I continue to play old, bad games (Grabbed by the Ghoulies)

Soooo... I finally reformatted my computer with the hope that it'd stop being difficult. Thus far, my wish has been granted, though reinstalling 11GB games sure is a time-consuming process. I salvaged most of the documents and save files that mattered, so at some point I'll be able to continue where I left off in regards to Quest for Glory 2 and The Witcher 2. But why talk about potentially good games when I could talk about certainly bad games? That's what I'm here for, at any rate.

I continue to go down a long, dark road with no light at the end.

Rare: Makers of fine interactive entertainment!

Hey guys, remember Rare? Makers of fine 2D and 3D platformers, overrated but important first person shooters and easily the best Kart Racer on the N64, they're responsible for a good chunk of my childhood, especially back when the N64 is the only console I owned. Then... they made Star Fox Adventures were sold to Microsoft and I could no longer care, because I didn't own an Xbox the first. I had a 360 when the fantastic Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts came out and I will continue to call it one of my favorite games of this console generation, but it sold poorly and now whatever remains of the studio is doomed to make Kinect games for the rest of its pitiful existence. Now maybe it's time to fill in those gaps, especially since I'm on a self-loathing kick right now and have noticed a significant increase in the number of bad games I've played this year. I played and enjoyed that Conker remake last year, but that was because the N64 version is far more expensive and rare (hilarious pun) than its Original Xbox counterpart, but I digress. Now, here I am, $13 poorer in monetary means and and significantly poorer in spirit. Why? Because Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a game I paid money for. That was a mistake.

There are also a few parts where you get your hands on weapons, but those segments aren't actually that different from the rest of the game.

Released in October 2003, Grabbed by the Ghoulies' legacy will probably be as the butt of a bunch of pretty hilarious self-aware jokes in Nuts and Bolts. That seems about right, because the game itself isn't much to talk about (which is why this blog is a bit of a short one). Whereas last week's punching bag (Devil May Cry 2) is at least sort of interesting in the ways that it is bad, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is just kind of a brief, shallow non-entity that would have been better served as a 30 minute minigame in Banjo-Tooie rather than a full retail title. As a guy named Cooper who wants to save his girlfriend from spooky mansion, it's a pretty simple setup rivaling Luigi's Mansion, though with far more potential racism involved. The structure of the game consists of entering a room and killing the bad guys therein by pointing the right stick in their general direction and hoping that everything dies. Ok, there are powerups and some enemies need to be killed in specific ways, but in general I'd ascribe very little depth or nuance to the combat on its own. The developers clearly knew that, so another core mechanic of the game is that each room starts you with variably health and a handful of stipulations such as "Don't use weapons", "Kill everything within the alotted time" or "Don't kill two of the same enemy in a row". Failing one of these sub-objectives causes the reaper to appear, and if he touches you it's a one-hit kill. If he touches you. You can outrun him and his touch can kill enemies that wander in his path, so in some cases it's almost beneficial to screw up these objectives. It's not like you're losing much progress if you die or anything.

Otherwise, this may as well be the entire game.

And... that's about it, aside from the part where there is a hidden book in each room and for every 5 books a challenge level is unlocked (all leading to a particularly devious final challenge where you have to finish the entire game again in one sitting with only 10 health per room) I won't deny that the game has some of that Rareware charm with the Grant Kirkhope soundtrack or the number of goofy double-entendres going on, but this all feels like it was at some point intended to be far deeper and more involved than it actually is, something that seems super obvious when the anticlimactic final 20 minutes of the game roll around and I asked myself "That's it?". I'd actually be really interested in reading about the development of this game for that reason, but somehow I doubt this particular title is going to be the subject of many retrospectives when every other game that Rare has made is probably more deserving.

And now I'm probably off to play Kameo next, with the assumption that it will have to be better than this particular gem. And after that...? Who knows? I don't. Maybe back to Chrono Cross. Maybe The Last Remnant. Maybe I'll do something with my life! No. Probably not. I'll probably just play video games.

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I play old, bad games (Devil May Cry 2)

What am I doing with my life again? Oh, right. Looking for employment, bolstered by the fact that all of the teenagers with summer jobs have to go back to school in a week. I would too, except for the part where I'm not. Living at home has its perks, don't get me wrong, but I'm also stranded in Southeastern Idaho with a handful of friends who are either still in High School or are skipping fall semester as well for various reasons. So... clearly what I need to do with my time is play infamously bad sequels to beloved games, which will clearly escalate until I sink 50 hours into Suikoden IV or look up prices for Sonic 2006 on Ebay. Actually, scratch that. This one may have broken me. But not really, because Sonic Chronicles still needs to be played.

It should be noted that playing this game in HD did not make it any more tolerable

Devil May Cry 2 is a bad game. I feel like that has been canonized as fact by the internet. While plenty of other bad or questionable game sequels will have their share of defenders (I will defend Dragon Age II more than it deserves), I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t think that DMC2 is anything better than mediocre (though I’m sure I’ll encounter one of them by the time this blog has run its course). But of course, given my sort of positive (neutral?) reception to the much derided Resident Evil 6, I figured I should know for myself. Also, I finished Bayonetta recently, so I figured that I may as well play the low watermark of the genre just to give myself that much more contrast. That was a poor idea. Or maybe it was a great idea, because now I can write this blog and give it the textual thrashing it so very deserves. I haven’t encountered a game that squanders the promise and legacy of the original title as badly as this one does since Deus Ex Invisible War. Both feel like bad imitations or parodies of the series they claim to represent rather than actual installments. Both came out in 2003. Coincidence? I think not.

The addition of a dedicated dodge button is actually a big part of why this game is so laughably easy

And really, that Invisible War comparison can be extended to what makes it bad as well. It has all of the elements of a Devil May Cry game; you can knock hell demons in the air and juggle them with pistols, varying attacks can improve your score and the writing is probably only good in an ironic sense. Devil May Cry 2 is also responsible for some of Dante’s more iconic moves, like the one where he fires his pistols in two different directions, and also threw in a dedicated dodge button (one that would later be used as the style button in DMC3 and 4). Unfortunately, it also does all of these things poorly. Dante’s moves have some lag to them (the usually trusty Stinger is remarkably ineffectual), different combos are not done by pausing between button presses but by what direction you are holding the analog stick, something that I didn’t really discover until I had almost finished the game. You also don’t get new moves, rather you just upgrade your weapons to do more damage against already weak enemies. Instead of getting new melee weapons that handle differently, you get two additional swords with minor stat differences but otherwise handle the same as Rebellion.

How I played 90% of the game: The Screenshot

Though secretly, none of that melee stuff actually matters because you are often better off shooting everything with your pistols than you are trying to close the distance. Much like how kicking everything was the best idea in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, most of the guns in Devil May Cry 2 are notably overpowered in a way that allows you to dump with impunity, having the assurance that most foes will die before they reach you. While yes, you still need to use your sword and it still does a respectable amount of damage, there are several bosses who are designed in such a way as to make closing in to melee range less than smart. Oh, did I mention the bosses? There are quite a few of them and most of them are complete jokes once you activate Devil Trigger and take down 30% of their health with a single burst of gunfire. Some of them could probably fit in other games in the series just fine (in fact, you fight that lava spider from the first game for no real reason), but then there’s that part where you have to fight a demon helicopter and the only way to deal with it involves standing still and shooting since any attempt at a melee attack will end with you running into its rotors and taking damage. That particular segment is egregiously bad, but may still be topped by the rather unfortunate underwater boss that Lucia has to fight, continuing to prove that the water level of every game is always the worst one.

