OR: I stop playing a game that I stopped enjoying, both to my own shock and that of others.
Oh hi internet. Short-term unemployment has its benefits, especially when you’re living at home and don’t have to pay for anything. One of these benefits is the ability to spend far too much time on dumb nerd stuff, like the video games, when your parents aren’t getting on your case about where direction you want to go in with one’s life. I’ve also started reading books again (The Emperor’s Soul is a nice, short story that exhibits Brandon Sanderson’s strengths as a writer. The Rithmatist does as well, but it also is dragged down by all of the dumb stuff that is part and parcel with Young Adult novels) and using the money I got from my previous job I’ve made poor life choices in regards to cheap Ebay purchases. I bought a copy of Soul Calibur 2 for the Gamecube, because Link is in it, and also that Bioware-developed Sonic RPG so I could write another blog where I mercilessly make fun of something. I’ve similarly come close to pulling the trigger on $30 copies of Suikoden V, a game that taunts me with its rarity despite the part where I’m intimidated by lengthy JRPGs and still haven’t finished Chrono Cross. Money is a dangerous thing. That I know for sure. But hey, video games that I’ve owned for a while!
Kingdoms of Amalur is an ok fantasy game
And not much more. You may recall me giving it an honorable mention in my GOTY blog of last year, but that was only 15 hours in. Now, at around 40 hours and nearing the end of the main questline (to not even talk about the dozens of side-quests that I’ve deliberately ignored and also The House of Sorrows), I think I may have reached my limit. It’s a mechanically solid game with a lot of smart ideas regarding combat and character building but it doesn’t execute on them well enough to last for its entire length, and the other aspects of the game (i.e. the world and the writing in general) don’t pick up the slack well enough to make me want to slog through another dozen or so hours of tediously easy button mashing just so I can claim to have finished a game I think ran out of steam a dozen hours previous. In essence, it would be better if it were 2/3rds as long, had better loot, more nuanced combat and wasn’t as easily exploitable. All things that a sequel could fix, but… well… you know the likelihood of that. Thanks Obama Curt Schilling.
But I’ll back up a bit. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the only game that was ever put out by 38 Studios (developed by the also defunct Big Huge Games) and will probably be the only true legacy of all the insanity that studio went through last year. It is one of two open-world RPGs with heavy emphasis on combat that came out in 2012, but unlike Dragon’s Dogma and its indefinite cross between Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and maybe the Elder Scrolls, the influences of KoA are far more distinct and easily recognizable. The game is basically a single-player MMO with God of War-esque combat and color-coded loot with prefixes like it was Diablo. The world is split into zones, all full of individuals with exclamation marks above their heads indicating that you should go to X and kill X or otherwise be someone’s glorified errand boy, but there are also some elder scrolls-like guild questlines and a main story that you’ll probably forget exists most of the time. On paper, all of this sounds alright. On paper. In actuality, the world is sort of boring and generic and at some point I started to ignore most of the extraneous dialogue that the game offered to me. While there were a few quests here and there that I found to be interesting and well-written, the vast majority of them are pretty forgettable tasks from lazy peasants who can’t bother to do anything themselves. I didn’t necessarily take this as an issue, since story is probably the most ignorable part of this game, and unlike something like say… Valkyria Chronicles II, it was never aggressively bad enough to earn any sort of major reprimand from me.
For me, a bad story isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, and initially Reckoning’s gameplay is pretty neat. You have a pretty flexible character development system that allows for easy respec-ing and a combat system that allows for combo-based enemy beating. And, early on, it worked for me. Playing on hard with a Finesse/Magic hybrid character, I was better off dodging attacks and throwing chakrams than directly engaging against enemies capable of taking off chunks of my health and stunning me out of attack animations. But at some point around that 20 hour mark the tables started to turn and I started to steamroll most of what opposed me. This is partially because the game overlevels you with all of the various quests it throws at you, but also because you can start socketing “+2 health regen per second” gems in most of your armor and become virtually unkillable as a result. It also didn’t hurt that I switched my character over to the “Jack of All Trades” hybrid archetype and enjoyed all of the damage-boosting and survivability benefits that came with it. And that was pretty fun, for a while. But around today I… finally just got bored of it. I’ve been using the same weapons for the last 4 or so hours because the loot drops are sort of bad, I have an inordinate amount of gold because there’s rarely anything to spend it on and I can sort of win all of the combat by pressing X a bunch, possibly with my eyes closed. I’ve proven that I will finish games for the sake of finishing them, but you know what? I think I’m good. While excessive grinding is sometimes cathartic for me, I still have Bayonetta and Devil Survivor to finish and I’d much rather spend my time on those then deal with whatever excitement no doubt awaits me at the end of Kingdoms of Amalur. Will I defeat the Tuatha? Will I defy fate? Will I possibly press X a bunch after using that ability that makes it so I ignore hitstun? Who knows? Not I. Not I.
But, to not end this blog on a downer, here’s something that I did like:
Quest for Glory is a surprisingly decent fantasy game
I finished (the VGA version of) Quest for Glory with some mild cheating involved, which is to say that I sometimes used a guide because old adventure games sure do love them some obscure and retarded puzzle solutions, especially when Sierra is concerned. That being said, as far as Sierra games go, it’s actually pretty straightforward and logical in the way it presents its puzzles (which makes me assume that Roberta Williams had no real hand in this title) and the addition of RPG elements and different classes actually makes the game far more interesting than it otherwise would be. It still trades a lot on deliberately bad puns and a decidedly goofy sense of humor, but I’ll admit that some of the parts of the game got a chuckle out of me for as antiquated as any sort of reference to Monty Python or that Jim Henson puppet dinosaur show could be. The way the classes are laid out seems rather clever, and playing as a Thief, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the puzzle solutions involved sneaking past things or stealing junk. Oh sure, I still skimmed a guide because my time is valuable and I don’t feel like drawing a map, but if there was a Sierra adventure game series that holds up the least poorly, QFG may be it. We’ll find out… once I finish the other 4 games in the series, which thankfully is mostly relegated to the DOS era and only the final game in the series looking like it fell out of 1998. I’m going to see how long it takes before I resort to a guide for (the VGA version of) QFG2. I’m guessing like an hour, given the way that the streets are laid out.
But to really not end this blog on a dour note, here's a speedrun of Temple of Elemental Evil done in 4 minutes. You're welcome.