(So I had planned on posting this Sunday evening, but when I sat down to post it I had the belated realization that it would probably be gone Tuesday morning, when the new site launched)
Turns out that when you've got a job and you adhere to the "I ain't spendin' sixty bucks on every game" life philosophy, you can afford a surprisingly large number of games. Problem is, I haven't beaten many of the games that I've bought, so I've gathered quite a backlog for myself. It's annoying, some of these games I've barely even got past the tutorial of and a few are ones I've never actually played before. So, you guessed it, this is just something of a backlog-blog where I play a game until I either beat it or just plain have no interest in it anymore and deliver some of my thoughts on it here. Maybe if I have some outside reason to stick to a game, I'll stick to it better?
Anyway, here goes a few of my thoughts on three games I played last week. One I completed, one I didn't (hence the "'til I just can't anymore" clause above), and one which has no real endgame. I'll try to edit this and put some images in here, but no promises - I'm already afraid the site will eat this top part and I'll have to repost the whole damn thing.
Q.U.B.E., henceforth referred to without the periods and caps, because fuck that’s hard to type, is a first person puzzle game in the vein of Portal, which seems to have popularized them. Apart from Narbacular Drop, I can’t name any that existed before Portal. But not many of them seem to understand that it’s the story and dialogue that kept people involved in Portal, not just the mechanics and puzzles, though most of us had fun with those too. Qube is pretty cool in that it just tells a very abstract story. There was intended to be one, with voices and everything, but instead you just run through these super sterile environments and then… well, stuff happens. Not a ton of stuff, but stuff nonetheless. Still, that stuff won’t draw you in much. You should come up with your own little story to liven things up a bit.
So what about the puzzles themselves? Well, the game isn’t really structured like Portal. There are several different areas with different ideas, and once you pass an area that’s it. That never comes up again. That means the beginning of the game shows you the basics, and then the next area introduces a new mechanic and challenges you with that, and then scraps it for something else entirely. The only things that ever stay the same are base mechanics. And I can’t say that is entirely a bad thing, but I also can’t say that I wasn’t a little bit disappointed that there wasn’t some final puzzle that combined all of these things. Nope, there’s the last puzzle to the last room with the last mechanic and then PRESTO! You move onto the finale, which is just one big and awesome set piece. And it is, indeed, awesome – but for all the brain-bending puzzles you just solved, there isn’t a single one that’s the brain-bendiest.
Qube isn’t that long, at only three hours, maybe four if you suck at puzzle games. Two if you’re really good at them. This is fine by me – any longer and it would get kinda boring. No, what we have here is a short little puzzle-game snack for a rainy Saturday afternoon, with a very satisfying little showpiece at the end to reward you for your hard work.
Red Faction Armageddon
This game is the perfect case for “just ‘cause it works right doesn’t mean it’s good”. The developers didn’t seem to understand that the mere presence of a mechanic does not make it interesting. The Gravity Gun would not have been as awesome as it was if Gabe & Co. just gave it to you and never gave you any reason at all to use it. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what Red Faction Armageddon does. Guerilla kinda had the same problem, but it was nowhere near as bad because there was this entertaining open world to destroy stuff in and, while the game didn’t seem to particularly care if you did or did not destroy things, it at least designed areas where abusing the shit out of Geomod could be advantageous. Here, destroying things with your rocket launchers, melty-guns, and the Magnet gun often seems to hinder you more than help you. More than once I’ve died due to accidentally tripping over broken materials in a dark fucking room with aliens jumping all over the walls.
Speaking of that magnet gun, let’s discuss what is potentially the only interesting thing about this game. You put a magnet on one thing, another magnet on something else, and the first magnet takes everything in its near vicinity to the location of the other magnet. Now imagine being in a large room, attaching magnet A to small building A, and then attaching magnet B to big bad generic alien B, and watching the entire small structure slam into the bug. Sound great? Now repeat it ad nauseum. In the time that I played this game, I never once came across an actual reason to take out the magnet gun. There is one other interesting mechanic – if you mess up, you can hold a button to shoot a sort of short-range repair beam to put something back together. You would think that the developers would have, I dunno, made some puzzles or some interesting set pieces combining these two things, right? Right? Nope. That the mechanic was introduced to solve the problem of players fucking their progression over is not a bad thing; that such an interesting mechanic was never used beyond “repair this generator” is a terrible thing.
We could talk about the terribly boring aliens, the repetitive level design, the dull writing, and everything else about the game, but I’ll just say this: The game’s damning fault is that it is boring. Not that it’s terribly designed, like Daikatana; not that it’s buggy, like Big Rigs Over the Road Racing; not that it’s bad but has a certain charm to it, like Deadly Premonition. It’s (and I know this word is overused) simply uninspired. There is nothing to this game, it’s a shell of a game without any meaty insides. All the right parts are there on the outside, and they’re fine, but once you dig in you find… nothing. At all. That I can say that about a product from the same developer as Saints Row the Third, something with a very obvious idea and vision, is baffling.
Let’s talk about something positive next!
So I’ve kind of flirted with Minecraft several times since my brother got it and downloaded it onto my laptop, now on my computer. And by “flirt” I mean I’ve played it several times but never really completed much of anything. I get really excited and I start coming up with huge, grand ideas, I start gathering resources and tapping away…
…and then I give up a week or so later to go do something else. I should probably moderate myself more when playing this, but when that bug hits it’s a pretty bad one. I just can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to decorate my blocky new home. Right now, I’ve set up a local server and my brother and I are building an underground house. At first I had this grand idea to clear out an entire mountain but decided to build it way underground. Why? Well, because our big mine is actually a deep, natural waterfall that we found that goes pretty far down. We just go into the cavern where it’s located and drop all the way down to a pool, around which we have furnaces, crafting benches, an enchanter thingy, an anvil, chests stacked full of stuff… anyway, I thought it might be a great idea to have a house down there and so that’s what we’re doing! Can’t say whether I’ll finish it or not, but this project is miniature in comparison to my previous idea of “build a gigantic castle in the middle of a massive body of water on top of floating dirt blocks that had an area of 128x128.”