I actually like Dante's outfit in this game quite a bit, being that it's the one he wears in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, but what's with the half-cape midriff thing on the right?

You’ll notice that this was the first time I bothered mentioning the game’s second playable character (apparently Trish is also playable if you beat Hard mode with Dante, but that’s not happening). It’s because, unlike Vergil or Nero, Lucia handles very similarly to Dante. She’s faster, her dodges aren’t quite as good and she has different projectile weapons, but you can still get away with doing the same stuff in her short-er disk. I have no idea why the game was split into two disks, given that Lucia goes through the same dull, brown and grey levels as Dante, (the unfortunate water level being the notable exception) and the game itself is around 5 hours long. It’s not like that space is being filled by a ton of cutscenes or FMV anyways. Dante hardly speaks for most of his adventure and only barely starts to resemble the one-liner slinging bishonen we all know and love(?) by the end. Lucia’s story is shorter and even less coherent in that regard. I’m not going to pretend that story is something I look for in Devil May Cry games, but the way it is executed in this particular one is about as lazy and half-assed as possible. At no point does anyone say “Let’s Rock Baby!” in an unironic fashion. That is clearly a misstep.

The ultimate irony to all of this is that the same team went on to make DMC 3 and 4, the former of which I can confirm to still be totally awesome. Since the franchise is pretty much dead for another 5-8 years thanks to DmC: Devil May Cry, it might be fun to try to finish 1 and 4 somewhere down the line just so I can talk about the series as a whole, but for now I have…. *sigh* that Sonic RPG to play more of. Also Wizardry 6-8 are on sale on GOG, but today only. Here, have a speedrun of Might and Magic VIII, another underwhelming sequel (though still not bad at all). I'ma play Divekick now.

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I probably played video games this week and now I am going to write about them

Another week of unemployment means another week of me bumming around my house while my parents make passive-aggressive remarks about how I spend my time. If I was going back to school for the fall (I’m not) I’d probably be getting ready for that. But I’m not. So I don’t. Instead I play video games! Oh no. What am I doing with my life.

Might and Magic X Early Access

This screenshot that I took is proof that this game exists and isn't just the product of a particularly vivid dream that I had.

The mere fact that a game called “Might and Magic the tenth” actually exists is probably enough to cause me to foam at the mouth while my eyes roll back in my head and everything turns to blackness.It’s like if someone was making a new Resident Evil game in the classical style (oh wait, that’s happening sort of), or a sequel to Temple of Elemental Evil (that is never happening). I had fully expected the RPG branch of New World Computing’s signature franchise to languish in the gutter for all eternity while Heroes of Might and Magic got new installments every 5 years (I should probably play more Heroes VI. It’s actually quite excellent, though it’s no Heroes V) In any case; Ubisoft’s revival of those games I like a lot went into early access on Monday for the rather daunting price of $30 (which I paid, because I’m a bad person). Of course I had to get my refund for the broken, unplayable Realms of Arkania remake 5 minutes after purchasing it. This early access build comprises the entire first act of the game (around 20%), with only 4 of the 12 potential classes being accessible, one for each race. This is all part of the game’s “Open Development” initiative where they’re pretty much showing stuff to fans every step of the way (essentially like it was a kickstarter campaign without the kickstarter) only for someone to complain in broken English that it’s not exactly like the old games and is therefore garbage. Just remember, for as stupid as these forums can get at times, they’re still miles better than any Might and Magic forum I’ve ever been on. Those guys are the definition of an unpleasable fanbase, right next to those No Mutants Allowed guys. Oh right. Video games.

I spent that extra credit money on Divekick instead. Currently I'm thinking about maining Markman because upkicks.

From what I’ve played thus far, I’m impressed. Oh, it’s janky as hell, but unlike that aforementioned Realms of Arkania remake, at least it’s honest about being an incomplete mess. This early, clearly pre-alpha version of Might and Magic X feels like a Might and Magic game. Sure, there are some pretty bad Might and Magic games, but if what I’ve experienced in this early access version pans out to the rest of the game I will declare Ubisoft the winner of the universe. But what is Might and Magic X? It’s essentially a hybrid between the grid-based earlier games and the free roaming latter ones. You move around much as you would in World of Xeen (though perhaps a more modern comparison is Legend of Grimrock, albeit turn-based) but the character building more resembles Might and Magic VI-IX, with putting points in skills and upgrading them in the usual style of Novice > Expert > Master > Grandmaster, with each class having different restrictions on the levels of skills. I’ve been through a couple of dungeons thus far, and I’ll probably play through to the end. There are several obvious issues that need to be fixed (day/night cycle, weapon breakage rates, movement speed), but the game is coming out early next year, which will (hopefully) give the developers enough time to fix this stuff.

Other things:

I saw Elysium with my dad and sister. It has great visual design and premise, squandered by being rather predictable and extremely unsubtle with its social commentary. Hey, hey guys. We are the 99%, am I right?

The new Dishonored DLC is pretty great. I suggest that if you liked that game as much as I did (then again, I think I like that game more than most people) you should purchase this content for a sum of money.

I’m also playing that Sonic RPG. Why? Because I hate myself and it’s a gold mine for blogging material. I have Big the Cat in my party now, so I’m clearly going in the right direction. Will there be Chaos Emeralds? Probably. Will I always pick the dickish dialogue choices as Sonic, even though they don’t actually do anything? Yes. Will there continue to be annoying, semi-demanding timing-based RPG mechanics like it was a Mario RPG, but bad? Yes.

Oh right, I’m also also playing Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker now that I have the MGS HD collection and can play it with controls that aren’t garbage. Unsurprisingly it feels like an uprezzed PSP game

Clearly the even numbered game is the one I should play. Devil May Cry is like Star Trek, right?

I also also also played the first few levels of Devil May Cry 2 (because I also bought the DMC HD collection) so that will go great. Given how I thought Resident Evil 6 wasn’t as bad as it was cracked up to be, maybe I think the same about DMC 2. Oh wait, I fought a demon helicopter and beat it by standing in place and shooting it with pistols for 5 minutes straight. Nevermind, this game is garbage and feels like a second rate imitation of the rest of the series. Given that I’m already doing horrible things to myself with aforementioned Sonic RPG, I may as well go all the way down the hole and play this high quality video game as well. Oh sure, I could play the first game in order to prove that I am a stronger person than Brad Shoemaker, and sure, I could play Devil May Cry 3 again and do something crazy like use Gunslinger or Royal Guard, but I may as well continue this bad game kick I’m on until I end up playing Sonic 2006 or some other legendarily bad title.

Bayonetta

I feel like any sort of gameplay screenshot would fail to capture the true insanity at work here

Speaking of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is sort of that but dialed up to eleven (which makes sense, given that Platinum has plenty of Capcom alumni in their ranks)It’s a character action game with an emphasis on being as batshit crazy Japanese as humanly possible, and also I guess the action is pretty excellent as well. It’s not quite at technical as Devil May Cry, you can mash out damaging combos quite easily, but I somehow doubt it’s any less complex if those combo videos on youtube are any indication. It’s also far less brutal with its checkpointing, and given the number of times I died on most of the levels that is probably a good thing. While I died my fair share to some of the rather aggressive and damaging enemies, I usually got better ranks on the boss levels, since most of the bosses in the game aren’t actually all that tough, thanks to easily telegraphed attacks that you can dodge and slow-mo pummel the heck out of. If I have a complaint with the gameplay, it’s that a lot of the extra systems, weapons and even characters are hidden behind various prerequisites that I have no real chance of achieving because I’m not super great at these kinds of games. The camera, while mostly fine, sometimes messes up, and in a game that has as much happening on the screen as possible that is occasionally frustrating.

