lightwarrior179's World of Wisdom of Useless Things!
Me as a Gamer (as of Mar 31,2012) :
Games Owned : 608
Gaming Platforms :
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Advance
Games Rated 10/10 :
Baldur's Gate II : Shadows of Amn(PC)
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Vagrant Story (PS1)
Grim Fandango (PC)
Shin Megami Tensei : Nocturne (PS2)
Leaving behind all the nonsense that's been going around, let's focus about what I've been upto.
- These. Few excerpts --> I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
- Also a little event that's in the title of this blog.
- Where I did this.
- And later wrote about my experience.
OK. That kinda seems vague.
So,let me explain. Point by point.
1) If some of you didn't know (I have mentioned it previously), I was the Literary Chief of my college over the past year. Besides organizing a couple of inter-university events and a costly (but fun) cultural festival in February, I was also the Chief Editor of the annual college magazine. It came out the previous week and they are three sample photos I took just to show it to you guys. The artwork on the cover was done by me. As pretentious as me I know. If you want to know the concept behind it, it's basically about materialism. The objects we have defining us more than what we are.
The next image is the Editor's Note where instead of thanking all the professors, fellow Students' Council members etc, I thank me. So narcissistic of myself I know I got a lot of praise from my peers and professors for that Editor's Note, so I guess you should check it out. I simply wrote what I wanted to. If people liked it, it's cool.
The final four images (III, IV, V, VI) is a running concept throughout the magazine which I came up with. Each section's intro page has a short description of life in the four years of engineering. So, basically as you traverse through the magazine from start to end, you are living through through the years of college. Supposedly made a senior "wet" his eyes when this was distributed during their farewell ceremony.
2) Ludum Dare 26. The 26th edition of the biggest game jam. I wanted to participate in it since I've had a previous string of attempts of incomplete projects. So, I wanted to start with something simple and finish it. I was weirdly targeting for the more challenging 48-hour deadline of the stricter "Compo" (competition) event than the more relaxed 72-hour Jam. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it but I saw it as a learning process.
3) Guess what? I did finish it. Here's the game page on LD' site. It's a dynamic rhythm game. I simply explain it better there on the page so see it and let me know what you think. Keep in mind this is my first "finished" game and was made in 48 hours. So, please be gentle. If not, you shall be burned.
4) The post-mortem. Where I lay in a rather personalized and stream-of-consciousness intro about persistent aspirations from our childhood and my previous experience with game development and the timeline of the 2 days. It's unusually fun because an awful LOT of things were stacked against me but even to my surprise, I showed dedication which I didn't know I had. I made the 48-hour deadline with mere minutes on the clock. IT'S THE PLAYOFFS SEASON,Y'KNOW!
That's it for now. Let me know the feedback -- good or bad. Read the description to get a better hang of the mechanics and the concept behind it and how it relates to the theme (which was conveniently minimalism)
P.S: From what I've seen, Gone Home is going to be the big indie darling of this year. I bet my money on it. It looks absolutely brilliant. Also, I heard Fez is out. I was told I should get it. I guess I will. At some point. Blood Dragon looks cool but I'll wait for Summer sale. Not really playing anything besides Super Hexagon(daily!) and the occasional Tomb Raider and CKII(of course!)
EDIT: Indie Game Mag covered my game as their "Indie of the Day"
This is an editorial.
Hope I have enough content to meet your expectations and your inherent elitist groupie fantasies.
Or maybe you can buy this $5 DLC to get more content?
In the words of a famous guy who used to work in Microsoft,
Deal with it.
There has been a certain craze related to confessions lately which has spread itself like a plague on Facebook. It started with college confessionals and spread to specific localities and we now even have a Twitter Confessions. On Facebook. Theres an inherent irony in that but my sheer disgust at this prevents me from appreciating it.
This piece was born out of that disgust for what I see as a silly craze that goes on to show just how badly Internet has made us starve for attention and validation.
The blog contains a short fictional piece which criticizes the aforementioned aspects of our modern-day culture.
Hope you enjoyed reading it. It's one of the first times, I recall linking a short story written by me to all of you. If you enjoy it, I will link all of you to more of it whenever I post the remaining ones in the future.
I'm back with the final installment of the Best of 2012" series which crowns the very best games from last year.
I talk about the following points in the blog:
- A look at "Where we stand" as a community/medium/industry after 2012
- My personal journey as a gamer in 2012
- The awards categories which include: "Best Visual Design", "Best Audio Design", "Best Game Design", "Excellence in Writing & Narrative", "Best Soundtrack" and of course the "Non 2012 Game of the Year"
- My Top 5 Moments in a Game from 2012 (spoiler-free)
- The Game of the Year section where I briefly explain the criteria and then look at the Honorable Mentions before moving onto the Top 10
Here's the linkto it.
Hope you enjoy reading it.
Until next time.
I finished BioShock Infinite a few days back and as you can judge from the few lines I wrote last time about it I enjoyed it and it not only managed to beat my tempered expectations but also I ended up liking it more than BioShock 1 -- which to me was a glorified corridor shooter with a story that peaks too early and an enchanting setting.
So, for the review, we did something different. I and two other editors at that site I always link to got together and did a conversational format of a review -- complete with little debates and wise-cracking one liners by weaving something of a vague narrative to it just to give it some order. It is a different review format, one that's a lot more casual and doesn't involve the fancy words many reviews use but one that I hope you'll enjoy and find informative about Infinite's highs and lows.
I have a LOT more to say on BioShock Infinite. It is a game that inspires a lot of thinking and revels in its subtlety. Very few games do that (Dark Souls was the last one to do so) and shooters even rarely so.
I'm back again this time with the next part in the "Ultra Late" edition of "Best of 2012" this time covering the best of TV & movies in 2012.
I first talk about the Top 5 TV series of 2012 and their highlight moments of their respective seasons. I then move onto movies selecting my Top 5 movies from a deserving list of candidates.
Have a look by clicking the link
Obviously the next blog in the "Best of 2012" series will follow soon with "Game of the Year 2012" -- preferably next week if things go to plan and I end up finishing Mark of the Ninja and playing a little bit more of Borderlands 2.
Until then,take care.
P.S: I also finished BioShock Infinite. Don't recall when a game of this magnitude of hype lived upto its expectation. Excellent game. Not flawless, it has its' shortcomings but it is such a subtle and refined exercise in first-person narration that it truly feels like a step forward from BioShock in every manner possible.
Columbia is not as enchanting as Rapture but it slowly grows onto you. It has more depth and history to it than Rapture which works in its favour. Elizabeth is a great AI partner and something all devs need to look at whenever they design friendly AIs from now on.
The gameplay is much improved. Rapture felt restricting(reasonably so) but Infinite's shooting is chaotic with no space for breathers. Skylines make the wide-open battlefields crazier and Vigors while mostly identical in methods are varied enough in their purpose to not feel like Plasmids. Another good thing is the shooting never feels excessive. That is something that needs to be mentioned as a lot of shooters feel the need to keep players constantly occupied. Infinite is happy to divide time between exploration and shooting.
