financial well-being of the site had to come first. Hearing things said such as "We're going to lose some readers because of this, but we'll come out ahead in the long run" wasn't uncommon. It's a tough thing to make a decision that will upset the community, and it's even tougher for the people who actually interacted with members of the community and even got to know them a little (the story writers, the community managers, etc) to see those community members angry and threaten to go elsewhere. That's the reality of business, and I'm not criticizing it, because it is what it is -- sometimes decisions need to be made that aren't popular. But it's never fun putting your heart into trying to make those community members happy only to have something come along that you can't control that makes all those people angry, even if you understand the importance or necessity of the change and fully agree with it.
So I haven't really wanted to get on my soapbox about it, plus I also think it's something that will pass pretty quickly.
GS has always been my place to chat with other people who play games, but Kotaku used to be my favorite place to go for game news as it was a simple, straight up reporting site that had the latest game stories posted in an easy format to browse. Over the past couple of years or so though, the Gawker Network, of which Kotaku is a part of, can't seem to leave their sites alone. They first radically changed their site format from their clean, simple look to their current frame-based look with a much larger and different font, something that was widely hated by both fans and tech experts. Unlike a lot of site change situations where people threaten to leave but ultimately don't, that was a change where I think a bunch of people left and actually never came back. Then they changed up their story posting format from just posting stories or columns as they saw fit to a strange, time block-based format where at certain times of the day all their stories are about whatever the pre-designated subject is for that time (they compared it to a TV channel... "tune in to Kotaku at a certain time to see the latest stories on this subject"). This, as well as what seems to be a gradual change-up in the stuff they post in general, has resulted in more and more items being posted that have nothing to do with video games. And recently, they too have changed their commenting system, FORCING users to log in to their site with either a Google, Facebook or Twitter account (they instructed users to make a fake one if they didn't want to use their real one).
But, alas, I still visit Kotaku, usually once a day, and I probably still will even though they will be taking away my commenting star. And I still came back to GameSpot after the Gertsmann stuff, which was a much bigger test to community loyalty than this. I think it comes down to being comfortable with a site and the people there, and once you're truly comfortable, it can be hard to break out of it.
I do kinda think the comment system could use a little bit of work though
Anyway, on to games for a bit...
I recently finished Rayman Origins, which is an awesome game. Aside from being lots of fun, even in its later, controller-throwing moments, I just loved how goofy the game was. I feel sometimes like games take themselves too seriously and try too hard to be "epic" or "emotional" or "badass," so it's very refreshing when I play a game that doesn't take itself seriously in the least and where much of it seemed built around seeing how silly it could get.
These days we have people throwing the idea out there that not every game should be fun and maybe games should be separated into categories of "fun" and "not supposed to be fun." I see where that's coming from, but I would also add that fun and happiness can be every bit as powerful of an emotion as anything. That's one of the reasons Rayman Origins is so good -- because of all the times it makes you smile at it.
Sometimes it's just good to have this...
instead of mean-looking sword-wielding guy walking towards you...
or generic-looking military guy holding a gun.
The latter two things sell a lot more copies, which is too bad, because the thing on top is often a more enjoyable experience.
I also played a couple times through Journey on the PS3. It took me a while to "get it"; I was a little pissed at first actually as there were times when it felt like I had paid $15 for an self-indulgent interactive tour through thatgamecompany's video game art gallery. But the last 20-30 minutes of the game were terrific, and my second playthrough was more enjoyable after finally understanding what the game was trying to do. It's still such a short game though, and after experiencing the last portion of the game I came away feeling like there was some unexplored potential with this game (in other words, why isn't the rest of it that powerful?). It's an interesting idea though -- one where the quality of the experience might depend on how fortunate you are in terms of the players you are matched up with, but when it works, it works.
I also spent some time playing the Silent Hill HD Collection (Silent Hill 2 and 3) for the 360.
These games definitely take some getting used to. The controls, the camera, the fighting... ugh. I don't have a problem saying it's dog****. After a couple of hours of Silent Hill 2, I wanted to sell the game back to whoever I could.
As is almost always the case though, I kept playing because I'm stubborn and eventually I was won over.
There's someone in the fridge
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was scarier by a long shot, but I don't think I've played a game with a darker, more sinister, and more relentlessly oppressive atmosphere than Silent Hill 2. It was pretty much the opposite of Rayman Origins -- there is no happiness, light or hope in that game at all. It was pure dread in video game form. I played the game mostly at night with the lights off, and it was a fascinating thing because I didn't feel scared as much as I felt filled with dread and gloom. I had to step away for a few minutes, turn the lights on and watch basketball just so I could get a break because the game was taking me to such a dark place. The second 1/3rd of the game was impressive in how dark and oppressive it was. I kept on thinking of ways that it could have been scarier, but I'm not sure if they could have pumped more dread into that game. It instantly became one of my more memorable gaming atmospheres. I might do a blog on that actually, if I feel up to it.
Silent Hill 3 was a better game from a technical standpoint, but it didn't hit those same notes as it lacked the all-out dread of 2. The collection in general is a little weak though; it feels very bare bones and I can see how some fans of the series are disappointed with it.
Now I'm replaying Dragon Age Origins on the 360 and will be doing that for a while. I played through it all on the PC a couple years ago, but I decided to get a save file going on the 360 so that it will transfer over to Dragon Age II and any future Dragon Age games, which I want to play on the 360 and not the PC. The game's combat system definitely works better on the PC, but it is still enjoyable on the 360. I forgot how funny some of the dialogue is in this game too. This is the only game where I feel like the story choices it forces the player make are actually difficult; I'm actually having a hard time trying to decide what to do with a couple decisions in particular that come later in the game even though I already made them two years ago. I really like this game and it's good to relive it.
That's all for now, thanks for reading
Initial thoughts --
Intro screen -- "Yay, I finally got in after lots of connection errors. Great music, as usual from Blizzard. Ooo Demon Hunter, she looks pretty badass. I'll pick her. I think I shall name her CatButt."
2 minutes in -- "Meh, this feels too familiar. Been there, done this."
5 minutes in -- "Click, click, click, click... probably not a good game to be playing for someone like me who has problems with hand/arm pain when on the computer."
15 minutes in -- "Click click click some more... yup this is Diablo alright."
20 minutes in -- "Lots of zombies dead, not much special to see here so far."
30 minutes in -- "Looking around the town from the first Diablo... I guess this is starting to get interesting, but players new to this series won't see what the big deal is. CatButt, let's explore this cellar..."
35 minutes in -- "W00t CatButt just scored her first piece of phat lewt..."
36 minutes in -- "Uh oh, I see where this is heading..."
37 minutes in -- "Phat... lewt... must... FIND... MOAR..."
40 minutes in -- "I know, I'll check the auction house for more phat lewt."
60 minutes in -- "I've been looking at the auction house for the past 20 minutes. I was addicted to this damn thing in WoW and here we go again."
65 minutes in -- "I probably should stop playing this... I have hand problems, neck problems, I shouldn't be playing it at all... But there's quests to do and lewt to find... just a few more minutes I guess..."
So I'm thinking it will probably go like this -- you'll hear complaints about Diablo III (maybe you already have... some of it warranted, some of it stupid like complaining about being too casual or something) and people will hate on it. But there will also be people out there who do like it a lot, and they'll be playing this for a long time. I guess that's what Blizzard does best -- making games that are like crack. Obviously I haven't spent nearly enough time with it to say what kind of overall experience it will be, but I can already tell that there will be people out there who get hopelessly hooked on Diablo III as I have already tasted some of the evil little ingredients that have been sprinkled in here to get people addicted.
We'll see what the final verdict is soon enough, but I'm guessing that while it won't be everyone's cup of tea, Blizz will probably have another hit on their hands with Diablo III. Now I guess I'll have to fight off the urge to buy something I shouldn't buy.
Quick question for anyone who has played both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II: How much did it enhance your experience with II to have imported your file from Origins? I played Origins on the PC but got II for the 360, mostly because of the aforementioned health problems. I started DAII but suddenly stopped because I was distressed that the events of the game had already conflicted with my Origins experience, and I cannot import the file from the PC of course. I'm debating actually getting Origins for the 360 and playing through it again there before getting into II so I can have all my game history in one place for future editions of the game. Would you recommend it?