See? Can you understand anything that this screenshot is presenting you?

But let’s be honest, what makes Bayonetta stand out isn’t its high quality murdering-of-angels, the part that people care about is the part where you play as a sexy librarian witch lady and crazy shit is happening on-screen at all times. To say that the plot of Bayonetta is nonsensical is understatement. At no point does anyone actually say anything resembling coherency, the protagonist herself treats everything like a joke and at one point you surf a missile and it turns into Space Harrier (also Yuri Lowenthal is there, somewhere). I’ll probably get some flak for this, but it’s also a bit too much. I thought I had a pretty decent tolerance for the Japanese brand of chaotic self-aware insanity (I think Warioware and Excel Saga are pretty great), but Bayonetta is a constant assault on one’s senses, doing everything in such a way to let you know that it’s all deliberate and expecting you to nod your head and let it all wash over you in a flood of pseudo-religious imagery, goofy references to other video games, absurd stripper hair moves and cheeky british accents. That worked for a while, but it never lets up and the game is around 10 hours long. I’m clearly the one with the problem on this one, but by the end I found the game’s tone grating and try-hard rather than genuinely amusing or entertaining. That still doesn’t change the fact that it plays incredibly well, and it’s still not nearly as bad as the unironic bad high-school anime stylings of Valkyria Chronicles II or the “HEY LOOK HOW WACKY AND ANIME WE ARE” tone of Disgaea, but I feel like it deserves a mention if I’m giving a recommendation to someone else. So that’s why I wrote about it. 4 stars?

Well, that was a lot of writing, wasn’t it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch Brad brute-force his way through a video game with a combination of cheese tactics, seething rage and Vinny’s constant optimism in lieu of actually learning how to play it well.

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ArbitraryWater versus generic fantasy games

OR: I stop playing a game that I stopped enjoying, both to my own shock and that of others.

Well, now I've done it.

Oh hi internet. Short-term unemployment has its benefits, especially when you’re living at home and don’t have to pay for anything. One of these benefits is the ability to spend far too much time on dumb nerd stuff, like the video games, when your parents aren’t getting on your case about where direction you want to go in with one’s life. I’ve also started reading books again (The Emperor’s Soul is a nice, short story that exhibits Brandon Sanderson’s strengths as a writer. The Rithmatist does as well, but it also is dragged down by all of the dumb stuff that is part and parcel with Young Adult novels) and using the money I got from my previous job I’ve made poor life choices in regards to cheap Ebay purchases. I bought a copy of Soul Calibur 2 for the Gamecube, because Link is in it, and also that Bioware-developed Sonic RPG so I could write another blog where I mercilessly make fun of something. I’ve similarly come close to pulling the trigger on $30 copies of Suikoden V, a game that taunts me with its rarity despite the part where I’m intimidated by lengthy JRPGs and still haven’t finished Chrono Cross. Money is a dangerous thing. That I know for sure. But hey, video games that I’ve owned for a while!

Kingdoms of Amalur is an ok fantasy game

Not generic at all!

And not much more. You may recall me giving it an honorable mention in my GOTY blog of last year, but that was only 15 hours in. Now, at around 40 hours and nearing the end of the main questline (to not even talk about the dozens of side-quests that I’ve deliberately ignored and also The House of Sorrows), I think I may have reached my limit. It’s a mechanically solid game with a lot of smart ideas regarding combat and character building but it doesn’t execute on them well enough to last for its entire length, and the other aspects of the game (i.e. the world and the writing in general) don’t pick up the slack well enough to make me want to slog through another dozen or so hours of tediously easy button mashing just so I can claim to have finished a game I think ran out of steam a dozen hours previous. In essence, it would be better if it were 2/3rds as long, had better loot, more nuanced combat and wasn’t as easily exploitable. All things that a sequel could fix, but… well… you know the likelihood of that. Thanks Obama Curt Schilling.

Definitely not a single-player MMO!

But I’ll back up a bit. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the only game that was ever put out by 38 Studios (developed by the also defunct Big Huge Games) and will probably be the only true legacy of all the insanity that studio went through last year. It is one of two open-world RPGs with heavy emphasis on combat that came out in 2012, but unlike Dragon’s Dogma and its indefinite cross between Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and maybe the Elder Scrolls, the influences of KoA are far more distinct and easily recognizable. The game is basically a single-player MMO with God of War-esque combat and color-coded loot with prefixes like it was Diablo. The world is split into zones, all full of individuals with exclamation marks above their heads indicating that you should go to X and kill X or otherwise be someone’s glorified errand boy, but there are also some elder scrolls-like guild questlines and a main story that you’ll probably forget exists most of the time. On paper, all of this sounds alright. On paper. In actuality, the world is sort of boring and generic and at some point I started to ignore most of the extraneous dialogue that the game offered to me. While there were a few quests here and there that I found to be interesting and well-written, the vast majority of them are pretty forgettable tasks from lazy peasants who can’t bother to do anything themselves. I didn’t necessarily take this as an issue, since story is probably the most ignorable part of this game, and unlike something like say… Valkyria Chronicles II, it was never aggressively bad enough to earn any sort of major reprimand from me.

Something that I appreciated about the otherwise middling Jade Empire was that the “evil” solutions often revolved around telling people to solve their own goddamn problems instead of making you do all their busy work. Amalur could’ve really used some more of that.

For me, a bad story isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, and initially Reckoning’s gameplay is pretty neat. You have a pretty flexible character development system that allows for easy respec-ing and a combat system that allows for combo-based enemy beating. And, early on, it worked for me. Playing on hard with a Finesse/Magic hybrid character, I was better off dodging attacks and throwing chakrams than directly engaging against enemies capable of taking off chunks of my health and stunning me out of attack animations. But at some point around that 20 hour mark the tables started to turn and I started to steamroll most of what opposed me. This is partially because the game overlevels you with all of the various quests it throws at you, but also because you can start socketing “+2 health regen per second” gems in most of your armor and become virtually unkillable as a result. It also didn’t hurt that I switched my character over to the “Jack of All Trades” hybrid archetype and enjoyed all of the damage-boosting and survivability benefits that came with it. And that was pretty fun, for a while. But around today I… finally just got bored of it. I’ve been using the same weapons for the last 4 or so hours because the loot drops are sort of bad, I have an inordinate amount of gold because there’s rarely anything to spend it on and I can sort of win all of the combat by pressing X a bunch, possibly with my eyes closed. I’ve proven that I will finish games for the sake of finishing them, but you know what? I think I’m good. While excessive grinding is sometimes cathartic for me, I still have Bayonetta and Devil Survivor to finish and I’d much rather spend my time on those then deal with whatever excitement no doubt awaits me at the end of Kingdoms of Amalur. Will I defeat the Tuatha? Will I defy fate? Will I possibly press X a bunch after using that ability that makes it so I ignore hitstun? Who knows? Not I. Not I.