Also, while I won't spoil anything....all I can say is DAT' ENDING! I don't recall a game ending keeping me awake. Spec Ops did it but that gave me nightmares. This kept me awake tossing and turning. Don't know which is worse, but Infinite is seemingly having a deeper effect since it deals with a concept I was fascinated with back in my high-school physics class.
I'll do a proper review of it soon but for now I can say that it's a must-play. Another positive hope for the FPS genre.
Been awfully busy lately so that GotY blog post is still up in the air. It's coming though. Soon.
In the meantime, check out a couple of posts I did in my "Reality or Illusion" column. Basically the feature looks at a popular issue or an opinion from all possible perspectives and tries to figure out what exactly is the "Truth" and what is "Illusion"
Violence in Video Games
First up is Violence in Video Games. A very hotly debated topic of late. I mention some of the points which are often overlooked by people from both the sides in the heat of discussion. And of course, I equate NRA to the "wolves.
Dragon Age II
Over the past two years since it's release I've seen many polarizing opinions on DAII. Mine was a negative one but I was intrigued by what some of its passionate fans saw in it. Like you know, I'm a fan of the breed of "Underrated Overlooked RPGs" like Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines, Alpha Protocol to name a few.
So I did a replay of DAII last month and wrote a little retrospective on Dragon Age II almost two years after its release and whether it really deserved the storm of hate it received. An honest second look at a deeply flawed, potentially brilliant RPG.
The most recent piece is on the rise of emergent narratives and whether they really are the "true forms" of narratives borne out of the video-game medium. Popular examples from recent years like Dark Souls,XCOM and CKII are cited as well as SMTIII Nocturne from the yesteryears.
That's all for now.
Catch you guys later!
This time I have a little fun and don the cap of a poet for the ambient "curiosity simulator" adventure "Proteus" by Ed Key and David Kanaga. It is an interesting little experiment that is bound to appeal to those who liked last year's "Dear Esther". An extension of the exploration without interaction adventure.
Games like these challenge the very definition of "what is a video game?". Sadly, it is a little too abstract and minimalist to convince the "games require interaction" gamers otherwise. Those who consider "games = experience" will enjoy this however.
Here's the link to the review
Or the text link: http://is.gd/NvFU8J
Select quotes from the review:
- An experiment in a closed room full of odd sights and puzzling mysteries that have little purpose than to simply hold your fancy and mystify you
- Think Myst without the puzzles or Skyrim without its quests
- As dawn turns to dusk, the world adopts an aura of magical realism in the blanket of the starry sky
- A world where you are a silent observer to its oddities where time is the only medium of change, the music your only companion and the seasons are lingering indicators of the time that has sped past
- Proteus is akin to a beautiful impressionistic painting in a museum where you can observe its many mysteries from a distance but never fully participate in it
The review also begins with a poetry that pretty much describes the game and the opinion itself. That poetic intro is for the "TL;DR" crowd while the review (one of my smaller reviews) is for the ones who want to know more about this curiosity.
I'm a little unsure of my "poetry" and this is one of my first proper attempts at it. So any critique of the review (meta much?) would be appreciated.
That's all for now.
My GotY blog (yep,the usually delayed one) is coming soon I promise. I just need to play Mark of the Ninja and Borderlands 2 a little more.
I'm back again this time with the review of Platinum and Kojima's Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Follow the link below or click here
Select quotes from my review follow:
- Resulting in some of the most magnificent slow-motion finishing moves and damage physics youll see, the "Blade Mode" is rightfully the central mechanic around which the entire action of Revengeance pivots around.
- Platinum have developed a reputation of sorts of providing smooth action with emphasis on the word smooth ever since Bayonetta and Revengeance continues that tradition.
- Storytelling for action games is a reversal of Metal Gear Solid. The game is no longer driven by its story and instead Revengeance merely needs it to give a basic background.
- Cyborg, ninja, badass, tortured maniac with a split personality it was almost like someone was ticking off the Coolest Things in a Character checklist when they envisioned Raiden as the protagonist.
- The focus on parrying as the defensive mechanic makes Revengeance feel like a much-needed refinement of the typical hack-n-slasher formula.
Hope you enjoy the review of this solid game.
Before I exit....
ALL HAIL PLATINUM!
That's all for now, folks!
P.S: Remember that blog of mine I linked to last time? The one that went "The Space That Games Exist In". Well, that got featured in Critical Distance's February round-up of "Blogs of the Round Table". Little mention but it feels nice.
Been a while since I blogged here.
Here is a blog I wrote on the rising "Fantasy versus Realism" argument among the self-proclaimed "intelligentsia" of game criticism and where I talk about games as escapism and also as stark reminders of our own reality.
It dabbles a little into the abstract and the mind occasionally so those who dislike that, bear with me on that.
Nothing much other than I've been ridiculously busy with organizing a successful college festival, midterms and now editing the college magazine. I haven't even found time to post some of the articles/features I've written in the past month for your reading pleasure. Need to rectify that soon.
PS4 looks alright but I'm still not sold on it, WiiU already is beginning to seem like a relic, I really need a 3DS, MG Revengeance is badass and the new Tomb Raider looks surprisingly solid.
That's all for now.
Just finished writing a deep and rather personal and introspective blog on the thoughts (existentialist and the rest) that ran in my mind in the days before my 21st birthday (which is today!)
If you wish you can check out the blog.
I also wrote a Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review which you can read here.
Not much to add otherwise. I've been really busy with the cultural festival. It is kinda stressing balancing organizing the festival, senior project proposals and the college magazine (of which I'm the Editor) all at the same time. And that is besides the time I *need* to chill and do stuff that I like.
That's all for now. I'm 21 now. Funny how I was only 15 when I joined GameSpot but boy has time flown past quickly. But hey, you'll get enough of that nostalgic crap if you read the blog. I'm not doing the same thing here.
Another review -- this time Atlus' odd wonder Catherine going under the scanner of yours truly. Here's the review for a detailed analysis on exactly why Team Persona's charm of combining dissimilar genres works entirely in favour of the game. Also where the gameplay -- however simplistic it might look (in truth, it's far from simple) doesn't come with any intention of playing second-fiddle to its excellent story. It's gameplay is every bit as intense and essential to the puzzle that Catherine paints in front of you.
Hope you enjoy it -- you can tell from its length that I went into quite detail with it and if for some odd reason you still haven't gotten it despite having the required platforms, then SHAME on you!
In other news, I've been really busy with the new semester and the duties that come with being in the Organizing Committee of handling a million plus budget of a college festival. I've been playing a little of Zone of the Enders HD Collection -- the first game is awful -- repetitive and totally feels like a concept demo. Z.O.E. 2 is much more fun though.
Also got Anarchy Reigns via pre-ordering so I could secure teh "sexy lady" Bayonetta code and also because $30 for a game that looks more than decent (although I might need to play multiplayer to fully enjoy it) isn't a bad deal at all. Haven't played it though.
Surprise at the Golden Globes. Just when I was thinking it might be a stroll for Lincoln, Argo wins two major awards. Of course, Affleck didn't get nominated for Oscars but that's besides the point. I was disappointed to see Moonrise Kingdom lose to Les Miserables. Speaking of Les Miz, it releases in two days here, so I'll be watching it. Not looking forward to the prospect of seeing Russell Crowe sing but oh well.
