It’s been almost a year since I played I played two excellent PC games, and now I have been playing their sequels. How do they compare to their predecessors?
System Shock was an interesting experience when I played it a little less than a year ago. I had no intention of really beating it, but I ended up completing the game's first couple of objectives and didn't want to stop. The UI was very fascinating and fun to use, and the game was virtually seamless with no sort of dissonance (crude 3D graphics aside). It was a very fun game, and while it made me appreciate Bioshock a bit less, it made me want to play System Shock 2 even more. Now I have played System Shock 2. And what do I think?
It's an awesome game, but it doesn't quite beat the first game. The focus on RPG elements in 2 doesn't necessarily hold it back as much as the engine and what it tries to make you do in the last fifth of the game. The Dark Engine was design for a slow paced game like Thief where confrontation with enemies was not advised. With that said, Body of the Many is a bunch of bullshit with throwing a bunch of Psi Reavers, Arachnids, and Rumblers at you while you have to effectively run around the Many's brain and shoot at it while those enemies are chasing you. And the only way to outrun the enemies chasing you is to run forward, because strafing or going backwards is slower. Terrible, terrible segment. The part after that is only slightly better, but when compared to the climax of System Shock 1, which kept ratcheting things up until the showdown in cyberspace, it's not really impressive.
That said though, everything else about the game before that is really fun. The stuff I loved about the UI in System Shock is mostly retained in 2, with being able to switch between mouselook and HUD mode. Really gives it a sort of tactile feel, but because the HUD is something that pops in and out with a button press, it doesn't feel quite the same as in System Shock 1. The RPG systems are pretty good, and combat is tolerable as, while firing guns looks and feels terrible, they don't seem to be governed by dice rolls. That's one thing it's got over Deus Ex.
A lot like System Shock 1, though, I wasn't really scared while playing the game, despite people saying it's one of the scariest games they've played. There's tension for sure, and some of the stuff you find and audio logs you listen to are a bit too disturbing, just the way that I built out my character on my first run kinda negated any sense of vulnerability. Only on my second playthrough where I chose to go all Psionics only did I start feeling more pressure, specifically in Engineering in the cargo rooms with the exploding droids. That was extremely tense, and I didn't want to take my time looking everywhere for things to pick up, as any droid could show up and destroy me.
It's a very fun game, the story telling and presentation having been carried over by Irrational with Bioshock, and also being Looking Glass Studios' penultimate game. I like it more than Bioshock, but like SS2 SLIGHTLY less than original because of the last fifth being underwhelming. Still great games that people should play.
Thief blew my mind a year ago when I played it and discovered that it absolutely did stealth gameplay better than pretty much any game that has stealth, either as a small segment or in a large capacity. It had a minimalist HUD, yet you had a ton of information to go by from the light gem on your HUD and the very distinct sound effects. Not to mention all the different arrows and tools that let you manipulate that information to your advantage. There's no vision codes, no map with enemies represented as dots, nothing of the sort. When you play Thief, and you listen to the sounds, and are aware of the areas that will conceal you in shadows, and know exactly how to use your tools, you can pull things off with very little trial and error. Yeah, it's not free of trial and error, but frankly, I find that's necessary to an extent, so long as the error is understandable and you know what not to do. And the game a decade in a half old. I normally play old games and enjoy them in a vacuum rather than in a modern context, but that game was just so good even today it impresses me still.
Now we have Thief II: The Metal Age, and this game trumps the first game in every possible way. While Thief Gold is a great game, the missions that weren't as memorable or fun compared to others were ones that didn't have human enemies. Undead and other creatures were not as fun as human enemies. Thief II dispenses with that, except for a couple moments that are primarily optional. Thief II is all about stealing from and outsmarting human characters. It does focus on more specific kinds of missions than Thief's grab bag approach, with stuff like tomb robbing or being in disguise at a Hammerite Temple, but the level of detail in Thief II's levels and the stuff it has you doing are fantastic. The 2nd level has you breaking into a warehouse complex, which has tons of loot and information about characters in the world. Later in the game you go to a Pagan village, which has beastmen that are basically reskinned humans, so those get a pass. The neat part about that mission is where you see ghostly images of the Pagans that inhabited the place before the Mechanists invaded and killed them.
But the best level, the absolute best level in Thief II: The Metal Age is Life of the Party. I had heard many good things about this level, and it did not disappoint me at all. This is the level you go to for the best representation of what the Thief games are about. Running around the city and infiltrating Angelwatch, both of which could easily have been their own levels but fit together so nicely. And then there are NPC conversations and world details that are some of the most memorable in the game. From the Rothchilds' complaining about not being invited to Angelwatch (when the guest list suggests it was perhaps misplaced), to the fight that breaks between the guards serving Lady Van Vernon and Master Willy that is absolutely hilarious. Dan Thron's voice cracking as he gets angry is pretty great. And hour and a half level that felt like the length was justified. Absolutely fantastic.
The game has been amazing on the gameplay front, although atmosphere of the first game is missed somewhat. Also the story is decent enough, but doesn't have any memorable twists in the same way Thief had them. The first game was like a noir film where the real villain isn't exactly known until the twist happens. In Thief II, it's pretty obvious very early on that Karras is the main villain, and doesn't try to deceive Garret into anything similar to Constantine/The Trickster. Still, both games excel at what Looking Glass had done in their time and that was creating believable, fully realized worlds. Their last game happens to be their best one, and it's good they went out with a bang.
And some people say stealth is shitty.
And the Rest
A bunch of character action games
Mostly been playing DMC 3 again, in the wake of the all the craziness that surrounded (still surrounding I guess?) DmC's release. I played through it last summer on Easy, and now I've been working my way through it on Normal. Also played some DMC 1, and almost made more progress on Normal than I did in the past. Still like 3 more.
Besides those games, played the Metal Gear Rising demo and enjoyed that. Wasn't the same demo that I had played at PAX Prime, but it was still fun. Since I can play it whenever I want, I can take the time to experiment more with moves and try some advanced tactics. And just because I could, I downloaded the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo, and surprise, Ninja Gaiden is still awesome even on PS3. Surprised to find that after many years of not playing Ninja Gaiden I was able to beat the first chapter without dying. On Normal AND Hard. My skills with video games in general have improved since around 2006 or so when I played NG Black.
Lot of action games kicking off 2013.
First two weeks of the spring semester have been alright so far. First day was cancelled due to weather conditions, so things actually started on Tuesday. My drawing class is probably the most interesting just because it's something I've been doing most of my life and I'm learning something new about a thing I generally like. The other classes like physics or sociology are stuff I just picked because I need enough credits to be a full time student and receive a scholarship to pay my tuition.
And that's it. Not sure exactly what I'll write about next week, as Metal Gear Rising probably won't be out by the time I write the next entry. Maybe I'll get back to that pigeon dating visual novel or something. Yeah, that thing isn't a joke. It's pretty nuts though. Alright, Hatoful Boyfriend for next entry it is then. The second game? I have no idea.