But, to not end this blog on a downer, here’s something that I did like:

Quest for Glory is a surprisingly decent fantasy game

Just remember to type FEED BEAR and you'll be good. Oh wait, I played the VGA version because text parsers are scary.

I finished (the VGA version of) Quest for Glory with some mild cheating involved, which is to say that I sometimes used a guide because old adventure games sure do love them some obscure and retarded puzzle solutions, especially when Sierra is concerned. That being said, as far as Sierra games go, it’s actually pretty straightforward and logical in the way it presents its puzzles (which makes me assume that Roberta Williams had no real hand in this title) and the addition of RPG elements and different classes actually makes the game far more interesting than it otherwise would be. It still trades a lot on deliberately bad puns and a decidedly goofy sense of humor, but I’ll admit that some of the parts of the game got a chuckle out of me for as antiquated as any sort of reference to Monty Python or that Jim Henson puppet dinosaur show could be. The way the classes are laid out seems rather clever, and playing as a Thief, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the puzzle solutions involved sneaking past things or stealing junk. Oh sure, I still skimmed a guide because my time is valuable and I don’t feel like drawing a map, but if there was a Sierra adventure game series that holds up the least poorly, QFG may be it. We’ll find out… once I finish the other 4 games in the series, which thankfully is mostly relegated to the DOS era and only the final game in the series looking like it fell out of 1998. I’m going to see how long it takes before I resort to a guide for (the VGA version of) QFG2. I’m guessing like an hour, given the way that the streets are laid out.

But to really not end this blog on a dour note, here's a speedrun of Temple of Elemental Evil done in 4 minutes. You're welcome.

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A blog about some random games

Oh hi there. How’s it going? Pretty well for me, having just finished up a temporary job with the IT guys at my dad’s work, with another job opportunity lined up in the future.Ah, sporadic, temporary employment. As long as I don’t have to regain my job of the previous summer (Starts with “Frozen-Dairy Associate”, ends with “Worldwide retail chain ending in –Mart”) I’m pretty content to do whatever, as long as human contact is minimal. But oh right, I’m home and therefore have access to an Xbox again. Thus I played games on something other than my computer! Huzzah.

Shadowrun Returns

Mages can throw hadoukens, and that's pretty awesome.

I’ll get this out of the way first. I’ve written exactly two formal reviews on this site. The first is for the exceptionally abysmal Oblivion DLC “The Orrey”. The second is for the XBLA version of Banjo-Kazooie. Both were written years ago back before I did this blogging thing, and both are kind of poorly-written. But for some reason, I felt the need to write a formal review for Shadowrun Returns. You can read it, if you want. I didn’t feel the need to throw in pictures, so I hope you like reading. I’ll just throw in some additional commentary here. I gave it 3 stars because I didn’t find the main game all that impressive, and I think it unfair to judge a game based on what it potentially could be, based on things the developer had no hand in creating. I understand that Harebrained Schemes is working on another campaign set in Berlin (it’s teased as much) with a more open ended structure, and I’m interested to see how that ends up, perhaps being the Hordes of the Underdark if we want to continue this Neverwinter Nights analogy. You should probably wait for a sale though. For $10, I’d say this game is something of a steal (though I feel the need to mention that you could get say… Fallout or Baldur’s Gate for the same price) and if the toolset is robust enough I can see a great future for this game. Also, the soundtrack is pretty great, as is the art design.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked

Atsuro and Yuzu aren't exactly the brightest of teenage companions, so I'm eagerly anticipating the point in the story where I betray them or something. Also boobs.

I grabbed a copy of this game on the cheap, figuring that I could get my Shin Megami Tensei fix without having to pay the full $50 for SMT IV or feel the continual guilt of having never finished Nocturne (I WILL SOMEDAY. Really.) You know, for as much flack as Capcom gets for re-releasing improved versions of their games that I unapologetically purchase, Atlus is arguably just as bad in that regard. In fact, the reason why I bought this game instead of playing the copy of Devil Survivor 2 that I already own is because I found out they’re making an “enhanced” version of DS2 as well and I am a bad person. Also, you may recall Devil Survivor as one of @Video_Game_King’s least favorite things in the universe and I figure if he can take forever to play that copy of Might and Magic VII I gave to him, he can deal with me playing this and enjoying it so far. The story of you and your asshole friends being trapped in Tokyo but also Demons seems intriguing, and as a hybrid of turn-based tactics games and the typical SMT combat, Devil Survivor already seems sort of awesome. Between building optimal teams capable of covering most elements to taking advantage of passive abilities, I’ve enjoyed the 8 or so hours I’ve messed with so far. Keep in mind that I haven’t gotten to the parts of the game that people call “Absurdly, unfairly hard with just a splash of too much grinding”, so it’s very possible that I’ll change my mind. Or I’ll go for the bad ending because it’s the easiest. We’ll see.

Bayonetta

I feel like any actual screenshot would be incomprehensible.

For some reason, I hadn’t played this game until now. This was a serious mistake, and I have now rectified it. Bayonetta is basically a crazier, sassier Devil May Cry and given my love of DMC 3 (and the new one, to a lesser extent) I’m enjoying it. The story seems like complete nonsense, but that’s ok because it’s aware of how nonsensical it is? I dunno. I thought I could take the Japanese brand of crazy after watching all of Excel Saga, but apparently my tolerance is still pretty low as I see how over-the-top this game goes. I had always heard spectacular things, and thus far I think those people are probably right. It’s a bit less technical and brutal than DMC3, but it still rewards skillful play, and the part where time slows down if you dodge an attack is a nice touch and makes the game a lot more forgiving and less rage inducing. Will I like it more than New Devil May Cry? MAYBE YOU’LL FIND OUT AT SOME POINT.

FTL

The Zoltan Cruiser seems alright

I also played a bunch of FTL since ere I last blogged. Did you know that game is still awesome? I’d been playing here and there since it came out last year, but I think my breakthrough came when I unlocked a few more of the ships and finally beat the stupid, stupid, stupid Rebel Flagship with the Crystal Cruiser. I still hate it, but I think knowing it was defeatable was enough to incentivze more play. I’m still missing the mantis and slug cruisers, but once I get those I think I’ll start consistently playing on normal. The idea of someone beating the game with either variant of the Stealth Cruiser or Engi Cruiser B seems rather foreign, but if people on youtube can do it, it’s clearly possible.

Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny.

The remake that someone had to ask for, at some point. Probably in German.

No, the remake. The one that came out this week apparently? The one that didn't have a page until I submitted it? I forgot that I bought it, but it already seems alienating and confusing, so I can conclude that it is a faithful remake. More to come?

And that’s it for now folks. Remember that winners don’t use drugs, speedruns for charity are the best thing ever, and apparently Bubsy 3D was a game that existed at some point in time. Also Sonic 2006.

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I play modern games and apologize thusly (Resident Evil 6)

As of June 29th (which coincidentally happened to be when I posted my previous blog) I have been doing this for 4 years. What. I… what? Man. Starting from a rather basic write-up about how Goldeneye was ok despite having aged rather poorly, to that time I accidentally talked about fighting games and it blew up in my face, to that time (last week) where some prick said I came off as an “over-privileged teenager” because I didn’t especially like Jade Empire, I’ve written a lot of these, guys, and I’m not stopping yet. Blogging has been a reliable constant between me being in high-school, starting college, doing poorly in college and now taking a break from college so I can figure out what I want to do with my life. I’d also like to express my appreciation for Ryan Davis, another constant in my life whose presence has sadly been cut short, leaving a hole in Giant Bomb, like a cake without someone to sit on it, or a metaphor without a comparison that makes sense. Other people have said it better and more eloquently than me, so I’ll stop there. I'll miss you Ryan Davis, for as much as I can miss someone I've never met.

