OBJECTION! Part 3 - Goodbye Turnabout

First I want to apologise for the previous entry in this blog series. Only the second blog and I already messed up! I rushed it, so I wasn't really thinking and did a poor job in general. It's completely useless as an introduction to Phoenix Wright. Especially when you consider it's covering the first game which is the most important and considered by some to be the best in the series.

With that out of the way, I will be looking at the second game, Justice For All. There are more games that I will address in the future, but Trials and Tribulations serves as an end to many of the plot lines and unanswered questions of the previous two games and will be in the next blog. I'm getting ahead of myself though. First up...

Justice For All

The sequel to Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is largely the same as the first game and follows very much the same format. Investigate, go to court. Talk to people, read a lot of text, solve logic puzzles to prove your client innocent. The game reuses most of the same graphical assets as the first such as locations and characters but also feature's an entirely new soundtrack.

Some of the characters introduced in Justice For All, I think, are some of the best in the Phoenix Wright Universe. Pearl Fey, the sweet and innocent cousin to Maya;Franziska Vonkarma, the daughter of tough prosecutor Manfred Vonkarma following in her father's footsteps; Shelly DeKiller, the honourable assassin. Returning characters such as Edgeworth, Gumshoe, Maya, The Judge and Winston Payne are still a delight but there are also a few insufferable or boring characters, such as Max Galactica.

Improvements and Disappointments

Even though this is considered the worst in the series by some ace attorney fans the game benefits from a host of improvements that come from making a sequel. There were some pacing and writing issues with testimonies and conversations with witnesses in the first game that are improved here and in all future ace attorney games. You get the sense that they finally standardised a lot of things internally leading to a smoother experience. No more overly long testimonies with super short statements. Also, as I mentioned previously, it features some strong characters that go on to feature in future games.

New gameplay elements are also introduced. The first being a minor change; strikes are gone and in its place is a health bar. A health bar that EXPLODES when you receive a penalty in court. Previously you had 5 penalties and it was game over, but the health bar allows for variable amounts of life to be lost depending on the situation offering more flexibility in the games failure state.

The second element is the magatama. Charged with spiritual energy this object allows Phoenix to see in to a persons heart and determine if they are lying. Note that it doesn't determine the truth, just if the person is lying or not. The effect is twofold. One is it fixes some of the issues where Phoenix would just take someone's statement as true without question. Two, more importantly, is it adds some much needed depth to the investigation part of the game. Familiar elements from the courtroom are taken out in to the field and adds some puzzle-like challenge rather than pixel hunting to trigger the next scene.

A great atmospheric piece of music. Shame the rest of it is junk.

Well, you might be asking what's so bad that fans consider this the worst of the ace attorney games. My perspective on it is the writing is just bad. Characters, scenarios, logical sense... bad. I'm not able to articulate exactly why. I'm certainly not a literary critic. The cases you deal with are not as interesting, the twists aren't as shocking and the characters can be forgettable all the way to annoying.

It isn't for lack of effort. For example, one of the cases is set in a circus. Ripe for wacky antics and characters, right? Well, sort of. For some reason I found all the performers to be unlike-able narcissists. Even the stoogey clown. Character motivations and relationships seem questionable to the detriment of the plot killing a lot of the intrigue and an unsatisfying pay off. There feels like a lot of wasted potential.

Spoilers

The one exception is the final case. Unique in the entire franchise, you find out your client is guilty. You proceed as normal under the assumption that your client is innocent but over the course of the case it becomes evident that they are responsible for murder, and the game creates legitimate tension. Maya has been kidnapped and even though you know your client is guilty you must get a not guilty verdict. On top of that, you're presented with the first real choice in the series because you can continue the charade or serve justice by submitting a guilty plea. It isn't completely free form by any stretch of the imagination but it feels liberating considering how linear the game normally is.

Well, that's it. Look out for my next blog. I intended to write about the third game as well in this blog but just doing one game took far too long so I'll do it another time. As always, leave a comment. I love to read them.

6 Comments

OBJECTION! Part 2 - You crazy, Japanese Legal System

Welcome back! It's been a while since I wrote the original entry to this series as I wasn't sure whether I wanted to continue it. My intention was to expose new people to this wonderful, crazy series but it seemed to only reach people already very familiar with the games. Today I hope to (without spoilers) walk you through the first game in the series, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney. After that I will reconsider, but for now let's take a look at the game that laid down the gameplay systems and style that make this series so beloved (albeit by a niche audience).

Many consider the first in the series to be the best (though this is true of a lot of games, even movies etc.). While I disagree with this opinion, I think that a lot of what determines a players favourite comes down to the individual cases/scenarios in each game since the foundations remain the same. Much like Walking Dead, Phoenix Wright could well have been just one title with a long line of episodic DLC. A missed opportunity in my mind, but that is another topic all together.

I like to draw Phoenix Wright characters, sometimes.

I AM THE LAW!

All the best lawyers need speed lines

The most important concepts to understand with Phoenix Wright are those of its legal system, and the logical rules it follows. I touched on this in the previous blog, but the legal system in this game is a complicated affair. Partially a representation of the Japanese legal system, partially a criticism of the Japanese legal system, partially a corruption of how the law is viewed in both the east and west (because localisation confusing the setting) but I think most importantly a 'shocking' design decision: whatever is convenient for the gameplay or story they wanted to tell.