Homeland sweeping up the drama awards at the Globes wasn't surprising. I approve of it. I don't approve of Girls and Lena Dunham beating Louis C.K though. I might have to grudgingly put aside my prejudices for a show that looks like a New York Hipster Sex and the City.
Glad to see DmC getting good reviews. Shows that fans' immature fears were immature. Don't care at the negativity surrounding it. It looks like a worthy entry into the series as far as I'm concerned. Shows that a Western developer can do justice to a genre dominated by Japanese.
My mouth is definitely watering at the mere sight of Ni No Kuni. It always has but the more I hear people talking about how epic it is -- the more it makes me wish I had a PS3. Still I'm glad to see it getting praise. Shows you don't need ultra-realistic CGI and convoluted (read: nonsensical) story to make a good JRPG.
That's all the rambling I've got time for now.
This is the first of the two-part blog which is basically "Best of 2012".
In this part I talk about World, Life, Literature and Music in 2012.
You can read it for my general thoughts of the events of the world in 2012, about a quick introspective look back at my life in 2012, my favourite novel in 2012 and the variety of music awards. It is sadly too long to fit the GS Word Limit and I don't think I've the patience to embed every Youtube video again. If you're looking for music recommendations, this is it from my end.
Or if you're not interested in any of the topics above, you can instead wait for Part Two where I will talk about Television,Movies and Games. Surely,you like one of those,don't you?
If still no, then f**k you!
Nah, I kid.
Not here but here.
Yeah, I've done it again and written for a new and obscure site. Someone asked me if I could write for them and I said why not? If it gets me back to writing reviews (which it has) then it's well and good.
Either way just follow up to the link and read what is an absolutely unmissable game. A twisted introspective experience awaits you if you do take the dive.
I'll probably be posting "Best of 2012" blogs from the next time. First part will focus on the Non-Gaming part while the latter will focus on games.
That's all for now.
Hope all of you have been enjoying the holidays.
Wish all of you a Happy 2013!
This is a massive and detailed analysis on the eternal "Japan vs West" debate but held in today's scenario. I would have copied-pasted here but it exceeded the 20K character limit on GameSpot, so I'll just have to link you to there:
The core point being:
Has the quality of Japanese games declined over the last few years? Are they in danger of becoming insignificant in this day and age? Or is this just a relative decline against the exponential rise of Western game industry?
I try to understand the semantics of this discussion and cover all the bases and angles that I could think of and try to answer those questions and many others like:
"Points of Debate" that I seek to answer:
- Comparing Japanese and Western games is a totally valid, reasonable and completely legitimate comparison
- Japanese developers single-handedly dominated the entire industry and brought it to what it is today. Western developers were mostly insignificant in this picture until their rise in late 1990s and early 2000s during the rise of Computer-RPGs and first person shooters
- At what point did the scales in the Japan vs West comparison tip in Wests favour? Was it during the CRPG and Shooter Rush of the 90s or some other point of time?
- At what point did Japanese developers go wrong and exactly how? Where did the West succeed where Japanese failed? What aspects led to the rise of West and the fall of Japan?
- Have Japanese games really declined? Is that decline relative to the rise of the West? Or has the Japanese industry really hit such a low and become that awful?
- Is Phil Fish right in saying Japanese games suck? Is Fish a grade-A douchebag? Or is he a messiah of truth? But firstly, exactly WHO is Phil Fish?
It's a long and detailed analysis but I've tried it making as readable as possible for the TL;DR people. I do hope you enjoy it because I did put a fair amount of time in writing it.You can read the blog at:Reality of Illusion: The Fall of Japanese GamesFeel free to comment either here or there. I'm cool either way.Enjoy!--Lightwarrior
Never thought I'd blog here after such a long gap but I think the time has come.
For my return.
Narcissistic monologues aside, I think since I'm planning on getting back to blogging-- with the start of my new blog site titled --Distorted Consciousness
Why a separate blog? A number of friends -- online or IRL have asked me whether I had a blog on numerous occasions before and I always felt strange directing non-gamer folks to a blog embedded in a gaming community.
I had no reason to return blogging on GameSpot but since I like the community -- or whatever is left of it atleast, I've decided that I still am not entirely done with this place.
A separate blog also gives me more room to blog about varying topics as I stated in my first blog there.I've not yet decided whether I'll be posting every blog I post there or just the game specific ones.
Regardless, it seems like I'm back and I'll be having a MASSIVE blog -- a detailed analysis on an extremely touchy topic to every gamer -- up in the next blog. Whether it'll fit the GameSpot's 20K character limit is a doubt, but we'll see.
P.S: How have all of you been? What have been you been upto lately?
The first part of the unimaginatively named "The Catch Up" series aims to tell you all about what exactly were my thoughts on my "Game of the Year 2011" -- Dark Souls.
First, An Important Announcement
However, it won't be happening in the usual format. Things happened over the past three months and I have chosen to not post reviews on GameSpot anymore. Atleast not for now.
What I have done is taken a certain offer I got and become part of the editorial staff of a little-known site "Meodia".
The name doesn't matter but what does matter is that for the first time my reviews have a broader audience (GS is a pretty large community) AND more importantly I'm not tied down by GameSpot's reviewing restrictions. I can use pictures and captions and whatever I can. I appreciate this kind of freedom so I took this offer.
No I haven't sold out which some of you might be thinking. Say "You sold out" and the indie kid within me will "bludgeon you until you look as creepy as Steve Buscemi"
However since I'm a proud(mostly) GameSpotter and I love all of you very much(I do), I will give you few exclusive content in the form of a "Pre-Review" and "Post-Review" paragraph. I have done this format once before if some of you recall and I'm reverting back to it for now.
So without any further delay let's get this blog rolling :
(the part where I describe what my thoughts were coming into the game)
Demon's Souls had been a major reason why I wanted to get a PS3 at one point of time. That PS3 purchase never happeened and sadly I never got to play that game. When Dark Souls was announced to be multi-platform, I was excited and began following the game actively.
Coming into the game, I had heard a lot about the game's "infamous difficulty".
Being a Computer-RPG veteran,I was skeptical.
I won't lie but most PC gamers think "console RPGs" are a bit too soft even when console gamers find them "challenging". I was waiting to see if Dark Souls happened to be another one of those "soft" RPGs that only console gamers found really challenging.
I was wrong. Dark Souls is challenging and tough-as-nails but it is never insanely difficult or unfairly so. I have had a harder time playing Ninja Gaiden Black than I had with Dark Souls.
Parts of it are VERY tough, more so because I played the entire game solo (without any online co-op support) -- a feat which I guess I should be proud of.
Regardless, going into Dark Souls all I heard and knew about the game was difficulty. I was wondering if that was the only special thing about the game.
Oh,how wrong I was....
Dark Souls Review
I put a lot of effort into the review and it is possibly one of the best reviews I've written thus far.
Here's the link to the actual review page.
Here you go.
Read the review and then return here.
There wasn't a lot to add after that review. I am still playing Dark Souls and I fully intend on achieving a 1000/1000. It will take time and a lot of devotion but I will do it. Just like I plan to with Bayonetta, I will 1K with Dark Souls. Games as special as this deserve such a treatment.