Also video games:

Yes I have moved on to playing Chrono Cross, no that blog isn’t going to be for a while. The only thing I can say for certain at this point is that I like it so far, but I’m also clearly not that far in. I get the impression that Chrono Cross isn’t incredibly long the way some PS1-era JRPGs are (it’s no Dragon Quest VII, for example), but I still fully expect to spend more time than desired on this particular game.

I'll give you a hint: Pick Autocracy. No one has ever gone wrong with that philosophy, no siree.

Unlike Gods and Kings, whose biggest additions were two mechanics from previous Civ games and some small but important tweaks to combat and diplomacy, Brave New World seems to be more interested in fundamental changes aimed at making the endgame more interesting as well as adding civilizations that benefit from these changes, such as Brazil being geared towards the new cultural victory (double tourism output during a golden age) and Morocco getting larger bonuses from trade routes. Venice is probably the most interesting civ, since they can’t settle new cities and can only expand through puppet states. While this would seem a crippling handicap, they also get double the number of trade routes and have unique great merchants who get double bonuses from trade missions and are also capable of annexing city-states. Between these and the ability to purchase units in puppet states, I had an inordinate amount of money by the end of my game, allied with every city-state and capable of pumping out armies for absurdly low prices. Between all of these things, I think it safe to say that I’ll be putting a couple dozen more hours into Civ V in the near future.

But that’s not what you came for.

I attempt to explain my thoughts about a video game:

Much like me giving Dragon Age 2 the light of day, I feel the need to preface this with "Sorry?"

I don’t hate Resident Evil 6. Despite everything that convinced me to wait for the price to drop to $20, despite its blatant, overbearing problems, I’ve mostly enjoyed my time with it. Hell, I’ll go one step further and say that I liked it more than Dead Space 3, a mediocre slog that will only be remembered as a footnote to the first two games, and also that part where the moon was a necromorph.At least when Resident Evil 6 is bad, it’s not from a lack of trying. And try it does. Oh, it’s misguided both from what influences it takes from big-budget western games and from what it takes from the Resident Evil franchise as a whole, but as an expensive, big dumb action game I had my moments with it.

Despite being touted as the first Resident Evil game with both Chris and Leon... they have exactly two scenes together

And that’s really what it should be called. Resident Evil 4 may have brought the series into the realm of modernity, but it was still a very deliberately paced title that still used a lot of series hallmarks and had a gloomy atmosphere on top of that. Resident Evil 5 added co-op and thus removed a lot of the slower, quieter moments with only one real puzzle to speak of, but the shooting still created tension and encouraged a slow, deliberate style of play. Resident Evil 6 says “Eff that noise, here are explosions. Also you can roll?” Ok, that’s a bit reductive, because of the way that the stories are split. Leon’s campaign is probably the closest to the older Resident Evil games, Chris’ campaign wants to be Gears of War, Jake’s campaign has a bunch of poorly-conceived set-pieces and Ada’s campaign is more puzzle focused. All of them have explosions and QTE sequences at some point.Jake and Sherry probably have the worst lot of the bunch, with some particularly terrible forced stealth and vehicle sequences sandwiched in-between them being chased by a guy who definitely isn’t Nemesis and those parts were probably my least favorite… until I started Ada’s campaign and realized that her stuff was probably the worst. Leon and Chris have it relatively better in that department, a rather hilarious and out of place sequence where Chris fights a giant invisible snake notwithstanding (the only way that would've been ok is if Chris mentioned his previous experience fighting giant zombie snakes). Still, the game loves itself some insta-death QTEs in a world where games have finally, finally started moving past “press X to not die”. I should probably note that they made QTEs easier at some point than they were at launch, but that doesn’t mean that some of them weren’t a bit too much.

The part where you're stuck in a snowstorm? Probably the worst part... until you get to the rest of that chapter. I'll go as far as to call Jake chapter 2 the worst part of the entire game.

The combat is sort of bad but I like it anyways? Oh, it’s still Resident Evil inasmuch as melee attacks and aiming for the head are incentivized, but you can still dump like a madman and get away with it for the most part. The real problem comes from the part where the camera is too close to your character. While from the outside this seems like a rather superfluous thing, not being able to see enemies behind you is rather crippling. Add the swimmy camera and the non-laser sight based aiming and you can understand why my initial reaction to this game was unflinchingly negative. But then I got used to the controls and the way the shooting worked and I will fully admit to sort of liking it. At least Capcom tried something different, between the larger focus on recoil, the way you can defensively roll and the quick shot. Does it necessarily work out all the way? No. No it does not, for reasons any given negative review can tell you about. Melee attacks will sometimes miss despite the prompt showing, zombies love to jump on you for a guaranteed one damage and the part where you sometimes have to take cover is sort of crummy.

The story is well produced with motion-captured actors doing far better performances talking about B.O.W.s and similar insanity than RE6 probably deserved. Between Leon being snarky, Chris being incredibly angry, Jake being Troy Baker and Ada being mysterious and sassy… I have to admit that it works. Better than Revelations’ bizarre story at any rate. Not exactly Oscar-winning material, but this is proof that raw money can make something inherently dumb into something watchable. I don’t even care that some crucial plot details are hidden away as bonus content. Resident Evil stories have always required a bit of irony to enjoy and the absurdity involving a clone of Ada and Jake being Wesker’s son are just par for the course in my book. Neo Umbrella. Just saying.

And that’s about it. I’m not going to pretend that RE6 is a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a certain elegance to its badness that I’ve latched onto. That, or I subconsciously conditioned myself to not hate this game because it has the Resident Evil name, which also seems quite possible at this point. Either way, with that RE 1.5 restoration project moving ahead quite nicely, it’s safe to say that even those who disliked this game have something with that name to look forward to again.

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I play old games (Jade Empire) OR: The Consequences of Democracy

This is the face of unemployment crossed with a lack of friends in town. Oh well, going home for the 4th will be good.

No preamble this time. I did it. I played the game you people voted for. After the 12(!) hours it took me to beat this game, I can confirm that Jade Empire is indeed a RPG of questionable quality. Ok, that's maybe a little harsh. It's fine, and I might even go as far as to say that certain aspects of it are great: It has an unique setting as far as video games are concerned with some pretty great art direction and some well-done supporting characters. However, in the grand pantheon of Bioware games it's nothing special. Oh, I'm sure that Sonic RPG is still a piece of work (and now I feel the sudden urge to play that and mock it relentlessly), but as it stands now Jade Empire is my least favorite Bioware game*. And that's... fine. Not every game has to be a winner, and I'm still glad I played it.

This can partially be blamed on simple perspective. Had I played this game in 2005 when it came out and KotOR was still my favorite game of all-time, I bet I would've liked it a lot more than I did now. But I was a Nintendo kid, and thus did not have an "Xbox The First", leaving me with nothing but KotOR II to sate my need for RPGs. By the time the PC version of this game came out (two years later) I had moved on to being really obsessed with Oblivion and sort of regretting the purchase of my Wii. Oh, and Mass Effect came out. While that game wasn't the second-coming of RPGs for me the way it was for some people, it still stands that my opinion has been colored by the story-focused RPGs that have come since, be they from Bioware, Obsidian or CD Projekt RED. Doesn't help that I just played Mask of the Betrayer too, if we're just going to throw in everything.