One of the biggest hurdles for new players is the dissonance between a personal sense of justice, how the law is applied, and the differing legal systems from around the world. Without being a lawyer I don't think it is possible for the player to resolve a lot of how the law is exercised in these games because it is such a complicated matching of motivations. Anecdotally this has caused a lot of frustration for people I have introduced these games to and I don't really have a good answer to criticisms levelled against it. I am not well versed in even the legal system of my own country let alone Japan or America but I shouldn't have to be. It lead me to a realisation that the legal system does not work how I thought, no matter where you may live. Though taking legal advice from a game is a bad idea anyway. Seriously, don't do it.

This is not Lawyer Simulator 2014.

For the most part the logic laid out in this game applies to all of the titles, so let's take a look at the fundamentals.

  • Trials only last up to 3 days!
    This is laid out very quickly, and brushed off with the explanation that there is so much crime that they need to resolve these trials quickly. This is an example of design decisions that are gameplay convenient. They need a reason to make the cases snappy and urgent, rather than the reality of trials which are long, drawn out affairs that are ALL about procedure.
  • Trials commence the day following the crime!
    This is one of my least favourite things about the game. Again, this is to make the process much quicker than it really is. Most of the time the investigation has not even been completed by the first day of the trial, autopsy reports are incomplete and inaccurate. Give the police time to do their job! The only way they find a suspect for a next day trial is because of incomplete evidence and jumping to conclusions.
  • Prosecutors run crime scenes and are in charge of the police
    Lawyer's relationship with law enforcement most likely differs around the world, but I'm pretty sure that anyone would find it highly suspect and contemptible to keep defence from examining evidence but allow the prosecution control over how the police operate without the slightest concern for corruption or evidence tampering. Speaking of which...
  • See some evidence? Just put it in your pocket!
    The way you gather evidence is literally just picking it up off the ground. No concern for contaminating the crime scene, putting your fingerprints on anything, or just removing evidence from the scene and not presenting it. In court any evidence you present is taken on faith alone! There is actually one case in the first game that lightly touches on the issue of evidence law and the process of police approval etc but this is the DS exclusive case written after the original 3 games and is not brought up ever again.
  • There is a judge, no jury. Decisive evidence is all that matters.
    A lot of legal systems use a jury to render judgement. Both sides present their arguments based on available witnesses and evidence. Here you have a system where the judge's word is all that matters, and all that matters is decisive evidence or testimony. No matter how much you prove, without direct evidence it isn't enough for a conviction. To the series credit, this is constantly criticised (most seriously in Apollo Justice) due to several instances where you run up against the limits of the law and have to find creative ways around it.
  • Witness testimony is all the prosecution needs. Lying? Who cares!
    In place of evidence, the prosecution will often call upon eye witness testimony. The credibility of a witness is rarely brought in to question and their statements must be shown to be contradictory in order to question the validity of the testimony otherwise that's it. The judge is satisfied with it as the truth. No concern for conflict of interest or lying. Perjury is rarely even brought up.
Dumb Judge
Serious Judge

Crazy, right? Each person reading this will find one or two, if not all of the above points objectionable (hehe). I really wish I had the education to provide a more profound analysis of the law but these are the most gameplay relevant points that affect how you think. After all, you'll need to keep these things in mind while solving the logic puzzles that make up most of the game.

Cases

The game opens with Phoenix's first time in court as a newly joined partner at the Fey & Co. law offices. With his boss Mia Fey supporting him, Phoenix takes on his first client; a long time friend Larry Butz. He's a completely useless, annoying guy that you better like as he is a recurring character in many of the other games. You'll have to contend with his profound stupidity in court as he manages to incriminate himself making your work much more difficult.

Who's that handsome, ruffled man?

The first case introduces other long time characters such as The Judge, and Winston Payne who serves as the tutorial case prosecutor. Weak and unskilled. A perfect opponent for the tutorial. What, you think you'll face THE Miles Edgeworth from the get go? You've got to feel the Payne first. The case is fairly obvious, and is light on punishments while you adjust to how the game works. After your first victory you'll be launched in to the game proper, as the tutorial case only includes the court portion of the game. All other cases include an investigation phase where you gather evidence before entering court.

I won't go in to too much detail about all the cases in the game, but the second case introduces some key concepts and themes that are rather important. Case 2 opens with a bang; the murder of your boss Mia Fey! Through a series of events you must defend her sister, Maya Fey, a spirit medium in training. Spirit... medium? Yes, the supernatural is a fact in this world, though not everyone believes. This becomes highly relevant going forward as Maya Fey becomes your assistant, often using her powers to channel her dead sister to help you. Vague reasoning is given to prevent her from being summoned at all times which creates tension as Phoenix amateurishly fumbles his way through cases and just managing to scrape by.

The final case of the original game sees you challenging legendary prosecutor Manfred Von Karma and represents a progression in difficulty of your opponents. The DS version and subsequent ports, however, feature an additional case that introduces some interesting touch screen mechanics that allow you to examine evidence and dust for finger prints. It adds some enjoyable variety, but in the series as a whole feels out of place because it is the only case in this trilogy to feature these new elements.

Art & Music

The game features animated sprites drawn in an anime style but with 8-bit limitations (such as colour depth). I've already discussed my displeasure with the 'HD' remake as I am quite enamoured with the look of the chunky pixels in this game. The animation style could be described as 'low framerate' and often looping which can be quite jarring at first but becomes a clear stylistic choice that gets under your skin and creates a smile every time you see Phoenix slam his desk or point to yell "OBJECTION!".

Smooth, Edgeworth.