Also started Rayman Origins... very cool, charming and clever game. Looking forward to playing more. I also bought Skullgirls, but eh. I thought I liked it after playing the demo, but I guess I should have played more than training mode before buying it because much to my dismay, the AI in this game kicks the living crap out of people who suck at fighting games like me. I spent about an hour or two with it before deciding that I didn't feel like spending the time needed to learn another fighting game, so I'm not sure I'll go back to it.
Well I guess I'll go hunt for more lewtz now. Thanks for reading
It can be a bad thing having your credit card stored at websites for a couple reasons, one of which of course is it increases the likelihood of impulse purchases. I just got busy over at Amazon and came away with $100 or so worth of games that should keep me busy for a while.
Not bad I guess, coming away at an average of less than $20 a game. If you've played them, let me know what you think.
I've held off playing Dragon Age II because I was thinking they might eventually come out with a deluxe edition, but it sounds like Bioware is giving up on that game and moving on, so I went ahead and got it. Time to find out if all the bad things people have said about it are true. I also heard bad things about the Silent Hill collection, that it was a lousy port with lots of tech problems, but I decided to try it out anyway because I've always wanted to play those games. All in all it's a bunch of games that I've had my eye on for a while and now have them as part of the backlog. I almost got a few more but decided to stop there. Six is enough for now, plus I want to get Journey on PSN too.
I think I'll start with Dragon Age II right after I finish my Mass Effect 3 insanity playthrough. So far, it really hasn't been that hard at all. They didn't give enemies an extra coat of armor like they did in ME2 insanity, which is nice. But maybe it's just coming easy after spending a lot of time playing the gold challenges in multiplayer.
I can't seem to stop playing ME3 multiplayer too, even if there really isn't much there. I think what makes it fun is that there's so many ways to play because different c1asses and races have different playsty1es. Plus I actually feel like I'm halfway okay at it, which is usually not the case as I usually am terrible at multiplayer. So that makes it fun. And there's the loot factor that keeps me coming back; the ability to buy little treasure chests of goodies is a devious little thing because it's fun to find out what's inside (even though it's usually crap). I'll be interested to see what kind of additions they make to it in the future.
Our favorite mind**** of a game is back! I wrote a while back about a free update to the game Techno Kitten Adventure that probably put the game over the top as the trippiest game ever made. TKA has unleashed another free update, and for the first time ever, I think I started to get motion sickness from a game.
This update is called the Popaganda Pack and it features the art of a popular artist named Ron English. As you can see, there's some weird stuff going on here to say the least.
That's just the tip of the iceberg though. Techno Kitten Adventure is a game that loves to mess with your screen, and they might take it a little too far this time. Check out the video here; really the whole thing is wild but 1:52 is where I started to feel a little strange and then 2:35 is where my stomach actually started to feel queasy.
I guess it probably didn't help either that I ate a whole bunch of chips right before I discovered this update.
I love TKA; I'm sure many people think it's dumb but I feel as if it is filled with awesomeness, and if you feel the same you are my homie. But I have to think that this game just CAN'T be healthy to play.
That's all for now, I need to go lie down for a bit Thanks for reading
(No ending spoilers here)
Hell hath no fury like an angry gamer, I guess.
I have been hiding from any Mass Effect 3 discussion in order to avoid spoilers of any kind, so I haven't paid a great deal of attention to all the gamer rage going on over this game. I decided to finally go ahead and finish it last night, after which I got online and took a closer look at the frustration.
Some of it is a little silly, like the fact that angry gamers have succeed in destroying the game's fan score at Metacritic and driving the game's rating down to two stars at Amazon (not even Vampire Rain is that low). But after finishing the game, I can see why people are disappointed, at least with the much-maligned ending.
Mass Effect 3's ending is far from the worst that I've ever seen in a game, but it is definitely among the most unsatisfying. Now, video game endings often times are nothing to write home about, in my opinion. I just looked at my games list that I have at this site and realized I can't remember for sure what happened at the ending for many of them. But that's because many of those endings are non-descript. Mass Effect 3's ending is not among those that I'll be forgetting anytime soon, but not because it's non-descript. It's because of the taste it left in my mouth.
While playing the game, I was fully expecting not to hate the ending as much as the rest of the world seems to. At first glance, I didn't, and I thought to myself "That wasn't very good, but not as bad as everyone thinks." The more I think about it though, the more frustrated I get, and now I guess I have to join in the butthurt, and here's why.
Mass Effect isn't a five-hour campaign where many of the people playing it couldn't care less what happens at the end. Mass Effect is a sprawling story stretched out over three games that many people have spent a triple-digit amount of money paying for and put in a triple-digit amount of hours playing, investing much of that time getting to know their favorite characters and listening/reading thousands of line of dialogue largely because they want to see what happens next and they want to find out what happens to these characters. If you played Mass Effect since day one, you had to wait years to find out those things.
In short, if there was any game that needed to have a strong ending, it was Mass Effect 3. It's the ending to three games and not just one, and the people who made that investment in the series deserved it.
Instead, what they got was a s****y diaper of an ending that creates more questions than answers, one that the average Joe on the Internet could probably improve upon without a lot of effort. The ending I got flew in the face of how my story played out over three games and left me disappointed with the fate of my characters, and the brevity of it all made it feel lazy.
In fairness, stretching this story out over three games built an anticipation for the climax that was probably so high among some people that it would have been near-impossible for Bioware to satisfy everyone. Somehow though, it seems like they managed to satisfy next to no one. It felt like they fell in love with a particular idea of what they wanted to do at the end and loved that idea so much that they didn't care about what it might have done to the rest of the story.
Maybe there are still answers to be given that Bioware will probably want players to pay more money to see, as evidenced by the "Hey, you can further explore Mass Effect 3 by buying DLC!!!!" type of message that the game slaps you in the face with after everything is done. I'm not sure if even free DLC would be able to make people happy at this point though.
Having said all that, I don't agree at all that BioWare should change the game's ending simply because of the outcry, and I'm a little disappointed that they haven't stood firm behind their work and have seemingly left the door open for changes. Changing a piece of art to appease the public isn't unheard of; for instance, before a film is released, they are shown to private est audiences to get a reaction, and sometimes there may be changes made because the test audience didn't like what they saw. One recent example is the movie 50/50, which I read had a much different ending at first that was changed because test audiences hated it.
This would be the first time I can think of though where the creators of something changed their creation after it was put out there for public consumption, and it wouldn't feel right. Whether the art (I use that word as a technicality and not necessarily as praise) you create turns out to be good or bad, part of what makes it art in the first place is that it's your expression and not someone else's. If you change your creation based on what someone else wants it to be, then it isn't your creation anymore. It's better to not go down that road.
But while I felt Bioware crapped the bed with how they decided to wrap it all up, I still rather enjoyed this game. Here are a few more thoughts --
* I think my second-biggest disappointment with this game was that it wouldn't let my character romance Specialist Traynor. I had planned from the beginning to stay faithful to Tali, but I don't know, I guess Traynor's sexy accent made me want to commit video game adultery. Speaking of Tali, while it's disappointing to find out the origins of what Bioware used for her face (look it up online), I rather liked the understated and intimate way they wound up revealing it.
* Mass Effect 3 definitely feels at times like it continues on a path of becoming more Gears of War than RPG. At times that can be a good thing as there are some cool firefights and a more enjoyable than expected multiplayer, but at times it felt like a bad thing as some of those firefights get tiresome as wave after wave of the same enemies keep coming at you and some of the RPG-type stuff you may have loved in previous games isn't as prevalent. I found myself wondering what the game would have been like if it went more in the direction of an open-world RPG, giving you more things to explore than just the Citadel and a much better side-questing system.
