Arbitrary versus XIII-2

I dunno about you guys, but I had a pretty fantastic holiday break. I opened presents, hung out with family, held babies and watched a copious amount of Mystery Science Theater with my younger brother. Well, 2015 is happening. Time to get back to school and start hating myself again. That’s how that works, right? Oh, you want me to talk about the video games I played over said break? You don’t? Oh, well too bad. I’m going to tell you about them anyways.

Here are some things I played that don’t deserve their own multi-paragraph thing

I finished all the post-game content for “2014’s 2013 Game of the Year” Etrian Odyssey IV. If the part where I was willing to do the stuff that you could do after the credits rolled is any indication, I like that game a lot. You’ve heard my spiel about how if it isn’t the best game in the series (I think it is, at least thus far) it’s the best place to jump in for normal people, so I won’t repeat it. If EO III was the game that made me a fan of the series (despite the part where it’s sadistically brutal at times!), IV has cemented my loyalty and I will probably buy that Etrian Odyssey II remake the second it comes to the states despite the part where I still need to get through that remake of the first Etrian Odyssey. And Persona Q. And while we’re talking about similar games, Shin Megami Tensei IV.

In terms of games I played with friends and such, the Jackbox Party Pack was one of them! Like a lot of dumb party style party games, it’s not so much a contest of skill as it is a way to manufacture laughter from a decently sized group of people who don’t need to be proficient in anything but lying. The part where you can play it with smart phones and the part where it’s on PS3 means I will likely pick it up for my own party hijinks at some point… right after I earn the capital necessary to purchase Puyo Puyo Tetris because holy crap I need to own that game. Other than that and the requisite spread of fighting games I play with one friend whenever we’re in town together, the Hoard game that was free on PSN a couple of months ago is a surprisingly great Age of Booty-esque strategy type game for 4 players on one console, so if you downloaded it, thinking nothing of it before, I suggest giving it another looksie with friends. There was also a requisite amount of Smash Bros (that game is great), a dash of Bayonetta 2, me watching my buddy play Far Cry 4 and just a hint of Divinity Original Sin co-op.

But of course, I was on break for something like two weeks. So after we had exhausted all the fun stuff, we moved onto the “fun” stuff. Boy guys, Playstation All-Stars sure is a shitty Smash Bros ripoff that fails to understand what makes Smash Bros good, am I right? So of course we played a lot of it. It’s not the part where the roster is sorta bad, or the part where only supers count for kills, or the cheap looking menus or the seeming desire to mix the concept of “chaotic party thing” with “serious fighting game” (not very well, I might add), it’s the all of those together put into soulless package dictated by the marketing department. If we were going to play terrible party games, we should’ve just played a game of Dokapon Kingdom, because that game is both terrible and amazing and we had like 2 weeks to do it. Don’t worry though, we played some Mario Party afterwards to wash the taste out of our mouths.

Final Fantasy Thirteen Two.

Despite the part where Lightning is on the cover of this game, she is in it for all of 5 minutes. Instead you play as her not-emotionally dead sister.

If I had to use one word to describe Final Fantasy XIII-2 it would be reactionary. If Final Fantasy XIII was a game that obliviously did its own thing, seemingly to its own detriment, then its direct sequel is a game seemingly aimed at addressing all the complaints leveled at its predecessor…. while also sorta being a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. I’m not entirely sure what Lightning Returns is yet, but I can assure you that it is its own brand of crazy and not unlike Majora’s Mask.

What do I mean by it “sorta” being a sequel? I’m going to be honest, FF XIII wrapped itself up pretty well and given the direction the story of this game takes you could’ve set it in an entirely different world and used entirely different characters and the plot would have more or less remained intact. In fact, aside from Hope it’s not even like the principal cast of FF XIII shows up for longer than “cameo” status (whatever man, Serah was in that game for like 5 minutes). I’m not going to bag on Square too much about this, it’s just weird to me that the direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t actually have a ton of connection to the underlying plot of Final Fantasy XIII. I get it. Asset generation is expensive. People (not necessarily me but maybe not not necessarily me) didn’t much care for the story and characters of FF XIII. You can have your cake and eat it too, I guess.

As funny as it would've been to do so, I did not put up the money to dress the protagonists of this game in Mass Effect armor. In retrospect, I bet I would have enjoyed it more if I did.

But to get into the story itself, I don’t think I’ve seen a more flagrant abuse of “Because Time Travel” as a plot device in quite some time. Don’t take that as an insult; the lack of internal time travel logic contributes to what is a delightfully bonkers tale about Laura Bailey and Sora from Kingdom Hearts solving paradoxes and defending the past (and future) “Because Time Travel”. I think FF XIII’s ensemble worked through sheer force of attrition, but I don’t think Serah and Noel are quite as compelling leads by comparison. At least Caius is an alright villain even if his plan falls apart if you think too hard about it and hot young man bishonen Hope isn’t a whiny brat. The time travel conceit also allows for some excellent fake-out paradox endings, the best of which involves Snow showing up and proving that Troy Baker will always be the hero in everything. I’ve included it below for your pleasure.

As for the way it plays, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has the same surprisingly compelling macromanagement-focused combat system that made me sorta like the last one. Only without 20 hours of stuff before having access to all the gameplay systems. It also has pokemon-esque creature capturing mechanics, is decidedly far less linear (the wide open areas occasionally causing problems with the frame rate) and is also way easier to cheese. Say what you will about the linearity of Final Fantasy XIII, the upside to that was that your party was usually appropriately leveled for most of the encounters in that game. This game? Well, let’s just say that most non-boss encounters were solved through the deft use of COM/RAV/RAV and pressing the A button over and over. Don’t get me wrong, some boss encounters were challenging and part of that success came from me already knowing what to do from 40 hours of the last game, but aside from the final boss I don’t think any one encounter was particularly tough. Similarly, the monster stuff is neat but didn’t really demand much from me through my management of that. Maybe if I did more of the post-game stuff, maybe a couple of those DLC bosses I’d change my tune, but after the 22ish hours that I spent on the game I was good for the time being.

I only play the highest quality of video games.

Still, in general I’d say I liked XIII-2 a lot more than the first game. Maybe not enough for me to recommend it without caveats, but hey, I’d still recommend it. It’s proof if nothing else that Square can learn from their mistakes and then go on to make new, different mistakes. Like perhaps this game where I can play dress up with Lightning and give her sexy librarian glasses on all of her outfits because of course I would do that. You can expect my thoughts on that soon enough, but for now I’m distracted by what should’ve been everyone’s 2014 Game of the Year: Bound by Flame. Sure, I’m long overdue to play more Dragon Age, but what’s the fun in that?

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ArbitraryWater's Top 10 Games of 2014 that actually came out in 2014

The year is finally over, and so is my other list. Which means it's time for the big guns: Games from this year that I actually played this year. 2014 hasn't been the best year for video games, though it's been a much better year for me personally than 2013 or 2012 were. These forums have also seen better days, mayhaps, but I clearly still think this place is worth saving.

Game of The Year 2014

1. Bayonetta 2Bayonetta 2 is the hyperkinetic stripper witch game that doles out batshit insanity and extremely fun, extremely well-made character action combat in equal measure. It's probably the best character action game I've played since Devil May Cry 3, but unlike that one it's actually approachable by normal humans.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of MordorThe nemesis system and its underlying components elevate Shadow of Mordor, which what would otherwise be a good but unspectacular open world action game, into something that you could actually say has never been fully done before in a video game. Helps that it's a mechanically solid, dumb sandbox that smartly keeps the main story stuff in the background (because that stuff isn't what makes the game). Very interested to see how these ideas will show up in games during the coming years.
3. Age of Wonders IIIIf games were ranked by hour count, Age of Wonders III would likely be number 1 on the list this year. It's a fun, well-made tactical wargame of the kind I enjoy so immensely, and it helps that the developers have been aggressive in their post-game support, patching and updating the game in such a way as to make it even better than it already was. Also doesn't hurt that the music is really good.
4. Dark Souls IIDark Souls II is not Dark Souls. I take issue with parts of DS 2's structure, its boss design and storytelling, but it's more mechanically interesting with the first game and I had a lot of fun running around like a maniac with dual greatswords, killing invaders in the bell tower and using pyromancy to once again be sorta OP.
5. Might & Magic X LegacyMight and Magic X is the best game I could've realistically hoped for under Ubisoft's tenure. It's a clearly low budget, clearly experimental title not without problems, but it also does the seemingly impossible thing of nailing the essence of what made its forebears so great.
6. Dragon Age: InquisitionDragon Age is a return to form for Bioware after 3 years of disappointment. It has a little too much "Single-Player MMO-itis" for me to be comfortable putting it super high on the list (Also: I haven't played it all the way through), but it's a hell of a lot better than Mass Effect 3 and I liked that game well enough.
7. Divinity: Original SinThe only reason Divinity isn't higher on this list is due to my computer exploding near the end of this summer and with it my save from 30 hours into this game. Should I ever get over that disappointment, chances are I'd probably consider this to be one of the best RPGs in years, period.
8. ThiefHah! Thought you had seen the last of me being the only guy who liked that Thief game, didn't you? Well, no. It's on this list, after all. A pure stealth game that is about being sneaky, not teleporting like a maniac or shooting your way through situations after you get discovered. Not without some pretty obvious flaws, but hey, that seems to be a common theme this year.
9. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace AttorneyYo, I really, really like the Ace Attorney franchise and think that crossing it over with Professor Layton is a thing that works surprisingly great. It might not be as good as Dual Destinies, but I'm glad it made it over here nonetheless.
10. Wasteland 2Wasteland 2 is nothing if not unapologetic about what it is, which is to say that it's an old-school CRPG made in the style of something that wouldn't be out of place among the luminaries of the late 90s. It's not as GOOD as those games, mind you, but it's a dead on simulacrum and for that it has my appreciation. Still, if there's one old-school inspired RPG of this year to get, it's Divinity.

And here's some additional commentary on every game on my list. Feel free to skip the paragraphs you don't want to read. I might've gone a little overboard and am not going to bother posting any pictures to break up the wall of text staring you down.

Game of the Year 2014: Bayonetta 2

I imagine Bayonetta 2 is like drugs. No, not the horrifying addiction or the awful side-effects that end with you in a gutter clutching a dirty syringe, but the part where everything is flashing and crazy at all times. Much like the first game, it’s a magical cacophony of sensory overload, hyper-sexual imagery and anime craziness while a sassy british witch lady says some double-entendre to her foes. It’s honestly a little too much at times, but I imagine that’s the point.

The sheer spectacle at play would be enough on its own to recommend Bayonetta 2, but it just so happens that it is also one of the finest character action games I’ve ever played. Is it the way the combat is often split into short, intense bursts? Maybe it’s the broad weapon variety where everyone can find their own favorite? (I’m a big fan of the giant hammer myself). Or maybe it’s the part where I’m a witch lady doing sexually suggestive moves while wearing a Link costume. I thought Bayonetta 1 was quite good on those fronts, but something about this second game was enough to motivate me to play on a harder difficulty, something that I haven’t done with one of these games since… DmC, actually. So not that long. Still! This game is better than DmC and has a certain amount of mechanical precision that makes pulling off crazy stuff feel both effortless and fun. I think the normal difficulty is maybe a tad too easy, but that’s coming from the perspective of someone who has played a decent number of these games.

For the rest of you I offer only one suggestion to improve your lives: Play Bayonetta 2. If you own a Wii U. Don’t own one? Well, heck, don’t ever buy a console for one game. I think there are enough games on the Wii U to make it a console worth owning, but your mileage may vary depending on your love of Mario doing what Mario does.

Runner up to Game of the Year: Shadow of Mordor.

“More than the sum of its parts” is a phrase that can be dangerously overused, but I think that’s true in the case of Shadow of Mordor, one of the bigger surprises for me and others this year. You can reduce it to its components, saying “It’s like Assassin’s Creed in Lord of the Rings with combat that’s like Batman: Arkham Asylum” and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Add in the Nemesis system though, and suddenly familiar game mechanics gain a whole new context to be used in, where Orc Captains will talk shit to you every time you encounter them. It could be dismissed as gimmicky, but that one thing turns a well made open-world action game into something that is both memorable and unique. Sure, the story is garbage and the connections to Tolkien are tenuous at best, but when you’re running around Mordor bulldozing/mind-controlling orcs to take down their hierarchy it’s the kind of sandbox nonsense I can really appreciate, where the dynamic game systems at play overshadow and possibly compensate for the “constructed” parts. It’s going to be fun to see how developers play on these ideas in the future.

Strategy game that I played a decent amount of this year: Age of Wonders 3

I’ve stuck with Age of Wonders 3 in a way that I haven’t stuck to a strategy game in a long time. Not so much a Civ-style 4X as a Heroes of Might and Magic style tactical wargame, it offers a level of complexity greater than that of Heroes to both its benefit and detriment. Either way, this is easily the game I’ve played the most this year, just playing one-off skirmish maps. I haven’t even touched the campaigns. It’s a game with a ton of ways to play based on the race and class you pick for your leader. Goblins are sorta squishy, but what if you backed up their racial units with an army of mechanical flame tanks and golems? Or perhaps what if you made a Dwarf Rogue and ambushed your enemies with units who are invisible on several different types of terrain? It’s a pity that more people didn’t play it, or perhaps were offput by it at launch, because the developers have also been quite aggressive with their support post-release; patching and balancing in ways that have improved what I already considered a pretty great game.

Souls game of the year: Dark Souls II

I wrote a whole blog about Dark Souls II, so you don’t need me to repeat my spiel. It’s a good game and a worthy enough sequel to the first Dark Souls. It plays it a little too safe at times, has too many bosses who are just huge knight dudes swinging weapons in wide arcs, but allows for more varied and interesting character builds and for once I actually had fun with the PVP in these sorts of games. I’m sure if I jumped in now I’d get slaughtered by some ridiculous ninja monsters, but that’s the benefit of being an early adopter right there.

Best old-school RPG revival: Might and Magic X

Yeah, suuuuure. The guy with the Might and Magic related avatar puts the Might and Magic game on his list. You got me. Weirdly enough, there are no less than three games on this list that could easily fill that qualification. Might and Magic X is unapologetically old-school and unapologetically Might and Magic in a way I never thought I’d see from a property owned by the company that seemingly churns out multiple Assassin’s Creed games every year from their 40 separate studios. I’m not going to pretend that the weird, low-budget experiment that they put out is perfect, but given the number of weirdly specific references to the older games in the series, it seems pretty obvious to me that the developers knew exactly who they were making the game for. Namely, me. I’m not sure what a person without a history with the series would think, or whatever, but it seems like the RPG hardcore liked it well enough. Hopefully it sold well enough that a Might and Magic XI isn’t far behind.

Blog Forthcoming: Dragon Age Inquisition.

I admit, I gotta play more Dragon Age before I have any final words to say about it. Namely in a separate write-up. Good thing I’m at home with zero responsibilities for like another 12 days, right?

Kickstarter game of the year or something: Divinity Original Sin

I’ve been pretty outspoken about my disdain for the unfortunate pile of mediocrity known as Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. It’s not a very good game and I don’t think it’s worth your time. The original Divine Divinity might be, if you can get past the part where it’s really hard (I didn’t), Beyond Divinity is apparently like that first game except bad, and Dragon Commander at least has some really funny/intriguing political stuff to compensate for the part where it’s sorta a bad RTS. Point is: I didn’t have super high expectations for Divinity Original Sin. It miiiiight just be one of the better RPGs I’ve played in a long while. It doesn’t lean on nostalgia like a crutch, but it’s also a game that is playing towards a specific audience and doing so very well. Heck, the only reason this game isn’t theoretically my Game of the Year is because my computer exploded this summer and I haven’t mustered up the heart to start a new game yet. Maybe next year…

Game most likely NOT to appear on your own personal list: Thief

I liked Thief. I know there are a handful of users here who also liked it, but it seems like the general reaction to that game has been negative. Part of that might be valid, part of that might be games reviewers not actually liking stealth-ass stealth games where you can’t shoot your way out the second you get discovered and part of that is probably the weighty reputation of the original Thief trilogy, a reputation that would probably have been impossible to live up to in any case. Excuses aside, it’s a game I enjoyed for most of its (20-ish hours doing everything) run-time. I can’t say if you’ll feel the same way, but if you like the sneaky games about sneaking, maybe check it out the next time it’s on sale?

I don’t really have anything else to say about this game other than what I already wrote up in that one blog: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright

So there

The “I like old RPGs and this RPG is like those old RPGs so it gets a spot on this list by default” award for competence in execution: Wasteland 2

If you are going to get one RPG this steam sale, get Divinity. If you already own Divinity, maybe have another 60 hours of time on your hands and don’t want to play Wizardry 8, Wasteland 2 isn’t a bad option at all. Much like Might and Magic and Divinity, I’ll use the term “Unapologetically Old-School” to describe this game, but maybe I’ll throw in the added caveat that Wasteland 2 brings a lot of the baggage from the classic RPGs of yore in addition to its turn-based combat and heavy reliance on numbers. What do I mean by this? It’s not exactly a looker. The writing sometimes gets a little too cheeky or cliche for its own good. The interface is sorta clunky. It’s lengthy as hell and I don’t necessarily think all of the content made for it is 100% a winner. Nonetheless, I look forward to finishing the second half of it sometime next year, likely before Pillars of Eternity comes out and I figure out if that turns out well or not.

Special Achievement Awards:

Game numero 11: Super Smash Bros (for 3DS and Wii U)

I still like Smash Bros, apparently. I thought I was too good for the series after Street Fighter IV showed me what real fighting games were about, but I guess not. It’s still a blast to play with friends and has a roster of characters I can support (because there are no less than 4 Fire Emblem representatives and hey Shulk is pretty cool too). Much like Pokemon, I will probably pretend I’m too good for these games until they actually come out and I enjoy them for the rest of my life.

Other Honorable Mentions: The Banner Saga, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, The Wolf Among Us

The Banner Saga is a Strategy RPG/Oregon Trail thing that I think is absolutely beautiful and well worth your time, but I don’t think the actual combat parts of it are super amazing. I think the game runs out of steam from that angle before the 10 or so hours are through and the Oregon Trail stuff loses a bit of its significance when you realize that keeping people alive isn’t necessarily super important. Borderlands is more Borderlands, but that’s okay because it’s been long enough that a new Borderlands is still fun. The Wolf Among Us has some pacing issues, it drags like crazy during its mid chapters (3 and 4 especially) and doesn’t even bother giving the illusion that your decisions matter at all. But as a noir-ish cop thing about Fairy Tales? Surprisingly effective. I’d rather have another season of this than another season of The Walking Dead and its misery porn miserableness, but maybe Telltale’s magic only worked for me once.

Most Disappointing Game: Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

Thought I was going to say Bravely Default, weren’t you? Bravely Default is alright right up until it decides that turning the last third of the game into a repetitive boss rush is a good idea. That might’ve soured Square’s Final Fantasy throwback for me and kept it off this list, but whatever. I still really enjoyed those first 40 hours or whatever. But Beyond Earth? Beyond Earth is a worse version of Civilization V with a sci-fi wrapper, if I’m going to be blunt. It’s not different enough to be a real sequel and the parts of it that are different aren’t necessarily fantastic on their own. I could foresee improvements coming in the form of expansions somewhere down the line (much like with Civ V), but while there’s nothing modern that’s quite like Bravely Default (for as flawed as it may be), there is no reason to currently get Beyond Earth when there is a superior alternative that does almost the exact same thing.

Runner up for Most Disappointing Game: Xenonauts

Nope. Still not Bravely Default. Xenonauts’ problem is the part where they pretty much just made the original X-COM again, did some tweaking and rebalancing, then called it a day. Don’t get me wrong, I really like X-COM. But after the Firaxis reboot and after playing strategy games that aren’t so… clunky or punishing, playing a game slavishly devoted to recreating a 20-year-old classic wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Heroes of Might and Magic game of the year: Heroes V Tribes of the East

Probably should’ve mentioned this in my old game of the year blog, but yo: Heroes V is pretty great and sometimes I’m convinced it’s better than III. It’s a pity that a lot of crazier strategies aren’t so useful against the AI, but maybe at some point I can blackmail my friends into playing this with me?

The “YO I SHOULD PLAY MORE OF THIS” award for being seemingly super rad: Legend of Grimrock 2

YO I SHOULD PLAY MORE GRIMROCK 2. It seems pretty rad.

Stuff I need to check out next year: The Evil Within, DKC Tropical Freeze, Lords of the Fallen.

I figure I’ll be able to save up for a PS4 sometime this summer. Then I can play that Not Resident Evil game and that Not Dark Souls game. Donkey Kong Country is just my own negligence. Hoping my brother gets it for Christmas.

All American Hero: Dan Ryckert

Self Explanatory.

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ArbitraryWater's Top 10 Games of 2014 that didn't actually come out in 2014

It's that time again, dear readers. The time for us all to reflect and think "What have I actually accomplished in my life?" In my case, the answer is "I played some video games and didn't do super great this semester". But because I'm not a slave, devoted to games that merely came out this year, I choose to recognize those games that didn't come out this year. What I've learned is that most of the games I played actually did come out this year, and here are 10 others. Games marked with an asterisk have additional commentary below the list.

1. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the TitanIf Etrian Odyssey III was the game that finally got me into the series, EO IV is the one that I can actually recommend to others. It's a classical dungeon crawler of superior construction, with a lot of ways to build a viable team and some surprisingly decent writing. *

2. Valkyria Chronicles

I might take issue with Valkyria Chronicles' occasionally discordant tone, but it's a turn-based strategy game that is a step or two away from being one of the all-time greats.*

3. Gyakuten Kenji 2

I've played every single Ace Attorney game, and this might legitimately be one of my favorites. Certainly helps that it has a professional quality fan translation underlying what is likely some solid writing.
4. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes BackCrash 2 is a platformer that comes from an era when it was okay to be just a platformer. I can appreciate that sort of purity and Crash 2 still holds up extremely well because of it.

5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

The Peanut Butter/Chocolate cross between Platinum and Kojima has many of the strengths of both companies without as many of their excesses. It's short and the combat is perhaps less deep than it appears, but it's a fun crazy ride while it lasts.

6. Crash Team Racing

No joke, might be the best Kart Racer of that era. Sonic and Sega All Stars Transformed is secret best Kart Racer of all time though.

7. Demon's Souls

Weirdly enough, I wasn't super keen on Demon's Souls. Not sure if Dark Souls 2 gave me my fill of sadism or I've just played a better version of this game elsewhere. *

8. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

"It's Castlevania yo". Just put that on the back of the box. It's a spacewhipper that does the spacewhipping thing well with few surprises but also few caveats.

9. Tales of Maj'EyalA surprisingly accessible Roguelike that stole my attention for like a week straight before I remembered that I'm not patient enough to be good at these sorts of games.

10. Final Fantasy XIII

Huh. Well, maybe. I liked it more than I disliked it, and somehow there aren't very many other old games I'd put on this list. What the hell, why not? *

2014's 2013 Game of the Year: Etrian Odyssey IV

Do you like Dungeon Crawling? Sadism? Moe Anime Lolis? Well, I have fantastic news: Etrian Odyssey the Fourth is a game that has all of those things while being somewhat more approachable to normal people than its predecessors. Still, if you're one of those people who "Plays RPGs for the story", boy howdy is this the wrong game for you. It has a story, there's some decently written flavor text, but at no point does EOIV ever pretend that is anything other than icing to the murder cake. And as someone who will always be a mechanics first guy, that's alright by me. Part of my love for this game comes down to polish, it's prettier, better sounding and slightly more streamlined than its forebears (not to mention slightly easier), but it's also still a game that rewards caution and punishes excessive risk-taking. It's also quite flexible with its party building: other than maybe needing a healer and possibly a tank, I think you could get quite creative with how you want to approach your plucky band of anime heroes. (that being said, the classes aren't quite as crazy or unorthodox as the classes in Etrian Odyssey III, but I'll take that over screwing myself over right at the last floor). If you're one of those people who got Persona Q because it had the Persona in it, but still enjoy the tile moving and the monster fighting, may I recommend this as a second taste of Atlus' dungeon crawling expertise?

Best game trying to exhibit the horrors of war and then immediately following it up with the obligatory beach scene: Valkyria Chronicles

For once my old gamesmanship actually bothers to intersect with things that are sorta popular, namely the recent PC port of Valkyria Chronicles that I didn't buy because I already own it on PS3. My issues with its occasionally jarring tonal whiplash aside (and even then, it's not nearly as bad as the second game, but if Patrick Klepek plays more of this game he's going to say a thing or two about where the story goes), I think Valkyria Chronicles is a great strategy game bordering on excellence, with a few things here and there holding it back. I could get into talking about how Scouts are friggin' overpowered in a way they aren't in the second game, or how Welkin is as boring as he is inoffensive, but this is all about positivity so I can emphasize how much fun moving roving death squads of anime teenagers around fake anime World War II is a rewarding strategy experience that Sega should capitalize on more. They won't, but hey, that translation patch for VC 3 is apparently pretty good.

Runner up for Souls Game of the Year: Demon's Souls

I dunno guys. Something about Demon's Souls never clicked with me. Maybe it was the part where I've played two other games like it, maybe it was me playing as a magician and using my mighty spells and crescent falchion to bulldoze through tough enemies, maybe it's just the level-based structure of the thing, but something, something didn't work for me and thus I will resort to the default attitude of "You people who think this game is better than Dark Souls 1 are crazy". That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, or that it isn't well made. I recognize I'm the problem here. If I played it back in 2009, maybe things would be different, but as for now I think I liked Dark Souls 2 more.

A game that I played this year, that just so happened to worm its way onto one of these lists: Final Fantasy XIII.

I've made myself quite clear on Final Fantasy XIII. Namely, that I think it's alright. No more, no less. Sometimes a slog, sometimes a surprise, with an ensemble cast of characters who border between being likeable and being inoffensively bland, it's a game that earns its divisive nature. Still, I'm intrigued enough by the story and enjoyed the combat enough to want to continue the doomed saga of Lightning and friends, and given that I just so happen to have two weeks before school starts... Well, I'll just say that a blog on XIII-2 in the near future is not out of the question. But mostly because I want to play Lightning Returns.

A disappointment that I'm 6 years late for (and one of the reasons why FF XIII made it onto the list): Metal Gear Solid 4

Shit guys. How did Metal Gear Solid 4 almost win Giant Bomb's game of the year in 2008? Were we really so easily enamored by the fact that this so-called "conclusion" to the series wrapped everything up in a disgustingly convenient fashion that we missed the part where the story is a bunch of self-congratulatory wankery wrapped in fanservice? I like crazy Metal Gear. I like watching Drew Scanlon be boggled by the postmodern acid trip pretending to be a stealth game that is Metal Gear Solid 2. But MGS 4 is somehow the wrong kind of crazy and by the end of the 90 minute ending cutscene I sorta wanted to die. Here's hoping that The Phantom Pain is either more grounded or the right kind of crazy, so that we can go back in time and give Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts the game of the year award it so richly deserved.

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I play old games, which are likely a wonderful use of time and money.

Alternate Title: Resident Rambling, the return of me talking about old games.

I’m definitely studying for finals. No, really. Ask my Spanish professor. For some reason or another, writing about stuff isn’t a bad way of decompressing from catching up on missed assignments (which also includes writing about stuff) or trying to remember exactly what Toni Morrison said in that one article she wrote about writing. Obviously, I haven’t played a ton of video games this week, nor am I really going to play a ton of video games next week (at least until Thursday…) Still, between the reading guides and the google docs I’ve managed to edge my way through Resident Evil Zero, and I have some thoughts about it! Who knew bringing the Wii (not the Wii U, sadly) down to school would pay dividends in non-Dokapon related ways!

The other Resident Evil game.

Biohazard ZERO, starring teen girl and extreme dude

I’m not the biggest Resident Evil nut on these forums, but I’d say that my appreciation for that series ranges from “zealous” to “apologetic” depending on the time of day and in what context we’re talking about it in. It’s not dissimilar to my relationship with the Might and Magic series, except without the part where M&M at its worst is still totally okay (one-off mistakes like Crusaders of Might and Magic as exceptions). When Resident Evil is bad, it’s grandiose in its baditude. I might claim to have mostly enjoyed RE6, but I’m not going to claim it’s a “good” game in any sense of the word. It’s a beautiful disaster that takes all the wrong lessons from modern game development and implements them in a frenzied haze of QTEs, bad set-pieces and cutscenes that clearly cost a lot of money to produce. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a series that hasn’t lost its way and Capcom clearly has no idea what to do with it, nor am I going to pretend that I won’t feel a twinge of self-loathing when I willingly pay $20 for an HD remaster of a 12-year-old remake of a game that came out in 1996 next month, but hey: names have power. Just ask @yummylee why he bought those Umbrella/Darkside Chronicles games despite not having a motion controller to play them with.

Unlike the old versions of RE2 and Re4, there's no real indication that the original N64 version of RE0 was going to be dramatically different from what became the final product.

Still, the Resident Evil games of the past are some of my favorites and occupy the special space of being titles that I can replay and enjoy on a whim. Some of the talk about REmake HD on these forums unsurprisingly led to talk about Zero. It’s been more than a few years since I’ve sat down and finished RE0, so what better time to play it than when my academic standing is on the line? Resident Evil Zero is an… interesting game. Announced as a N64 exclusive and then moved to the Gamecube, it’s sort of the forgotten child of the series, standing in the shadow of the far more popular, far better remake of Resident Evil 1. As a prequel, it basically tells the story of the founding of Umbrella and the creation of the T-Virus by James Marcus through the adventures of plucky STARS rookie (and subject of weird easter egg in RE2) Rebecca Chambers and “Wouldn’t be out of place in an ad for AXE body spray circa 2001” tattooed guy and escaped prisoner Billy Coen. While I’m not going to bag on RE0 too much for what it isn’t, how can you make a Resident Evil prequel that takes place the night before the first game and not focus on what happened to STARS Bravo Team? Keep in mind this game doesn’t really have any direct bearing on the rest of the series other than: A. Some back story, notably revealing that Marcus was responsible for the outbreak at the Arklay Laboratory and B. Telling what Rebecca was up to before she was in the first game. Turns out she had a pretty rough two nights. There’s also some stuff about how Billy was a soldier who was wrongfully blamed for some sort of vague massacre thing and perhaps most interestingly a look at Albert Wesker and William Birkin overseeing the whole thing (ending with Wesker deciding that Umbrella is finished and Birkin giving him that virus that turned him into a Matrix rip-off). Of course, given the convoluted and pointless nature of the rest of the Resident Evil story, going after Zero for being straightforward and pointless doesn’t seem like the best use of my time.

In what might be the widest disparity of durability between any pair of Resident Evil protagonists, Billy is a friggin' tank who can take absurd amounts of punishment while Rebecca is made of glass and will go into orange caution after only a few zombie bites. But of course she's the only one who can mix herbs for some reason.

So then, how does it play? Like a Resident Evil game, silly. There are tank controls, fixed camera angles and an emphasis on conserving ammunition until the end of the game when you realize you have like 40 shotgun shells. What differentiates Zero from the rest of the series is twofold: You’re usually controlling Billy and Rebecca at the same time (though you can split them up whenevz), meaning you have twice as much firepower but dodging zombies without someone getting hurt is twice as difficult, and there are no item boxes, instead you can just drop an item on the ground if you don’t need it. The former is sadly underused as an interesting game mechanic. There are a handful of times where the two protagonists will be split up, maybe they’ll have to turn on two different switches at the same time, but I’d go as far as to say it never quite goes for the crazy potential such a premise offers. The latter differentiator is actually a pretty big deal. It’s sort of like playing that “Real Survivor” bonus mode in REmake… as Chris. Sure, you have 12 slots between both characters, but when the shotgun and grenade launcher take up two slots each, juggling ammo, healing items and key items really reveals how efficient you are with your Resident Evil inventory management skills. I am not very efficient with my Resident Evil inventory management skills, especially in this game where I haven’t played it in years and don’t quite remember when and where to use certain key items. Zero is also remarkably stingy with ammunition for weapons other than the handgun. I’d go as far as to call it the hardest game in the series. REmake might have Crimson Heads, but those guys are not much of an issue if you play it smart. Know what are an issue? Leech Zombies. If you aren’t using molotovs or flame rounds in the grenade launcher, these suckers take a bajillion hits to kill and will explode upon death all while a suitably fear-inducing musical theme plays whenever they are in the same room as you. THEY ARE THE WORST. There are also like Hunters n’ stuff, but pffft. Whatever. Hunters? Shoot those guys with the acid rounds. Virus infected monkeys? Shoot those guys with whatever. Leech Zombies are the true survival horror.

No seriously, eff the hookshot.

If I (and many others) have a place to bag on RE0 about though, it’s not the inventory management or the story. The inventory management stuff is only a real hassle after you leave the second area and have to cart that damn hookshot with you along with everything else and the story is just sort of a missed opportunity. If I have a place to talk about where Zero falters, it’s that I don’t think the main area of the game is very interesting. While the train you start on and the lab/water treatment plant areas of the game are actually pretty interesting, the Umbrella Training Facility is no Spencer Mansion or RPD Station. It’s just another ornate building filled with zombies, laid out in a manner that is depressingly straightforward and linear. There’s no sense of “place” the same way there is for the best areas in Resident Evil and it seems sort of small by comparison. The puzzles aren’t all that inspired either. The basement of the facility has some grim stuff going on in it, but even that straight up repeats a puzzle that was in a previous Resident Evil game (the power puzzle in RE2). Once you get to the second disk things get a little more atmospheric, though the puzzles still never go beyond “braindead obvious” or “there was nowhere else to go in this place so obviously the solution is here”. It’s telling that I think the single best sequence in Resident Evil Zero is when you’re alone as Rebecca and you essentially stumble upon the lab entrance from Resident Evil 2 (followed by a somewhat easy boss fight against a prototype Tyrant). It’s tense in a way the rest of the game really isn’t, but of course it’s also like 30 minutes before you get Billy again and once again double your firepower (though the water treatment plant isn’t bad as a final area with its worn down machinery and stark lighting. It just feels sort of half-baked in a way the sinister laboratories that usually define Resident Evil endgames don’t).

So then, what can be learned from whatever drivel I just spent the last handful of hours writing up? I still like Resident Evil Zero. I think it has a grim, even gloomy atmosphere that it does really well, even if the game part of it isn’t quite as well paced or inspired as I remembered it being. It’s one of the weaker installments in the series for sure, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth taking another look at.

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Professor Layton versus ArbitraryWater (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Ah, greetings dear readers. Turkey day has come and gone, as has Black Friday (I didn’t buy anything), and I’ve been enjoying the comforts of family and friends along with the usual discomfort of eating an inordinate amount of food. Know what else I’ve been enjoying? Anime! Thought I was going to say Video Games, huh? Nope. Those too, but let me take a second to say that Steins;Gate and Psycho Pass are two of the better animes I’ve watched in a long while. Ok, that second is over. My break was pretty good. Played a lot of video games! Perhaps I can tell you about them below!

Bayonetta 2

Stripper Witch 2: Still something you might have trouble explaining to your mom

You may recall that I played the first Bayonetta last year, where I found it a great, if somewhat overwhelming, character action game. Welp, a few weeks ago I went home for my birthday and bought myself this game as a present for myself (Because that’s what you do when you’re an adult. You buy presents for yourself and your parents give you clothing because that’s what you actually need). Given that the Wii U is technically for “the family”, I can’t actually bring it down to school until I rustle up the capital needed to purchase a replacement. Fine by me. I have enough distractions from important things without high quality action games at my beck and call (except, y’know, the part where I have a 360 and the Devil May Cry HD collection, or a PC and Metal Gear Rising). Even now, during this Turkey-related holiday break, I find myself replaying it on 3rd Climax and still having a blast. Yo, if you own a Wii U and like these sorts of games (maybe even if you don’t), it’s very much a must-have for the system. No ifs ands or buts about it. Is it worth getting a Wii U for on its own? Nah. No one game is ever worth purchasing a system for. I’d argue that there are more than enough must-own titles to make the Wii U a justifiable purchase, though that obviously depends on how much one enjoys first party Nintendo games.

Do you like sensory overload? I sure do.

In general gameplay terms, the hyperkinetic character action fever dream is still in full effect, albeit without some of the minor issues I had with the first game. It’s a little easier, the pacing is tighter and the game is more generous at doling out weapons, which allowed me to find the ones that suited my fancy (a big fan of the giant hammer and the double swords, not a big fan of the ice/fire maces), whereas I don’t think I ever found anything better than that first katana in Bayo 1. The story is still complete nonsense, though I found it a little less overwhelming than the first. But man, whenever anyone is talking about things it sure does become tempting to press the skip cutscene button. Still silly and exceptionally Japanese, just the way I like it. I’m no wizard, I’m not fantastic at these types of games, but Bayonetta 2 is easily one of the best I’ve played in quite some time. Better than Metal Gear Rising. Better than that DMC reboot. Better than the little bit of God of War I played that one time. Don’t be surprised when it ends up quite high on my Game of the Year list.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright

Solving Puzzles and Solving Crimes both require a lot of pointing.

After thoroughly enjoying and finishing Gyaukaten Kenji 2, my first order of business was to purchase this thingy for a sum of money. I’ll admit my expectations were sort of low after hearing some rumblings that the game wasn’t well-loved when it came out in Japan like two years ago, nor was I quite sure how well I’d take to the Professor Layton school of dumb video game logic puzzles. It turns out that: A. The game is very good and B. I like the Professor Layton school of dumb video game logic puzzles. For those who don’t know, PL vs PW is essentially a cross-over in the purest sense, in that you are either doing a Professor Layton-style puzzle or engaging in a Phoenix Wright investigation/courtroom segment without much creative interaction from either side. That’s fine, as it turns out, and the story that brings together the Ace Attorney and the Puzzling Professor is a surprisingly good one, albeit with an ending I found a little too convenient for its own good (which is the same thing I thought about Ghost Trick, for the record). While I’m not one for sharing details about the story when the story is the main draw, I think this game gets a lot of mileage out of its faux-medieval setting and the weird logic that sometimes accompanies it. I also thought the puzzles were decently clever without being crushingly difficult, and the game gives the player enough hint coins that you could brute force your way through without much difficulty.

All that said, I think the game plays it a little too softball with the courtroom segments. Maybe I’m a little spoiled, but Inquisitor Barnham is hardly the antagonistic presence that some other notable prosecutors/rivals have been. The cross-examination of multiple witnesses is a nice touch, especially when it comes to using their testimonies to contradict one another, as is the inclusion of magic spells as admissible evidence. Still, with those only comprising half the game, it’s not unfair to say that they aren’t the sole focus the way they are in other Ace Attorney games, and that’s fine. Because as a whole, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright is a game I very much enjoyed. If you’re not a crazy person like me who has played every game in the series, then this isn’t a bad place to go either, since the story is entirely self-contained and not reliant on callbacks or previous knowledge the same way some of the more reference-heavy Ace Attorney games have been. It’s not quite as good as Dual Destinies, but it will probably end up on my Game of the Year list in some form too… though that likely says more about this year than it does this game.

Other nonsense:

I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, though due to finals being in a few weeks and me needing to finish this semester strong, I’m not sure how much I’m going to play until the next holiday break. I like that game quite a bit, but I’ve been semi-deliberately avoiding a lot of discussion about it on these forums to keep myself fresh. Thus far I’ve been wandering around the Hinterlands, playing on hard and making heavy use of the tactical view, where it plays sort of like a cross between Origins and DA2. The idea of playing it like a bad action RPG doesn’t really work with me, to be honest. I figure it will get its own write-up should I ever have the trillion hours necessary to complete this game, because holy hell does it seem big.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is for all intents and purposes a stand-alone expansion for Bordlerands 2. I am surprisingly fine with that, given that I enjoyed BL2 despite its occasionally caustic sense of humor and repetitive grind treadmill. Sometimes you just want a dumb loot game, and this delivers that quite handily. I imagine I’m about halfway through the story, playing as Athena and generally enjoying the use of melee attacks and that reflector shield she has. Probably helps that the writing is a lot less offensive and it’s been like two years since I’ve played one of these, but I’ll likely finish this before the year is through.

Also I played some Mario Party with friends during the break. Holy shit, Mario Party is terrible. So of course we played two different games in the series. Well, actually, Mario Party 6 is terrible. Mario Party 4? Surprisingly ok. For as much as people say those games didn’t really change all that much from year to year, there is a drastic difference in minigame quality for those two games, not to mention a difference in board game quality. I’m half tempted to get the entire series on Ebay and do some sort of ill-advised comprehensive overview but that would cost too much in terms of both funds and human suffering to be something I’ll do anytime soon. Oh! Also we played some Smash Bros but that game is exactly what you’d expect. I like playing as Shulk. It looks very pretty. The end.

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A blog giving my brief impressions of that new Civ game, as well as other wonderful uses of my personal time and money.

It’s November, which means two things:

  1. Video Games are coming out (of course, they did that in October too)

  2. I don’t actually have money to purchase most of them, because I’m paying my own rent and want to pretend to be responsible once in a while

In my personal case, there is only one major November release that will likely see any play from me, and that is Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s the kind of game that I have to play for myself, regardless of critical or fan reception and regardless of how much it might hurt. I pre-ordered it for a reduced price on Greenman Gaming a while ago, so it has managed to narrowly escape the void of my current bank account balance :/ This all said, homework hasn’t kept me down as much as I thought it would, and I actually have a couple of things to say about some things in a brief fashion. I just figured it would be better for me and all involved if I actually wrote things more than once a month.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

I’d call myself a “fan” of the Civilization series, though my hour count on Civ V is a mere 97 hours which I’m sure is a fraction of what some of you have put in. Given the current state of Beyond Earth though, I might just go back to Brave New World and bump that hour count up a few more digits. That’s as much a slight against “Definitely not the spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri” (because it isn’t really) as it is a recognition of how far Civ V has come since its vanilla incarnation from 2010… and it’s also me implicitly stating that if I’m going to play something like Beyond Earth, I might as well play its more expansive, more interesting predecessor. Or I could play Alpha Centauri, which has actually crossed my mind a few times even if that game has its own share of carry-overs from Civ II that I’m not a huge fan of.

Sure, the devil is always in the details, but on a broad level there isn’t a huge difference mechanically between Beyond Earth and Civ V. The biggest changes come in the form of the affinity system, the tech web and the presence of aliens. And indeed, those things together do make for a somewhat different game of Civilization, one that rewards a somewhat more aggressive hand (given that aliens are like Barbarians who are still sort of a threat until the mid-game) and allows for a bit more overt variation in technological progression from game to game. Alas, the woes of the vanilla game are also present here, and some of the unique systems feel a little half-baked right now. Affinities are all well and good, but the unique victory conditions for all 3 don’t feel different enough, and the actual bonuses to units are more in the raw “circumstantial numerical bonuses” category rather than significant differences between a purity soldier and a harmony soldier. The tech web is perhaps a tad too confusing at first, and even after getting a grip on it I can’t help but feel like it’s not very intuitive right now. Aliens? Aliens are okay, even if they aren’t so tough once you get your hands on some tier 2 units. But at least it is all future stuff, right? Yeah, that’s pretty cool. That being said (to continue dumping on this game I still think is entirely okay) this game has made me realize how much the historical aspects of Civ add to the game, when you’re discovering writing ‘n stuff as part of your plan towards historical supremacy. As someone whose favorite part of Civilization V and Alpha Centauri are the voice-over quotes whenever you discover a new technology, I think the ones for these weird hypothetical future technologies aren’t nearly as well written as the ones in SMAC (or, implicitly as cool as all the great historical quotes in Civ IV and V) . It’s a little thing, but I think it is representative of the game maybe lacking some personality. Doesn’t help that there are only 8 leaders right now, especially since their bonuses are pretty minor.

I think the reason I’m so content to expose Beyond Earth’s flaws right now is because the quality of its core gameplay is self-evident, given how much it borrows from Civ V. You already know if you like these kinds of games. But I think if you’ve spent any amount of serious time with the previous game, you’re almost better off just sticking to that until Firaxis improves and differentiates this one with DLC/Expansions. That core is strong enough that I’ll probably get around the 20 hour mark, but I’m not sure I’ll do much else until then.

Other things

I wonder how getting into weird, obscure stuff has become expected of me over the past 5 or so years of blogging on this website. Still, I guess you could get more obscure than “The only Ace Attorney game to have never made it over to the west” (at least until the next one doesn’t get released over here), given that the fan community has been active enough to put out a superb translation patch for it. As with all of these kinds of games, explaining specifics about the story spoils what makes them good in the first place, so I’ll merely suffice to say that I think this is quite a bit better than the first Ace Attorney Investigations and it’s both understandable and a pity that this one never came over here. Given how many callbacks to not only the first Edgeworth game but past Ace Attorney games in general there are, it seems pretty obvious that only people who are already fans of the series should give it a look. Of course, if you’re going to the trouble of downloading a translation patch for a game that came out in another language, chances are you’ve already proven a certain level of dedication. Of course, this also led me to purchasing Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright when I was in the Gamestop the other day, so I might just be sort of nuts.

Other than these, I’ve been messing around with Sam and Max (which I think is very, very funny, for as much as I know I’m just going to look at the stupid hint book and spoil everything for myself) and TIE Fighter, which is both hard and fun and I’m not great at these games anyways. Oh right! Jazzpunk. Jazzpunk is also very funny. I sure am glad I didn’t pay $15 for Jazzpunk, because it’s like 2 hours long. Thanks Humble Bundle! The other stuff from that bundle I’ve messed with thus far are 15 minutes of Tower of Guns (Meh) and occasionally thinking about trying to get friends to play Risk of Rain because I have 3 other keys. Also I will probably continue playing Legend of Grimrock 2 through all of this, which I find to be quite enjoyable. Until next time, remember that Legend of Zelda speedruns are basically dark wizardry.

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I still occasionally play video games (and other wonderful uses of time and money)

Yes, I still play video games, dear readers. School and work have eaten into my free time, and suddenly it’s like I’m a busy adult who has to be responsible for once in my life. But if browsing internet forums has taught me anything, it’s that no one actually wants to hear your personal life story. Instead how about we talk about a game that everyone has already talked to death because it’s hot and relevant? That’s right: Might and Magic VIII. What do you mean I talked about it already in the thing I wrote more than a month ago? Oh, ok. Well, I beat that again. And I’ve still been playing a lot of Age of Wonders III, which is my go-to time wasting game and still super fun. They even released an expansion with Halflings in it! Halflings are annoying as shit to fight against because they can avoid damage if their morale is high enough, but that goes the other way around too. Wait, what were we talking about? The internet is terrible and is on fire? I'm only a few incidents away from just calling it quits for a while? No, let's not talk about that.

Wasteland 2

Finally, the sequel to the obscure 1987 DOS game whose defining feature is inspiring other, more well-known video games.

If I had to guess, I’m about halfway through Wasteland 2, a game that came out almost a month ago and the first thing I backed on Kickstarter. As opposed to Divinity: Original Sin, which seemed to draw some mainstream attention from people who wouldn’t normally play 50+ hour RPGs, Wasteland seems to have only obtained buzz from the usual RPG circles of jaded old men, elitists, and me. To be fair, this is because Divinity is a prettier, more dynamic and straight up better game than Wasteland and I wish my save didn’t disappear when my computer exploded. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to play 20-30 hours to get back to the point I was at.

Once you get that rather unfortunate comparison out of the way, (if you have $40 and only want to play one lengthy, classically-inspired CRPG, play Divinity) I think Wasteland 2 is pretty good! It’s not a modernization of the classical RPGs of yore so much as it is one of the RPGs of yore that just so happens to have some modernization in its mechanics. Skills that would be redundant in another game are separate here (each weapon has its own skill, lockpicking and safecracking are different, there is an “Alarm Disarm” skill which is solely for the disarming of alarms.) It’s the jack-of-all-trades RPG. If it was a character, it’d be the Red Mage or the Fighter/Mage/Thief (still my favorite dumb thing from 2nd ed AD&D) of the party. The combat is decent but not as tactically varied as it pretends to be (the solution is likely to be found hiding in cover or using overwatch like it was The XCOM). The writing is good, but it’s not like there are a ton of memorable characters, the game going for breadth rather than depth in its coverage. Finally the actual skill mechanics consist of clicking on a skill icon, then clicking on an object and hoping the percentage is high enough to succeed (or you can do what I do and save scum like a mo-fo). Unlike Fallout 1 and 2 (this game’s primary influence, though it’s not not a direct copy by any means), most of those skills are actually useful, though some are more useful than others (listen, for as funny as the concept of Toaster Repair actually is, you can relax easily knowing you can go the entire game without it). It does everything well, but isn’t exemplary in any one category.

Because, uh, I don't think the original Wasteland is a game that someone can play in a modern context and get anything out of.

What sets it apart then? Either its willingness to shut you out of entire swaths of content based on the choices you make or the part where every quest seems to have multiple solutions. In practice, that means you should really just give every member of your party at least 8 intelligence so they can get 4 skill points/level. Skills are set-up in such a way as to heavily encourage specialization, so if you want to approach a situation however you want, you should think about doing that. The game jacks up its skill requirements rather quickly but you should be able to cover stuff between your created characters and NPC hirelings. The actual world of Wasteland obviously shares a few similarities with Fallout, given the part where it was Fallout’s spiritual predecessor, but it’s a tad more serious while also still being weird and goofy (like the part where one questline involves you dealing with a bunch of monks who worship a Titan-class ICBM and are more than willing to blow themselves up if threatened), but not in the weird and goofy way that Fallout 2 was with its (now hilariously dated) pop culture references everywhere. I think it stands on its own quite well, and I appreciate that it’s the apocalypse of the present (or, at least of the mid-90s) rather than the apocalypse of the Retro-Future. There is a quest where you need to find a CDi. That is all.

Between those two defining aspects, I could see Wasteland 2 having a lot of replay value. InExile succeeded at their goal of making a game like those old games, even if it doesn’t quite blow my mind. Unfortunately for me, I sort of need to finish the game once before I can think about playing it again. also only around halfway done at the 30 hour mark, assuming I don’t have much of Arizona left before going on to California. This game is long, yo. While it’s well-made, it’s not much of a looker, nor does it have the most thrilling moment-to-moment gameplay. That is probably why I felt comfortable playing other stuff instead of railroading this when it came out, but that’s really par for the course in my case. I will finish it eventually (maybe even write a formal review), but I won’t make any sort of concrete promises as to when. Legend of Grimrock 2 came out this week and Civ: Beyond Earth comes out next week (and Dragon Age comes out in November). If pressed, I might be willing to put this on the shelf for a bit, because while I certainly like Wasteland 2, it hasn’t given me one of those “OH SNAP THIS GAME IS AWESOME” feelings the same way that Divinity did.

Also, I legitimately want to play Lightning Returns at some point. Not even joking. I played the first 30 minutes, said “This combat seems legitimately neat!” and then was reminded that I still haven’t finished XIII-2. One step at a time.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a relevant game that all the kids are into.

It’s good to know that this computer still has some life in it. I was actually worried SoM wouldn’t be able to run and I’d have to like… buy the Xbox One version to play it on my roommate’s console. That means I can continue to sandbag my purchase of a current-generation video game console (and by that I mean a Playstation 4 because Bloodborne) and continue to consider purchasing a Wii U so I can bring the one at my parents’ house down to school with me and therefore take advantage of the literal dozen of games I’d like to play on that system more often than just holiday breaks, like Bayonetta 2! And Xenoblade! And Donkey Kong Country! And Smash Bros! And Ogre Battle 64! And maybe a Zelda game at some point!

So then, what do I think of Shadow of Mordor? I think that it’s a pleasant surprise and a great game in a release season not promising many of them. But, is it that good? As good as what some of the reviews have said? Eh. Maybe? It's not particularly unique on a raw mechanical level, with its Assassin’s Creed traversal, Batman combat and Lord of the Rings setting. But it also has the decidedly unique Nemesis system that future games are going to try to emulate, as well they should. It’s what defines and elevates Shadow of Mordor above its contemporaries. Though, even without that, in terms of mechanical competency and complexity I think it's a level above Assassin's Creed, like, a straight up better game with none of the baggage that the AC series carries from installment to installment. The concept of personalized, dynamic AI foes makes what would be a decent game great. Sure, you could be reductive and say “it’s just different pre-fight dialogue”, but it succeeds beyond that, I think.

Expect to look at this screen a lot.

Unfortunately, I don't think the Nemesis system was ever fully effective for me. I know how to play video games. I'm pretty good at not-dying and I'm pretty good at the Batman combat. Did I die in Shadow of Mordor? Yes, quite a few times! (that's a notch against AC and its hilariously easy combat). Did I die against the same captain over and over again and develop a personal loathing for him? Not really, no. Chances are, anyone who killed me either ended up branded or dead soon enough. Still, even with my maybe less-ideal play session, there was plenty of crazy dynamicism going on between Orc captains, and when the core gameplay is as fun and solid as it is I was more than willing to continue spending time in that world. True, by the end I was feeling some open-world fatigue, and I may or may not finish the last handful of side missions I have left, but the underlying systems are so strong that a certain amount of repetition didn’t phase me. Oh sure, the stealth is super lenient and by the end you are a whirling engine of destruction, but I haven’t had as good a power fantasy experience since Saints Row IV.

It's also perhaps one of the more blatant misuses of the license after Guardians of Middle Earth. I'm no Tolkien snob, but the way that story ends is almost as grave-rolling as the part at the end of The Third Age where you fight the giant eye of Sauron. Not necessarily the biggest knock against it (if I wanted a good story I'd read a book), but also Video Games. Talion is really boring, side characters are introduced and then quickly dropped, Gollum is there for no good reason. It could almost not be a Lord of the Rings game if it didn’t want to, but it serves as a decent enough backdrop for the game and its systems. Also money. Fine with me, I guess. I hope this game does well. It’s certainly going to be up high-ish on my Game of the Year list, though that is partially because this hasn’t been a great year for big-budget AAA video games.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the homework I should’ve been doing instead of writing this blog thing.

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Things I played in the month of August and other wonderful uses of time and money

Hey there internet. Notifications are still broken. My computer is finally fixed, and while I’m reinstalling a bunch of crap that I bought during the summer steam sale but have yet to play much of (Hi there Transistor! Hi there State of Decay!) I figured I should bother telling you all what I’ve been up to over the past month as summer ends and school finally starts. I’d lie and say that you should probably expect less stuff from me as this semester winds up, but my writing output has been sparse enough that the status quo 1 blog/month continues to seem likely.

Pillars of Eternity: The Beta

I guess I’m a sucker for paying extra money to look at early-access betas of games I backed on Kickstarter. I did so for Wasteland 2 (only $10ish) and didn’t have to pay for Divinity Original Sin, so it only made sense that I would also take a look at another one of my more anticipated games of this year, Pillars of Eternity. It’s… definitely a beta! The current version is, quite frankly, something of a janky mess. While I appreciate Obsidian taking out the story stuff and basically giving players a small chunk of the game to mess around with, calling it playable might be a bit of a stretch. I’ve suffered total party wipes from combat (currently way too fast to keep track of what is going on without continual pausing or “slow mode”), bugs (losing equipped items upon reloading a game) and good old fashioned crashes! It’s sort of hard to give feedback to a beta when I can’t progress in said beta, so maybe I’ll have to check back when they release another build or something. I’ll give them this: everything in this beta, from the menus to the character portraits to the pre-rendered backgrounds (with 3D character models, actually reminiscent of Temple of Elemental Evil) evokes the Infinity Engine (probably helps that all the placeholder spell icons are from Icewind Dale II) and the little writing I’ve engaged with is about on par with any given Obsidian game (Good). Just… I’ll get back to you all with more substantive criticism when I can actually finish what appears to be a 2-3 hour experience.

Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD

Really Europe? This is the box art you went for?

So this was on sale on Xbox Live a few weeks ago, and being the generally broken human being that I am, I figured that $6 or so was an acceptable price to pay for what is still probably my least favorite old Resident Evil game, a somewhat questionable qualifier given that I still think it’s a totally okay Resident Evil game. You don’t need to hear me go into details, I’ve done so elsewhere. It’s a little too long, somewhat awkwardly paced, surprisingly hard at times and is probably the moment when the plot of Resident Evil went off the rails. At least it’s a bunch of easy achievement points, Infinite Rocket Launcher (beat the game in under 4 hours, no saves or first aid sprays) and Linear Launcher (Get the highest rank in the battle game with all characters) aside.

Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer

Also known as the game that people don't really bag on that much because Might and Magic IX exists and is way worse.

Speaking of games I consider to be totally okay despite their inferiority to other games in the series… Might and Magic VIII sure fits that bill! Being the third Might and Magic game in that many years using the same engine, it’s probably only to be expected that the series would reach diminishing returns after the massive, open-ended Might and Magic VI and the more contained, polished Might and Magic VII. The gimmick for this one is that the player only creates one character and instead recruits the rest of their party from NPC hirelings found throughout the game. This presents a weird conundrum where you can sort of break the game by getting certain characters early on (The level 50 character who knows every elemental spell up to master level and any of the dragons come to mind) and also occasionally have to dump one of your party members in favor of a required NPC for a handful of quests. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still well made and I’ve enjoyed replaying it over the past couple of weeks, but you can see some of the cracks where things aren’t quite as polished. Dungeons are generally smaller, the game is still pretty easy even without delving into overpowered NPCs, at no point do you get laser guns, etc. It’s the kind of thing where I wouldn’t recommend it as anyone’s first Might and Magic game but still recommend it.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengance.

For what it's worth, I'm glad my computer is still capable of running games like this at 60 FPS with very few problems

There was a point where I was going to say that Metal Gear Rising was my favorite Platinum game. After thinking for a bit, that’s obviously not true (It’s still Bayonetta), but man is it good. A character action game focused around parrying for defense over blocking or dodging is a fun thing, as is slicing dudes into hundreds of pieces and then ripping out their robot spines. It’s short as hell (Took me around 4-5 hours, clearly meant to be replayed for S ranks and higher difficulties), maybe not as mechanically dense as a Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, but maaaan does it make you feel super cool. The game’s brand of crazy is more Platinum than Kojima, but it’s still a mix that works incredibly well, especially given a final boss fight that is appropriately bananas and also a lot harder than anything else I faced on normal difficulty. I briefly messed with the Jetstream Sam and Blade Wolf missions and died repeatedly, so it’s at least good to know that those characters control differently from Raiden. I think I’ll stick with it for a little while longer. I’ve sort of fallen off Divinity: Original Sin on account of losing my save from 30 hours in, and Wasteland 2 doesn’t come out until next week, so I’ve got time to polish up my cyborg slicing skills.

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

Hardcore Dungeon Crawler + Anime = Quality?

As opposed to my playthrough of Etrian Odyssey III, which I almost managed to finish before I screwed up my character builds after re-speccing and didn’t want to grind my way back up, I actually did finish Etrian Odyssey IV last week, even going as far as to venture into some of the crazy post-game stuff it throws at the player. Having messed with all of the games in the series sans the second one to varying degrees, I definitely think this is the best one by an appreciable amount. While Etrian Odyssey III had some interestingly unorthodox character classes, I’d say that this fourth one is a lot more flexible. Part of that? It’s not as ball-bustingly hard as its predecessor (in fact, I’d go as far as to call the final boss “a joke”). But also classes are laid out in such a way as to encourage experimentation (a respec only costing 2 levels instead of 5) and less about putting points into crap you don’t want because they are prerequisites for stuff you do want. Add in the improved production values as a result of moving to 3DS and I’d say anyone who is vaguely interested in these sorts of games should give it a try. If you want a story that isn’t window dressing, or characters you actually care about (for what it’s worth I think there’s some decent writing in said window dressing), maybe head elsewhere? I guess I’m all ready for Persona Q* now, which I will similarly play in fits and starts and maybe not finish until months after I purchase it.

King’s Bounty: Dark Side

Yo, it’s like every other King’s Bounty game but you play as the bad guys. Sold.

And that’s the sort of shallow look at the variable grab bag I’ve dealt with over the past month or so. I hope you enjoyed it?

*You do know that Persona Q is basically an Etrian Odyssey game with Persona dressing and not the other way around, right? Just saying, some people on the Giant Bomb forums are setting themselves up for disappointment otherwise.

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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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