Who doesn't love a villain that never really shows up and doesn't ever earn his menacing reputation on-screen?

Stop me if you've heard this before: You are an individual of humble origin thrust out of your home after violence occurs. You are the only one who can save the Jade Empire because you are special (the last of the spirit monks) and because of that you are hounded by the forces of (obvious) evil. Along the way you pick up a group of colorful companions who are probably romance-able (bonus points here for being the first Bioware game with homosexual romances and also you can apparently have a threesome?). Sounds familiar? Yeah. Jade Empire's world is what stands out more than its main story, borrowing heavily from Imperial China and a bunch of other Asian mythologies that don't get their just due in Video Games and for that I will give it points. Also to its credit, the late-game twist in Jade Empire subverts this to a degree: Your life, up to that point, was all part of an orchestrated plot by your master to get revenge on his brother, the emperor and gain the throne himself. And then he kills you (but of course you don't stay dead). I'd say that's about on-par with "You are Darth Revan", and maybe just as obvious in hindsight.

Apparently there are good demons in the world of Jade Empire. My character didn't take so kindly to this one.

I played the game "Closed Fist", which the game tries to pretend is motivated self-interest instead of just Chaotic Evil, but yeah, it's still binary moral choice with all the subtlety of an anvil and significantly more interesting than playing the role of the Lawful Good "Open Palm" character. Much like KotOR, perhaps suspiciously so, there comes an end-game moment where all of your party members realize that your murderous psychopathic behavior actually meant something and you can force them into your service against their own wills. Also you can poison the waters of the empire and seize the godlike power of the Water Dragon for your own evil ends! Because you're evil. I feel like there are some companions you can convince to your way of thinking, but I guess I didn't talk with them enough for that, or any romance, to happen. Your companions are interesting on their own merits if a bit one-dimensional (the sacrifice of one party-member feels rather unearned, to be honest), though I appreciate the little girl with two demons inside her. That's pretty great.

I'll give you a hint: It's not the elephant.

You'll notice that I haven't even mentioned the gameplay. That's because it's terrible but also easy. As long as your character has a decently fast attack style you can get through 90% of Jade Empire's combat by mashing the A button and occasionally pressing X when you need to break someone's block. There's no real nuance to be found. Just pick the handful of styles that allow you to keep your enemies constantly hitstunned and go from there. It's also a pity that you get some of the more interesting styles, like Viper and Red Minister, near the end of the game when you've already put points into the same styles you've been using since the beginning of the game. Similarly, there's no subtlety to stat building. All three stats are important enough that you might as well keep them evenly balanced, unless you really didn't care about using Chi strikes, or whatever. Your party members aren't capable of doing any sort of appreciable damage, which is why you should keep them set to "Support" at all times, where they can constantly restore your health/spirit/focus. I also need to mention the Storm Dragon style, the description of which implies that it does damage over time, but really just stuns the enemy for an absurdly long time, allowing you to beat them with impunity. It works on the final boss too, which is probably the saddest/most hilarious part. You can also equip gems, but most of them just add to your stats or conversation skills, with only a few having really interesting effects.

I am being entirely serious when I say that the game would be way better if John Cleese was in it for longer

And then there's the thing where the game is short. I beat it in 12 hours, with only a few passing glances at walkthroughs to see if I missed anything super-important. There are only two major hub areas in the game, the imperial city and Tien's Landing, both feel tiny and constrained, though still packed with their fair share of Bioware-esque sidequests (The best of which is probably a debate about whose culture is superior with a stereotypical european white-male conqueror voiced by John Cleese.) Once you get past those two areas, the game is pretty much over and is soul-crushingly linear from then on. It doesn't surprise me at all that the game can be beaten in 2 1/2 hours if you were to critical path everything. Then again, I'm not sure if making the game much longer would actually make it much better, given the combat. But of course, if I wanted more Bioware writing, I could find better writing in most of their other games.

Because that's the thing: Everything that Jade Empire does has been done better in most other RPGs, those made by Bioware and otherwise. I don't think it's terrible by any means, but no game exists in a vacuum. I'd like to hear arguments from the people who voted for this game why it's so special, because I'm really not seeing most of it, though I do see enough potential that I would be very interested if Bioware ever made a sequel (unlikely). Hopefully my next blog won't be for a while, either because Chrono Cross is long or because I find a job. Either would be acceptable to me, the latter moreso than the former. And that's it. Don't do drugs! Unless you have to in order to not die/hate yourself, like me. Then... do them. Also, before I forget: The steam version of this game is messed up and if you don't want to do a bunch of tinkering with permissions and have to run steam in administrator mode, probably get it from GOG.

*: A case could be made to me that Neverwinter Nights is secretly the worst game Bioware has made, given its atrociously boring original campaign, but I feel like it earns a better spot in my mind between Hordes of the Underdark, the multiplayer and the wide number of fan modules that have been released.

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I play sort of old games (Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer)

I also played Costume Quest, but that game is too shallow and brief to deserve more than this passing mention

Oh hi there. Didn’t expect me to come back so soon, did you? Well, guess what. Expansion packs are short and I still haven’t found a job in the last… 5 days since I wrote that other NWN2 blog. As you may have seen on the forums, I have an ongoing poll about which questionable console RPG I should play next after finishing this one. While Jade Empire has maintained a strong lead since the poll’s inception, it’s apparently not very friendly with 64-bit Windows and thus doesn’t recognize steam. If any of you want to give me a straight answer on how to fix it, or gift me a copy of the GOG version I’ll still play it,(EDIT:Fixed) but as for now the real battle is between Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy XII international since those are games I know will work.

If the original campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 was the archetypical D&D fantasy adventure (done well, I might add), then Mask of the Betrayer is pretty much the opposite of that on all counts while still clearly being a D&D game. It doesn’t take place on the Sword Coast, you aren’t fighting a great evil, andthere are no gruff dwarves to be seen. Instead, it takes place in the eastern Viking/Mysticism nation of Rashamen (I’d really just have to read the Forgotten Realms handbook to figure out what its deal is), you’re trying to figure out why you’re halfway across the world and also why you really need to devour all of these spirits, and your party members are all pretty unconventional (Red Wizard, Hagspawn, Half-Celestial, Spirit Bear or totally evil hive-mind of spirits inhabiting the husk of the spirit bear). If this is starting to sound a bit like Planescape or KotOR 2, you’d be right. It’s a more thoughtful, contemplative game and while it doesn’t straight up dissect tropes of the source material the two games previously mentioned, it’s still subversive in the way it handles them.