The music follows the 8-bit theme with some chiptune style music, and there's a good chance that if you've heard someone talk about phoenix wright you've also heard that the music is fantastic. You see, these games have so little to work with in terms of world building. You have 2D sprite graphics with a limited colour depth, compressed sound effects and music tracks. Yet these elements are well designed and end up creating an atmosphere, a nebulous feeling that I struggle to describe. Adding a high tempo chiptune track and the sound of explosions to penalties goes a long way to turning the tedium of law in to something exciting and dynamic. You might see now why I really value the look and sound of this game as it is specifically engineered and not remaining faithful to that has diminished the impact of the HD re-release.

In terms of music, listen for yourself. This is a selection of my favourite pieces from the soundtrack to the first game.

Examination

Investigation: Cornered

The Steel Samurai

Hey. You. if you liked this blog, let me know. I want to hear from people not already familiar with the series. Did I do a poor job? Is this boring? Is my writing bad? I need feedback.

14 Comments

OBJECTION! A Phoenix Wright Retrospective - Part 1

The Ace Attorney series is my favourite portable series, one that I have played every day for the past 6 years before I go to sleep. I had never 'played' a visual novel before, and the quirky characters, pixel graphics and murder mysteries really drew me in. It has a niche audience outside of Japan and I would like to see more people enjoy these games so I decided to write a series exploring the various games, with as few spoilers as possible in the hopes that you, Giant Bomb reader, will give these games a shot.

This entry will serve as an introduction and overview, before I start tackling each game individually. If you enjoy this show your interest so that I know whether to continue it or if I'm just wasting my time. Hopefully this will introduce some people to the visual novel genre and get you to try it out.

What?

Phoenix Wright is an Ace Attorney. A nervous, rookie lawyer just getting started in the legal world. The games combines several genres; mainly visual novel, adventure and puzzle, split in to two phases. Phase one is the investigation, which takes the form of a visual novel/adventure game where you pixel hunt backgrounds for evidence and talk to witnesses. The second phase takes place in the courtroom, where you do battle against the prosecution to prove your client innocent. This takes the form of 'logic puzzles' where you have to point out contradictions, disprove testimony and bluff. Phoenix bluffing that he knows what's going on is, like, 90% of the game.

The appeal of the game is in the writing. The characters are interesting, charming and quite often funny. You have Maya, your enthusiastic, naive sidekick spirit channeller (uh... I'll get in to that later), Detective Gumshoe the dumb but loveable homicide detective and Edgeworth, the ruthless, scheming prosecutor who'll do anything to get a guilty verdict. There are many more characters in each case that I could talk about but a large part of the fun is meeting the crazy characters. The game is split in to 4 - 5 cases per game and each is written as a murder mystery where Phoenix not only proves his client innocent, but manages to catch the killer... every time. In court.

Now for a quick series run down. Videogames! 7, actually. The Phoenix Wright trilogy, Apollo Justice, two spin off Investigation games and the new Dual Destinies. This does not include the Professor Layton X Phoenix Wright game released in the west this year. Starting life on the GBA in Japan (as well as Japan exclusive PC ports), the entire trilogy came to the west on the Nintendo DS as enhanced editions, DS ports to Wiiware and the most recent 'HD' iPad ports. The next 3 games also appeared on the DS, and each added touch screen controls and other DS features my favourite being blowing in to the microphone to dust for prints! The series latest entry, Dual Destinies, is the first fully polygonal game and the first in the series on 3DS. Unfortunately Capcom have only released the game digitally on the 3DS eshop due to poor sales of the previous entries. BOOOO! Not only that, but Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has not been officially localised for the west. Luckily fans have released an English translation, which I am happy to say is astounding.

Interested? With so many options, you can play the games in several places. However...

Ports

Do not buy the iPad port of the game. It is awful. Really. Rather than opting to upscale the pixel art it looks like they hired someone from deviantart to redraw everything. Their font choice is terrible. Most importantly the framerate is bad. Is framerate important in a visual novel with limited animation? I think so, yes. Your eyes are glued to the text as it is written out on the screen but with a lower framerate it comes out very jerky and isn't pleasing at all. I'm more than willing to admit this is a nit pick, but it's important to me. Look for yourself as the first case is free.

A comparison of the judge in each version.

Most of the games are playable on the DS, and I think are the best versions. The Wiiware ports were actually OK but with the Wii internet service shut down DS is the best option. BisonHero has pointed out that the service to buy games on Wii has not shut down. The most recent game is only on the 3DS eShop and if you're willing to wait the first 3 games in their 'HD' form are coming to 3DS sometime. Just... don't get it on iPad.

Problems

As I mentioned, these are some of my favourite games, but it has significant problems and criticisms. The games are linear. You don't make choices except those that end in game over and there's almost always only one right answer. Viewed as a visual novel that you're reading I don't see this as a problem, but the idea of arguing your own case in court seems like it should be a lot more open and received a lot of negativity in reviews but I don't think it's a problem.

What is a problem, however, is the game often uses questionable logic and a suspect version of the law. During the localisation they felt the need to change the location from Japan to America. Since the game was meant to be Japanese it is heavy influenced by Japan's legal system. This article by the escapist looks in to how the Japanese legal system affected the game, and goes some way to explaining why the 'law' in game is frustrating, queer and unjust. Here is a small quote but you should give the article a read.

"The cases of Phoenix Wright always end up being more complex than they first appear, and the same could be said of the games themselves. Beneath the outrageous courtroom battles and zany characters lies a sly critique of Japanese justice. So the next time that you're frustrated by certain defeat or feel like the deck is stacked against you, take heart! This is just another day in the life of a Japanese defense attorney."