One thing that I missed quite a bit that Mass Effect 2 did so well was the "getting to know you" process for a very interesting cast of characters. For me, that was my favorite thing about that game -- recruiting each character and finding out more about them as the game went along. That is mostly gone in Mass Effect 3 as there's only one completely new non-DLC playable character who may be the most boring character in the entire series, and the characters that do join you on your mission are ones that you already know. Meanwhile, the Mass Effect 2 characters are reduced to supporting roles, which I guess is a corner that Bioware painted themselves in with how they did the character paths in that game. Still, there were some terrific moments with the cast. Maybe my favorite moments were some of Shepard's discussions with Garrus, a character that I mostly left on the sidelines in the first two games but by the end of 3 I felt like he was my Shepard's best friend.
The multiplayer is pretty cool though. Horde mode type of stuff is always fun, and in Mass Effect 3 it's great because it gives you a chance to try out different c|asses that you didn't play through the single player game as without having to completely roll a new character. I can imagine that there are RPG purists out there that don't like the existence of multiplayer, and I will admit that when the news first hit that it would be part of this game, I was disappointed and apprehensive. I think it worked pretty well though, adding a fun element to the game that doesn't detract from the single player. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually find myself wishing they did a bit more with it. I've gotten pretty far with it, so if anyone here ever wants to tackle any silver or gold challenge maps, feel free to add me and I will bring my Geth Plasma Shotgun to dish out lots of pain.
* I wrote before about caving in and buying the DLC character, Javik. After buying him, I played most of the game with him as I felt I kind of had to in order to get my money's worth. He's still probably not worth 800 points, but he should have been in the main game. Having him along on some missions definitely made a difference in terms of cutscenes. Plus he's got an armor-melting ability that might come in handy if I try an insane playthrough.
* I imagine this has been said before, but WTF is Jessica Chobot doing in the game? I didn't know she was in it until she popped up on my screen. I don't hate Jessica Chobot; congrats to her actually at being able to do something that I can only dream of doing (landing a voice acting gig). But it doesn't smell right having a paid employee of a website that reviews video games actually appearing in a video game. Conflict of interest, anyone?
* Overall, Mass Effect 3 had some frustrations and shortcomings for sure, some low points, and a few too many little technical hiccups, and I don't feel like it reached the heights of Mass Effect 2, but don't let the fan hate keep you from playing the game. There's enough good stuff in it to make it worthwhile and some very cool moments indeed. It could have been more and maybe should have been, but it's a fine game and is part of a pretty terrific accomplishment in the Mass Effect trilogy. Even though I am not really a fan of heavy decision-making in video games and I think I would rather just have one story with one ending, there are so many variables and what-ifs in this series that part of me wants to go all the way back to the beginning to play through them again to see what would happen if I did things differently. So kudos overall.
Bah I always write too much. If you made it this far, thanks for reading
I bought the Mass Effect 3 "From Ashes" DLC yesterday.
I feel like I've committed a terrible gaming sin.
In case you don't know, "From Ashes" is a ten-dollar piece of day-one DLC that consists of a way too short and uninspired extra quest and an extra playable character. People have cried foul over its existence, believing that it should have been included in the game (people who buy the collector's edition are able to get it for no extra cost) and that it is nothing but a shameless money grab.
Even before buying it, I felt those complaints were absolutely right, and "From Ashes" is a great example of what is wrong with DLC.
But I gave in and bought it anyway.
The justification I gave myself in the end was that Mass Effect 2 had a similar DLC package called "Kasumi Stolen Memory," but it came out well after the game was released, so I felt like I didn't get my money's worth because I purchased it after I had completed the game twice, and I had found myself wishing that I had the new character at my disposal when I played through the game the first time. I didn't feel like playing through it again just for the new character. Buying "From Ashes" now would allow me to experience my first and second playthrough of Mass Effect 3 with this character and maybe feel like I got more out of it.
I wound up liking the character Kasumi from that Mass Effect 2 DLC and thought the extra quest it came through was cool although short, and I was happy to see her make an appearance in Mass Effect 3 (although like the rest of the Mass Effect 2 cast, I wish there was more of her in that game). Dragon Age Origins also did something similar, and even though I got that DLC for free, I felt the extra character was a terrific and humorous addition to the game that might have been worth the extra charge.
From Ashes is kind of booty though. The extra quest is half-assed and can probably be completed around 15 minutes if you rush it and still less than an hour if you don't. The character is interesting but also kind of a jerk; we'll see how much he adds to the game. He's got a promising premise, but I doubt it will get explored as much as it should.
Anyway, if you hate DLC and think it's a shameless money grab, feel free to get mad at me because I'm dumb enough to buy it, and I suppose it's because of people like me that it is going on and will keep going on. After all, I'm not sure you can blame companies for putting this stuff out there for sale if people will buy it. In the past I've been pretty careful about buying DLC, checking reviews to see exactly how much is in it and only buying it for games I was having a lot of fun with. I haven't caved on DLC like this and usually wait until it's on sale or part of a "deluxe edition" of the game if I buy it at all, and I've even scratched my head at why people would pay for stuff like map packs.
But now I have no room to talk. I guess if there's a sucker that buys DLC every minute, then I'm officially one of the suckers. Maybe I'll feel differently in a week or two, but right now I would put buying "From Ashes" at the top of my list of gaming things I've done that I'm embarrassed about.
Mostly I've been playing Mass Effect 3; I'm moving through it slow and will probably move even slower as I tend to watch a lot of basketball this time of year. Plus the weather outside is getting nicer earlier than usual. I haven't decided if I want to do a blog on it because it would just consist of a lot of stuff about the game that I'd be whining about, but in a nutshell I don't like it as much as 2 but probably like it better than the original. I was going to take a break from it and play through Journey on the PS3, but lo and behold my PS3 controller decided to stop working a couple of days ago. So I guess a new controller will have to be my next game purchase. Bleh.
I've been working from home lately, which has brought about some good things and some bad things. The bad is that I'm not making nearly as much money as before and don't always feel quite as in touch with the rest of the world as I would going out to work. The good thing is I have had more time for goofing off and doing stuff like playing games and watching movies
I haven't written anything here in a while because I haven't really had anything to write about, and even now I don't have much to say other than a generic "What I'm playing" blog. But I feel the need to post something after not having done so in a long time, so here goes.
Not long after my last entry, I successfully completed my attempt at soloing Gears of War 3 on insane difficulty. Hooray! It wasn't easy though. I think my final death count was at around 690, and probably about 20 percent of those were on the last boss But I did it. I'm contemplating getting the RAAM DLC for Gears 3 since it's on sale this week, although 800 points is still a little more than I want to pay.
Other stuff that has been played --
I spent a pretty heavy amount of time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I had a great time with this game and would probably put it as one of my two or three favorites from 2011 so far as I'm trying to catch up on the stuff I missed from last year. I guess it's up for debate how good of an FPS this game is or even how good the stealth action is, but I came away feeling like this was one of the better overall video game experiences of this generation so far.
I think the most compelling thing about this game was its vision of the future, and I think how much you get into the game depends a lot on how much you immerse yourself in the world it creates. If you run in with guns blazing and just rush through and kill everything, you probably won't get much out of the game. But if you take your time, do some stealth, make it a point to pay attention to the story, and read the books, e-mails, and documentation lying around in-game (this is one game where it's recommended to do that because it adds a lot of background to the game world), you might find yourself swept up in this somewhat bleak vision of the near future. The world of Deus Ex: HR most likely isn't going to be what ours will actually look like in several years, but it does give you a compelling and often believable look at one possible future.
If you are looking for an immersive single-player experience and haven't tried this game out yet, definitely give it a chance. I thought it started off a little slow, but I got hooked pretty quickly. I liked the main character Adam Jensen a lot as well; I was worried at first he was going to be the latest generic video game tough guy with a gravelly Solid Snake voice, but he turns out to be a pretty likable guy, unless you make decisions that causes him to be otherwise. I even wound up buying the DLC since it happened to go on sale when I was playing the game; I think I wouldn't have been satisfied if I had paid 1200 points but for 600 points I thought it was probably worth it.