I will however add that From Software have hit (or rather revived since they also did King's Field long back) a special formula with these games. What they now DON'T need to do is to ruin it by making too many unnecessary sequels. Dark Souls isn't too fundamentally different from Demon's Souls but it is different in enough ways to make it seem unique and fresh. Repeat this same formula too quickly and chances are gamers will be burnt out.
In other words, From Software should be done with the Souls series in this gen. We shall see you in the next console generation (IF any one of us will be getting a new console....both Sony's and MS' next sounds bad news to me)
A little note I'd like to add is that if any one of you observed my Dark Souls review on the site which is nearing almost a 1000 views is also the most read review on that site by thrice the margin (next closest is ME3 review,I think). So I guess that's something to be proud of.
I'm also hoping all of you aren't too p***ed that I am no longer writing reviews on GS.
ALSO I AM NOT A SELLOUT!
Next Time on "The Catch-Up" (how episodic of you ) --
"Of Hearts Skipping Beats and a Case of "The Feels" where I talk about what is currently my highest rated "game" (but not quite a "game") to be released in 2012. Obviously its not ME3 but its something else.
Like promised, I have finally managed to beat and finish all the 2011 released games I wanted to play to my satisfaction and now I can give you a proper,complete and honest opinion on what I think was the best thing to happen in gaming last year.
Best of 2011 in Gaming
2011 was an excellent year in gaming. That is an obvious statement. What isn't is that gaming is becoming far more capable of delivering a variety of different experiences all within a single year.Some indie games find themselves on my list not because of their venture to be experimental but because they also let us re-discover the joys of gaming in a simple but astute manner.
Arrival of few off-beat games from Japan also struck gold. These were from developers who didn't care about the Western developers or imitating their ideologies like so many of Japanese developers right now are interested in.
The result was we had a single year where gaming progressed strongly not only on few fronts but almost uniformly on EVERY front. The only one winning in this are us gamers.
Let us start right away with the awards :
Saints Row The Third
Few games have made me laugh as much and as consistently as SR The Third as. Filled with absolutely crazy over-the-top action, it has rip-roaringly hilarious sequences backed by a cast of characters that just add to the weird humour. My favourite part? A chase sequence on a handcart being pulled by a pimp in a gimp suit who has an auto-tuned voice. BEST.IDEA.EVER.
Lot of games were deserving contenders to this particularly Witcher 2, Catherine and Bastion but Portal 2 takes the cake (uh…yes! ) because it sees the duo of Faliszek and Wolpaw expand the writing of the series in a variety of different directions. Not to mentioned it's a brilliantly paced adventure that is laced with witty retorts and one-liners throughout. Writing covers multiple s-tyles of humour through Wheatley,GLaDOS and Cave Johnson and breaks the fourth wall in an intelligent interactive manner something which Kojima-san can definitely take cues from the next time he plans on doing that.
Vincent Brooks (Catherine)
The strangest thing about Vincent is that even when he is trying to act funny or is in a particularly bad situation we are reminded of how similar we would behave to how he does if we were to find ourselves in such a situation. Men particularly. It is surprising it took gaming this long to get one proper approaching middle-age,bored with life adult character. Vincent Brooks is everything. Personifying characteristics like many of Murakami's protagonists, his pessimistic viewpoint at all things specifically his life and his internal struggles with his two sides are portrayed brilliantly. Troy Baker's excellent voice acting is greatly responsible for this success.
Best Original Mechanic
Frozen Synapse's "Turn Based RTS Synthesis"
Nothing beats Frozen Synapse when it comes to originally constructed mechanics that combine a series of actions from the player and the AI and then watch them play out for a brief time in real-time. You have to predict both the movement and actions of your enemy units while making your own decisions in view of that. Simply the most original strategic mechanic I've come across in a while.
The Witcher 2 : The Assassins of Kings
Aesthetically and technically, Witcher 2 is a beast. If you manage it to run anywhere near High setting, you'll get a taste of the most artistically beautiful and technically impressive graphics you'll see in 2011. Impressive textures, excellent colour design and appropriate lighting create an enriching atmosphere tainted just the right bit of darkness, grime and blood to bring Witcher's dark-fantasy universe alive on your screen.
2011 was in my opinion one of the best years as far as game soundtracks are considered. As a music junkie, it isn't everyday, gaming OSTs dominate my listening charts, but 2011 was a rare year when they did. Easily the toughest category which is why I'm going with three deserving candidates.
Honourable Mentions :
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim OST by Jeremy Soule
The King of Fighters XIII OST by SNK Playmore
Binding of Isaac OST by Danny Baranowsky
Second Runner Up
Catherine OST by Shoji Meguro
Containing mostly remixes of c-lassical symphonies and nocturnes but with Meguro's trademark twist of jazz and electronic not only gives the soundtrack a layer of seductive danger but also ramps up the intensity in grand crashing crescendos during the intense boss sequences.
First Runner Up
Deus Ex Human Revolution OST by Michael McCann
McCann stands upto the expectations and delivers an absolutely haunting soundtrack featuring familiar ambient tropes that enhance the yellow-tinged cyberpunk atmosphere of the game. Definitely one of the best things I like about the game.
Bastion OST by Darren Korb
Bastion's OST is so good that if considered as a stand-alone album,it'd be a sure-fire success on the indie circuit. Featuring some fantastic experimental music combining elements of electronic,tribal,Indian c-lassical, this is a pure genius of the album. Months after finishing Bastion, I still revisit the OST almost every week. Fully deserves to be called the best soundtrack of the year.
Top Games of the Year
Honourable Mentions :
Dead Space 2
To The Moon
Red Orchestra 2 : Heroes of Stalingrad
15) Saints Row The Third
Saints Row The Third may not stand on its own two feet when it comes to comparison with its predecessor. In fact it flat out pales in comparison with Saints Row 2 in many ways. It's a smaller, more linear but focused experience with lesser activities to do than its excellent predecessor. Despite its failing as an open-world sandbox, it provided most entertainment in a gaming package last year. Not to mention it has some mad creativity and is a constant laugh.
14) E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy
At No.14, you see the highest ranked first-person shooter on this list. It doesn't speak well for the genre that it is more of a RPG-shooter hybrid. Yet it is a fine example of indie experimentation. Very similar to Deus Ex Human Revolution in its emphasis on three pillars of gameplay—shooting,stealth and hacking, it however approaches each of these in unconventional manner. Its entire hacking component is an elaborate turn-based strategy minigame of sorts. An atmospheric and cerebral adventure that despite its shortcomings provides a thrilling experience throughout.
13) The Binding of Isaac
2011 saw an unexpected revival of a long-forgotten genre--roguelikes. This was one of the reasons for that.From the creator of Super Meat Boy, this devious little roguelike featuring a devious but cute retelling of an Abrahamic tale of Isaac. Randomized dungeons, enemy and power-up spawn points and death means Game Over were many of the elements of the old roguelikes it faithfully carried forward. Featuring a NES-Legend of Zelda like gameplay aesthetic and featuring some disturbing but cute artwork from McMillen himself,this was a guilty pleasure of mine for many months.