The localisation introduces pop culture references and traits that a western audience understand, but this only appears in the translation and creates a dissonance between the graphics, themes and setting and what characters are saying This comic perfectly illustrates the problem.

Comic by awkward zombie.

So, give me your feedback. Has this encouraged you to check out the games? Would you like to see more? Part 2 continues with a look at the first Phoenix Wright game for DS!

30 Comments

To the Moon, Autism and Me

A couple of months ago I saw a psychologist after years of seeking mental health help. I've tried pills and other forms of therapy, but haven't had much luck. Almost immediately after talking with me the idea of some form of high functioning autism was brought up. Something I had never considered. At this point I had two friends with Aspergers. One new, one old. That new friend is now my girlfriend. A gamer, with Aspergers. Out of nowhere, I'm suddenly undergoing diagnosis for something I knew little about but makes complete sense to me.

This week she bought me To the Moon, and told me how it made her feel. I've gotten emotional about games in the past but I didn't really expect much from the game. If you want to know more about the game I suggest reading a wiki, but the way the game deals with the mental health of the couple that the story is centred around is something I have never seen in a game before. The wife character is hinted at having a kind of autism throughout the game. Most likely high functioning. The narrative doesn't hit you over the head though, for those who aren't fully aware of the disorder.

They do constantly make reference to the effects that her condition has on the characters and world, such as the obsessions, difficulty with people and (what I thought was a nice touch) the ticking sound of clocks. This might seem overly obvious, but that's how it can be to live like that. These things affect almost every facet of your life and is not represented in games often. It still manages to remain in the background and provide a tragic flavour for the story without being the focus. It enhances the sadness you feel for the husband who has to deal with this, while also coming to terms with his own issues.

The game left me a little shaken and very emotional. It hit home in a way that games rarely do. Yes, straight white males can feel alienated in mainstream gaming. The things typical of the wife in To the Moon are not necessarily how I am. One of the other characters with autism in the game even explains that it is different between people. I still recognised some of myself in her, and the effects on the people in that world.

It left me wondering what will come of this diagnosis. I've spoken to them a few times, filled out some tests. They've interviewed my mum. I am waiting to hear back but... I don't know. I hate waiting. I guess it's not like an illness, where things will change depending on the result. I'll still be me. There's so much I don't know or understand about it though.

In the context of gaming, I don't know where to go from here. I finished up Steamworld Dig (the shiny new PC version) as that is a very light experience but the kind of impact To the Moon left on me makes it hard to think about playing something like Batman Arkham Origins, something that has sat installed on my PC since release and I have yet to play it. I've slowly been churning through games. I have an impossibly long backlog, but this is one of the games I bought recently and want to play. Wanted. I don't know.

Even though I didn't relate, Gone Home was also a very emotional experience for me

I think I'll be more at ease once all this has passed, and I know, though it's unlikely many more games will have this kind of impact. I've heard of depression quest, and I guess that might be relateable in a similar way, and there are games that deal with other issues like Gone Home dealing with discovering sexuality, or Spec Ops The Line dealing with PTSD.

I'm curious if anyone had similar experiences to me, or any giant bomb members who have dealt with this kind of thing before. It would be good to hear from you.

47 Comments

Blog #061 - 2012: The Golden, or My Top 10 Games of the Year

I am sitting here looking at games in my steam library already installed such as Hitman, Hotline Miami, Darksiders 2, Witcher 2 and Syndicate amoung others. I'm not going to get them done before the end of the year though, so I'm going to cut off my list now. I don't think it has been a "disappointing year" like a lot of people. I've had fun.

If you manage to read it all, thanks for checking out this blog. Let me know your thoughts.

10 Games That I Enjoyed But Not In A Specific Order

1. Persona 4: Golden

Looking good, Kanji. Looking good.

Yes, it is a remake of a PS2 game for a struggling and expensive platform. Doesn't matter. They perfected an already incredible game. So many of the gameplay faults have been tweaked and fixed to make it a much smoother and enjoyable experience, not to mention the additional content that will make existing fans happy and provides a larger and much richer experience for newcomers.

I was really impressed with all the extra social events. it would have been easy to re colour some enemies and throw in a few new dungeons, but they didn't. it has the polish and scope of a full RPG even in the new content. Ultimately ,being able to spend more time with the characters I loved from persona 4 was more than enough reason to get this (even at the premium of importing it, since the UK release is a few months off).

2. Mass Effect 3

Beautiful Skyboxes

The story and dialogue elements in Mass Effect have had me hooked from the begging and I did everything I could up to the release of 2 & 3 to ignore the cries that it was being dumbed down. I still maintain that the things I love about the series have remained intact all the way through. I have also tried to stay out of the raging arguments about Mass Effect's ending, Bioware's failures, the quality of the game etc, but I feel I can say here that I don't care.

I enjoyed the game I played, and I enjoyed the ending that I got. I much preferred the Extended Cut ending that I got to the original, but unlike Jeff and Patrick I can easily replace the ending of my story with the one I played a few months later. It's all fictional, so why not? Well, it's easy for me anyway. Enough with the negativity. Some great characters, fun gameplay and a satisfying conclusion to pretty much every thread left hanging from the years I've spent in the universe.

3. Borderlands 2

Jack might be one note, but he's a lot of fun to hate

Borderlands 1 was fun, but felt there was a serious lack of polish and refinement. A lot of it felt slapped together, big and open but slightly empty. I guess getting away from the space western vibe helped Borderlands 2 for me. The style, graphics, writing and gameplay all reached a level where it finally clicked with me on a level where I am enjoying myself as much as I can when playing a game.