Probably about once or twice a year, I like to experiment and go diving in the bargain bin to give a budget game a chance that maybe didn't get good reviews and didn't sell well. Sometimes it works and I come across games that I actually have more fun playing than much higher-rated games or just provide a crazy, unique experience, while other times it can result in something more painful.
This time around I gave two games a chance -- Venetica and The First Templar -- and got mixed results. When deciding what game to get, I had it narrowed down to Velvet Assassin, Jurassic the Hunted and Venetica, and I decided to go with Venetica because I liked the idea of a Venetian setting while Jurassic the Hunted was too expensive and so many people say Velvet Assassin is horrible. Then I decided to also buy The First Templar after playing the demo on XBox Live and thinking that it was so bad that it was funny and that I might get a good laugh out of it.
Venetica was up first, and in a lot of ways it wasn't very good, but I became addicted to it nonetheless because that's what happens when I play RPGs. I don't know what it is, but if there's questing to be done or exploring to be done or a new level to ding or whatever RPG element it might be, I have a hard time putting the controller down. I got issues, lots and lots of issues.
I actually felt bad for Venetica that it had to come out not that long after Assassin's Creed II was released because Assassin's Creed II's version of Venice puts poor Venetica to shame. So it kind of had that going against it off the bat, and what it did have wasn't too fun to explore since every time you entered or exited a building or cave, you were hit with a loading screen. Throw in the PS2 production values, several boring quests, a putrid map system, no auto-saving, and a fairly high sloppiness factor, and this wasn't always an enjoyable experience.
In the end though, the game didn't quite totally suck and I unexpectedly found myself enjoying it over the last 30-40 percent or so. Truth be told, Venetica actually had an interesting idea or two that I wish would have turned up in a better game, and there are times when you sense that underneath it all, there's the foundations of a good game somewhere in there. But there were too many problems with it and too much of it was below average to recommend playing it over most RPGs out there. So I don't regret playing it, but I don't think you should run out and buy it either.
Venetica was one of those games where getting an armor upgrade mysteriously resulted in more and more clothing coming off the female character.
The First Templar's demo was a mess, with technical issues, dubbing that was so bad that it looked like they didn't even make any attempt to sync it up, and goofy dialogue to go along with it. I thought I might be buying a so-bad-it's-good game here, but actually it turns out that the final product was a bit more polished than the demo. So while I was disappointed that I didn't get the heavy dose of unintentional humor I was expecting, the full game itself was actually quite a bit of fun a lot of the time.
The First Templar is a co-op action RPG as you and your teammate embark on a quest to find the Holy Grail. It certainly has some budget game shortcomings -- it isn't a very good looking game, the music loops sloppily, the subtitles don't match the actual dialogue, and at times, especially in the late chapters, the game resorts to just throwing wave after wave of enemy at you. But damned if I didn't have a pretty good time with this game. I liked the historic setting, and there was a time or two when I felt the game nailed an Indiana Jones-esque mystique when you went dungeon exploring for clues on where to find the Holy Grail. Nothing about the game is great, but the story and the gameplay are just enough to keep you interested and having fun in spite of the game's drawbacks. I haven't co-oped any of it yet but it feels like it would be more fun to play with a friend. So if you're ever looking to do some budget game experimentation, keep The First Templar in mind.
Plus I loved the game's liberal use of the Wilhelm Scream when enemies died. That has to count for something, I suppose
If you have any budget game/bargain bin finds you want to recommend, let me know.
I tried out a couple of games on XBox Live Arcade -- Orcs Must Die, which was on sale for 600 points, and Quarrel, which is a cheapie at 400 points. Orcs Must Die is a tower defense game where there's, um, a lot of orcs, and they must die. That's pretty much all there is to it but it was a lot of fun and a nice challenge to boot. Quarrel is an enjoyable word game that has a few problems with it, but for 400 points, it's a nice value. It has plenty of single-player options, although the AI on the toughest opponents is ridiculously smart and made me give up. Multiplayer is fun, as long as you're sure the person you're facing isn't cheating (which is very possible to do if you have a handheld device that you can use to look up words online). I actually played against the game's developer online once and quickly got the crap kicked out of me.
Anyway, both games were good for a week or so of fun before I moved on.
I've also been messing around with Team Fortress 2 on Steam every now and then, although just against bots. I'm not brave enough to pop into a real game yet, but so far I've had a lot of fun learning the ropes.
Next up will probably be Mass Effect 3, although like a lot of people I'm a little perturbed at how the DLC is being handled for that game and don't really feel that great about paying full price for the game. But I kind of feel like I have to because spoilers for this game will be everywhere pretty quickly, and I feel as if I don't play from day one, eventually I'll come across a spoiler that I won't want to see. I actually caved and just bought The Old Republic off Amazon on sale for $29, but I'm not sure when I'll play it. I might put it aside for a while and play ME3 first, or I might not even play it at all and return it. I decided to buy it because I thought it seemed like a good price, but I really don't know if I want to get into an MMO right now.
After that, I'm not sure... I might actually head back to the Wii for one last go-round. I'd like to play Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story when they come out, but I also have a few Wii games I still want to play (DK Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, New SMB Wii, Skyward Sword) before putting it away for good. Ugh, I need to stop spending money though... lots of other bills on the horizon.
Other than that, I've finally been getting into The Wire, which is a show I've wanted to watch for a long time now. I've seen a lot of people say that it might be the best show ever made. I'm not qualified to say whether it is or isn't, but so far I'd say that while some of the earlier episodes in each season might be a little slow at times, the episodes towards the end of each season when everything comes to a climax are pretty damn good and some of the best TV I've seen. I've been watching it on the Direct TV Audience Network and have one more episode to go until the end of season three (of five).
I've also had a chance to catch up on a lot of movies I have been meaning to see. Bridesmaids was unexpectedly hilarious; I wasn't expecting to like it that much but I don't know if I've laughed that hard at a movie in a while. I liked Moneyball a lot too, although I'm a bit of a sports geek, and I don't think non-sports geeks would like it as much. On Netflix instant I finally got around to watching the movie Ip Man, and now I'm upset I didn't watch it earlier. Very entertaining and at times badass movie. Ip Man 2 was kind of stupid to me though; the second half of it was basically the Chinese version of Rocky IV.
Anyway, that's about all for now. Thanks everyone for reading
I'm trying to play through Gears of War 3 at insane difficulty right now. Stats so far:
Deaths through an entire playthrough on normal difficulty: 19
Deaths at just over the halfway point of insane difficulty: 281
And that's with me hiding behind crap half the time and letting the AI teammates do a lot of the work.
I don't know why I do these things to myself sometimes
But if I was able to solo 1 on insane and get past the final boss fight, which on insane was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done in a game, I think I should be able to do this.
We'll see if I'm able to catch my mark of 847 deaths that I accumulated during my Ninja Gaiden II mentor difficulty playthrough.
I've been spending time over the last few days in Arkham City, and it's a pretty interesting place to say the least.
I think that one sign of a good sequel is if upon finishing the game you ask yourself "How do they top that?" That doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while we will get a sequel that feels like it went all-out rather than play it safe, and that's what Arkham City feels like, at least in terms of bringing us into Batman's world. Gameplay-wise Arkham City brings a few nice additions and tweaks from Arkham Asylum but the core of it remains the same. It's the "Batman" part of it where I wonder what they can do from here.
My experience with Batman doesn't go past all the Batman movies and the so-bad-it's-good 1960s television show, but I actually feel like Arkham City might be the truest representation of the Batman universe that I've experienced so far, or at least the time when I most felt like I was immersed in Batman's world -- dark, menacing, brooding, and sometimes weird. Almost the whole gang is here, too; the Batman universe has enough villains that they could have used one or two per game and stretched out this series forever focusing on a new villain, but instead you can find almost all of Batman's arch enemies packed into this one game. I'm assuming there will be more Batman games, but there were times where it felt like they were going all out on the chance that this could be the last one. There's a few things here or there that could be improved upon (start with cutting back on all the random chatter), but trying to top Arkham City when it comes to feeling like you've entered Batman's world will be tough.