12) Total War Shogun 2
TW Shogun 2 stood upto the lofty expectations of all the fans of the Total War series by returning to the roots while bringing in some fairly obvious and expected refinements and simplifications to the systems to make it accessible to newcomers. Rich campaign and fairly balanced units made it an easily recommendable strategy title and an obvious entry on this list.
11) Deus Ex : Human Revolution
Eidos Montreal's revival of this legendary series was an excellent one in many aspects. Returning back to the roots and focusing on what made the original Deus Ex such a masterful game – this prequel focused on excellent level design and freedom of approach to your objectives. Poor boss fights and an awful final level were the only things that held this atmospheric cyberpunk beauty from breaking into the Top 10.
Now onto the Top 10….
10) The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim
Everyone's favourite game from last year was probably Bethesda's best effort since Morrowind possibly even trumping it in many departments. Fairly simplified but flexible level progression and character development gave it an edge over Oblivion's mediocre mechanics. A rich world filled with conflict and dynamic events made it feel believable and easily one of the best Elder Scrolls game made yet.
Even if it is terribly out of fashion, I'll still go with one more :"I used to think Bethesda are beyond hope, until I took an arrow to the knee"
9) FIFA 12
A sports game wouldn't beat Skyrim. But then FIFA 12 isn't like any other sports game. Daring to change a successful formula by revamping some of the fundamental aspects, FIFA 12's introduction of collision detection, improved tactics and aggressive AI made defense the new focus of the game. It not only meant that veterans had to overcome a learning curve but it also meant that after you got hang of things, this became the most enjoyable FIFA game by miles making it almost impossible to return to its older versions.
8) Batman Arkham City
Arkham City takes its predecessor's potential and gives it some breathing space in an open-world. This not only means that the level design and the use of Detective Mode gains a lot more flexibility in how players choose to approach enemies but it also meant that Rocksteady got to create an incredibly packed and believable open-world. Every corner of the city was brimming with some or the other event making you feel like you were part of this bleak world. Not to mention some excellent boss fights and an impressive lineup of villains makes it the definitive Batman game….for now.
Supergiant's debut took the indie world by storm. Featuring colourful art s-tyle with a unique element of narrator-commentary gave it a unique story-book touch. Simple but enjoyable combat mechanics and the ability to shape the world around you as you progress, Bastion tells a simple but beautiful tale. Backed by one hell of a soundtrack.
6) Portal 2
Valve's sequels are a massive step forward and Portal 2 was exactly that. Combining Portal's mind-bending puzzles with a narrative driven force of Half-Life, we had an incredibly charged adventure filled with razor-sharp writing, memorable sequences and some top-notch level design. Technically from a design point of view, Portal 2 is almost flawless. It does nothing wrong. The only reason why it doesn't rank higher on the list is because we had five more impressive games than this. True story.
5) Frozen Synapse
Mode 7's little indie wonder ranks this high largely because of its original,near-perfect synthesis of real-time and turn-based elements into a unique mechanic. Combine that with a fairly long campaign and a skirmish mode and you have a great game. Put a multiplayer mode in that which only serves to multiply the tension and intensity of the battles by a hundred-fold and you have a winner of a game here.
4) The King of Fighters XIII
SNK Playmore made a wonderful comeback with KoFXIII fulfilling broken or unfulfilled promises that were left astray in KoFXII. Featuring a deep and complex fighting system with tight challenging but fairly accurate controls and a wide roster containing all of our old favourites including the lovely Mai Shiranui. With a balanced roster (mostly) and a Choose Your Adventure s-tyle Story Mode along with the familiar Survival,Time Attack and Arcade modes you couldn't really go wrong with such a solid fighter. Easily the best KoF game so far. The King is back,baby!
Atlus' Team Persona stood upto their fame of combining disparate genres into deliciously unique games. In Catherine's case, its two halves happened to be a visual novel adventure and a block puzzle. Add some devilishly clever twists and you have one incredibly surreal experience that alternates between the calm, soothing mundane quiet of daily life and the maddening intensity of a surreal nightmare. Put well-written characters and interesting ethical drama backed with some clever references to Murakami's novels and you have another big winner from Atlus. Being unique is one thing. Being unique and making an excellent game is something Atlus' Team Persona is making a habit of.
2) The Witcher 2 : Assassins of Kings
CD Projekt's magnum opus is a visual beast and might certainly take claim of "Crysis of 2011" for a good reason but it is also no less of a RPG. Taking the unique mechanics from the original Witcher, ironing out the kinks and delivering a top-quality AAA experience throughout its 30 hour duration without ever sacrificing its ideals. It is a massive statement that one can make games of AAA quality without unnecessarily streamlining their game. Making your decisions alter almost a dozen hour of gameplay and main quest is no mean feat, but it seems CD Projekt is making a habit of making impossible tasks seem easy. It also does an admirable job setting up for a delicious third part.
1) Dark Souls
Few games are as flawless in executing their ideals as Dark Souls is. Carrying forward the legacy of King's Field and Demon's Souls it expanded with an open-world structure that only enhances the survival-horror aspect of this unique RPG. The fear of the unknown, the fear and desperation that creeps in during a near-death situation.
Players like me with an appetite for challenge and appreciation for the finer role-playing elements the genre has lost over the years will find in Dark Souls an experience so simplistic at its core yet so visceral and primal that in recent times in gaming comes close to providing the kind of emotional and adrenaline highs it is capable of providing.
No other game in 2011 enthralled,amazed,engaged or absorbed me as much as Dark Souls did. Offline or online,this is an experience of its own kind.
That sums up my Best Of 2011 series.
It took time but I'm glad I got it done. Played an incredible number of brand-new games last year which also meant that gaming took a heavy toll on my wallet. I think I'll play in a more relaxed manner in 2012. Play an occasional new game I am interested in, wait until something else becomes cheaper, and play some of the older games in the meantime.
Starting from the next blog,you'll be seeing a series of blogs titled "The Catch-Up" that'll like its name suggests catch-up with everything I've been upto in the past three months. Reviews,impressions,thoughts on controversies etc.
That'll be all for now.
Greetings to all on the New Year.
Best of 2011
Top 10 Albums of 2011
10) Tomboy -- Panda Bear
Noah Lennox's fourth album "Tomboy" did a pretty good job of following-up the stellar "Person Pitch" by developing his distinct synth-driven melodies this time with a more focused and reverb-intensive sound with his Brian Wilson esque-vocals adding flavour to an already remarkable album.
9) Helplessness Blues -- Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes' debut was so good that it seemed almost inevitable they'd fail with their sophomore effort. Turns out the troubled process this album went through made it into an even more refined gem with Robin Pecknold easily coming up with some of his strongest vocal melodies and regretful occasionally sorrowful but always on the optimistic side, Helplessness Blues turned out to be 2011's best "blues" album by a long stretch.
8) Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2 -- Beastie Boys
MCA's cancer led to the delay and eventual shelving of Hot Sauce Committee Pt.1 but what emerged out of his brave and eventually successful fight with his cancer was Beastie Boys' resounding comeback easily coming across as their best work since "Hello Nasty". And boy,do Beasties make their comeback in grand fashion with "Make Some Noise". At a time when most of the original rap artists have either decayed or retired,these bada$$es are still making killer verses and dope tracks. Beasties are back,son.
7) Space is Only Noise -- Nicolas Jaar
This little known Chilean came from nowhere and hit 2011 with a rather odd electronic wonder -- mixing drone-driven space sounds with ambient and jazz textures. Result was one of the most refreshingly new experiences of 2011.
6) Hurry Up, We're Dreaming --M83
Amongst the more anticipated albums of this year was this popular French-electronic/dreamgaze artists' double-album.And it certainly didn't let down.Starting with the booming intro featuring Zola Jesus and then the runaway success Midnight City, this double-album never lowered its quality throughout its playtime.
Now onto the really special albums....the Top 5.
5) Take Care, Take Care, Take Care -- Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky's instrumental guitar s-tyle of music has stayed a constant throughout the years but here they're seen restructuring their songs into a more relaxed pace. The result is that the melodies have the time to nurture,develop and then burst....literally into massive explosions in your speaker. Refining a decade-old s-tyle of music isn't easy, but Take Care x3 makes it seem so easy.
4) Past Life Martyred Saints -- EMA
EMA easily made the best debut this year. Often an overlooked album by many, I personally loved how confident she sounded in her s-tyle which was a mix of folk and grunge. Raw is the best word that describes her music -- be it the raw electric guitars, or the raw tortured vocals on "Marked" or the raw emotionally powerful lyrics throughout the album.
3) Father,Son,Holy Ghost -- Girls
Easily the best "traditional" rock album of the year came from the SF-duo of Chris Owens and Chet White. Owens once again digs deep into his tortured,well-publicized past as a child brought up in the infamous Children of God (COG) cult. Dealing with years of child abuse and drug abuse makes for good writing material and this is backed by some fantastic music be it the killer riffs on "Die" or the catchy riffs of "Alex". However it is the largely solo songs featuring Owens mano-mano with his guitar and voice that reveals the complex and layered emotional side of this album.
An all-round success in nearly every way this could easily have been No.1 if it weren't for the fact that it has been such a good year for indie music.
2) Strange Mercy -- St.Vincent
To those who knows my choices, this was a massive upset. St.Vincent aka Annie Clark easily was topping my list if it weren't for a late run from the No.1 album. Strange Mercy marked the coming-of-age of her sound. Combining choir-vocals with harsh grinding electric guitars has been her trademark sound and it hasn't seemed more better than it has here.
If I were judging albums on the basis of emotional weight and lyrics, this would top no doubt. But like I said before, I am judging it on basis of the strength of music and which is why this misses top spot. Sorry Annie, you're my fave female artist right now and Strange Mercy was a RAD album but I still gotta give it No.2
1) Eye Contact -- Gang Gang Dance
Like I said before, in terms of the sheer quality of music in a single album, NOTHING came a mile close to these Brooklyner's masterpiece. One song after another they delivered one stellar song after another. Kicking off with the trippy Glass Jar followed by a series of songs so good that I could listen to the entire album on loop 3-4 times(I actually did that) without getting tired of it. Mixing Arabic,Japanese(Enka) and Greek music in their experimental electronic sound backed by the early 80s Kate Bush-esque voice of Lizzie Bougatsos made this a sheer musical pleasure to listen to.
I couldn't see any winner after listening to this so it clearly deserves the No.1 spot in a year with some excellent titles.
BEST MOVIES OF 2011
5) The Adventures of Tintin
Being a massive fan of Tintin since childhood, I was a bit apprehensive of the script despite the fact it was penned by Doctor Who writer Steve Moffat. Turns out those fears amounted to nothing since we got a highly enjoyable movie where 3D was used to a good effect and made the overall experience entertaining. As a Tintin fanboy, I came out smiling so I consider this a success.
I am pretty sure I am one of the few around here who actually liked this Lars Von Trier flick. I think he did an excellent job capturing the increasing strain in the relations of the people involved and the social awkwardness that binds them like a deadly snake. Dunst gives a surprisingly good performance (imagine that! ) and Von Trier does a fantastic job capturing the tense atmosphere embroiling underneath all the fake smiles that characters give to each other. Personally loved this movie.
3) A Separation (aka Jodaeiye Nader ez Simin in Persian)
Surprising entry on this list was this deeply emotional and scathic satire on the modern Iranian society. Capturing a married couple's struggle with their Alzheimer-inflicted parents, child's future amidst the backdrop of a contradictory Iranian society makes this one of the best foreign-language movies of 2011 by far.
Ryan Gosling starred in this supremely entertaining and highly s-tylish semi-action,semi-noir flick. Filled with smart,witty one-liners and fantastic visual direction that reminded me of the early 50s noir flicks made it one of the big surprises of 2011. Not to mention its so s-tylish that one can't help but watch and adore its confidence over and over again. A guilty pleasure!
1) The Tree of Life
I deeply love movies like 2001 : Space Odyssey and Lost in Translation and Tree of Life falls in the same vein as those two in more than few ways. Guilty of often putting some of its viewers into sleep due to boredom (nothing happens in this movie is their most common complaint) but on so many levels The Tree of Life is easily the biggest and most ambitious idea for a movie any director has ever taken. There I said it. Encapsulating the very essence of life was never going to be an easy task and director Terrence Malick stumbles occasionally but the end product is a slow-boiling but deeply soulful and complexly layered movie that rings true on so many levels that it's maddening.
It's a pure cinematic achievement that is 2011's biggest example of why cinema is MORE than a visual medium for literature. The Tree of Life is cinema's biggest and proudest statement of its glory and independence in 2011.
Best Event(s) of 2011
2011 saw a large number of events showing the fabled "People's Power" starting off with the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia that ended up seeing its dictator Ben Ali being kicked out and then spreading across the entire Arab world sparking massive protests and clashes in Egypt,Yemen and Libya.
These weren't the only examples we saw. In my very own country we saw the massive anti-corruption campaign spark into a nationwide protest against the government with Anna Hazare heading the "Lokpal Movement" that drew many inspirations from the Independence Movement 60 years ago led by Mahatma Gandhi himself. Non-violence was the essence of another nationwide movement once again in India.
Not only that but the financial woes of Europe and the taxation inequalities of America saw the "Occupy" movement rise. While lacking a common aim/motive/demand from their governments, they all came across as anti-capitalist movement initially demanding for taxation equality with the motto "We are the 99%" becoming very popular amongst the protestors.
Granted lack of leader and the increasing influx of anarchists,trouble-makers within the OWS banner does make the movement lose a great deal of credibility but still it was a resounding expression of people's power.
Social media particularly Twitter and Facebook played a massive role in all these movements. Connecting,encouraging and mobilizing support from all corners of the world, all these protestors gained a great deal of mileage and support from people worldwide thanks to these two sites in particular. Each of these movements wouldn't have been so successful if it weren't for these sites.
But the reason this is THE Event of 2011 above any other is because these movements are examples of people taking control of the matters plaguing their country. It is a sign of people having the courage and the interest to stand against their government's mismanagement and wrong-doings. It is a sign of people taking their own lives and that of the entire community into their own hands and demanding for a better change.