Adding a leveling system to anything is an easy way to get me hooked, and even though this game is more Borderlands I never found that to be a bad thing. We get a lot of shooters, but I feel OK supporting a shooter that tries something different. It has it's own vision, and own goals for what it wants the player to do. Throwing homing MIRV grenades that spin through the air slowly chasing enemies. You don't see that a lot. Not that crazy weaponry is what I was looking for.

Honestly the thing that surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the story. It has some twists, strong villains, recurring characters from the first game. Pretty much all I wanted from Borderlands 2.

I actually got this free with my graphics card, but I knew I wanted it anyway as I had played it earlier in the year at the PC gaming convention, Rezzed where I met some very lovely Giant Bomb fans. One even wearing a Duder shirt. Oh, also Matt. He's OK I guess.

4. Halo 4

Pretty.

I have played Halo 1 and Halo 3. That's not a lot of Halo in the last 10 years when you consider how many Halo games have been released. I really enjoyed both of those games so I figured it would be a good time to go back to it. I was right to do so. I'm not sick of fighting the covenant or using the same weapons, because it 10 years I've spent less than 30 hours between 2 Halo games. They're still fun to fight. In general the combat feels a lot like my memory of previous games, which is incredibly tight and satisfying. Nothing feels like a bullet sponge, a problem a lot of shooters have. The weapon variety gives you a lot of options.

Also, for an Xbox game it is incredibly pretty. I was impressed, but wished that it was higher resolution. I could very much tell this was on an Xbox360 and that bothered me. There's no other choice though.

5. Skyrim

More pretty.

This might have come out in 2011, but that doesn't mean I had to stop playing it. I spent hundreds of hours playing the game in 2011 and hundreds in 2012 as well. I haven't even touched any of the DLC yet. Mods, as with Oblivion, have expanded the life of this game so much. I wouldn't want to play without them now that we have the steam workshop available.

I have written some extensive blogs about my experience with Skyrim, so I don't really have much more to ad. I spent a lot of time with the game, and it remains one of the best games I've ever played.

6. Max Payne 3

The 'video' effects in this game are superb

Rockstar like to make games that are like movies. This game is even more cinematic than almost any other Rockstar game. The gameplay is almost an afterthought. The writing and presentation take precedence. I am totally OK with that. I had some fun shooting and diving through the air, but the character of Max Payne going through these crazy situations, and the turns the story makes kept me going. I don't believe in strong gameplay mechanics being important. Something as stylish and well presented as Max Payne deserves to be experienced by people, and it's unfortunate that it comes at the price of not being the best playing game but I never went in to it for that reason.

7. Sleeping Dogs

I really hope hiring popular artists for covers becomes a thing. Beautiful.

Nobody expected this to be any good, so I tuned it out. Until I saw it, then I was enchanted. "Look at that wet road!" I said to myself. I just had to see that road for myself. I'm only half joking, I really like the way the road looks. A great looking PC game overall. I can't quite articulate why I actually enjoyed playing it, but I did. Fun characters, interesting setting, strange plot. It stands on its own beside Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto. Not really trying to outdo either of them, but it does its own thing really well and has a certain charm to it missing from the bold, cinematic polish of Grand Theft Auto or the balls to the wall crazy of Saints Row.

8. Spec Ops: The Line

The loading screens in this game get more and more depressing as the game goes on

That story... man. I played the game, I listened to the podcast that Jeff was on with the writer and found it interesting. Most games don't even try to be interesting. They try to tell a straight story full of cliche's. It can be tedious at times, but the gameplay ties in to the story in some interesting ways and makes it worth it in the end. Not everyone will find it so interesting, but I did.

9. Alan Wake

I played Deadly Premonition before this game. I wish they were the same thing.

I completely forgot this came out in 2012 on PC. A weird development history, and yet years after the console release it comes back home. I'm glad I waited, as the PC version looks very sharp compared to the blur-fest that is... well, any console game. I enjoyed everything about the game, and its only downfall being tedious repetitive combat. I've already mentioned how i don't care about mechanics that much, which is why I was able to keep going and enjoy the atmosphere and storytelling. Yes it's not exactly new, but it came out in 2012 for PC and I spent a good long time with it this year.

10. The Darkness 2

Are you really crazy? Is this a dream?

This will be overlooked by a lot of people since it came out so early in the year, and made a lot of changes over the first one that put fans off. Not me though. The more over the top style was jarring at first but I came to love it. It is a very different story that calls for a different tone. The story tries to make some serious points and shocking twists, which I thought might suffer due to the action being much better but thankfully that is not the case.

A late 11th Entry

11. XCOM Enemy Unknown

Great game.

1 Comments

Blog #060 - Blizzard Loot! Worth anything? Plus Games.

The only reason I am bothering to write this is that I won something. I never win anything. That isn't strictly true. I won a Digimon and McDonalds competition when I was a child but the prizes were basically nothing. I'm just happy to win things, even if you prizes are complete crap. In this case, I'm not so sure. In fact, I don't know the value of what I have won really.

There is a British multi-format magazine called GamesMaster that I read for 10 years, but not any more. I entered a competition recently to win some of the game junk they had laying around their office, and I won.

I'll do a little show and tell.

  • A metal Diablo pin. Very shiny. Doesn't seem like it was for Diablo 3 but may have been some promotional item.
  • A Jim Raynor noobz figure from BlizzCon09. In box, but not sealed. This is the coolest thing out of the lot.
  • Two Starcraft novels, one being a graphic novel. Still sealed.

I also got a bunch of other stuff including a "I (Heart) Starcraft" fridge magnet, a crappy wiimote controller grip, and a bunch of t-shirts. One from that cancelled star trek game (I think), one from Frozenbyte and the most interest one for Injustice. All really poor quality and HUGE so I can't wear them.

Is any of this worth anything? Doesn't have any particular value to me, though I do like the figure and the pin though I'm not likely to ever wear it.

GAMES!

I've also been playing some games. Went back to my finished Saints Row the Third save and cleared up the remaining side stuff. Well, territory control. Can't be bothered with the rest of it. The story made that game special. Started Viva Pinata on the PC again and slowly churning my way through that. Such an amazing game. One of Rare's best. I actually met some of the developers at Rezzed and talked to them about Rare as a whole...

Bought Orcs Must Die 2, need to get in to that. Also going to buy Iron Brigade again on PC so I'm not sure I'll have time.

3 Comments

Blog #059 - Finally Finishing Games! + DOTA2 Giveaway!

Been an exciting past few weeks in games for me. Went to Rezzed in Brighton, played some Borderlands 2 and met some Giant Bomb fans. Nice to meet some real life duders. The talks with Peter Molyneux and Randy Pitchford were very good. I won't talk about that in great detail, but I will say that Peter is a very pleasant man and captivating on stage.

I've also been finishing games. Multiple games in only a couple of weeks. Steam has corrupted me, and I no longer finish every game I play. It eats away inside me knowing I have wasted money on games I might never have time to play but in a recent effort to correct this injustice I have started finishing games by the bucket load (a metric unit). Most have been great experiences, while others not so much but still enjoyable. I'll give a quick review/impression of each one.

Max Payne 3

Moody lighting for a moody man

Incredible cinematic presentation. The movement and shooting feels good but the main draw from me is the story and cutscenes. Nobody does it like Rockstar. The visual design in the game is incredible, from the logo down to the colour separation and scan lines.

The tone is dark and dialogue is cheesy and dramatic in just the right way. Bums me out to hear the giant bomb crew not liking it, but I don't need them to agree with me. Incredible.

Metro 2033

The surface is a scary place

Didn't like this as much as I thought I would, but it's still a fun game. The bullet economy isn't actually that much of a big deal. I found a lot of extra ammo and rarely spent any. Didn't use them to shoot either. Ended the game with a tonne extra. I would have liked if there were more purchasing options and rarer supplies, so hopefully the sequel will make it more meaningful.

The shooting itself is enjoyable, and the pneumatic weapons add an interesting kink to the action initially. Over the course of the game it starts to feel like maintenance if you want to use them regularly. Much like the flash light, you have to pump it up before use in order to get the most out of it. Fun at first, but when the fun wore out I switched to a regular assault rifle.

The story is confusing and sometimes incoherent mired by awful voice acting but there is enough intrigue to propel you through the story.

Penny Arcade Episodes 1 & 2

Fruit Fuckers Galore

An excellent blend of adventure and RPG mechanics combined with the writing and art of Penny Arcade. I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. A shame it ended at 2 episodes but after Cthulu saves the world I expect Episode 3 to also be great, just in a different way. They did so much extra writing for intractable objects that you get new lines on the second or third click. Also, the steampunk look gives the game a great atmosphere along with its obsession with demon gods.

Try it. Get it in a steam sale and play it until your eyes bleed.

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC

Not going to argue about this. I think it elaborates on all of the right things, making for a more complete feeling ending without actually changing the endings. Most importantly, it explains and shows the impact of your choice. That's what mass effect is about. It turned what I thought was the evil ending, control, in to what I felt was the ending I wanted the most. It placed my Shepard as a guardian of the galaxy embracing and assisting in rebuilding.

That's all. Moving on.

Dead Island

Zombies, Yo

If it weren't for the analogue combat this game would feel like a low budget MMO with only 4 players. The quests and the story didn't draw me in at all. Run up to NPC, accept quest, skip dialogue, run towards the objective. I played the blunt weapons class and breaking thugs bones was the most fun I had with the game.

I uninstalled the game in the Jungle area last year and hadn't come back to it. I'm glad I finished it and got it out of my life.

Darksiders

Portals!

Everything they say about this game is true. Zelda, God of War, Portals. Apart from some awkward late game pacing this is exactly what I wanted from a mature Zelda experience. Puzzle solving makes up the majority of dungeons and in between are combat encounters and traversal. You even get Epona half way through.

It reminded me most of Ocarina of Time. Not sure why, but drawing those parallels made me enjoy the game more. You don't get this kind of experience outside of Nintendo often.

Magicka

GRIEFING. This game took 5 hours longer than it should have because of friendly fire. Stupid, funny, interesting, fresh. Some words to describe the game. End of conversation.

Bioshock 2

Minerva's Den

My opinion on this game completely changed two thirds through. It could never live up the original Bioshock, but the combat and plasmids have been improved dramatically. The thing that did it though is when I realised I was having way more fun than in Bioshokc after the twist is revealed. That was a drag, Bioshock 2 wasn't. People say it didn't need to exist but give it a chance and you might be surprised.

Borderlands (Again)

A friend recently started playing Borderlands for the first time on PC so I decided to install it and play along with him. After playing Borderlands 2 at Rezzed I felt like I was playing an inferior game, which made me feel a lot better about Borderlands 2 and excited for what is to come. Since I've completed this before I won't say much about it, just excited for the sequel.

Now... for the giveaway!

DOTA 2 Beta

I got 2 spare DOTA2 Beta invites. One I already gave away. The other is up for grabs right now here. You need to be a member of the giant bomb steam giveaway group which you can get an invite to here. Just enter and you could get the beta invite. Good luck and thanks for reading this blog!

1 Comments

Blog #058 - Finished Skyrim, No Diablo, Golden Duder Award

I finished Skyrim after 377 hours.

MOVING ON.

Diablo 3

Diablo III Box Art

I don't have a history with the Diablo series but I really enjoy those style of games. Torchlight is amazing, and that has satisfied me up until this point. I played the open beta and couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. I expected it to be good, of course, but not enjoy it all that much. I chose a monk and spent the next 4 hours PUNCHING FOOLS IN THE FACE.

See, that's the most satisfying thing. Forget your swords and spells, how about ROUND HOUSE KICKING A SKELETON KING IN HIS STUPID BONY JAW. I may have already selected my class for the full game. I think the game has an excellent sense of style in that dark, gothic fantasy kind of way. Excellent art design all around.

For that reason, when it came time for me to get a new mouse and keyboard I decided to go with the Razer Black Widow (I always wanted a mechanical keyboard) and the SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse. It is a sexy piece of hardware. The tribal/gothic markings, the pulsing red light behind the diablo 3 logo and even just the weight of mouse. Feels great.

Took this with my phone. Instagram Hipster filters.

Unfortunately... I can no longer afford to buy the actual game! ARGH! Frustrating, sitting her with a Diablo 3 mouse and no Diablo. :/

Golden Duder Award

Winternet is running the Golden Duder Awards all month long. Such a great idea, I don't know how nobody decided to do this before. Get voting while you can, the second round is so close. My money is on one of the tested crew winning. I love those guys, even if I don't visit tested much any more.

Anyway, I decided to butt in and help out by making the official banner for the awards, because I was bored. Check it out, and leave some comments. Whatever you like. Abuse, even.

Bonus photo, I found some Gears of War 2 figures under my bed from a birthday years ago. I'm not in to action figures but they're pretty cool.

8 Comments

Blog #057 - Three Hundred Hours in Skyrim

It has been 5 months since the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , and over those 5 months I have put in 300 hours across 3 characters. Am I done? Not even close. I haven't touched the story. I haven't done any guilds. There is so much content I might never get around to the main quest. Well, that's not likely as that is what I am most excited about doing next. So what have I been doing? Exploring. I play on Master difficulty which made things challenging at first but now that I am at level 77 most of the combat is trivial. 

Walk around and before long you'll find a number of beautiful ruins 
Previously my favourite game of all time was  The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , and I spent 300 hours on that game over 5 years. Now with Skyrim I've covered the same amount of time in just 5 months and Skyrim has replaced Oblivion. I'm not exactly proud, but I had a lot of free time on my hands. I became unemployed and went in to hospital in October, and Skyrim helped me perk up and enjoy my free time. As I said in a previous blog, unemployment sucks kids. 
 
Before I share my final thoughts about the game, here are the previous blogs I've written involving Skyrim. 
 
First I suppose I should show you my character. I name my RPG character after one of two things. Phoenix Wright characters or Fonts. My first female character was called Maya Fey, and my current character is named after the font Bebas Neue an old, bearded high elf. I have always played high elves in Elder Scrolls. I'm not sure why, I don't normally like elves but they have an incredible proficiency for magic. Especially in Oblivion.
Looking like a Ninja 
 Maya Fey     
Skyrim has a very balanced approach to gameplay in that it doesn't limit you, unlike something such as Kingdoms of Amalur. Sure, you can respec in that but in Skyrim you can be the best at everything all at once. That is what my character is. At level 77 everything except archery and two handed are maxed out. It is so liberating having such choice. 
 
My previous characters were pure mages but this time I went from an archer to a pure mage, to a mage/sword fighter combo. Chopping and burning are a satisfying combo. My weapon of choice is the daedric sword Dawnbreaker and a mod spell called 'massive sparks'. Even on Master difficulty I kill almost everything in one or two hits with the sword. I am using modded armour, a retextured version of the Nightingale Armour.
My main advice to anyone still waiting to play Skyrim is explore. There is a massive world to explore and unlike Fallout it is filled with ruins, dungeons, cities, inns. Everything you expect in a fantasy RPG. Unlike Oblivion they aren't all the same. They are still constructed from tile sets slotted together, but each place is different and tells its own story. So often you will stumble upon a quest just from entering a dungeon but another feature that I really enjoy is when the story is implied. You won't get something to register in your quest log, but you might stumble upon a journal, or a body and you can work out what went on. So much fun. One that springs to mind is a lighthouse filled with dead bodies and falmer. There is a slight quest hint to help you along but it is fun to just stumble upon and figure out through diaries.
 
Look at all those locations! That isn't even close to all of them. 
Everything in Skyrim is styled very specifically to fit the lore and climate. In Oblivion each town looked very different in terms of architecture but in Skyrim things are very similar in the smaller holds but there is the stone fortress of Winterhold, the regal elegance of Solitude and the ancient dwarven city of Markarth. All very nordic and look appropriately freezing cold. The same can be said for the ruins, which look ancient and filthy. I really do miss something on the scale and design of the Imperial City, or the port town of Anvil... especially when I consider how great they would look in the newer engine.
 
The Grey Beard's temple, High Hrothgar 
The atmosphere from the new and improved lighting and weather effects is incredible. Oblivion gave me a great sense of immersion, like I was living in a fantasy world like I never had before. Skyrim goes much further and really drew me in. Sure, I have a ton of graphical mods enabled that alter pretty much everything from weather patterns to textures and lighting. I don't think that is a comment on me not liking the game as it is, but there is always room for improvement. Bethesda put out a fine product, they couldn't refine it forever or tune it to my preferences. At least with mods I'm free to pick and choose. 
 
 Approaching a lit building in the dead of night. Kind of peaceful.
If I had to pick my favourite thing about Skyrim it would definitely be the atmosphere and immersion. A lot of that has to do with graphics as well as game systems that let you and all the NPCs live a 24 hour life. The world itself feels very alive pretty much all the time. Quests and interesting locations all around you, a ton of voice acting and enemies. Patrick already said this on the bombcast, but one of the more interesting experiences is walking in to a dungeon and finding a guy who is drugged up and insane, believing he is a ghost after spending years just pretending so he could find an artefact. At the end of the dungeon you find the exit backs on to the room he was living in. A tragic irony. 
  
A woman with a broom in her boob? Not even the strangest thing I've seen in Skyrim 
I've had giants, skeevers and horses try and take down a dragon. Even my dog had a go. I wish there was some gradation of aggression. The AI is either passive, fully aggressive or scared (fleeing). My dog should not just jump in to 'combat' mode and relentlessly attack anything. As hilarious as it is, I might prefer my dog to run away and return home. I think it'd be cool to come home and find my cold, injured dog.
 
Skyrim is known for being glitchy, and that has led to very sketchy moments like backwards flying dragons, flying drauger, NPCs with wood stuck to their head, bodies flying through the air like a rocket and so much more. The annoying variations are quests glitching, events not triggering, items falling through the world. Thankfully, on the PC you can fix any problem if you know how. The console allows you to spawn an item or person, fly through scenery, force quest checkpoints to trigger, bring dead NPCs back to life (I was told by a daedric prince to go and talk to somebody, and the quest marker lead me to a dead person... so I had to resurrect him).
 
It would really suck to play this on a console without mods or access to the developer console. It offers so much flexibility. 
 
I have to talk about dragon again. They are the best thing in Skyrim. Incredibly well modelled, animated, though not especially textured (I have a mod that adds 49 more dragon textures so that is no longer a problem). One of the coolest things is the effect of their flesh burning off and leaving behind a skeleton. If only their bones didn't seem so rubbery. I am seriously impressed with the dragons in this game, especially with how dynamic they are and not fixed scripted moments. When I first brought a dragon crashing down to the ground and it slid past me with a cloud of dust I felt incredibly powerful, which Skyrim is good at doing. 

 Fighting on a snowy mountain top is a great feeling...
Hey! How ya doin'!? 
The problem with the dragons in Skyrim is a lack of variety. There are several kind of dragon, scaled to your level. Once you reach level 50 you face the hardest dragons of the 'Ancient' variety. The diverse dragons mod adds quite a few dragon variants that not only look different, but have different abilities. Some can knock you over, others summon daedra, and there are also twins that fly together. Not just the look, but the combat in the battles lack variation and this mod fixes that.

Images

Here are some of the other screenshots I've taken in Skyrim. 
 
 

Conclusion

Skyrim is easily one of my favourite games of all time. Yeah yeah, you're probably sick of hearing about how great it is and the dirty hipster inside of you wants to hate it because it's cool. It is totally fine to not like the game, however, but that doesn't make it bad. Me liking it doesn't make it good, but Bethesda clearly went above and beyond with this game. The most cynical of publishers wouldn't necessarily let a developer put so much work in to a game that sells for just as much as a 4 hour Call of Duty game. There is so much content it is amazing, and why I can forgive a lot of the faults. They just don't matter to me. I can overcome them.
 
Now that I have reached the 300 hour mark I feel no need to keep talking about the game. I will soldier on in silence. See you when the first expansion comes out!
  
Please leave comments and such. Always fun to read.
71 Comments

Blog #056 - Pid. Robots with Hats? or Fez

I really liked the look of Pid when Adam Boyes first showed it here on Giant Bomb.

Pid

Even visually it has a lot of things going on that speak to me. Especially the colours. Going over information for the game there isn't much to go on... but I couldn't help but notice everyone has a hat. The kid you play as wear a hat, almost all the robots have hats built in to them. What's going on there? I really want to know. I also noticed a theme of stars, and on these two themes I made a couple of pieces of 'Fan Art'.

I asked them a question over twitter about the hats and they responded:

First is just a small card for press and trade sows that have a download code for the game. On the back is a nice piece of concept art I dug up from the site.

Didn't mean for it to look baseball themed...

The second is a poster done in the style of an old movie poster. The same treatment I have given some other games in the past.

The torches on the front of the robots scare me

The developers sent me a message on twitter saying they think they're incredible. Probably just being nice, but still, good to hear.

Fez

The only reason I did these was because I needed to keep myself busy while I wait for Fez. WHat do Fez have in common? Cute indie platformers that feature... HATS! I am really excited to play the game. I saw Jeff Green saying on twitter that he's getting tired of faux 8-bit graphics but it looks so great. There are far more polygonal games released with a realistic art style, or cartoony. I'm glad they're keeping it alive and doing it right.

The little Fez on the main characters head is adorable, I wonder if they gave out small promotional Fez at any point. The gameplay will be good from what I've seen in the quicklook but I'll happy just to stare at it and listen to the music. Only 800 points? I expected it to be more. I wish I had impressions to give but it isn't out yet. If they release it on Steam and iOS I'll those too. Seems like a good fit. 3DS too.

That's all for this blog. Not much to add. Comments are welcome!

9 Comments