I have finished the main story and am now on to wrapping up some side quests and some of the Riddler secrets before probably giving New Game+ a try. There might actually be too much Riddler stuff but I'll keep at it as long as I don't get bored. He is starting to get on my nerves a little though
Overall, I thought Arkham City was a pretty memorable experience, a rare game that will stick in your head for a while after you're done. I'm not sure I'd disagree with people who say that Arkham Asylum gets the player more wrapped up in its story because it is a tighter, more focused game while Arkham City is closer to a sandbox game, but Arkham City packs more of a wallop by the time it's finished. The villains were terrific too; we all know about Mark Hamill's Joker but I loved Nolan North's Penguin as well. On top of all that, there's Catwoman.
Before that I played through Trine 2, which is probably one of my favorite downloadable games in a while. It was a bit of a change to go from this to the grimy, industrial world of Arkham City.
Trine 2 is almost overwhelming in the good looks department at times. The original Trine was a very good looking game, but Trine 2 clubs it over the head with the pretty stick. It's actually a very rare example of a game where screenshots don't do it justice -- you have to experience it in motion. Here's a look at the game's second chapter, which you can play through in the game's demo.
If you think that chapter is pretty, you should see Chapter 10. There might be a more gorgeous stage in video games than Chapter 10 of Trine 2, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.
I think I probably liked this game a lot more than most people. I'm a sucker for high fantasy, I'm even more of a sucker for beautiful-looking high fantasy, and if you add in great music to accompany it, I'm usually sold. Plus it's one of my favorite genres (2D platformer) and has some pretty fun puzzle-solving, even if they borrowed heavily at times from games like Portal and Bioshock. The combat isn't overly great, but that's not the main attraction of this game anyway. I haven't played co-op yet but hear it can be lots of fun albeit too easy (the game already feels a bit too easy at times in single player).
I'd definitely like to see the makers of this game (Frozenbyte) try their hands at a larger fantasy game. It would be fun to see what they could create.
Now 2011 comes to a close... I haven't played too many games from 2011 yet because of funds but also because of not being as interested as other people in the endless barrage of sequels, so I guess I can't say how for sure how much I liked this year's games. I'd still like to get around to playing Dead Space 2, To the Moon, Anno 2070, Little Big Planet 2, Infamous 2, Terraria, Dragon Age 2, The Old Republic, Alice Madness Returns, Saints Row the Third, Modern Warfare 3, Shadows of the Damned, Skyward Sword, and El Shaddai, and I have Catherine, Gears of War 3 and Deus Ex HR still unwrapped and waiting to be played.
That's quite a long list, but there's some stuff to look forward to in 2012 as well. There don't seem to be as many highly-hyped games as there was this time last year, but I think I might actually be looking forward to this list of games more than what was in 2011. I try not to get into pre-release hype and try to only get excited about a game if it's finished and getting good reviews, but there are a few I am looking forward to already (in alphabetical order) :
Anarchy Reigns - Games from Platinum Games are usually crazy enough as it is, so I'd like to see just how nuts they get with this one.
Asura's Wrath - I don't know a whole lot about it but it sounds pretty promising.
Bioshock Infinite - I loved the first Bioshock and thought the second didn't get the credit it deserved, so there's no question that this one is on the list.
Diablo III - Say what you want about Blizzard, but when have they released a bad game? Diablo III will be a success and will suck hours out of people's lives, just like Blizzard's other games. I doubt this game will be recommended for people like myself with carpal tunnel issues.
Guillermo del Toro's inSANE - I don't know much about this other than the guy who directed Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy is behind it, but that's enough to be worthy of attention.
Journey - The next game from the creators of Flower, which was a very pretty game.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - The next big open world fantasy RPG on the calendar and it seems like it has some promise.
The Last Guardian - There was a scare a few days back that this game was cancelled because GameStop said so, but the few times I've been to GameStop it seemed like if it wasn't Call of Duty or Madden that the employees never heard of it, so I never believed that.
Lollipop Chainsaw - I'm not always sure what to think about this game. I think it could be anything from awesome to Onechanbara. I'm sure it'll be ultra-violent, ultra-pervy and ultra-crazy. It's a Suda game though, so what else would it be than all three of those things
Mass Effect 3 - Obviously.
Metro: Last Light - Metro 2033 was a flawed but engrossing FPS that delivered a heavy atmospheric experience. Issues aside, I thought it had some real promise for a possible sequel, so I want to see how far things come since then.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - I was hoping for a while that this one would come to the West, so I was happy to find out earlier this year that it was coming to PS3.
Silent Hill HD Collection - HD remakes are nothing but a cash grab. I don't want to spend money on something I've already... oh wait, a couple games I've never played before and always wanted to play are coming out in HD? Forget I said that
Tomb Raider - I just played my first Tomb Raider game last year, so even though this series has been around a long time and grew stale for some people, it's still new to me. I'm looking forward to seeing how this new **** of Tomb Raider turns out.
Xenoblade Chronicles - This game will be coming to the West this year, so it'll be time to see what all the hubbub is about.
That's all for now; hope you all had a happy 2011 and have a safe New Year's Eve. Thanks for reading
I guess I'm not too proud of the last couple of months of my life... if I can even call it a life since I guess it hasn't been much of one.
Between Dark Souls and Skyrim, to say I've spent more time playing games than I should be is an understatement. I'm guessing that combined I probably spent 350 hours on the two games, maybe more. If I loved every minute of those games, I might not feel as bad about it, but I didn't. Being someone with a highly addictive personality and a dislike of quitting things before I'm finished, I couldn't find it in myself to put down either game despite not always liking what I was playing.
I finally finished Skyrim yesterday, and even though I had fun much of the time, I'm happy to be done playing it. Skryim has well over 200 hours of gameplay, and I played almost every last bit of it -- every achievement, every major questline, found all the dragon masks, and by the end there wasn't much more room for me to level.
I can't put an exact time figure on how long I played because I have a bizarre habit of forgetting/neglecting to turn my machine off, so there were many times when I would put the controller down for what I thought would be ten minutes only to have it turn into two or more hours. So that inflates the time played stat, although it was definitely over 200 hours at least.
I do have some other numbers to reflect the time spent with this game though:
Character level 76
--Light Armor 100
--One-handed weapons 87
--Heavy Armor 85
--Two-handed weapons 73
Locations Discovered 344
Dungeons Cleared 165
Days Passed 580
Gold Found 698,383
Most Gold Carried 224,264
Chests Looted 1491
Skill Increases 1378
Books Read 388
Quests Completed 136
Misc Objectives Completed 332
People Killed 1350
Animals Killed 666
Undead Killed 876
Creatures Killed 303
Dragon Souls 64
Times Shouted 766
Locks Picked 331
Ninroots Found 125
Pockets Picked 196
Items Pickpocketed 723
Bunnies Slaughtered 1 (that wasn't my fault though, he hopped into the blast radius of a fireball at the last second)
So yeah, that's pretty much what I did with my life the last six weeks. (For people playing the game, click here for my talent tree... not every point was well-spent but I had enough points to get many of the game's best perks.)
Anyway, I'll move on from stuff I'm not exactly proud of to some final game impressions.
I'm sure there's been at least one time in everyone's life here where you fell head over heels for someone at first sight but the more you got to know that person, the less you liked them. That was somewhat what my experience with Skyrim was like.
There's a long list of issues one will find with this game if one plays it as long as I did -- Skyrim has plenty of haters already and there's plenty of things that I saw over the course of the game that could be used as ammo to attack it. I don't have a dog in that fight so I'm not going to list all those things, but at the end of the day, there were four things that caused the game to lose me a little bit and knock what was a 9.5/10 score over the first 50+ hours of play to an 8.5 score at the end:
* Bugs - Everyone knows the game has bugs and occasional technical issues, and I had my share too. Skyrim fans are quick to point out that a game of this size will have bugs because of how difficult it is to catch them all while testing, and I actually feel the same. I've been on the other end of software/technology launches so I know that you can do all the testing in the world and think that you have dotted every I and crossed every T just to have everything unexpectedly go wrong once it's gone live. Stuff just happens.