It is a sign of people looking above their selfish personal lives and doing something collectively as a community for once.
2011 has been a stunning reminder to governments and rulers all across the world that the moment they cross the limit of tolerance of people with their mismanagement and wrong-doings, they're going to have to face the direct ire of their entire country's population. But this time they're not alone. They have the entire world (namely the Internet) behind them thanks to the social media.
That's it for now!
Hope you all have a great 2012 ahead of you!
Let's get one thing straight from the outset : Elder Scrolls has never been the pinnacle of role-playing. Back during its days in Daggerfall, it was at best a highly glitchy Ultima or Wizardry seen from a lone-man's first-person view. Over the years, what ever role-playing elements it had once have been progressively lightened.
But that is fine.Because like I said role-playing never was Elder Scrolls' forte or their main selling point.
What the series did really well and better than its influences was evoke the immense thrill of exploration and the overwhelming sense of scale of its massive world.
Elder Scrolls isn't at its best when you're talking to a NPC, or leveling up or other little role-playing forms like that. It is at its glorious best when you're out exploring the large open-world and its secrets –be it a cave infested with bandits, or a tomb hiding some Daedric secrets. This is where the Elder Scrolls games have always shined for me and what has ultimately been the series' biggest singular triumph over the years.
Which is why 2006's Oblivion was a disappointment for me purely because it took place in a setting-Cyrodiil that was so bland and uninteresting that the primary reason why Elder Scrolls appealed to me was lost. With the loss of that, its role-playing shallowness underneath became all the more apparent. Oblivion had some interesting ideas but they were lost in absence of what made the series fun in the first place-exploring a detailed fantasy world that was rich in lore and historical background.
That is why Skyrim, the fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls saga is in more ways than one-a familiar but thrilling comeback for the series. It brings back the glorious and often-overwhelming feeling of exploring a massively rich world that seems to be hiding some secret around its every corner. Bethesda for all the flack they've gotten from me have realized their series' biggest strength and have done a commendable job of creating a rich setting in Skyrim.
Filled with waterfalls, lush green plains, towering snow mountains and dark swamp forests, Skyrim is a beautiful place in every sense I could describe. It is also a very dangerous place because it is inhabited by creatures of all kind – be it mammoths, giants and of course, the dragons. It is another confirmation that how essential the richness of a world is for enjoyment of games like Elder Scrolls. Skyrim has everything that Oblivion's Cyrodiil didn't. Skyrim's towns and cities have much more life about them-each having a little in-built conflict of their own which fits into the central conflict of the game. Each inhabited place feeling like its inhabited by people who continue with their own lives yet are inadvertently torn apart by the problems plaguing Skyrim.
Skyrim is a land torn apart by civil unrest. Taking place 200 years after Oblivion's events, it sees the once proud Imperial Empire now nothing more than a glorified puppet in the hands of Thalmor who wish to assert their superiority over Skyrim's traditional customs. The local Nords of Skyrim are obviously not happy and their anger is fronted by a powerful rebellion led by Stormcloak. Amidst this civic unrest, dragons are mysteriously returning from dead and terrorizing every living soul in Skyrim. As one of the last of the Dragonborn, only you have the prophesied ability to stop the Dragons and to unite Skyrim under a single banner.
The premise falls into the all-too familiar area of every Elder Scrolls' plot. Prophesied hero saving the world. Nothing more beyond that. What Skyrim does have this time is a central conflict – one that gives the entire world a lot more charm and character to go about than Oblivion's "stop the Daedra and close the Gates of Oblivion" ever did. In Skyrim, every town has a stand on the issue of the civil war. Some support Imperials, some support the Stormcloaks. Some try their best to remain neutral even though they find it increasingly hard to do so. Families within the same town stand divided on the issue of the war. People wonder aloud if the dragons are supposed to put an end to the war or end them before the war does. The hopes and fears of the people of Skyrim feel very natural and real and it doesn't take long before you start associating with people.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, Skyrim feels more alive than any Elder Scrolls game ever has. Sure Morrowind still is by far the richer game in terms of setting, but Skyrim is filled from top to bottom with so many unique events that occur with or without player intrusion that it easily elevates the game above your vast crowd of RPGs. On Skyrim's streets, people talk to you about recent events in this world – which you may or may not have been a part of. They carry on with their lives while occasionally taking time to discuss, comment or berate someone or something. With a sizeable conflict and unique events –scripted or evoked by player action springing across the world, it doesn't take a long time before Skyrim becomes a very believable place.
This isn't an easy thing to do. Creating a believable world is one of the toughest things to do in game development. Bethesda try their best – they stumble plenty of times-NPCs comment on entirely irrelevant things or treat you like a nobody when you might be the savior of the world or the Thane of the town. These little things do break your immersion every now and then, but by and large Skyrim creates a chilly and beautiful atmosphere whenever you play it. Bethesda's sincere effort of creating a rich world does show in the end and make a considerably powerful impact on how Skyrim fares as a game.
Skyrim is subjected to plenty of improvements and refinements of various degrees. None bigger than the leveling system. Instead of restricting and binding a player to "Major" and "Minor" skills like Oblivion did, Skyrim instead gives players a free rein over how and what abilities they choose to develop in. To facilitate that, they've introduced perks from the Fallout franchise. These perks form a skill tree of sorts for every skill-set giving you a wider choice when it comes to deciding how you develop your character. If you choose to develop One-Handed, you will be given a choice to better your skills in a specific one-handed weapon –be it Sword,Axe or Mace.
The skill set is still unbalanced. Skills like Speech are grossly under-used and serve little to no importance. Process of gaining experience remains the same as in the previous games and it still is one of the most organic forms of gaining experience I've seen in any role-playing game yet. With the leveling system improved, leveling up in Skyrim feels a whole lot more satisfying and fun than it ever was in Oblivion.
Combat is still for better or worse the same awkward hack-n-slash affair. Sure there have been minor refinements by means of which you can now dual-wield spells and combine their different effects, perform powerful Shouts in the ancient dragon language or the Fallout-esque finisher animations displayed in stylish slow-motion. But other than that, Skyrim's combat will be familiar to anyone who played Oblivion. It is focused on action, fast-paced, more immediate and also more clunky. Hit detection is still off by a fair margin and even though Skyrim has fully left behind its dice-roll roots, combat is still imprecise. Ranged combat like Archery introduces auto-aim so now you no longer need to worry about the trajectory of the arrow. It's been streamlined although frankly it didn't bother me too much. The clunky and imprecise nature however and doesn't take away the fact that combat is still fun occasionally but clearly it isn't the best what Skyrim could manage.
Amongst the surprising improvements, I'd give a special mention to Alchemy. While Skyrim does follow the general trend of removing complex activities from its past installments for the sake of simplicity and accessibility , Alchemy is a rare occasion where Skyrim doesn't shy away from its old CRPG roots. Rather than giving you a set of ingredients required to make a particular item like it does in the case of Smithing or Enchanting, Alchemy rather invites you to experiment with your ingredients and find out its effects. This mix-and-match technique leading to a mysterious output is very reminiscent to what actual Chemistry feels like and kudos to Bethesda for actually making it a small but nonetheless enjoyable component of the game.
It wouldn't be an Elder Scrolls game without its quests and Skyrim has plenty of them. That is an understatement actually because Skyrim has infinite quests. That's right one of the ever-polarizing "innovations" of Bethesda this time around is Radiant Questing. This makes certain friendly NPCs give you an infinite number of looping quests that automatically point to a random location on the map. This location may or may not be discovered yet. What Radiant Quests succeeds at is encouraging exploration of the world through these quests. Another example that Bethesda have understood the main strength of their games. Sadly these infinite quests are cookie-cutter quests of the lowest denomination and do not really serve any special purpose. It's a good thing for those who want to keep playing Skyrim long after it is finished, for the rest of us however, such Radiant Quests serve little purpose.
There are some excellent quests in Skyrim however. Some. Quests involving Daedric princes are generally the high-point of the game because they evoke the exact kind of feeling Daedric quests should – dark, twisted and highly atmospheric with mad twists of all kinds thrown in. Questing in Skyrim is a sheer joy when you encounter these rarities where quests actually have some substance and show some semblance of having good writing.
Unfortunately for Skyrim, such excellent quests are few and far between. Most of the quests in Skyrim are sadly bland and lacking any kind of substance. This is once again where Bethesda falls flat. Clearly not having learnt a single thing from their peers at Obsidian after their stunning effort with New Vegas, Bethesda provide a wide array of interesting premises for every quest in Skyrim but almost all of them entirely boil down to the same repetitive routine of dungeon crawling. Quests in Skyrim start on a promising note but almost always end up with you retrieving some lost item from a cave, killing some evil person in a cave or having a rendezvous with someone in a…you guessed it…a cave.
For ordinary sidequests, I am ready to forgive Bethesda for such painfully generic quests but when entire questlines of certain factions are nothing but one excuse after another to explore some dungeon, you cannot help but wish for better. Writing is mostly unimpressive.
For AAA-RPG like Skyrim, such writing isn't easily excusable especially when quests with tremendous potential boil down into the same routine of dungeon-crawling. Not that I have a problem with dungeon crawling but surely it isn't the ONLY way to role-play in quests. Not to mention, Bethesda have still not grasped the notion of role-playing through dialogue.
Quests are still a largely linear affair and on the rare occasion where you're given a decision to make it makes little to no impact. For someone born to change the world of Skyrim, quests are poor indicators of your destiny. To add to that, voice-acting is mostly average.It isn't helped by the fact that a lot of NPCs voices are just recycled between a number of voice actors.
This is 2011 and not 1998 anymore when developers could get away with that. Unfortunately, Bethesda does seem to get away with such mistakes game after game. To Skyrim's credit however, the dungeon design is mostly great, easily the best thus far in the series. It remains fresh throughout and is filled with enough variety in traps, puzzles to keep you invested. The notorious Dwemer ruins are the high-point of dungeon design in Skyrim.
Then there are the dragons. The mighty flying creatures that have been the core of the hype machine Skyrim had before its release. Fighting with dragons is mostly a random encounter and thus the thrill of fighting a dragon that has caught you unawares is an immense feeling. Despite the fact that dragons respawn infinitely in Skyrim, their rate of respawn is pretty slow enough so they never become a hindrance in your exploration. That said however the intensity of dragon fights is slowly lost the more of them you fight.
Skyrim treats battles with dragons as more of a menial, methodical task of killing creatures which can fly rather than treat them as intense battles that require you to combine your wit and best skills to succeed.
Result is Skyrim's dragons never evoke the kind of fear which dragons in many other RPGs over the years have managed to. It's certainly not a disappointing aspect of Skyrim, not when fighting two dragons at the same time in an Aurora-lit sky counts high amongst my most memorable moment in Skyrim. Yet it's hard to shake the feeling that the fights with dragons could've been far more intense and epic had they been used with more thought and restrain in the frequency.
Skyrim is supposedly built on a new engine that is not GameBryo but that doesn't stop the familiar problems plaguing Bethesda's previous games from plaguing Skyrim-- namely glitches of all kinds. Mammoths disappear through the terrain and then reappear two minutes later by falling from the sky. Broken quests, disappearing NPCs, terrain failing to load and you being stuck in a white space of nothingness aren't rare occurrences in Skyrim. While I do admit that a game as massive as Skyrim is bound to have such glitches but Skyrim has a bit too many of them to avoid such criticism and often comes across as an over-modded Oblivion.
Special mention needs to be given to Jeremy Soule's excellent score which remains quiet in the background but reinforces the chilly beauty of Skyrim time and again.
The UI of the game is a neater and cleaner version of Oblivion. It still isn't the best UI around but it doesn't pose as much of an issue managing inventory and spells like Oblivion's did. I need to mention the PC version I played suffers from its own separate set of issues.In addition to the controls being awkwardly mapped and mouse sensitivity needing to be tweaked initially to be anywhere near playable, I had various instances where I was greeted by a black screen for no reason.
Possibly the biggest glitch I faced was when the voice files of an important character in the main quest failed to load. The result was he remained mute and trying to initiate conversation with him was impossible. Something which nearly broke my main quest until I had to follow the advice of a FAQ online and fixed the glitch. These are massively basic-level mistakes that shouldn't be there in a AAA-game like Skyrim. Yet they still are and they contribute collectively to break immersion every now and then the game's world so magically creates around the player.
Ultimately, Skyrim succeeds because of its setting. That was the one and the only thing any Elder Scrolls game needed to be good. Fortunately a lot of other things work in favour of Skyrim. A central conflict that gives peoples' problems more weight, events that acknowledge players' actions spring up now and then, making you feel that you are actually making some difference in the world. These are very small things many other RPGs forget but they add up to make a very big difference here. They make Skyrim one of the most immersive games this year.
It still has plenty of short-comings, some familiar, some bred by Skyrim's own half-baked innovations. It doesn't make any major changes you'd expect to happen in the 5 years since Oblivion and right now familiarity and low-risk nature of Bethesda poses the biggest danger to the series'. The role-playing genre has improved in a lot of aspects over the years and Skyrim often finds itself too slow to adapt to the innovations of RPG genre over past few years. Its quests and role-playing still appears too linear for a game that provides immense freedom otherwise. It still needs to realize that smart writing can make the world's difference in a RPG.
The fact that Skyrim succeeds despite these numerous shortcomings should tell you exactly how good it is as a game. It brings back the thrill and excitement you feel while exploring a world as massive and richly detailed in history and lore as Skyrim. It overwhelms you not by its size but by its attention to detail. Skyrim chooses quality over quantity where Oblivion had chosen the latter.
This is where Skyrim triumphs and it is this which keeps you coming back for more. It isn't the story, towns or any characters, but it is the world of Skyrim itself which keeps pulling you back for one more exploration through its vast lands.One more run through an unexplored dungeon before you call it a night. That never turns out to be the case of course, but there lies the biggest justification if we needed one about Skyrim's true success. Its ability to immerse its players in a richly detailed universe that always keep them coming back for more.
P.S : If you like the review, don't forget to recommend it. Will make the hours I spent writing the review worth it.