Exciting modern/relevant video games and other wonderful uses of time and money

Oh hey! It’s been a month since my last blog write-up thingy and a lot of stuff has happened! Namely the part where I’ve been browsing this site on my phone for the last two weeks because my stupid computer finally broke all the way and I am not exactly in the financial straits to buy another overpriced laptop capable of playing modern games. While this means that I have yet to finish Divinity: Original Sin, a game I found to be “super duper good” and am actually borrowing a roommate’s laptop to type this sucker up, I have still been playing video games and am willing to write about them in a blogular fashion. Some of them are even from when I had a computer to play games on! Is one of them Demon’s Souls? Nope! I think the fact that I still haven’t finished that game despite owning a Playstation 3 for more than two months is indicative of how much that game has grabbed me in comparison to Dark Souls II. But enough about games I haven’t finished, what about games I have?

The Wolf Among Us, a modern and relevant video game

I played Bigby as the guy who would try to do the right thing, but more often than not would resort to violence if pushed to the edge. If you played him as a saint, some of the stuff in the conclusion doesn't work as well, so a heads up if you still haven't played it.

Like The Walking Dead, I waited for the last episode of The Wolf Among Us to come out before I bought it on sale, and like The Walking Dead, I cut my way through it in a handful of sittings. It’s okay. Honestly, anyone expecting lightning to strike twice was dreaming, and given the rather muted reception to some of where the second season of TWD is going, maybe we shouldn’t expect every Telltale game to be “Game of the Year” quality (whatever the hell that means. I still think the idea of giving that award to a game comprised entirely of bad QTEs and timed dialogue choices is sort of incredulous, but that’s why XCOM won on my list). That’s fine, because for the most part I enjoyed the adventures of Bigby Wolf, Sheriff of Fabletown, even if some parts of that season don’t exactly hold up all that well. The first episode is superb, and then… it sort of doesn’t follow up on that. At the very least, I didn’t have to deal with the multiple-month wait between episodes like you suckers did. If I had to do that, I would have likely been a lot less forgiving of some of the weird inconsistencies and meandering that those middle episodes have in-between some genuinely fantastic moments. The world and characters in The Wolf Among Us are pretty fantastic, but the actual detective story doesn’t really take advantage of the episodic format so much as it drags along from one half-meaningful twist to another, leading to a conclusion that is satisfying if not entirely full of answers.

If I have a singular issue though, it’s that any sense of choice and consequence is thrown out the window rather early, while the first season of TWD kept the illusion going right up until the end (at which point you realized that, no, your choices don't actually matter). In The Wolf Among us, there’s not even any pretense of real consequence, just slightly different dialogue. Still, I wouldn’t mind another season, the aesthetic and world are interesting enough that I’d be willing to give the world of Fables another shot. Moreso than another season of The Walking Dead, that’s for sure. Zombies? Bleh. If those zombies aren’t made of terrible polygons and I’m not shooting at them from fixed camera angles with limited ammunition, I’m not interested anymore. I played a handful of other games on my computer before it aspload, but other than the brief impression that Warlock II is a lot like the first game but with more planar hopping funtimes and generally more interesting, I don't have a ton to say. Man, I really want to play Divinity.

I play old games that are probably not modern or relevant

This game came out in 1997. Just let that sink in a little as you realize how old and decrepid you really are.

Thus, with my computer sitting in a corner, non-functional, I was forced to turn to my high tech, modern and relevant video game console, the Playstation 3… where I played PS1 games. And also recent games. But let’s talk about the old games first. I’ve certainly had experience with Naughty Dog’s old Crash Bandicoot games before, but I don’t think I’ve ever beaten them until now. They hold up quite well, and part of that comes from the simple fact that they aren’t trying to be anything other than platformers, and while getting all 25 crystals in Crash 2 and 3 (I did not play the first game because I vaguely remember it not being as good as the other two) is pretty easy, getting all the gems isn’t, which is probably why I haven’t gotten all the gems. I’m working on it though. If there’s any appreciable difference between Crash 2 and 3, the third one has a handful of unfortunate vehicle-type levels that aren’t as good as the raw platforming stuff. Otherwise, they’re functionally the same. Though, I have to say that Crash Bandicoot is still very much a product of the 90s in the same way that Sonic was and I’m not sure how well that property would work now. I’m aware that other Crash games have been made, but other than vaguely remembering that The Wrath of Cortex was sort of middling I couldn’t tell you a thing about them.

Along with those, I somehow 100%ed the adventure mode of Crash Team Racing and that’s a pretty good Kart Racing game. Maybe not Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed good, but it’s certainly better than Mario Kart 64. I mean, Kart Racers aren’t exactly a genre that is hard to screw up, but CTR strikes me as a game I would like to trick my friends into playing in order to beat them over and over again because I just spent hours playing through the same 16 tracks and in some cases finding a bunch of shortcuts. That would require me to own more DualShock 3s though, and those things are effin’ EXPENSIVE. Another fun fact that I found when I looked on the wiki? There have been not one, but two other Crash Bandicoot Kart Racers. I’m just… baffled. Apparently those games sold?

Modern and probably relevant games: I play them as well.

Destiny was a game that had a beta and I enjoyed said beta. Unsurprisingly, Bungie is capable of making quality first person shooters, though I’m not sure how much that game’s MMOish structure will hold up to the way I play games (alone, because people are scary and I don’t have any friends with PS3s), but between the solid gunplay, character mobility and even the PVP stuff I can say with confidence that Destiny is at least on my radar, even if I’m not sure I will actually get it day 1 or not. In general, I’m not super stoked about most of the big releases in the coming months (lemme tell y’all about these Kickstarter RPGs I backed two years ago), but I might be willing to make an exception for this one.

Still Anime. Still World War II. Still totally okay with that.

Remember that time I wrote about Valkyria Chronicles II and I talked about how much I liked that game in spite of it having an intolerably obnoxious cast, braindead story and a sprinkling of PSP hardware limitations? Well, now I’ve been playing the first game, and as far as I can surmise I’m a little more than halfway through the story. Compared to its sequel, the story of Valkyria Chronicles might be the complete works of Shakespeare, but in real terms that just means the characters are inoffensively bland anime archetypes instead of aggressively terrible anime archetypes. Welkin, for example, is just kind of an easygoing daydreamer fellow who speaks his mind and compares everything to nature because that is quirky or something, which already makes him a trillion times better than idiot goofball Avan. While what I’ve seen isn’t quite as vulnerable to the hilariously dichotomous tonal whiplash that the second game has with its anime high-school funtimes juxtaposed with the part where you’re fighting a war, it’s still not without that problem. Who could forget that part where the requisite beach scene happens right before the mission where you liberate a concentration camp full of that world’s equivalent to The Jews? That’s not jarring at all. Still, the general quality of the writing is a lot better (not exponentially so), which means I’m semi-interested in following the story instead of actively dreading any time a story sequence happens. It’s also worth noting that Valkyria Chronicles 1 has some production values, because it looks so damn pretty both in and out of gameplay. Certainly helps that the voice acting is half-decent even if some of the lines these actors are working with aren’t great.

Ah, but what of the gameplay? It’s still Valkyria Chronicles (turn based strategy with real time action elements), though I can’t help but note a few things that they improved in the second game. Given that the maps are much larger instead of being segmented and sectionalized, scouts are the dominant class most of the time given that they move twice as far as everyone else, which is sorta important when you’re being graded on speed and nothing else in regards to mission rank (this has also led to some absurdly cheesy strategies on my part, not limited to just sorta running past everyone and taking the enemy base within the second turn). Also Engineers are still worthless, I sort of miss the melee-oriented fencer class and I wouldn’t mind a tank that moves further. These minor gripes aside, it’s still a very fine strategy game and one I am more than eager to complete.

Oh, don't worry one bit. This game is still very much on the table.

And that’s it for me I suppose. I guess I’ll inevitably write another one of these things in like a month though at that point school will be starting and I’ll get back into the habit of not playing a ton of video games (hopefully by then I will have some sort of computerbox to play Wasteland 2 on, otherwise heads may roll). Until next time, remember that if your computer crashes in Safe Mode, that probably means something is seriously wrong with it.

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Using a Playstation 3 to catch up to games I have missed (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Greetings fair readers! I am still here, still looking at Final Fantasy XIII-2 with a mixture of apprehension and optimism, still slowly crawling my way through random games (This blog was going to be about Demon’s Souls, but then speedrunning marathons happened and then the cheap garbage power cord on my PS3 broke and now I probably should buy a new one), but I figured I’d tell you about stuff I’ve played in written form. Because I can. And because I need to tell my mom that something productive comes out of me playing too many video games.

Games I have played a little bit of, enjoyed, and will have to play more of at some point. Thanks Steam, for tricking me into spending money on digital goods.

  1. Transistor (It is by the dudes what made Bastion)

  2. State of Decay (It seems surprisingly ambitious for what was a $15 downloadable thing)

  3. The 3rd copy of Resident Evil 4 that I have purchased (it’s weird controlling that game with not a Wiimote again. It’s been a while)

  4. Steamworld Dig (It’s like that flash game I played 10 years ago but good!)

  5. Space Hulk (It is some sort of Warhammer thing)

  6. Rise of Nations (ok, so I already knew I liked that game, but it was good to be reminded)

  7. God of War 1 (Alright, this isn’t a PC game, but I find certain aspects of it sort of fascinating. In some ways, God of War 1 is everything that is now unpopular in games, with its QTEs, excessive violence, unapologetic male power fantasies and seemingly unlikeable protagonist)

Games I have played enough of to write something big on, but won’t.

If this screen didn't tell you already, Xenonauts might be a little like X-COM
  1. Xenonauts (continues to be a fine, fine adaption of one of my favorite games. Its lack of ambition doesn’t elevate it above comfort food status, and it takes parts from old X-COM that I didn’t like then and still don’t like now)

  2. King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North (Picking up, ostensibly from where I was playing last year. Still totally King’s Bounty, which is to say that it steals blatantly from Heroes of Might and Magic, occasionally betrays its Russian origins by randomly crashing and is enjoyable even when I’m sort of steamrolling through everything)

  3. Demon’s Souls (As I said, this was originally going to be one big blog about Demon’s Souls. I’m liking it quite a bit, but I don’t think I like it as much as either Dark Souls game. Maybe that’s just me being cheap and playing as a Magician, running around with Crescent Falchion and murdering everything, or maybe its simply the switch from the rather vibrant community of Dark Souls 2 into the already explored empty lands of Demon’s Souls. You can expect something significant when I finish it)

  4. The Stanley Parable (Hilarious, but I’m not sure if I was as amicable to the game’s sneeringly critical tone as others. The Stanley Parable is, at its core, a game that tells you that you are a dumbass for doing things that you would do in a video game while also being some treatise on the illusion of freedom that games offer, without really offering much positive talk. I liked it, but I don’t really feel the need to touch it again.)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Wait, seriously? This is the game that almost won Giant Bomb’s GOTY 2008, earned a significant number of perfect scores with a Metacritic average of 94? Really? People called this game a “Masterpiece”? But somewhere in the 5, almost 6 years since this game was released, I guess our standards have changed. Mine certainly have, because looking back on it now, I’m not quite sure how others reached that point and why we didn’t all just give Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts/Fallout 3 the game of the year awards they so richly deserved. It didn’t have to be this way. I like Metal Gear. When it is debated, it’s usually split between the odd and even numbered installments of the franchise. As a member of the pro-MGS2 camp (I can appreciate that game’s complete and utter devotion to being as subversively insane as possible), I thought I would naturally like Guns of the Patriots. I wish I could say that was true, but that simply isn’t the case.

I could put a screenshot about the story here, but I thought this conspicuous product placement was way funnier. Also? This game doesn't look as good as I seemingly remembered it looking. And while we're on the subject, Otacon's voice actor is the worst at fake crying. NAOMIII

Don’t get me wrong, Metal Gear Solid 4 delivers the things I want out of a Metal Gear Solid game, ridiculous action, people uttering complete nonsense with dead seriousness, bizarre Japan-isms, and a dash of 4th wall humor for good measure. It has that, and those parts are just as great as they are in other MGS games. But somewhere among the exceptional amount of crazy, I found an exceptional amount of dumb. How is it more dumb than other games in the series? Well, I think some of it stems from an inflated sense of self-importance, maybe some from the usual tonal dissonance these games have, but between this and Peace Walker I’m starting to question if I like MGS as much as I thought I did. Like, this game is really dumb. Nanomachines! The System! Cyborg Raiden! Liquid Ocelot! FOXDIE! Johnny poops himself! Nope! I’m good, actually. The absurd, almost obsessive need for this game to resolve everything from previous titles (leading to fun stuff like “NANOMACHINES EXPLAIN EVERYTHING”) works in its detriment, especially when it comes to the 90+ minute ending cutscene that might as well be someone dropping a giant anvil of (needless) exposition on the player with just a dollop of fanservice. It’s all just a little too convenient, a little too “Darth Vader made C3PO when he was a boy! Also Midichlorians” for my tastes. Another way of saying that might be “The writing in this game is bad and not in a funny way”. Maybe I’m just getting older and MGS is secretly not for me anymore. That wouldn’t be a bad conclusion to reach, between me not much caring for Peace Walker and now this, but I only played MGS 1-3 recently enough that my thoughts on them exist as blog posts on this very site (albeit from 4 years ago…) I bet that if I replayed MGS 2 and 3 now, I’d still like them, and that this game is just an unfortunate aberration. I don’t have the will or the time to replay them now, but I have the HD collection in case I ever want to test that fact.

Default_Playstation_Userpic.png

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the gameplay at all. That’s because it’s almost inconsequential. Oh sure, there is still sneaking, you can shoot dudes a little more effectively than you could in MGS3, but at some point it feels like it’s there for the sake of being there, as if Kojima still needed to be reminded that he was making a video game at some point. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Metal Gear’s approach to stealth (it’s fine), but at least the proportion of cutscenes to gameplay seemed about even. This game? No question, you spend more time watching overwrought dialogue than you do sneaking. The thin veneer of justification starts to slip away once you start taking control away from me every hour for 30-60 minutes at a time, and at some point I’m just watching bad anime. I’m sure someone will say “But isn’t that ALL of Metal Gear Solid?” No. I don’t think so. There is merit to the actual gameplay of the series and there is merit to the way that Hideo Kojima tells his stories and I don’t think you could have one without the other and in this case I don't think the ratio works in the game's favor.

I'm still excited for The Phantom Pain, but it's good to bring my expectations down a tad and be reminded that Metal Gear isn't all sunshine and nukes. Still, I'm glad I played Guns of the Patriots, admittedly for the same reason I played Final Fantasy XIII: So I could know for myself. Once I bother to buy myself another power cord, you can be assured that this isn't the end of me playing games on this fancy PS3 box.

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Arbitrary Versus XIII (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Kratos Sez: I'M ANGRY BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN EXACTLY A MONTH SINCE YOUR LAST BLOG. *Commits violence*

Oh, hey there. I hear some sort of video game convention happened? Well, that’s cool. I now have a respectable handful of Playstation 3 games, none of which I have delved very deeply into since I last blogged (also I bought that God of War 5-game collection. I’ve never played a God of War game before, so hopefully I’ll like it, otherwise I just bought a 5-game paperweight) Why? Well, first of all because E3. Second because I’ve somehow managed to devote most of my game console attention towards this one game and random miscellaneous stuff, to my own doom and that of others. But first, stuff!

E3 impressions:

  • I haven't noticed Ryan's absence this much since Game of the Year stuff. Jeff did a damn fine job of hosting this stuff and corralling guests on his own though. Still gotta catch up on the days I missed.

  • Microsoft seems to be making an earnest effort to win people back, but Sony isn’t taking their spot at the lead for granted. Also I am evenly split between a PS4 and XONE for my next generation console of choice at this point. Bloodborne looks like the VanHelsingSouls game I didn’t know I’ve always wanted, but I gotta say that not much else of Sony’s exclusive lineup seems all that exciting. The Order? Eh. It looks pretty. I will willingly play another Halo, if I were to swing the other way.

  • The games I am most excited for in 2014 are still mostly games that weren't shown at any of those big press conferences (okay, Destiny looks like the game I wish Borderlands could be, so count me in there). At least Josh Sawyer was on the livestream to remind the rest of the world that Pillars of Eternity is a video game that is coming out this year. Also that Civ: Beyond Earth game seems hot. Now all they need to do is fix the problems I had with the AI interactions in Civ V and we will be golden!

  • I should actively try to get my Wii U down here at school now that games are actually coming out for it. Bayonetta 2 looks incomprehensible, which is exactly what I want out of a sequel to a game I thought was almost too crazy japanese for its own good. Mario Maker could potentially be awesome, I should maybe think about trying Skyward Sword before I decide to play another Zelda game, but A Link Between Worlds was enough for me to get excited about Zelda again.

  • In the end, I'm still just going to play a bunch of junk that came out 3-4 years ago on my new PS3 and this semi-broken computer this year. Divinity Original Sin comes out at the end of this month and I’m cautiously optimistic about that game. The same goes for Wasteland 2 at the end of August.

Xenonauts: UFO Homage

When I backed it two years ago, I came into Xenonauts knowing they were making a slightly updated version of the original X-COM: UFO Defense. After playing for a few hours, that is… pretty much exactly what it is. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve made meaningful changes (including categorizing weapons in a similar way to new XCOM, with shotguns, LMGs and Sniper Rifles alongside pistols and rifles), but the core gameplay is almost entirely intact. You shoot down UFOs, loot them, your soldiers’ stats improve and eventually you research better armor, weapons and vehicles. As someone who very nearly called X-COM his favorite old game of 2010 (2010? I’ve been here for a while), that is a-ok in my book, because those small changes do matter and make the game more playable in a modern context. Some of the things that soured me on OG X-COM a bit over the years (mind controlling aliens, weapon balance, various interface quirks) seem to have been alieviated or eliminated, though some of those issues I have still remain (optimally managing multiple bases of dudes, UFO interception). Even with those quibbles, after a few hours I was fully on-board with this game. I might be a little more partial to Firaxis’ interpretation of XCOM at this point (if only because it does its own thing instead of mere imitation), but if playing a slightly updated version of the Best Turn Based Strategy Game To Feature Aliens sounds up your alley, maybe you should take a look at this one.

Final Fantasy XIII

Oh hey, this game.

What can one say about a game that has already been discussed to death? Nothing new, I imagine. Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Final Fantasy, it’s a topic that always invites a lot of discussion on either side of the fence, regardless of which Final Fantasy game it is. FF XIII is perhaps the most divisive game in the series, assuming that it isn’t VIII or IX instead. After dealing with around 4 years worth of back and forth between the proponents and opponents of this game, I figured I should play it so I could know for myself where I stand on it. Where do I stand on it, after 40-odd hours of playing? READ ON TO FIND OUT.

It’s okay. For a game with a downright abysmal sense of pacing, Final Fantasy XIII holds itself together pretty well. In some ways, it is the utterly clueless “Square doesn’t know how to make games for a modern audience” game its detractors peg it as (of course, the game those same people claim as the redemption of modern Squeenix has its own share of problems), but I think calling it a bad game doesn’t give it enough credit. From a pure gameplay perspective, the first few hours of the game are inexcusably rotten with tutorials doled out at a snail’s pace (not obtaining experience for the first few hours seems like a poor design choice all-around), but after the first few filler-y segments it becomes tolerable. Through the entire first half of the game though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that say… cutting the number of enemy encounters in half (especially early-on when you can sort of cruise through by just mashing the A button over and over again with COM/RAV/RAV or COM/RAV) would straight up make the game better. The game immediately gives you a taste of what is possible with its combat system and 3-man paradigms before yanking that away and having you spend most of those first 20 hours in two-man teams slowly unlocking multiple abilities until finally… around the end of chapter 9, you finally, finally, finally get consistent access to 3 mans and can put whomever you want in your battle team. At around this point I started enjoying the moment-to-moment gameplay a lot more, especially when Chapter 11 rolled around and the game decided to be slightly less linear for a while and the combat started getting appreciably difficult. It’s this second half where the gameplay of FFXIII finally becomes the game it should’ve been the first 20 hours. The combat’s emphasis on macromanagment and quick paradigm shifts finally started paying off in some interesting ways and at that point I was mostly okay with playing the rest of a game I had already resigned myself into finishing. The combat is fun, flashy, maybe a little shallow, but I never got super tired of it.

The naked linearity of this game bothered me about as much as Dragon Age II's repeating environments. I'll let you figure out what that means.

“But what of the story?” you say, no doubt ready to sharpen your stake or reload your musket (I am a vampire, apparently). Unlike the gameplay, I don’t think the story necessarily gets any better or worse with the passing of time. If we want to talk Final Fantasy, the story of XIII is a very Final Fantasy story. Crystals! The fate of the world! The power of friendship! Giant faux-angelic final bosses! Cursory attempts at thematic and symbolic significance! It’s also… pretty simple, actually. It’s not the most riveting tale, but it’s functional and coherent in the way that most JRPG stories are functional and coherent, a story of cursed individuals figuring out how to deal with the burden placed upon them and their goal of destroying or saving the world. Regardless of that, I got the impression that the aim was for a more character-focused tale, and in that sense FF XIII does alright for itself, in that I thought the main characters were genuinely alright. Maybe I’m secretly a sucker for JRPG Anime melodrama, but I didn’t even mind Hope’s whining all that much. Part of that comes from the ensemble nature, not enough time is spent on any given character to expose their weaknesses, but the localization team and voice actors probably deserve some credit, given that I didn’t cringe nearly as much as I thought I would. Some of the faux-badass stuff Lightning says is a little...ehhhh, and some of the dumb hero stuff Snow says is a little… blehhh, but talent and money were clearly put into this, even if that talent can only go so far. I’ll put it this way: I haven’t played a ton of modern JRPGs that aren't Shin Megami Tensei related. I thought the story and characters in this game were more interesting than the blandtacular cast of Bravely Default.

Not the worst cast in Final Fantasy history!

If you’re detecting some amount of ambiguity in my tone, perhaps to figure out if I like this game or not, I’ll say the same thing I said in my Peace Walker blog: I’m not sure. Final Fantasy XIII is a game with a host of problems. Its opening chapters are inexcusably bad and it takes an offensive amount of time to exercise its full potential in a gameplay sense. But… once it does it’s alright. It’s a beautiful game, that’s certainly part of it. Not just in the sense of being expensive (which it clearly was), but it has that fantastical future/on drugs aesthetic I expect from modern FF, but I even thought the characters and story were okay. Maybe this is all a hint that I’d really like XIII-2, which I bought because I hate myself. Either way, I don’t think I’ve seen the last of Lightning and friends yet…

I’m going to die, aren’t I?

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Ramblings about Dark Souls and other wonderful uses of time and money

Because talking about this game always leads to level-headed rational debate. Oh, and feel free to recommend some PS3 exclusives if you want.

Whoops. Accidentally bought a PS3 for $150 and a handful of games to go along with it. Don’t know how that happened. Finally, I can play exclusive installments of series I already enjoyed on other consoles, with hot recent games like Demon’s Souls, Valkyria Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid 4, and… Final Fantasy XIII? (Okay, I actually got the 360 version of that last one.) Anyways, I figure those games, a handful of other notable exclusives, maybe some HD compilations of PS2 games I never bothered to buy for my PS2 and some weirdo niche JRPGs are likely in my future (but maybe not my immediate future), given that there aren’t a ton of “big” games this year that have really grabbed my attention, a fact compounded by the part where I don’t plan on getting a Xbox One or PS4 (for the record, leaning towards PS4) for a bit. What I do have to look forward to are the myriad kickstarter games I backed like two years ago that are actually coming out, but you’ve heard my talk about that before. What you haven’t heard is my attempt to talk about Dark Souls II. Which is what I will do herein.

In which I talk about one game pretty much exclusively in the context of the game it is a sequel to, thus making this blog of questionable use for someone who hasn't played any souls games.

As always, Japan gets the superior box art

Dark Souls II is probably not as good as the first Dark Souls, the same way The Wind Waker is probably not as good as Ocarina of Time*. For all of its improvements, smart changes and success at establishing its own identity, Dark Souls II has the misfortune of being the sequel to one of the greatest games of this console generation (Demon’s Souls? I guess I’ll find out where that fits in soon enough), so that comparison was always bound to be a bit of an uphill one. On its own merits, it’s a great game, well worth playing if one liked those other Souls games. But after my 40 hour playthrough concluded, I couldn’t help but think that some of the “magic” from its predecessor was missing for as much as I enjoyed my time with it. Obviously some of that is just the part where it’s a sequel and thus my second time with “one of these games”, but to continue the Wind Waker comparison, I also think there are distinct design problems with the second game that overshadow some of its superior aspects.

Before I stumbled upon the Bell Keepers I was part of the rat covenant. Different look, same great flavor (far more difficult to murder someone). PVP in general was something I actually enjoyed rather than shunned.

But I shouldn’t really dwell on the negative, otherwise this might sound like I somehow disliked this game. On the contrary, I think a lot of the changes made to Dark Souls II are good ones. While I played a similar kind of character to the one I played in Dark Souls (big swords and pyromancy, though no Lightning Zweihander this time), I mostly ditched the shield and the idea of poise-tanking for the last half of my playthrough in favor of dual-wielding two (2) greatswords and dodging around (though I was also probably motivated by the part where blocking was seemingly nerfed to bits in this game with one’s much smaller stamina bar) to surprisingly deadly effect, with pyromancy and that 3-shot burst crossbow as secondaries, both of those pulling their weight as well (spellcasting seems improved in general and crossbows are actually useful) That worked out pretty well, and I am seriously considering doing another run with a hexer character because hexes seem brokenly powerful and I wouldn’t mind playing a spellcaster for once. I also engaged a lot more with PVP as a member of the Bell Keeper covenant, where I learned that you can totally critical riposte someone if you break their guard while they have their shield up and toxic mist is ridiculously effective in cramped environments. In this multiplayer aspect, Dark Souls II has succeeded far more for me than its predecessor ever could have. By the time I got that first game, the only multiplayer interactions that mattered were summoning dudes for help when fighting a small handful of bosses and inevitably getting invaded by some PVP dirtbag who would inevitably lag teleport behind me and get the insta-kill backstab, thus ensuring that I never wanted to stay human for very long. Being that I got this game fresh, I never had problems summoning help (or finding an unfortunate rube entering the bell towers). I might’ve actually used summoned help as a crutch, in some cases clearly recognizing that I didn’t need much help at all. If I had advice for someone who hadn’t yet played this game, it would be to maybe exercise some self-restraint when summoning help? I’ll give you that some bosses seem designed to make life miserable for certain character builds without summoned help, but there are also bosses that will crumble against other character builds. Please, use human effigies responsibly.

Apparently this lady has some sort of achievement associated with summoning her for a bunch of bosses? Totally missed that one.

Actually to get into one of my gripes, a lot of bosses in Dark Souls II weren’t much fun (especially in comparison to that first game), and thinking about it for a bit I think I realized why: There are too many bosses, and too many of those bosses are pretty same-y in their design. I feel like a good chunk of the bosses I fought were big dudes with big weapons and wide, sweeping attacks that one could dodge with the proper timing. I’m not really sure why that is. Maybe they looked at the Artorias battle from DS1 and figured “People liked that fight, so we should clearly have a bunch of fights that are sort of like that!” When I think about the bosses in Dark Souls 1, they’re all iconic, unique fights, whereas I feel like The Pursuer, Dragonrider(s), Mirror Knight, Smelter Demon, Flexile Sentry, and Ruin Sentinels (to get into a mere handful) are, to some extent, variations on the same boss battle. There are still good ones, mind you (that Giant Spider is pretty terrifying), but I still found it a marked step down from Dark Souls the first.

And that theme really bleeds into some of my other criticisms of Dark Souls 2 (which I will once again remind you is a game I enjoyed playing). It’s a more consistent game in terms of difficulty, in terms of quality and in terms of design, but it’s less cohesive than the first game, if that makes any sense. Each area is sort of isolated from any other given area (whereas they were all interconnected in Dark Souls 1) and because of this consistency it’s a bit harder for any given area to stand out. That sometimes works out, as with the area that seems like a cross between Blighttown and Tomb of the Giants not being nearly as shitty as that sounds, but in some way that actually seems like a downside, as if there has to be a grueling terrible place to make the rest of the experience that much sweeter. Maybe this sounds like Stockholm syndrome at some point. Maybe I’m asking too much by demanding an experience as unique as the original Dark Souls. Maybe none of what I’m writing actually makes any sense? If I sound harsh or nitpicky with this game, it’s because I might want it to be something it can’t be. Not sure. In summary, I should probably go to bed, before I lose my train of thought entirely. Sure I could go to sleep and try to collect my thoughts tomorrow, but... eh. I've already re-written some of these paragraphs like a half-dozen times at this point.

*: Let’s be real: even if you’re one of those weirdos who likes Majora’s Mask, that is very much a non-traditional Zelda game that goes for the weird. Wind Waker makes more sense for the analogy I was trying to make.

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A significant number of words about Thief (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Sup my young parsons. I finished school for winter semester (I did alright, much to my own relief) and am now bumming around with a part time job and a semi-broken computer. What do I mean by “semi-broken”? I mean that this thing probably doesn’t have much time left, given its propensity for crashing under weirdly specific circumstances and the part where I had to wipe it to get even that far. It’s been 2 ½ years, so I’m not surprised that this hulking behemoth of a “gaming laptop” is starting to falter. Guess it’s a good thing I have this “job” thing, from which I can now derive income from (assuming I don’t blow my next paycheck on a PS3 so I can play all the hot exclusives I missed or anything). Now that I’ve invested in the PC as a platform for modern games and not just RPGs from the late 90s, I can’t very well go back to just consoles if this thing were to break (actually I could, It’d just be a bummer no longer having access to a good chunk of my steam library). But first things first. Video games

Dark Souls II

Me, every time an intruder shows up.

After around 12 hours of play, I can confirm that Dark Souls II is indeed more Dark Souls. Is it better than the first? Probably not, given that Dark Souls the first is one of my favorite games of the last console generation and recapturing the magic of that was always going to be difficult. Am I still enjoying it? Hells yes. It’s fun to go into a game like this with minimal spoilerizing for once. Thus far I’ve played my character a similar way to how I did in the first game (using large-ish swords and mostly avoiding magic) and have achieved moderate success. I also joined the Rat Covenant and have done alright there by ganging up on whoever comes in with all mah rat friendz… mostly because I don’t think I could win most 1 on 1s otherwise. What can I say? That Bastard Sword doesn’t swing as fast as whatever nightmarish lightning sword they other guy has can, and I was never good at PVP in the first place. This game at least deserves kudos for theoretically laying the groundwork for more PVP a lot better, though I have yet to be invaded.

Regardless, you can expect some sort of full thoughts whenever I finish this game (let’s pretend before the end of the month), and since I plan on playing Demon’s Souls as well this summer , we can have some sort of weird 3-way comparison blog that will probably end with people being incredibly snobby about the Souls series. Because there certainly isn’t enough of that on the forums already.

Thief

You can tell he is a thief because he is about to steal the title of the game from the front of the box art

Reboots are a tricky thing. Maybe a little less tricky for Video Games, but taking an established property and re-gearing it towards a new audience without alienating old fans (assuming that’s the goal in the first place) is the kind of balancing act that is hard to get right. If it goes well, it’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution or XCOM: Enemy Unknown. If it goes poorly, failing to reach both old fans and new converts, you end up with gems like that fake-edgy Bionic Commando game that no one played and Sonic 2006. And somewhere between of those two extremes (well, leaning more towards good than bad), is Thief. As a fan of the old games, but not someone who will rabidly foam at the mouth at the mere mention of them, I think that this Thief reboot deserves more credit than it has been given. Don’t confuse that with me saying it’s the most revelatory stealth game in the history of stealth games, or that it wins a lot of comparisons against the original trilogy, but for something I bought with the expectation of disappointment I think Thi4f holds up pretty well on its own merits as a stealth game that came out in 2014. That being the key phrase.

And indeed, Thief is a stealth game. Sorry to blow your mind or something, but what I mean when I say that is that it’s not some sort of Deus Ex-style hybrid where you can still ostensibly fight your way through conflict or otherwise find different solutions to any given situation. Sure, pure stealth is my favorite way to play through Dishonored and its ilk, but the fact remains that I could succeed entirely with violence if I removed any of my self-imposed restrictions and the game is designed to accommodate that. For that reason, I think comparing Thief’s gameplay directly to Dishonored, as some Games Journalists have done, is a bit disingenuous. Certainly, it’s clear that some parts of this game were tweaked as a response to said Dishonored (leading to a horrible “snake eating its own tail” scenario when you realize that Dishonored borrows a lot of aspects from the original Thief games), but it’s a much more restrictive, contained game that relies a bit more on raw sneakiness over teleporting your way through levels sight-unseen. That’s fine with me. I like stealth games, I like playing the sneaky character in games that allow it and I have very little problem with hitting the F9 key whenever I get detected.

One of the weird little things I appreciate about this game is the deliberately tactile way Garrett interacts with the environment. Like grabbing "A FORK" for example.

I’d describe most of the gameplay flow of Thief as a connected series of sneaking puzzles, though there were still a decent handful of moments that actively reminded me of the sprawling, open-ended levels of the original games (which I would also describe as “the best moments”). Enemies have their routes and positions, and you have your tools to get around them, which is to say that at least they got Garrett’s arsenal right. Regular Arrows to shoot dudes in the face! Water Arrows to put out torches! Flash Bombs that you’ll never use! Rope Arrows that don’t attach to everything because it’s not a video game from 1998 and doing something like that would be a lot more complicated now! Sometimes that might involve hitting them in the back of the head with your blackjack, deftly staying in the shadows and avoiding their line of sight, or in some cases just finding a vent, because it’s a video game. Similar to Splinter Cell Blacklist, the game grades you based on 3 different playstyles (Ghost, Predator and Opportunist, which I got for every single level without fail, assuming I'm really good at interacting with the environment) and I’d say the design is such where a no kill/no detection playthrough would be totally possible for normal people. Hell, I threw bottles to distract guards. I never do that in games. I either shoot them in the head with my bow/tranquilizer pistol, or I find another way around them. This game? I totally used that to positive effect. That’s as much a statement of your limited options as it is praise for making me want to stay undetected. No Typhoon spamming for you.

Because it wouldn't be fake victorian england without a skeezy brothel level.

In some ways though, Thief seems torn between two different styles of gameplay. You have a “highlight everything of interest/slow down time/free knockout/archery zoom/fast pickpocketing” super mode, which seems to exist mostly because this is a modern video game and has to tell you where everything is and where to go, you don’t have a dedicated jump key but instead have a context-sensitive movement button, there’s an open world-ish hub that alternates between entertaining filler and pointless filler depending on how tired one is of breaking into random houses and stripping the place clean as per the Basso jobs you can get every now and again (there are also actual sidequests that play like smaller, even more contained heists and I think these tighter affairs might actually be more consistently interesting than a lot of the actual missions. That pre-order/DLC bank heist mission might not be worth a full $5, but you’re going to buy this game on sale anyways and in that context it’s well worth picking up). On the other hand Thief is also a raw, straightforward stealth game, which means getting caught isn’t a great idea. While you can fight back (probably by shooting them in the head with an arrow, because engaging in melee is for suckers), like yon olden Thief, fighting more than one or two guys at a time will end in your death. This dichotomy makes Thief feel a tad schizophrenic, torn between the master of focus-tested wide-audience game design and its classical stealth roots. It didn’t bother me so much, but I can’t say the same for you, prospective reader.

To its credit though, the developers recognized this and included the ability to add custom difficulty restrictions to make the game both harder and more “old school”. I played the game with no custom difficulty modifiers (assuming that I should play the game “the way the developers intended” the first time), but after doing so I’d suggest playing with some of the more modern touches turned off. You probably don’t need loot glinting in your face, you don’t need an objective marker telling you exactly where to go (though maybe don’t turn off the minimap, that city hub is sort of confusing to navigate without it), and focus mode is more of a crutch than anything vital. While these difficulty options can’t fully compensate for a game designed around modernized mechanics, they do a decent job of creating a simulacrum of an old stealth game and in this day and age I consider that an impressive feat.

Oh right. There are monsters sometimes. They sort of suck, but they're also not in the game for a whole lot of the time. There's also a creepy asylum level that seems to exist entirely because Thief Deadly Shadows had that creepy asylum level.

Still, don’t confuse all of this for gushing praise. Thief, unsurprisingly, has problems. With this reboot (and it’s a reboot, not a sequel), they changed the interesting world of The City, the medieval/steampunkish place with hammerites, pagans and keepers into generic steampunkish fake Victorian England (which should not be confused with the non-generic whale-powered steampunkish fake Victorian England setting of Dishonored) You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the story once yet either. That’s because it’s nonsensical, poorly written and ends with an anticlimactic cliffhanger that may or may not ever be resolved assuming they make a sequel. While this new guy does an alright job of conveying Garrett’s dry snark, he’s not the guy who did his voice in the old games. The AI is dumb as a brick. The game also takes the wrong page out of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s playbook by having the last two levels end with what are essentially crappy boss battles. Getting around The City is tedious and could’ve benefited from either fast travel or more shortcuts. Aside from aforementioned boss battles, there are a few sequences that I could have done without. If I were to assign this game a numerical rating, perhaps out of 5, it would be a strong 3 or a weak 4. It doesn’t do anything revelatory, nor is it as smoothly competent as Splinter Cell Blacklist, the other stealth game I’ve played recently, but I think it does alright with what it has. There are hints here and there that Thief was going to be a more ambitious game, but given the stories about its development history I guess I’m just glad it ended up as alright as it did. If you like stealth games (and that is important), I may suggest picking this one up on sale. It’s not half-bad. It’s not the old games, it can’t be the old games because those are definitive classics. But hey, I still mostly enjoyed it (which is more than can be said for the last 4 chapters of Bravely Default). That has to count for something, right?

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Strategy Games, Dracula, Thievery, and other wonderful uses of time and money

Oh hey, what's up? As promised, I've been busy with school and junk, and since finals are right around the corner, I figured I should probably write something about the things I've been playing in sporadic chunks before things get really crazy. Unsurprisingly, video games are still dumb. Know what else are still dumb? Lengthy research essays.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Anime Spacewhipping action!

Guys, I have an apology to make. It has been months since the last blog about video games that weren't either bleeding-edge recent or only one or two years old. That has to be rectified. Thus, I will regale you with tales of another old-ish game, hearkening back to the far flung year of 2005. I was like 12 or 13. The newest console I owned was the hot commodity known as the Nintendo DS, though at that point in 2005 the best game for it was Advance Wars Dual Strike, probably the best Advance Wars game. It would be a few more years before Nintendo's fledgling handheld acquired a library rivaling that of its predecessor, the GBA, so people took what they could get. I imagine Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (a hilariously nonsensical subtitle, given that it's a sequel to Aria of Sorrow and not the dawn of anything. But hey, I guess the temptation to have a “DS” acronym was too strong) was one of those games. I actually borrowed this game from a friend when I was like 12, but I couldn't tell you a thing about my experience other than that I didn't finish it. Now, I have finished it. Actually I finished it a couple of weeks ago.

I could have inserted one of the many bizarre fan-art drawings that seem to be stinking up this page's image gallery, but I'll let you discover people's amateurish attempts at drawing plant lady monsters with barely-covered breasts for yourself! This is one of those magic seal things that are dumb.

It's a... well-made Metroidvania Spacewhipper (to steal a term from @mento) that took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 hours. Nothing more, nothing less. The story is barely there, something about it being in the future, you being the reincarnation of Dracula and much like Symphony of the Night it's really easy to get the bad ending. It follows a formula that had already been done 3 times before, and would be done twice again, and being a direct sequel it seems to take even fewer risks than the average Igarashi Castlevania. The tactical soul system, the defining characteristic of both Aria and Dawn of Sorrow has a neat, pokemon-esque “collect 'em all” mentality that will most certainly drive completionists up the wall. Every enemy in the game has a power associated with them, be it throwing some variety of projectile, summoning familiars to clean up for you or just passively increasing your stats. Getting said souls is usually accomplished with MMO-style farming tactics, killing the same enemies over and over again until you get the drop, made more aggravating when the drop has a 3-star rarity. Get over that hump and the game does just fine for itself. There's plenty of hidden stuff to discover, but like all of these kinds of games, hidden stuff usually just makes you ridiculously powerful and turns the rest of the game into a breeze, which is sort of what happened to me. There isn't an inverted castle (there is an equivalent to Richter mode), so it's not nearly as massive as a SotN If there are any real grievances I have with Dawn of Sorrow, it's the sloppily implemented touch-screen garbage, forcing you to grab your stylus (or finger) and draw a symbol during the middle of a boss fight. Other than that unfortunate bit, it's a game that I enjoyed but wasn't blown away by.

Thief

Apparently nothing says "sneaking" like a sleazy brothel level.

I have not yet completed Eidos Montreal's ill-received reboot to those stealth games I really like, but I'm actually sort of enjoying myself thus far. If it were not for the other games on this list distracting me, this blog would probably be entirely about Thief, but as it stands I clearly wasn't compelled enough to not put it down for a bit. Thief is... a very conflicted, borderline schizophrenic game. On one hand, it clearly borrows a lot of cues from Dishonored (which in turn took its share of cues from the old Thief games, which makes this a “snake eating its own tail” sort of situation) and otherwise tries to be a modern-ass video game by throwing in a multitude of systems aimed at assisting (or perhaps coddling) the player, and on the other hand it's very much a straightforward, pure stealth game that would not be out of place in the early 2000s, where getting caught isn't a very good thing and you don't have a ton of options to fight back. I don't think it fills either role as well as other games have done in the past, but I've found it... surprisingly decent? It's not blowing my mind or anything, but it deserves more credit than some reviews have given it. The story deserves zero credit, for turning the neat little world of Thief into gritty Victorian England (did I mention gritty? It's soooooooo edgy maaaaaan.) and using the word “Fuck” instead of the word “Taffer”. That is all. Expect my full thoughts eventually.

Divinity Original Sin Beta

Since there aren't any good or recent Divinity Original Sin screenshots on the wiki, I guess I can indulge you with an example of the high quality fan-art you can expect in the Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow image gallery. Someone had to have uploaded these, and to them I ask: "why?" I can't imagine what that gallery must've looked like before the great porn purge of 2010

I've been rather clear about my pervasive dislike of Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. I found it to dull action-RPG that tried too hard to punch above its weight with underwhelming results. That didn't stop me from backing Divinity Original Sin, which seems like a classically-inspired CRPG created for the sole purpose of encouraging the player to break it at any possible opportunity. I didn't get very far in my play of the Beta (I messed around with it a bit when it was in alpha, but not that much), but when I did, I did it cooperatively with a friend. That seems like a recipe for chaos, so when our team of Source-Hunting ladies weren't squabbling with one another about freeing chickens, we were constantly blowing things up, accidentally killing innocent people or otherwise making nuisances of ourselves. I'm not sure if that's the optimal way to play the game (like the idea of playing through Baldur's Gate cooperatively), but I'm glad that it exists. Like Wasteland 2, I've mostly had my fill of the beta and will probably only mess around with it a bit more before the full release.

Etrian Odyssey IV

It's still an Etrian Odyssey game. I like the tweaks they made to the skill system and the presence of multiple dungeons, the soundtrack is quite good, the some of the character designs are still sort of creepy and sometimes my party will get wiped out by enemies I had no business fighting. Sold.

Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders III is a fantasy turn-based strategy game. So obviously I bought it. The series doesn't so much owe a lot to Heroes of Might and Magic (especially when compared to King's Bounty) as it does owe a lot to Master of Magic, an old DOS 4X game that you might have heard me wax eloquently about once or twice. You build up an empire of your particular race, research new spells, control territory, get war declared on you for no reason and then engage in tactical combat. You'll probably cast magic to mess other people up, and at one point my Elf Dreadnought (technology man) besieged an enemy town with a bunch of cannons and musketeers (that's right, Elf Musketeers). Unlike say... Heroes VI (which I thought was okay) or Disciples III (which I thought was very much not okay), it's a safe, iterative sequel, which I guess makes sense when you remember that the last one came out 10 years ago. I didn't play nearly enough Age of Wonders 1 or Shadow Magic to be able to make any sort of comparative qualitative judgments, but I will continue playing it because it's pretty great and it has also been a while since a game like this has grabbed my attention (that last time being Eador Genesis). It's a pity that online multiplayer seems to have some sort of issue with my college internet firewall, because I've always thought that Age of Wonders' simultaneous turns function made it a lot more attractive for playing with others and not devouring dozens of hours in the process.

FTL Advanced Edition

The end of many a run starts here.

The new expansion for FTL is an expansion that revolves around adding more stuff, and it just so happens that more stuff is exactly what I wanted out of a FTL expansion. While I will still decry the game as occasionally being a little too luck-based, I've still had fun trying to unlock all of the new ship variants while silently cursing the fact that getting the Mantis and Slug cruisers is up to the whims of fate (or me beating the rebel flagship, which has happened all of 3 times. Somehow I have the crystal cruiser). I will continue to play more of this game, since it works well in hour-long bursts in-between me freaking out about whatever the heck this essay is going to be about. Speaking of that... I'm going to do some of that now. Bye!

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Bloggily Default: Frustrated Fan (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Hey guys. How's it going? It's going okay, thanks for asking. I'm just a little bummed right now. You see, there's this game called “Dark Souls 2” that everyone is talking about, and I can't play it until April 25th, which might as well be a trillion years away with all of the school junk that I will have to inflict upon myself until then. Oh well, if it's any solace, I have these other video games to play, and thanks to these games I was able to focus long enough to actually get some school work done, thus ensuring my continued survival and sense of self-esteem. What does it say about these games in question? I'm glad you asked. Let me tell you. With words.

Wasteland 2 Beta

They aren't lying. It's totes a beta

Those of you who have followed me over the years know that I like me some classical computer role-playing games, which is why I backed Wasteland 2 like two whole years ago during the magical ti. However, since the most recent update hinted that the game in question was still more than 3 months away, I took it upon myself to take advantage of the beta by plunking down another $10. That... was not a mistake. Now I have a pretty clear idea of what Wasteland 2 is, and what I see is a game that is like those other games that I hold so dearly. Is it on the level of such classics as Fallout? 8 hours or so in, I'm not sure if I can answer that. And not just because the game crashes or locks up every now and again.

You radio in to home base to level up. A neat, semi-meaningless mechanic that only makes sense when you remember that the original game did that too.

I clearly was playing a beta. That much is evidenced by the part where the game is unoptimized, crashes frequently, and still has its fair share of unimplemented content, placeholder interface design, and straight up jank. So while I'm hesitant to make any sort of broad qualitative judgments right now, what I can say is that I've enjoyed my time with it thus far. It's a RPG very much in the style of something that would've been released in the late 90s or early 2000s, which just so happens to be my jam. Despite Fallout comparisons being very much warranted, it should be mentioned that this is not the second coming of old-school Fallout. Unsurprisingly for a game called Wasteland 2, it seems to take a lot of its cues from the 1988 game it is ostensibly a sequel to. Skills that would be paired together in more modern games are separated into different parts. You use Lockpicking for picking locks and Safecracking for opening safes and of course you need 3 different persuasion skills. Simple, really. Throw in such specific gems as “Animal Whisperer” and “Toaster Repair” (because I'm sure some hilariously overpowered weapon will be hidden in a toaster and you can only get it if you max out the skill) and one gets the impression that InXile is trying to make sure that you can't and won't be able to cover everything in one playthrough, even with 4 party members and a handful of NPCs. That's fine. I like motivation to replay a game. For my part, I think the combat is coming along pretty nicely (turn-based, not dissimilar to Shadowrun Returns or XCOM) and the game has done pretty well in regards to reacting to my choices (though that seems sort of broken right now). Good enough I'll say. Though I'll also be real here and say that Pillars of Eternity is still my number one kickstarter backed thing.

Diablo 3 is throwing legendary items at me like crazy, so let's just say that I approve of Loot 2.0 and may even play the expansion. Also Demon Hunters are still a fun class.

Self explanatory. But seriously, I also played some Path of Exile and that game seemed totally okay. But it wasn't dropping ridiculous amounts of loot at me, nor am I much into using skill points to increase numbers in a passive and incremental fashion (nor am I into having my active skills limited by what appear to be quest rewards and random drops) But hey, it's free. Not even Torchlight 2 can brag about that (Torchlight 2 is also totally okay, but it never grabbed my interest for very long). I guess my problem with most of these loot games is that they try too hard to chase the long shadow of Diablo II, and if I wanted to play Diablo II I would play Diablo II. Also, mindless clicking etc etc. Remember Diablo 1? Remember how surprisingly brutal that game was? They should make a modern rendition of that. Less loot, more dungeon crawl.

Bravely Default is a terrible name for a video game. Even if it makes sense in the context of the plot, it's still an engrishy misuse of words on the same level as "Donkey Kong"

Pictured: Good art, boring characters

I should love Bravely Default more than I do. Its gameplay can essentially be described as “Final Fantasy V dialed up to eleven”, and if you know anything about my taste in Japanese Role-Playing games, I think Final Fantasy V is the shiznit. Unfortunately, like the game it draws a large amount of influence from, its story is clichéd beyond redemption and its characters are about as interesting as an ensemble of cardboard cutouts. It tries more than FFV ever did, and it's clear that there was an earnest localization effort in the writing (not the voice acting. The English voice acting was bad enough that I switched it to Japanese and never looked back), but no amount of polishing can salvage what is ultimately a mish-mash of half a dozen JRPG tropes. There are crystals! There are comically over-the-top villains. There is a really obvious twist near the end (Spoilers: the protagonists are idiots). There are Tales style character interaction skits where the game really drives in how one-note everyone is. Tiz is a naïve bumpkin who stalks Anges, Anges is a naïve priestess who says “Unacceptable!” a lot (because catch-phrases), Ringabel is an amnesiac ladies man and Edea is his foil (also MRGRGR). I'll give them some credit though, when the game is beating you over the head that Airy Lies, our merry band of gullible idiots clearly recognize something isn't right, even if getting the true ending requires getting duped over and over again.

I hope you like reading this part FIVE TIMES.

But for me none of that matters too much, because the gameplay is so good. Unlike the job-system Final Fantasy games where it draws most of its influence from, all of the jobs in Bravely Default are useful to some extent. No "bard" equivalent, basically. Like Final Fantasy V, you mix and match skills from different jobs, though unlike that game you can't make everyone in your party a Jack-of-all-trades steamroller by the end. Offensive magic seems a bit underpowered (summons especially), but having a dedicated healer is incredibly important. Time Magic? What's that. Then you throw in the Brave/Default system and things start to get crazy. Being able to take four turns at a time allows you to break the game in some interesting ways, especially later on when you've mastered enough jobs to have some weird skill synergies going on. Like the passive skill that doubles your max HP at the beginning of battle, combined with the “damage equal to missing health” skill of the Dark Knight and the “Do your HP as damage, leaving you with 1 HP” skill of the monk. If the damage wasn't capped out at 9999 that would be even better, but as it stood, doing that sort of damage 4 times in a row with one character does tend to wipe out bosses rather quickly. I played the entire game on hard, and I'd say the most that does is make the beginning a lot more grindy in a RPG that is already plenty grindy on its own (though you can trivialize it later on). Still, for that first 40 or so hours, I was convinced that Bravely Default was a game seemingly aimed specifically at me.

Let's hope that Bravely Second avoids falling into this hole.

Then I reached chapter 5 and... yeah. Let's just say that the game takes a notable dip in quality from that point forward. For those who don't know, chapters 5 through 8 are essentially nothing more than glorified boss rushes. The encounters with these bosses are usually re-framed in a story context (and by chapter 7 they start to get a little goofy, giving silly justifications for pairing different enemies together), but it's not just gruelingly repetitive, it's also soul-crushingly lazy. If they did it once before moving forward, I would've been fine with that. If they did it twice, I would tolerate it. But as it stands, you have to fight the same handful of bosses 4 more times in order to progress in the story and also have the opportunity to fight the 23 bosses representing each of the jobs (except freelancer) 4 more times. It's as if the developers ran out of money at the halfway point and decided the best way to continue with the game was to fill it up with recycled fluff. Is there a story justification for this? Yes. Do I totally not care? You bet I don't. If the game wasn't so earnest, I'd think it was a commentary on the repetitive nature of JRPGs, but since it isn't deliberate it verges into self-parody territory instead. Is the combat and character development still fun to mess around with? Certainly. But much like how no one was convinced that slightly altering the level geometry made the levels in Dragon Age 2 not recycled, so too do these last four chapters of the game reek of lazy padding for the sake of padding. The finale is actually pretty great, given that you finally get to beat the hell out of Airy and also Not-Galactus while incorporating the social aspects in a clever way, but at that point the damage was already done. If you want a decent reflection of my emotional state playing through the last chunk of this game, feel free to check out @fluxwavez write up about it. He and I seem to be on the same page here. And it's a shame. It's a damn shame that it had to be this way. If it weren't for this shoddy back end, I'd recommend Bravely Default unilaterally to anyone with fond memories of old Final Fantasy or anyone who likes crazy battle systems. As it stands, I still think its first 2/3rds is worth the price of admission, just don't be surprised when the game starts feeling like a chore by the end. The soundtrack is pretty good though. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

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"Old RPGs that you've probably heard I like" and other wonderful uses of time and money

One must be quite BRAVE to fight the same 27 bosses you just spent the last 30 hours of the game fighting

Yay Video Games. I have a rough draft of an essay that I should be doing right now, but while I have that half-page of writing in another window I should try to warm my writing brains up by doing this super hot exciting blog. It was going to be a competition between this and Bravely Default for which would be finished and get written about first, but Bravely Default hit a snag once I ran into Chapter 5 and realized that the rest of the game was going to be a glorified, repetitive boss-rush which I will admit dampened my enthusiasm for it quite a bit. Still, you can expect something about it maybe at some point soon. I also bought Thief, because I'm an idiot and I figured that I had to know for myself and also it was only $33. The first hour wasn't terrible so... here's hoping? I reinstalled the original three as a contingency plan should my expedition end in sorrow, and if I get sort of depressed by the labyrinthine level design of those old Thief games... I'll just play Dishonored again. Done. Crisis averted.

A Video Game that you may have expected me to have already written about

To get perspective about how nuts I am about Might and Magic, a third of my wiki points is from the page for this game

Even today I am still mildly surprised that Might and Magic X: Legacy is a video game that exists and that I have played it. It's a throwback to a series that traces its roots to the beginnings of Computer Role-Playing Games, comfortably sitting alongside Wizardry and Ultima in the pantheon of long-running RPGs that started in the 80s and died around the turn of the century. Wizardry lives on in the weird Japanese-developed dungeon crawlers that show up from time to time, Ultima in a bunch of EA's F2P nonsense and Richard Garriot's continual use of the name “Lord British” as a way to swindle people out of their money so he can go to space, and Might and Magic in the occasional Heroes game that Ubisoft puts out every few years in-between surprisingly decent puzzle games... so really they got the best deal of the three all things considered. And yet, here we are. Does this revival do the series name proud? Yes, absolutely. But that isn't as high a bar as one would think, given that the Might and Magic name has also been bestowed upon such high quality works as Might and Magic IX and Crusaders of Might and Magic, the former being a half-finished mess and the latter being just plain bad.

Pictured: Heart

Okay, that's a bit mean, and this game is much better than its predecessor that killed the series off in the first place. Might and Magic X is a rough little game, one clearly not made for very much money. It borrows art assets from previous Ubisoft M&M games like nobody's business (Heroes VI mostly, but there are models I recognized from Heroes V and Dark Messiah as well), has its share of weird technical jankiness and bugs (less so after the most recent patch, but still) and it still has the rather unfortunate handicap of being tied to Ubisoft's incredibly generic fantasy world of Ashan. But it also has Heart damn it, and it might just be the best realistic outcome for a modern game of this type, given that there might as well be zero attempt at a mass market audience in favor of aiming for the fans. I'm not sure how it will succeed in that regard, give the rather... touchy nature of the Might and Magic fanbase, but I've beaten 5 of the 9 previous RPGs and I think it's pretty dope. It's clear from the multitude of weirdly specific references to old Might and Magic games that MMX was made by a bunch of people who know what they're dealing with. You make a party of 4 dudes/ladies of various generic fantasy races and classes, explore a big world on a grid with a bunch of dungeons containing the occasional puzzle and then have to look up a list of all the skill trainers in the game so you don't have to wander around the 4 different cities based on half-remembered locations. Really, the one big series staple that didn't make the transition is the part where you had to pay money at training centers to level up... which I won't cry about. It's a small-scale experiment on the level of something like Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and I think its $25 price tag ($30 if you want a free copy of Might and Magic VI, the soundtrack and an additional dungeon) reflects that.

It's not quite a crossword, but minesweeper is a pretty neat way to set up a puzzle room.

Still, it should be worth noting that the bulk of the influence comes from Might and Magic III-V trio rather than the better known VI-VIII, which is to say that it's turn-based and on a grid instead of real time free roaming. That might be a sticking point for some, but having finished World of Xeen last year and having gotten pretty deep into Etrian Odyssey this year I have no problem with this sort of movement style in a RPG, but I also fully accept that I am a crazy person. It also helps that the mechanics are solid and easy to understand. The turn-based combat works well, demanding more from the player than most of the older games did (inasmuch as mashing A and occasionally S was concerned) and I found it to be decently challenging on the normal “Adventurer” difficulty for most of the game. It starts off with some pretty nasty old-school RPG brutality, but kind of takes a dive about halfway through act 3, when your party starts reaching Grandmaster level skills and has obtained a bunch of relics (powerful unique items found in puzzle rooms or guarded by mini-bosses that essentially “level up” to become even more powerful. Generally I did not found a piece of random loot that eclipsed any of my relics, both in raw stats and in additional benefits) essentially turning the endgame into a massacre... a statement that makes even more sense once you realize that Act IV is basically just one long 3-hour dungeon crawl, which I will admit I found tiresome. Might and Magic is best when it's about exploration, and I could probably have done with a little less climax. It actually reminded me of some of Might and Magic VI's end-game dungeons. You know which ones I'm talking about. I'm looking at you Tomb of VARN.

Some of the collectable items are poems none too subtly recounting the events of previous Might and Magic games.

There's some decently clever puzzle solving thrown in as well. Not quite turning a dungeon floor into a crossword puzzle like World of Xeen, but there are more than a few riddle chests and pressure-plate puzzles that stumped me for a bit before figuring out the solution, which I would say is the mark of a good puzzle. There's a story in the game but in grand series tradition its a bit of a non-entity. Fine with me. Anyone who would be upset by a lack of story probably isn't going to play this game anyways. The world of Ashan is pretty dull and generic, but the game doesn't take itself super seriously, either with the “cynical” voice option for your characters (sort of grating after a while), the goofy out-of-place pop-culture references (another series staple) and as previously mentioned a bucketload of specific references to the old games.

It took me a bit to realize that the Uplay and Steam had the same screenshot button. Also hey a riddle chest.

But yes, I have complaints. Besides the aforementioned low-budgetness, which gives the game a cobbled-together look, it's not all that well-optimized on the technical front and I have to run it on lower settings than I think I should have to given that it's not much of a looker. I also ran into my fair share of minor bugs along the way, nothing gamebreaking, but enough weird janky stuff that reminded me of when I played the early access version in August. Gameplay wise, I'm not entirely sure if it's very well balanced. Dark Magic doesn't seem all that exciting for being exclusive to only one class (Air magic on the other hand...) and while there are some abilities that allow your fighter-types to attempt to tank damage for your other characters, you should not mistake that for a sustainable strategy. At some point I just threw my hands up and started pumping vitality for my mage to avoid one-hit-ko situations. The game doesn't give you enough high level loot until the end (and even then most of it is still inferior to the 20 or so relics you probably accrued before then) and there are only three tiers of rareness anyways.

It's no World of Xeen, but this game is alright by me.

Still, these are rather forgivable thanks to the simple fact that they made a game called Might and Magic the Tenth and it was good. I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 hours doing most of the side quests and I'm already half-tempted to start the game over with an entirely different party. I'll admit: I'm not sure what someone who has never been exposed to the franchise would think. You definitely have to like these kinds of games already before giving MMX a go, because it doesn't hold your hand or condescend in any manner. Instead, it grabs you by the hand and says “Hey there, I hear you like old hack-n-slashy RPGs”, to which I reply “Yes Please”. Might and Magic X is a comfort food video game, one that doesn't entirely survive scrutiny when compared to its larger, more ambitious precursors. But it's an earnest effort and on its own merits a damn solid RPG. I highly recommend it.

Other things:

For some reason I played a lot of Defender's Quest recently. It's a Tower Defense-ass Tower Defense game, but... you level up and that apparently makes it okay? It's a decent time waster and I'll end up accidentally finishing it at some point.

Meanwhile, Long Live the Queen is a neat little trifle of a game, essentially a visual novel with stats and a Dark Souls-esque mean streak. I've heard it described as a “Anime Sansa Stark simulator” and that seems pretty apt. It started falling apart for me once I realized that it was very much an issue of trial and error, and it seems like there are a handful of optimal paths among the many, many wrong ones.

I bought beta access to Wasteland 2 for $10 (a special deal for kickstarter backers). Why? That's a great question, given that I've expressed a rather strict “No Early Access” policy in the past, but I figure with Brian Fargo straight up saying that the game is more than 3 months away I can afford to give it a spin and make guesses as to how many of the bugs I encounter and complain about are going to be fixed.

In celebration of this blog... I don't have any copies of Might and Magic 6-Pack or whatever to give away. Instead, I have these random other GOG codes, and since we were talking about Thief for a bit I think that what I have sort of fits that particular glove. The games I am giving away are as follows: Thief II: The Metal Age, Master of Magic, System Shock 2, and Dungeon Keeper, all fine games by my reckoning, and even if they've all aged a bit I'd say they all deserve to be called “classic”. So, to be eligible to win said video games... hell, I dunno. Write a haiku, like so:

Might and Magic ten,

Wizardry 8 is better,

but it is still good

And I'm done. If notifications are still broken... whatever.

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"Turn-based strategy games that look like old disney movies" and other wonderful uses of time and money

This blog has been sitting around on my hard drive for a while, so I figure I should post it now and leave what was to be the other half for another time. School is going okay, I guess. Thanks for asking. I wasn't lying when I said that things would slow down (when compared to the last 6 months when I was living in my parents' basement and had a lot of discretionary time to play a lot of bad video games) but reports of my demise have been exaggerated. I'm still here, and I'll still be doing these dumb internet blogs for the time being.

I was also told by a certain community-spotlight creating moderator that I should express in no uncertain terms that I think Kill la Kill is sort of a mess even if I think the action is pretty good for the most part. It's dumb in all of the wrong ways (as opposed to Gurenn Lagaan being dumb in all of the right ways), but unlike aforementioned moderator, I'm not quite ready to say the series has become irredeemable... but I'm starting to get there. And that's it from Arbitrary Anime corner this week! Tune in next week when I finally tell y'all what I really thought about the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series (not really).

The Banner Saga

Pictured: A Saga

I really should have written something a while ago, when I actually finished the game. But here we are. I backed The Banner Saga on Kickstarter back during the post-Double Fine hype train, and it seems fitting that it has joined Broken Age as part of the vanguard for the wave of crowdfunded games that will ostensibly come out at some point this year hopefully maybe (and no, having your Alpha/Beta on Steam Early Access does not count). But how is it actually? It's good. Yes, crushing as it is to know, not every game that earns widespread Kickstarter success is going to set our collective anuses on fire with how great or revolutionary it is... and that's fine. Maybe it's because my personal stake is so low (I have always done the minimum pledge to just get the game in regards to everything that I've backed), but I have not yet had my expectations crushed. Of course, that could very well change. What has come out thus far has been rather small-scale. FTL is fantastic and Paper Sorcerer seems pretty good, but they're both quite limited in what they aim to accomplish (this game likewise). The big guns, the multi-million dollar landmarks like Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity, those are the ones that will really test Kickstarter for me (As for Divinity: Original Sin, I'm totally fine with that game being bad as long as I can replicate some of the goofy nonsense I have seen in some videos of the alpha version) If nothing else, The Banner Saga is a great foundation for what could be a great series of games, even if this first installment only comes close to greatness.

Just look at that art design. No seriously, look at it. It's the most striking and unique part of the game and well-worth looking at.

Essentially, The Crushing Candy Saga of Banners has two very separate, very distinct gameplay styles. There's the traversal stuff, which is basically a lite version of King of Dragon Pass (a game I think you should take a look at if only because it's such an unique, crazy thing), which is to say that it's sort of a “Choose your own adventure” book with numbers that are kept track of. While I'm unsure of how dynamic certain events can play out, it's clear that certain choices I made early on had actual repercussions as the story continued, and I can appreciate that. Where it falters for me is that you're sort of choosing blindly for the most part, and in situations where every outcome is a different degree of bad that's totally fine... but more often than not there is an optimal outcome to many situations, especially when it comes to keeping your characters alive. There's a reason why keeping a minor character intact for the entire game is an achievement: there are no less than 3 opportunities for him to kick the bucket throughout the course of the story and I guarantee you will run into at least one of them playing the game without any foreknowledge of what will come of it. That's the extreme example, but it illustrates my point that the game is occasionally randomly punishing for the sake of being random. There's also the issue of managing your caravan of dudes... but as far as I can tell there's no penalty to screwing that up, which I realized only at the end of the game when I could have leveled up more of my guys instead of spending it on supplies that were promptly stolen via random events. Sure, everyone starved to death, but I still beat the game.

I'd put more screenshots of this game out there if the screenshot function wasn't half-broken right now.

Then there's the combat, a turn-based tactical affair not dissimilar to Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, but still very much its own thing. The dynamic between strength and armor, the way the various special abilities can be used to control the field, all of these are great ideas that work well in practice and demand a certain amount of tactical thinking. Unfortunately, it's also a combat system that could simply use more stuff (which is to say both depth and complexity). It's not just that you're fighting different variations of the same enemies for the game's 9-10 hour runtime, it's that your own army could do with more than a few variations of the same 4 classes and a handful of unique guys here and there. I did alright for myself on Normal difficulty, all except for the last encounter, essentially a boss battle that is exponentially harder than anything else in the game up to that point, though it didn't sour me as much as the ending. The ending? Oh right. The ending is a terrible cliffhanger, which is a pity because I was enjoying the story quite a bit up to that point. It does a fantastic job of world-building without the usual exposition dumps that you expect from most video games (i.e. asking about lore or concepts in any given Bioware game that your character SHOULD know about if they had half a brain) and the game itself has such a rough, relentlessly bleak tone that I really appreciated.

In short, The Banner Saga is well-worth the 8-10 hour investment it asks for. I can't claim it's the hottest thing out on the interwebs, but I enjoyed my time with it and am looking forward to a sequel where they bother to explain all the deliberately cryptic junk they set up in this first one. I'm 3 for 3 on Kickstarter games I backed being good thus far, don't let me down now.

Other things:

Might and Magic X

will get its own write-up soon enough, once I get around to finishing it. I like it quite a bit. Despite being a little rough around the edges thanks to some technical problems and an obviously low budget, it's a worthy enough game to bear the Might and Magic name, which to be fair is also not exactly the highest hurdle to overcome. It's better than Might and Magic IX (which, to be fair, I also enjoyed more than it deserved. Oh right, did I mention that I got that game to work again? That's right. Now I can finish it!). How does it stack up to the games in the series that aren't half-finished messes? You'll find out... soon enough.

Bravely Default

Finally, a class that revolves entirely around throwing money at things, like the FF V Samurai on acid!

I've reached Chapter 3, and thus far Bravely Default (the worst/best name for a game since Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII) is probably the sequel to Final Fantasy V that I've always wanted, but with the crazy brave/default system of turn management. Unfortunately, also like Final Fantasy V, I've found the story utterly forgettable thus far and the characters one-note archetypes, and guessing by the reviews I've read that doesn't seem like it will change all that much. Oh well. I'll take what I can get, even if that leads to me doing dumb stuff like leaving my DS in sleep mode overnight so I can rebuild the village and get overpowered items too early in the game (hot tip: upgrade the weapons shop so you can get the Angel Bow, give it to someone who is a Thief and prepare to steamroll). I'm going to guess that you can probably expect something on this game too at some point maybe.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

So I bought (because it was on sale) and played some Monster Hunter when I was home two weekends ago instead of trying to finish Splinter Cell, which is what I originally was intending to do that weekend. I'll put it this way: It's probably a good thing that I can't bring the Wii U down to school with me (or rather, it's a good thing that I didn't buy the 3DS version for the same price), or else I'd be dead right now, given that I sunk something like 14 hours into it over the course of 3 days. Currently alternating between Longsword and Switch Axe, and I honestly have no idea how anyone could use the Greatsword, where the recovery animation isn't so much measured in frames as it is measured in seconds. That's all, I guess.

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"Third Person Shooters featuring Aliens" and other wonderful uses of time and money

2014 is here. Well, it's actually been here for 2 weeks, but between dealing with some personal junk and going back to school, my time with the vidja games has been here and there. I was going to write something up about Splinter Cell Blacklist, but because my brother uses the Xbox pretty much exclusively as a FIFA machine I was unable to finish it over the holidays or bring it down with me (spoilers: It would've ended up on the GOTY list had I played it earlier). Same goes for that Wii U box thing (Spoilers: My brother actually has almost beaten Wind Waker HD and I'm pretty proud of him for playing a video game that isn't FIFA). Instead, I just have this increasingly precarious laptop and my 3DS. So be it. I'll probably do a lot better this semester if I have less ways to distract myself (but of course the part where I'm writing this is in and of itself is probably a distraction from reading about Art History or some equally dire class that I've taken). But hey, it's okay. Because I certainly spent my limited video games time in great ways thus far!

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

A striking cover, if nothing else.

I told myself I was going to do better this year, that I wasn't going to deliberately go out of my way to play questionable and bad video games to feel alive, at least not to the same extent last year where I was buying that Sonic RPG and willingly playing through Grabbed by the Ghoulies among other things. I've clearly screwed that up already. While not outright bad, I'd say that The Bureau definitely falls into the “questionable” end of the spectrum, in that it doesn't actively make me want to stab myself with a rusty nail, but there's probably no reason for any of you to ever play it. “Competently mediocre” is the word I will use.

Remember back in like... 2010, when 2K announced the game then only known as “XCOM” and we all flipped the hell out because it was yet another beloved PC game being rebooted as what appeared to be a shooter? Yeah. It's funny to think back on that, given the way things turned out. Firaxis made Enemy Unknown, about as good as one would realistically expect a modern incarnation of that game to be, and the shooter thing known as XCOM went through a bunch of development problems before becoming the game that I played this week. It shows. The Bureau feels very much like a game made up of the pieces of a more ambitious title. The idea of G-Men running around Main Street USA and fighting secret aliens while covering things up is a great premise for a video game. It's a pity then, that the story of The Bureau is so... bleh. There are characters who you never really are given a reason to care about, there is dialogue that won't set your world on fire, there are plot twists that are amazingly dumb, and a protagonist who might as well be named McGruff, if not for the part where that name is already taken by a crime-fighting cartoon dog who tells you to take a bite out of crime. I'm not going to go into the specifics of how stupid things get, but I'd suggest looking up the last mission if you're really interested. It even comes with a really half-assed tie in to the good modern XCOM game!

Your agents CAN be useful, but you really do have to baby them to make that happen

But the Bureau is also a squad-based 3rd person shooter, and on that front it's... fine, actually. Remember Mass Effect? It's sort of like that, but not as good. It's a little more tactically demanding, but that's mostly because your AI squadmates aren't very bright on their own and require constant micromanagement to be especially effective. You can set up some sort of grand strategy involving the various tools at your disposal, and that's actually pretty cool. Flush dudes out of cover so they can walk into a mine, use a decoy to draw their fire and then hit them behind for more damage, have your commando taunt an enemy and have your support throw a bubble shield on him, throw down a turret to mow dudes who get too close down, etc. I didn't really have to do much of that on normal though. Spamming abilities for the purpose of doing things worked pretty well most of the time. I'd imagine that the game asks a lot more of that on the higher difficulties, but given the already squishy nature of you and your buddies along with the absurdly quick bleed-out time, I'd rather not deal with the exercise in pain that would turn into. There's also the part where you walk around your base talking to people like it was The Normandy, which would be great except for the part where: A. No one in this game is as interesting as any character on the Normandy, and B. There's not much reward for solving everyone's petty problems. There are also side missions you can go on and “deployments” you can send your agents on (like it was all the guild stuff in any given Assassin's Creed game), all for the benefit of backpacks with super circumstantial bonuses that ensure that you'll never use them. Same goes for weapons, actually. Sniper Rifles simply don't have enough ammunition to compete with the AR equivalents, and the Blaster Launcher is disappointingly tame for a weapon bearing that moniker. The shooting feels decent, if unspectacular.

Congratulations 2K Marin: You salvaged this mess enough to ship a game that wasn't constantly on fire.

All of this comes together to form a game that “entertained” me in a superficial sense, but probably won't leave much of a lasting impact. The Bureau is not an affront to nature like some of the things I played last year, nor is it a disappointing waste of great ideas. It just... is. I only paid $10 for it, which was an acceptable price, but in the end my time (and probably your time as well) is more valuable than that. If it was a better game or more of a trainwreck I could justify the 10 hours I spent on it, but I'm sort of having trouble doing so at the moment. This all being said, time-management is one of my personal weaknesses, it only makes sense that I would make the mistake of spending time with an utterly unremarkable game like The Bureau. I knew I should've bought Brothers instead. If there were 10 games better than it, the Bureau would likely not be one of them.

Dead Space the first

Unlike the above game, Dead Space 1 is still great. Just thought I'd let you all know. Maybe I'll go for the crazy and play Dead Space 2 while I'm here.

The Banner Saga

Lemme tell you guys: This game looks really good, and it probably works in its favor that it reminds me a bit of King of Dragon Pass

Seems really good and I feel pretty okay about giving those guys $10 like two years ago. More to come later. Actually, speaking of alien games, those jerks making Xenonauts sure are taking their sweet time. I've had that game in my steam library for months and it's still in some sort of half-broken alpha state. You're literally just making X-COM again, it can't be that hard. (note: I know it can be that hard, I was being sarcastic. But seriously guys.) Oh, and since we're on the topic of things I backed on kickstarter, Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin should be coming out pretty soon. I have high hopes for one and realistic hopes for the other (if nothing else, Original Sin will be an interesting mess, something that I couldn't really say for Divinity 2). And then there's Pillars of Eternity and that will hopefully be awesome as well. Basically, 2014 is the year that makes or breaks Kickstarter, and I'm excited to see the final results of me giving $15 to strangers on the internet in the spring of 2012.

Japanese Dungeon Crawlers?

Anime lolis be damned. These games are pretty good.

Yeah, I'm on the 5th stratum in Etrian Odyssey III, and I've learned some important lessons along the way. While that game is definitely hard, with proper party building it becomes a lot more manageable, and the game itself is flexible enough to allow for more unorthodox compositions of dudes. Now I just need to slog my way through the last 4 floors, no doubt grind to fight an absurdly powerful final boss and then I can move on to the much better looking Etrian Odyssey IV (as opposed to the “Remake of the first game, but with a set party and an actual story” known as Etrian Odyssey Untold, which I also bought for badly thought-out reasons). Consider me a fan. As a contingency, I also have Shin Megami Tensei IV, and I played enough of that game to know that it admirably succeeds in its goal of being extremely difficult and sort of unfair at the start and also making sure that I don't like any of the obvious characters who are obvious (Hmmm... I wonder which guy represents order and which guy represents chaos...?) But I also never finished Nocturne (I did get further over the break, so don't pretend that I'm not making progress... now I just need to bring my PS2 down to school), so any attempts at the new one will be tempered by the fact that I'd really rather play the old one anyways. So expect my blog of SMT IV in the summer of 2017, where I talk all about satan, or whatever.

And that's it for now. You can expect things to be more sporadic from here on out, and actually if I'm being consistent with my blogging that probably means there's something wrong with my academic performance... so expect my Might and Magic X blog in two weeks.

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