It got to the point where it was a bit much though. I'm not really talking about the goofy stuff either, like the talking corpse I wrote about in my last entry or the fact that I have some flaming catapult projectiles from a previous battle that seem to be stuck in my game to where every time I leave a building in a certain town I see fireballs raining on the town even though it's not under attack and the house I own there is constantly on fire. The stuff that got to me was how many quests I had that bugged out to the point where I couldn't complete them, or how many quest items that I have stuck in my inventory because the game allows you to pick up quest items if you discover them before you do a quest but has a problem with taking them out after you finish, or how many times the game crashed on me on the loading screen.
The quest problems were the worst. It's no fun spending an hour on a quest only to find out that you can't complete it because it's bugged. I don't expect them to catch everything, but I felt like some of this stuff they should have caught and fixed. The problems weren't nearly as severe with the major quest lines, but I felt like some of the side quests didn't feel like they were given the TLC they needed. After having problems with one quest in particular, I looked it up on the Skyrim wiki to see if there was a way to fix it only to see that not only wasn't there a fix for my problem but that my problem was one of six different ways that particular quest can bug out. That seems a little ridiculous to me.
* Quest Variety - I felt the size of this game and the amount of quests crammed into it turned out to be both a gift and a curse. On one hand, you had a world that was great fun to explore and there always seemed to be surprises waiting for you where you didn't expect it. I was 200 hours into the game and was still discovering cool stuff that was hidden away in a corner somewhere, such as an archery target practice mini-game that was hidden way high up at the top of a long mountain path that most people will never find. There always seemed like there was something to do or something new to discover, even when I thought I'd found it all.
On the other hand, many of those quests follow a similar pattern -- get quest, go to dungeon, kill everything in dungeon, kill dungeon boss and/or retrieve item you've been sent to fetch, the end. The major quest lines and the 15 daedra quests do a better job of mixing in variety, but I came away thinking that many of the side quests probably weren't worth the time I spent on them. In other words, yeah there's 200-plus hours of content in this game, but the question is, how much of it is compelling content and how much of it is just the same dungeon crawl repeated over and over again in disguise? Sometimes it gelt like quantity over quality.
* Dragons - I love dragons so I originally loved the fact that this game is filled with them. At first, I thought to myself "Elder Scrolls VI will not be able to top Skyrim because Skyrim has dragons." After a while though, that changed to "At least Elder Scrolls VI won't have dragons."
It took a while, but damn did I get sick of dragons interrupting my game. Skyrim will throw a dragon encounter in your lap seemingly almost anywhere at any time, and after a while it got to feel intrusive. It wasn't just dragons getting in the middle of what I was trying to do though. One thing that bugged me was dragons can and will attack anything, even after they've engaged you in combat. You can be fighting a dragon and have its health halfway down only to have it suddenly fly off the screen to attack a mudcrab. On occasion, the dragon would fly over a range of mountains, out of my reach completely so I had to sit there and wait to see if it would return in order for me to finish the fight. But I guess on the flip side, the fact that anything can attack back can be funny. Once when a dragon attacked one of the towns, everything in town attacked it in return, including all the farm animals (I wish I had video of the time when a dragon and a goat were going toe to toe for a good 20 seconds) and NPCs with no weapons that would walk up to the dragon and try to punch it.
Eh... go away
Also, dragons on more than one occasion interrupted my questing to the point where I couldn't finish the quest and had to restart the game. A couple times the dragons killed the questgiver, after which I got a message saying I had failed the quest, and on a couple other occasions the dragons bugged out and took the NPCs with it. Dragon fights in general seemed susceptible to bugs as I experienced the issue that a lot of people had where the dragons would fly backwards when you tried to chase them (I was still getting them after the patch that was supposed to fix it), plus I had a couple dragons get stuck in the terrain where I couldn't reach them and had to restart the encounter.
* Sloppiness - Skyrim was a game of highs and lows for me. A lot of times it seemed like I was playing something that all high fantasy RPGs should aspire to, but there were also a few too many sloppy/lazy moments that left me shaking my head. It was a bit frustrating to have a game where many times the level of detail was very impressive only to have other times where you're left scratching your head at why certain things weren't done better. Enemy AI during stealthing is one area that I thought was lacking, even though it was still fun. Another that stuck out for me was Bethesda apparently making no effort to change the dialogue to fit what you've accomplished after doing all the quests and stupid busy work that is required to restore the Thieves Guild to full strength. Here you've gone through a long quest line and done a bunch of side tasks to get this all completed, and you're still hearing the exact same "new recruit" dialogue from the rest of the guild members that you heard when you first walked in the door.
All those things aside though, I definitely enjoyed the game more than not. The world was great to explore and I liked playing through many of the major quests. This is a game where experiences with it can differ greatly from player to player, so there's probably people out there who weren't bothered by any of that stuff I whined about. Plus maybe a month from now most of that stuff will be fixed.
I think if I had to do it over again, I'd definitely play it differently. I focused on much of the side stuff first and saved the main quest for last, which was not a good idea because the main quest gives you some things that can be helpful throughout the game, plus I had gotten burned out a bit by the time I got to the main quest. Also I wish I wouldn't have stacked everything on one character and instead rolled multiple characters to experience the game differently.
I went pretty much all magic for much of the game, but the game's leveling system is such that eventually you'll have to change your playsty|e if you want to keep leveling up, so I was hand-to-hand combat later in the game. I highly recommend conjuration though. It's a pretty strong area as is, but if you level it all the way up (it's not a difficult skill to level) and put enough points into it to get to the top of the skill tree, you can summon two Dremora Lords at once, which is extremely powerful. Two Dremora Lords at the same time was Skyrim's version of Fawkes from Fallout 3 -- both of them clear out an entire room of enemies on their own and you can just sit back and watch. I played most of the game on expert difficulty setting but I didn't die a whole lot thanks to these guys.
Dremora Lord x 2 = I Win
This was also the first RPG I've ever played where I was truly evil to the core I'm one of those people who, when there's an RPG that gives you the choice between good and evil, I'm always 100 percent goody two-shoes because it just feels weird for me to play the game any other way. I did the evil stuff in Oblivion too, but not until after I had finished the good guy stuff and set aside a separate save file for the evil stuff so I could get all the achievements. I started out goody two shoes but somewhere along the way I decided "I'll just slip this one evil quest in here." That actually turned out to be a gateway drug to all other evil deeds. By the time the game had ended I had done all the evil quests, killed several NPCs in cold blood, and pickpocketed just about every person in every major city.
I don't know if I'll go evil again for another RPG because I like being the good guy, but I have to say that some of the evil stuff in Skyrim was also some of the best stuff. The Dark Brotherhood questline was probably the one I thought was the most entertaining questline in the game, and it's too bad that a lot of people probably won't even do it. The achievement where you have to get 1000 bounty in each hold was fun too because I was able to go around and launch fireballs at NPCs I didn't like. Plus pickpocketing was a nice change of pace... "I don't feel like doing any dungeons today... think I'll just steal everyone's stuff instead"
I think I'll wind up missing Skyrim and will eventually look forward to whatever expansions/DLC, although it's nice to have a break. One thing I wish they implement in the future is divorce... I wound up not liking my choice of wife as much as I thought I would, although I guess it was nice having an archery trainer in my home.
Honey, we need to talk...
Okay, that's enough Skyrim for now.
I have Deus Ex left over from earlier in the year, while I just added Trine 2 today and Batman, Forza 4, Gears 3 and Catherine was the extent of my holiday haul this year. Many of the games I was hoping would go on sale on Black Friday didn't, so I wound up just with those, even though I wound up paying a little more than I wanted to for Catherine and Batman.
Trine 2 and Batman might be what I play next (must... fight... urge... to play Old Republic...). I played some Trine 2 today, and it is gorgeous. I mean, some games are gorgeous, but Trine 2 is GORGEOUS. It's got great music too; its composer Ari Pulkkinen is a name I think you'll hear a lot more of in the future. I really like his stuff. Not everyone will like the gameplay and controls but you should download the demo just to see some of the sights. I loved the first Trine so I have high hopes for this one.