If you're a good guy, Okku the spirit bear joins your party. If you're not, you devour his soul and use his remains to host a group of clearly evil spirits

But unlike Planescape, Mask of the Betrayer still remembers that it’s a game and not an interactive novel (and unlike KotOR 2, it has an ending and I don’t kind of hate it). It’s far darker and gloomier than any D&D game in recent memory and at no point are you indulging the crazy gnome in your party to form an alliance with invisible giants who live in the sky. This is seen in the soundtrack and the visuals, but is most present in the opening premise: You wake up disoriented on the other side of the world, most of your party members from the first game are implied (then explicitly stated) to be dead (removing the suspension of disbelief that death actually matters in a world where the True Resurrection spell exists) and all you feel is an endless hunger for souls. It’s a great way to start off, and like Planescape the majority of the game revolves around investigating what happened to you and why you need to devour all of the delicious souls you come in contact with. To be honest, it treats its connections with the base game rather loosely, and other than some brief cameos of and references to your old party members there’s not much of a connection between them (so basically, just like KotOR 2). Ergo, you could play this expansion without playing the base game and not miss much, though my opinion still stands that the Original campaign is still worth playing…once. This? I feel like I should do another playthrough of this game because it’s shorter and because the choices are far more pronounced. I didn’t get to see much of Kaelyn the Dove because I played my chaotic-neutral character in such a way that she quickly became chaotic-evil (which I assumed a half-celestial being would be less than cool with) and then there’s the choice between the noble spirit bear Okku and the clearly evil One-of-Many and so on and so forth.

Have I mentioned the companions yet? Because they’re the clearest example of how much better the writing generally is than regular NWN2. Because there are only 5 of them, they’re all fleshed out and have active roles in the places you go as opposed to say… Grobnar or Casavir. It’s also much easier to gain influence with them and get whatever backstory-relevant information you want without having to open the console and cheat. There’s sadly not a whole lot of interplay between them like there is in vanilla NWN2, but that’s the price I’ll pay for all of them being interesting. It’s not just the companions either, I’d go as far as to say that Mask of the Betrayer is one of the best-written CRPGs ever made. There’s a reason why the project lead on this game (George Zeits) was a stretch goal for both Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera. It’s the kind of thing where I don’t want to give examples because it’s really worth looking at for yourself and because then I’d be spoiling the best part of the game.

It’s still a game, by the way. I still think the Neverwinter Nights engine can’t handle group tactical combat with any sort of precision the way the Infinity Engine or Temple of Elemental Evil could, and much like the Original Campaign, not much precision is required. Since your characters are at epic levels they have more than their fair share of level 9 (and epic) spells on hand to deal with everything, which is also a good thing since resting is finally penalized in a way it wasn’t before. Since your character is constantly hungering for souls, they need to constantly devour them or suffer pretty significant penalties. Consuming too many souls increases your craving for them which increases the depletion of your soul meter which requires you to devour more souls to keep it topped off. It’s an annoyance and an inconvenience, but since you can eat the souls of almost any enemy you encounter if you’re evil (or suppress your hunger if you’re good) it’s not game-breaking in any sense. But seriously, the camera is inexcusably terrible and along with D&D fatigue is one of the reasons I’m asking the internet to recommend me questionable JRPGs instead of moving on to Storm of Zehir.

Alright. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to seriously think about playing Chrono Cross. I would've put more screenshots in, but this editor is being uncooperative.

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I play sort of old games (Neverwinter Nights 2)

It’s been… like a month? Good news: I’m done with school for at least another semester. Bad News: I still don’t have a job lined up for this downtime. I could really use a job. Hopefully one of the applications I’ve filled out will go through, but if not… that means even more time for stupid video games than I anticipated, which is probably a bad thing since I’d like a social life and sitting alone on a computer for several hours a day is a great way of convincing oneself that getting into Pathfinder is a good and not terrible idea (though I guess I’d have a social life of some sort if I did that, albeit a twisted dark reflection of one). Regardless, when I wasn’t studying for my one final of note, I played some vidja games. I beat Baldur’s Gate and imported my character into BG2, so that will eventually be a blog, but before that happens I’ll tell you about a different, not-seminal D&D game: Neverwinter Nights 2.

Easily twice as good as the first Neverwinter Nights. Probably?

I should preface this by saying this blog is only about the Original Campaign for NWN2. I haven’t started Mask of the Betrayer yet and everything on the internet seems to point towards it being Obsidian doing the things that it does best and that this base campaign is only decent by comparison. On its own merits, the original campaign for NWN2 is an enjoyable, straightforward D&D adventure that isn’t especially difficult or subtle. Oh, it’s still leagues better than what I played of the original campaign of Neverwinter Nights the first, perhaps the most boring and generic Bioware single-player ever made, though I feel like it’s common knowledge that the best things about that game were the abundance of fan-modules and the multiplayer (also: Hordes of the Underdark, apparently).

Is it as good as anything on the Infinity Engine? Probably not, though it is the most expansive incarnation of D&D 3rd edition in video games*. This is an advantage that cannot be overlooked, since it’s the only game to use 3.5 and contain both Subraces and Prestige Classes. That means you can have your chaotic good Drow Ranger multiclass to a wizard and maybe take a few levels of Arcane Archer while you’re at it. When compared to the last 3rd edition game I wrote about, it’s a definite step up from Icewind Dale II’s incredibly limited selection of feats and skills.

Fire Gensai. Not quite worth a +1 level adjustment despite being on fire.

But I really should get on to the game itself. You start from humble origins, darkness comes in search of plot mcguffins and eventually you find out the that an ancient evil has awakened and only you can stop it. Along the way you pick up a cast of colorful characters with their own distinct personalities and you solve their personal problems in addition to the problem threatening the entire Sword Coast. Obviously I’m simplifying it a bit, but it still stands that the story of Neverwinter Nights 2 is something of a roller-coaster, in that even though one can see most of the twists ahead, the ride itself is still enjoyable. This is in part to the game being made by Obsidian, a developer capable of quality writing and characterization even when forced into recognizable archetypes.

Hey, remember that time I tried to do a let's play blog series on this before getting tired of my old computer's awful load times? Yeahh....

Indeed, the supporting cast of NWN 2 is quite strong, mostly because they all kind of hate each other. Even getting past the axiomatically opposed pairings of Qara and Sand, Casavir and Bishop, Ammon Jerro and Zhjaeve, there’s a general sense that pretty much everyone in your party would murder the others in their sleep if not for your presence and that’s something I like in RPGs (incidentally, Dragon Age II is another great example of this trope). Your party members themselves are a bit inconsistent in how they’re fleshed out. Some, like Khelgar, have entire subquests devoted to them while others, like Grobnar, get at most a few influence checks. I imagine this stems from a KotOR 2-esqe amount of cut content, and while this game actually has an ending it’s not hard to see where stuff could be missing (also the ending is deliberately vague, but I imagine that gets addressed in Mask of the Betrayer). Also the influence system is dumb and it seems like some dialogue options are clearly not available without a very specific guide or cheating.

Important moral choices

The combat is… not demanding. That’s not to say that you can close your eyes and expect the game to do everything for you (due in part to the rather… challenged AI scripting), but on the Core Rules difficulty (which makes fireballs have friendly fire) you can get by without a ton of pausing and micromanaging like you would in an infinity engine game, partially due to the scads upon scads of buffs you can cast on your party members to make them kill things more effectively and partially due to the way death is handled. Being knocked down to zero hp only knocks party members unconscious, thus you can get away with playing sloppy since there’s no penalty for resting either. Despite that, there are a few solo sequences I would imagine would be hard if you made your character a Deep Gnome wizard, or whatever. I guess I’ll have to see if Storm of Zehir delivers on being that tactical party-based iteration of NWN that it claims to be, so we’ll see how that one goes when I get to that point.

The actual dungeoneering is decent, though you’ll have more than enough money by the end of the game to both fully upgrade your stronghold and buy whatever absurdly expensive items you fancy, though the crafting and enchanting systems are powerful enough that you could just make whatever powerful items you preferred (though it bears mention that the crafting system is just awkward and cumbersome enough that it may be motivation for the player to stick with the premade stuff instead of say… a +5 flaming Bastard Sword made of Cold Iron.) Also, having played enough Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 to remember how open those games are, NWN 2 is pretty linear. You always know what you’re supposed to be doing and the only difference that is made is in what order you do them. There are also a few sidequests here and there, but not a whole ton in general. Kind of a bummer on that front though I imagine that makes for pretty decent multiplayer, actually.

It also bears mentioning that Neverwinter Nights 2 is not a very pretty game. While some of the spell effects are nice, the character models are not. Just the hair selection alone is reason enough to either make your character bald or constantly wearing a hat of some sort. The soundtrack is good, though it’s not quite Jeremy Soule (who did the soundtrack for the first game, funnily enough) and the voice actors deliver their lines well. All in all, what one would expect from Obsidian. Speaking of what one would expect from Obsidian, the game randomly crashed a few times and failed to give me a bonus feat granted by my class (favored souls are supposed to get proficiency in their deity’s favored weapon), which meant I had to add it in with the console instead. All in all, I enjoyed my time with this game quite a bit, but what I’m really interested in is Mask of the Betrayer, the game everyone calls “A really good RPG”. So you can expect that in a time-frame. Until then: don’t die, eat your vegetables and keep on playing games that came out like 6 years ago.

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ArbitraryWater vs Sea Zombies

Hey, how's it going? I beat a video game and in celebration of that momentous occasion I wrote about it. But, as per usual, other games.

Baldur's Gate

This game was a big deal. Considering that the last D&D game that interplay put out before this was Descent to Undermountain, there was nowhere to go but up.

I wrote about Baldur's Gate a little over two years ago (which frightens me quite a bit), but for some reason felt compelled to play it again despite the half-dozen other lengthy RPGs that I should theoretically be playing through. Sure, on that playthrough I kind of bum-rushed through the last third of the game, ignored all of the Tales of the Sword Coast content and never actually beat Sarevok, but I'd still count it as beating the game... technically. Nope. It is my intent with this playthrough to make a character worthy of importing into Baldur's Gate II, which I haven't played in years and never actually beat either. With the rest of the infinity engine now conquered I should probably get back to the one I started with and possibly ruin my childhood memories in the process. Also because it's almost summer and I'm not taking any classes next semester, though hopefully I'll at least get a job.

As for the game itself, I think I like it more than when I played it last time. While everything I said in that last blog is still valid, I think the wilderness exploration aspect is kind of great at encompassing the tone and style of low-mid level D&D. The personalities of your party members aren't as fleshed out as they would become in later Bioware games (starting with BGII) but that fits with the deliberately generic tone they're going for. You aren't doing anything particularly epic, progression is significant enough that a level-up is a noteworthy occurrence and +2 items are extremely useful. I'm not done yet, but don't expect anything more in regards to this game until I finish BG2 and make some sort of comparison blog between the two games (and Throne of Bhaal). Bonus points for having my main character be far more useful than I expected, even as a Fighter/Mage/Thief, a class I've set as a target of ridicule in the past. Second edition backstabs are also absurdly powerful if you can get them off. Triple damage against a wizard who just got all of his protections dispelled is an effective and viable tactic with only a few points in hide (or an opportune use of the invisibility spell).

Resident Evil Revelations HD Remix Turbo Arcade Edition Dark Arisen

What exactly is being revealed?

As the best Resident Evil game to be released in 2012, it begs the question "Arbitrary, we know you're a crazy person who has played all of the old Resident Evil games why has it taken this long for you to play this one? You bought the $90 RE5 collector’s edition for goodness sake!" Well, first off I didn't own a 3DS until a few months ago (and at that point I knew this version was coming out) and second of all I was stupid when I was a sophomore because I bought collector's editions of video games (still have that Fallout 3 lunchbox somewhere). That stuff aside, I think I've soured a bit on the Resident Evil franchise since those heydays, even without having played RE6. In the original draft of this blog I had a lengthy rant explaining why, but I decided to cut it because it was incoherent. The gist of it was that Resident Evil has a weird identity crisis and doesn't know what it wants to be and even though I still like all of the newer games (that I've played) I question the draw that the franchise has anymore.

Nothing like a bit of gratuitous cleavage to really emphasize that the new characters are all sort of silly. Did I mention that she turns into a monster and still has all of that sideboob?

With that out of the way, Resident Evil Revelations is an alright game. While aspects of it being a portable game still show through, most evidently in the graphical department, it's a solid entry in the franchise and a decent way to spend one's time. Before I get to the gameplay, It should be mentioned that the title itself is absolute nonsense. Taking place a little before Lost in Nightmares (and thus a couple of years before RE5), it should be said that the plot of this game is nonsensical even by the standards of the series, with my central caveat being the ultra high-tech eco-city that gets destroyed by a Satellite laser as the central driving force of the story. Most of the new characters are laughably annoying (most of the new character designs are... something else) Chris doesn't really do much (i.e. no boulder punching) and the end boss kind of looks like a fishy tyrant. It all washed over me and even having just finished it I struggle to remember some of the story beats, though if I wanted to I could watch all of the recaps that precede every chapter (and also every chapter ends with a pointless cliffhanger or stinger before immediately being resolved).

The final boss also looks really goofy. Fishy cyclops tyrant.

That being said, the core gameplay is decent. The controls aren't as tight as RE4 or 5, enemy variety is a bit lacking (though I appreciate the return of hunters as a thing I can shoot) and the camera is a bit too close to your character for comfort, but taking it slow, aiming for the head and avoiding attacks are all encouraged (also there is an unwieldy dodge mechanic that I can do consistently against some enemy attacks but not others). It's also the modern Resident Evil game that comes closest to doing more than just paying lip-service to the old games, inasmuch as you can explore around in some instances instead of following the linear path and there is a decently tense early-game sequence where you don't have your weapons on you. It also seems quite obvious that Co-Op was going to be implemented at some point because you always have a partner with you, even when the game switches around with its characters (you still play as Jill for most of it). The structure of the game is very much in line with RE4 and 5, but with fewer set-piece moments and exactly zero sequences where you have to mash buttons for an extended period of time. The set-piece moments that do exist are pretty terrible however, with the turret and underwater sections of the game being longer than they should and the bosses all being bullet sponges.

HUNK confirmed. GOTY.

I've been told that the true draw of this game is the Raid Mode, and I can already see why. It's a series of challenge levels drawn directly from the story with a RPG progression system, loot, several different characters and co-op. While I'm partial to The Mercenaries myself, what I've played of this so far is interesting enough that I will continue to play it. There haven't been a ton of people playing thus far, but I imagine that's because they're all not crazy and didn't blow through the story in a few days like I did. It works better as its own mode than The Mercenaries, though I wouldn't necessarily call it superior. If you want to play with me, my Steam ID is the same as my username.

Thus, we get to the crux of my blog. Is this game worth $50 when you can get the 3DS version for less than half of that? I'd imagine that this version is significantly superior, both visually (though you can still tell most of the assets weren't originally made for HD resolutions) and in terms of controls, but I wouldn't say that Revelations is great enough to warrant a purchase at full price. For my part, I got it on Greenman Gaming for like $35, and that seemed like a fair price to me, so if you want to take advantage of that deal I think it's still going on. And with that, I end this train. Expect something on something within the next few weeks. I never did finish The Last Express....

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