I haven't played a game this year yet that jumps out at me as my GOTY, so I'm hoping Batman will be that type of game. I usually do a GOTY list at the end of the year but there was too much stuff I didn't play this year to make a list. In terms of 2012 games, off the top of my head I think all I played was Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Portal 2, LA Noire, Dark Souls, and Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon, plus I played a few downloadable games. So not enough to make a list or cast a vote.
Well that's all for this marathon blog entry, thanks for reading if I don't write again before 2012, have a good holiday and happy new year
(There are no plot spoilers here but there may be a slight game detail spoiler or two.)
Since it's release last Friday, I've seen multiple people on multiple message boards make a post proclaiming The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to be the greatest game ever made.
After spending a week playing it on the XBox 360, I can say that I don't think it's the greatest game ever made. But it does feel like it wanted to be, and damned if there hasn't been a time or two where it felt like it might not be that far off.
There's too many nitpicks with Skyrim to heap the "OMG GRAETEST GAEM EVAR!!!" praise on it, but in terms of vast, open world WRPGs, Skyrim is now in a lot of ways the standard by which others will be judged.
In my last blog, I compared Uncharted 3 to Uncharted 2 by giving a list of things that I thought each game did better than the other one. There's no point in doing the same for Skyrim and it's predecessor Oblivion, because I can't think of much of anything in Oblivion that I liked better -- and Oblivion is a game I enjoyed immensely. There may be one or two things I can think of off the top of my head -- Oblivion may have had better voice-acting, for example (but it's been a while and I can't remember) -- but for the most part, Skyrim renders Oblivion obsolete.
I'm not sure Skyrim breaks a lot of new ground as much as it feels like a compilation of other high fantasy WRPGs that have come before it. You have seen many of the things in Skyrim in other games (either previous Elder Scrolls games or other titles entirely), but Skyrim does a nice job of putting all those things together in one gigantic package.
"Gigantic" is the key word here because this game is absolutely huge to the point where it's almost intimidating how much stuff there is to do. As was the case with other Elder Scrolls games, a player could stick to the main quest if they so choose and complete the game in a much shorter amount of time, but for those who want to see and do all they can, this is a game that could take some players weeks if not months to finish their first playthrough.
To give an example of how big this game is, there's an achievement for discovering 100 locations across the game world. I just got that achievement last night, and I would say that I probably have spent 15 or more hours of gameplay so far just exploring the land, but I feel like I haven't even seen half the map yet.
Most of my time has been spent exploring the world of Skyrim and doing the game's miscellaneous side quests. There's three c|assifications of quests -- the game's main quest line, side quests that are apart from the main quest line but are sizable in themselves, and smaller miscellaneous quests that usually amount to fetching someone an item or killing a bandit to collect a bounty. According to my in-game stats, I've only completed four main quests and two side quests, and I bet I've put in 30-plus hours of gameplay already.
But that's the type of player who will get the most out of this game and who this game is designed for -- the person who wants to soak in everything, who wants to explore every cave or old building to see if there's any treasure to be found, who wants to talk to every NPC, and who wants to level up all their skills. It's not a game for people who turn on a video game and get bored if they haven't killed something within five minutes.
It makes sense then that the star attraction of this game is the world of Skyrim itself. A mountainous region filled with misty peaks, lush forests, open plains, rustic towns and villages, and running rivers and waterfalls, Skyrim is a joy to explore (unless you can't stand snow ). An in-game feature lets you know when there is an undiscovered place in the vicinity, and there will be several times when you stray from your originally planned course just to go out of your way to see what it is. All the while, a beautiful soundtrack of heavenly, soul-soothing music is calmly playing in the background, creating a feel that you are really part of this fantasy world. I haven't even used a horse more than once yet because I'm enjoying exporing every nook and cranny on foot.
Vast adventure awaits.
There are times when the sights you'll see in the land of Skyrim are nothing short of stunning. My favorite moment by far in this game up to this point was simply a certain vista I came across when exploring at night. I came to the top of a hill and got a tremendous bird's-eye view of the Skyrim world -- the clear night sky filled with stars and a huge moon, blue-green wisps of aurora fluttering in the air, mist filling the valleys at the bottom of the mountains, a blazing bonfire standing as a lone light off in the distance, and a majestic dragon circling the tallest mountain peak within eyesight, all while the game's musical score was hitting a perfect pitch. I wanted to take that image out of the game and put it on my wall.
I haven't really gotten into the story too deep yet, but I already find it more interesting than Oblivion, plus aside from one quest where I think the difficulty was way out of whack (possibly a bug), I have enjoyed the few bigger quests I have done so far.
But while the majority of Skyrim is a terrific game that fans of this genre will thoroughly enjoy, it does have a few things holding it back from being all that it could be.
Bugs - The first and most noted issue of Skyrim is the occasional bug and/or lack of polish. For me, Skyrim hasn't been a game where I've been bombarded with bugs right off the bat, but the list of incidents has slowly grown with more playing time and there have been occasions when I've felt like a bit of a beta tester. Much of what I've come across hasn't been a huge deal (stuff like screen tearing on the map screen may look sloppy to picky people like me, but it doesn't really have a big impact on the gameplay), but I have had a couple crashes, a miscellaneous side quest that seems to be bugged to the point of being unable to complete it, and a bizarre glitch where a traveling companion was killed by enemies but wasn't fully dead -- her corpse was lying there on the ground but she was still talking to me, and when I moved about, her corpse slid across the ground after me. Plus there's a slight loading delay in many instances when you use the menu or go through dialogue options with an NPC, which can result in having to press a button twice in order to execute your command.
Another instance where I was shaking my head a little was when a town I was in got unexpectedly attacked by a dragon. This is a really cool idea, but it fell short in execution. While some NPCs were running in fear or taking to arms against the dragon, I saw a couple others who didn't stray from their normally scripted routines and dialogue. Hearing an NPC saying something like "We have the best armor in all of Skyrim!" while a dragon is breathing fire on the town kills the moment a little bit. And when a dragon in this game dies, its skin burns away to leave a big skeleton that doesn't disappear. This works if you kill a dragon on top of a mountain, but when you have a big pile of dragon bones sitting in the middle of a town that doesn't disappear but strangely moves from one part of the town to another while you're away, it just looks weird.
In terms of launch date release games, I've probably played buggier games... heck, I played one in the last couple months in the 360 version of Dark Souls. But while I haven't come across enough bugs to destroy the experience, I do think they stick out -- in a game like this where the game world feels like a masterpiece at times, a distracting bug can stick out like a wart on the Mona Lisa's nose.
Combat - People who have played Elder Scrolls games know that the melee combat in these games can feel a little clunky sometimes, and that feeling hasn't gone away in Skyrim. There are lots of different ways to play the game -- stealth and dual-spellcasting in particular can be a lot of fun -- but I do find myself wishing it was just as fun to swing a sword (although stealth could use some polishing as enemies don't respond to dead bodies like they do in other games, plus there are times when you shoot an enemy with an arrow and they'll say "Is someone there?" Umm, yeah, you just got shot in the ass with an arrow, so of course someone's there.... )
I also wonder if maybe this is a game where the combat might be more fully-realized on a PC. The console version gives you the ability to add a favorites list of spells and weapons to your D-Pad, but there are so many spells that I find myself wishing I had a keyboard to hotkey them all.
I'm not sure everyone will like how the game deals with dragons either. Generally dragons will fly around your screen and be hard to pinpoint until they land because you can't lock on to them. It's easy to defend that by saying that it's realistic, and I don't think I have a problem with it outside of getting impatient with waiting for one to land, but I'm not sure all players will like it.
Companions - Like Bethesda's last game, Fallout 3, travelling and fighting companions can play a big part in your journeys across Skyrim. They feel a little rough around the edges at times though. You can't fully control what gear your companions wear; you can give them gear to store (which very much comes in handy) and they will equip gear that the AI selects, but that's the extent of it. If you want them to wear a specific piece or wield a specific weapon, it doesn't always seem to work. They also can't traverse all terrain like you can; if you decide to jump over a pile of rocks to take a shortcut, you may turn around to find that your companion isn't there because they couldn't do the same thing. Eventually you'll catch up to them as they will find you or will automatically appear on your screen if you enter a building or dungeon. Also, there have been times when my companion has attacked even though I ordered it to stay put.
In spite of that though, I already can't imagine playing the game without my travelling buddy. She isn't perfect, but she's good in a fight, can take and dish out a healthy amount of damage, and is great for loot storage.
Crafting - Part of Skyrim's lengthy roster of activities is blacksmithing. The actual smithing process is fine, but I find myself wishing that the stuff you craft early on was more useful than to just sell off or to level up the skill. You can make some pretty strong gear, but not until you level up the skill and put some perk points into it. Until then, you probably will be wearing the stuff you find in dungeons instead.
Faces - As beautiful as Skyrim's terrain can be, the faces haven't totally caught up yet as not all the character models look great. That's a bit of a minor thing to me though. Probably a bigger deal is sometimes the game gets very dark during the nighttime and there are times when you can hardly see an NPC's face at all.
I'll stop there for now with the impressions... after all, writing about it puts me in the mood to stop writing and start playing some more It's going to be quite a while before I'm done with this game as I intend on completing as much of it as I can, but that's fine because I'm really liking the game so far. It's not a 10, and maybe there will be enough bugs from this point on to knock it out of the realm of 9.5, but I think for sure that there will be a few people out there who pick this as their game of the year. Thanks everyone for reading
Indiana Jones has seen better days. Back in the '80s, Indy captivated audiences by taking them on treasure hunts into exotic, mystical locales and thrilled them with some of the most exciting and crazy action sequences ever put on the big screen. These days, millions of people still love Indy, but many of the millions were disappointed in the rebirth of the series a few years ago. They expected the same movie magic that they felt a couple decades ago, but what they got instead was head-scratching moments like animated gophers and Shia LaBeouf swinging from trees.
Fortunately, Nathan Drake has picked up the slack. The hero of the Uncharted series is a modern day reincarnation of Indiana Jones, and it's no secret that the series itself is heavily influenced by the Indiana Jones films and aspires to create some of the same feelings that those movies did. Three games into the series, Uncharted has already done a fine job of giving players the same kinds of thrills that Indy delivered. Indiana Jones hasn't formally passed the whip and fedora over to Drake, but he would be proud of Nathan's adventures so far if he had.
Uncharted will likely never approach Indy from a story and dialogue perspective, but when it's at its best, it can deliver us moments that pique the imagination and make us feel like there's something mysterious lurking in ancient areas of the earth in a way similar to some of the more famous scenes of the Indiana Jones movies, such as the map room scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the knight's tomb scene from Last Crusade (both of which have been borrowed, more or less, by the Uncharted series). And, with the help of the lack of limitations that video games can bring, Uncharted already matches, if not surpasses, the Indiana Jones series in over-the-top action sequences and borderline absurd by-the-skin-of-the-teeth escape acts.
It's that last category where the third and latest installment of the Uncharted series stands out. Uncharted 3 has huge shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of a game that won the majority of Game of the Year awards in 2009 and upped the ante for the action-adventure genre, and while it arguably falls short of its predecessor in some areas, it's still a terrific game in its own right and a worthy successor to Uncharted 2.
Uncharted 3 brings the same high production values as 2 -- great graphics; sweeping, blockbuster movie-quality music; high-octane action scenes; great looking scenery and artwork; and quality voice-acting. But I thought Uncharted 3 fell short of 2 in some key areas. Here are some quick opinions of how the two games compare:
Things I liked better in Uncharted 2 than Uncharted 3:
- Writing - I came away feeling like the script for Uncharted 2 was more enjoyable and compelling, and I thought the dialogue in 2 was more fun to listen to.
- Characters, especially the villains - Uncharted 2's villains seemed a lot more threatening than those in 3. In 2, it felt like you were fighting some real bastards and you wanted to see them get theirs in the end. I never really bought into the villains in 3. Plus, some of the characters aren't fleshed out as well either as the story focuses largely on certain characters and pushes others into the background. Correction - I wrote in my last entry how cool it was that Helen Mirren was in the game. Turns out that she isn't. I don't know why I thought she was, but I feel dumb now.
- Consistency and pacing - I thought Uncharted 2 performed at a high level for much more of the game than Uncharted 3 did. I saw one reviewer say that Uncharted 3 was the most perfectly-paced game he's played, but I thought the game's pacing -- which was much more of a "start slow and gradually build up towards a climax" approach than Uncharted 2 -- wound up working against it because I spent some of the early parts of the game waiting for it to reach the heights of 2, which didn't come until later. But when Uncharted 3 was at full stride, I thought its best moments were right there with 2 and maybe had a moment or two that was better.
- Combat sequences - I thought Uncharted 2 did a little bit better job of mixing the tension and events of the story into its combat sequences, but more than that, I thought Uncharted 3 went too heavy on the quick-time event fistfights for my taste. It also didn't help that you can take gunfire damage from other enemies while locked into a fistfight animation.
- Difficulty - There's been some complaints by players about the level of difficulty of Uncharted 3. It's not a terribly difficult game by any means and isn't that hard at all in a lot of places, but they might have overdone it a little bit. I usually wouldn't complain about difficulty, but in a game like this that tries to tell the story as the action is going on, there's a moment or two when the difficulty slows the game to the point where it hurts the momentum. One part in particular came early in the game, when young Drake gets in a foot chase with a bunch of enemies. Oddly enough though, I thought this game was a good bit easier on crushing difficulty than the previous Uncharted games.
Things I liked better in Uncharted 3 than Uncharted 2:
- Multiplayer - Uncharted 2 did a fine job at multiplayer for the first time out. Uncharted 3 takes it a little further by adding a bunch of rewards and delivering better co-op missions. I've put in more time in the U3 multiplayer than I do with most games and have been having a lot of fun with it. I love the implementation of platforming with the Gears of War-esque gunplay. I just wish I could succeed in my mission to unlock Doughnut Drake though. You need to get a couple of items to drop to you in one of the particular co-op missions, and it ain't happening for me so far.
- Cover - I went back and spent some time with Uncharted 2 over the past couple of weeks to compare that game with 3, and I came away thinking that 3 plays smoother when you are in cover. It's also nice to be able to throw back grenades that have been lobbed your way.
- Graphics - Uncharted 2 is not far behind in this department, but 3 does improve graphically and gets rid of the graphic blur that happened on occasion in 2.
- Those over-the-top action sequences I mentioned - I felt sometimes like Uncharted 3's story was a vehicle to deliver action sequences, but they were pretty eye-popping, especially over the second half of the game. A couple moments in Uncharted 3 make Indy's escape from a crashing plane via inflatable life raft in Temple of Doom look almost tame by comparison. Really the two games are pretty comparable in this category, but there are a couple late-game sequences that might put 3 in the lead.
Overall, this is another terrific entry in the series and cements Uncharted at the top of the action/adventure genre for me. Even if the campaign didn't always perform on the level that I wanted, the game left me already looking forward to the next game and left me wanting to hang out with these characters more. Indy would be proud.
Now it's on to Skyrim. This is a change of pace for me after a couple weeks of the rigorous challenge of Dark Souls followed by the huge action of Uncharted 3, so I'm kind of in adjustment mode right now to something that is a little slower-paced. I'm not sure how I feel about the menu interface but overall I can already tell that this is going to be a very, very monstrous game that will be a long undertaking. I've already had that moment of truth where I open up the map and it hits me just how huge this game is going to be.
The scenery looks great; I've already spent a few seconds just looking around at some of the sights. The combat is pretty similar to other Elder Scrolls games, while the leveling system is a little different as this time you can select perks for your character with each level. There's going to be a ton to do -- quests, crafting, potions, marriage... yeah this is going to take a while And best of all, dragons!
I'm sure there will be some mixed reactions to this game among some players; just like Oblivion, some people will like what the game does and some won't. But it looks to be very successful in doing what the Elder Scrolls games are known for, which is creating a massive world to get lost in for weeks.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading