Yet another blog about Fire Emblem

Yes, this is the game with Roy in it. It's a pity he's probably the single worst Fire Emblem lord besides maybe NES Marth, with his bad stats and stupid late promotion.

Oh, hey person. Thanks for reading my blog thing. Assuming this is a few days out and my blog thing has dropped off the front page of the forums, I congratulate you for being able to find it, considering that you’d have to look on my profile page or like… the community spotlight to find it. Either way, good on you for doing so. As far as video games that aren’t covered by this blog are concerned: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic seems sort of bad and goofy in a way I can get behind, but my burgeoning playthrough of that was stopped in its tracks by it crashing at a specific point a few hours in every single time, and I don’t have the patience to try to find a work-around. I did, however, “acquire” Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System after finding out that someone had made an English patch for it, but other than deciding right out the gate that I utterly despise Vaan and wish Balthier was the main character I couldn’t tell you anything about it. Oh right, I started playing League of Legends again (and then proceeded to get a bit of carpal tunnel in my right hand), so if any of you are still playing, you can probably guess what my account name is. I’m still a decent mid or jungler (and can do the other 3 positions with varying levels of skill), for what that is worth, though I end up being the jungler more often than not because apparently people still aren’t into playing that position very much.

Anyone who played either of the other GBA Fire Emblem games will immediately be at home with this one. Because it's like those. But worse.

But now, let’s talk about Fire Emblem. Again. I’ve been hammering my way through Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi (basically translated as “Sword of Seals”) probably since finishing Awakening (which I still mess around with here and there whenever new DLC comes out. The DLC itself is clearly overpriced at around $2 a map, but if you know who all of these Japan-only characters are, you’ll probably enjoy it just the same) and can give a pretty clear contrast between them. Whereas Awakening is probably the best game the series has had in a while, acting as a perfect introduction to new players and being backed up by an excellent localization. Fuuin no Tsurugi is only relevant to you, the regular human at home, because it has Roy in it and Roy was in the Smash Bros and not quite as good as Marth. It actually represents a significant downgrade from the SNES games that preceded it in terms of story, design and mechanics and is similarly blown out of the water by the other two GBA games, not to even talk about Path of Radiance or this newest installment. The rather literal, direct translation can certainly explain the dull writing, but as it stands I’m totally fine with the seventh installment (just called Fire Emblem here) being the series introduction to the west rather than this one. Can I explain why without sounding like a crazy person? Let’s find out!

Sophia joins halfway through the game with these stats on a fog of war desert mission. As far as I can tell, training her is virtually impossible

Fuuin no Tsurugi is still a Fire Emblem game, let’s get that out of the way. Weapon Triangle, Red and Green Cavaliers, support conversations and somewhat crummy Jeigan characters are all included. However there are no skills and every map has “Seize the Throne/Gate” as the main objective. Roy, son of Eliwood (making this a prequel to the other GBA game) gallivants his way across the world, being incredibly dull and fighting dragons along the way. While it’s weird to retroactively see characters and world-building explained by the overly literal and dry translation when the same was done in the other game much better, it stands that the plot is as straightforward as it is boring, with the support conversations (introduced with this game) suffering much the same fate. With the writing not being able to hold it up (which is fine, because I’m not one of those crazies who always comes to games for the story), what about the gameplay? It uses the same engine as the other two GBA games, how can it be worse? Design, mostly. The levels are all a bit larger than needs be (which, as you may expect, makes the 7 paladins you get pretty useful and the already tragically underpowered knights a liability, not that armored knights are never not sort of bad outside of a few notables.) It’s harder than Fire Emblem or The Sacred Stones on their default difficulties, and while I’m all for my Fire Emblem games being hard without being sadistic monsters (i.e. Lunatic mode), the difficulty is more “your units aren’t super great and enemy reinforcements move the turn they spawn” and less “I have to think smarter because this level design is ruthless”. Still not act 1 of Radiant Dawn for what that’s worth… ugh. I should probably also throw in that this game probably has one of the single most pathetic final bosses in the series, perhaps only rivaled by Beld in Thracia 776 and Formortiis in Sacred Stones.

Do yourself a favor: Play Thracia 776 and actually do questionably legal things with something fantastic instead of middling

I mean, for what it’s worth, it’s still a Fire Emblem game so I still enjoyed it, but I think as far as anyone’s ventures into the questionably legal realm of Japanese Fire Emblem are concerned, you’d be better served prioritizing other games in the series (I.e the ones for the SNES) before moving on to this one. Hell, after this one I only have 3 games in the series that I haven’t finished yet and those happen to be the first 3 installments. Also Tear Ring Saga, which I can already confirm is better than this game because it’s crazy and is a more logical successor to the Fire Emblem games that I like.

To talk about something else...

Totally worth $40 of the $50 I won for randomly taking a survey. I used the other $10 to buy Jeanne D'Arc

I also played Super Mario 3D Land, and man is that game awesome. Ok, allow me to make a correction: That game is ok for the first 8 worlds and then gets awesome once you reach the special worlds, at which point they start resembling Galaxy in terms of being crazy and imaginative and actually challenging instead of absurdly easy the way those base levels are. In any case, this and Fire Emblem Awakening alone have made me feel ok about owning a 3DS. Now all I need is a PS3 to play Demon’s Souls and I’ll be golden! What’s that? I need to save money again? Damn. I need a job.

27 Comments

Super Secret Giveaway type thing

Oh, hi there. If you're reading this, that means you've won? Since I'm not posting this to the forums, the first 3 people to write a short paragraph about N64 era platformers will win some games. Some good ones, for once.

7 Comments

I play old games (Might and Magic: World of Xeen)

"Two blogs in one week? That's as crazy as having two games linked together into one big game!" said Lord Xeen

After the start of this year being nothing but the new and shiny, it’s time to talk about old games. Again, for the first time. I mean, it’s only been like 3 days since I posted that Fire Emblem blog, so other than me saying that “Endless Space seems pretty cool from the first game of it that I played (it took 8 hours)” but also “Fallen Enchantress does not give a very great first impression, more details to follow?”, I can’t exactly give you any accounts of a more modern fare. That’s fine with me. I need to get back on the old-game train, and the first stop on that train is a little game that took me at least 4 years of on and off playing to finish. That’s right kids. It’s Might and Magic time.

As stated in my previous blog, Might and Magic lies alongside Fire Emblem and Resident Evil in my personal pantheon of franchises that I revere and adore, perhaps irrationally. Where Fire Emblem is tactical turn-based-strategy at its finest and Resident Evil is… a lot of things, Might and Magic as it was made by New World Computing can be grouped into two categories: The hack ‘n slash-y series of RPGs dating back to 1987 and the Heroes of Might and Magic series of (tactical) turn based strategy. There are also a few spinoffs released, all of which deserve zero mention as anything other than totally awful (Amusingly, Clash of Heroes is probably the single best M&M spinoff to ever be made, but that’s under Ubisoft, so it probably doesn’t count as far as this discussion is concerned.) We’re talking about the former today. While they’re both party-based first person RPGs with goofy senses of humor and a tendency to mix Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Might and Magic is a lighter, far less mechanically dense series than its main counterpart Wizardry and that in turn has made it far easier for me to play most of the games in the series. While Wizardry 7 still frankly intimidates the hell out of me (Though I am considering playing through it over the summer), with even less said about the preceding 6 titles, every Might and Magic game from Isles of Terra onward are playable and accessible. Sure, the visuals of VI-VIII have held up extremely poorly, and Might and Magic IX is a half-finished mess that still manages to achieve an astounding level of competence (More on that… eventually.), but as a whole you’d be hard-pressed to find a series of RPGs from the early to late 90s that are as easy to understand and relatively old game bullshit-free as M&M.

"I concur" said Alamar

World of Xeen is worth mentioning for at least two reasons: On a personal level, It’s easily the oldest game of this kind that I’ve finished (at least until I get around to finishing Might and Magic III and/or Wizardry 7 by 2015), beating out the original Fallout by 4 years. It’s also the only game I can think of where it is actually two seamlessly integrated titles that you can switch between at a designated area. And indeed, that two-game nature of WoX should be noted, because the games themselves are entirely self-contained and can be played individually with only the only real thing lost being the post-game content where both halves of the world are united. I also mention this because I think Might and Magic V (Darkside) is a better and more interesting game than Might and Magic IV (Cloudside).

Contains: Hacking, Slashing, First Person perspectives

But perhaps I should back up a bit for the uninformed. World of Xeen is comprised of the second and third games using the engine built for Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra. You build a party of adventurers by rolling some virtual dice and picking some classes and then are unleashed upon the grid-based first person world. Skills are learned, loot with prefixes and suffixes is obtained (predating Diablo’s use by 5 years, though the frequency isn’t such where it can be called a loot game) and spells are cast. There is also a lot of fighting, but whereas Wizardry goes full turn-based random encounter, Might and Magic lets you see your foes, engage them at range if your guys have bows or spells and so on while on the map. This all leads to a breezier, less agonizingly slow CRPG experience, and while there is depth to be found in the combat until the end when you just kinda steamroll everything in your path by casting the same three spells and having your frontline dudes attack 14 times with their Obsidian Battleaxes. It’s also a lot about exploration. While there isn’t real nonlinearity in World of Xeen, at least not the same way there is in Might and Magic VI, you can still explore (and are very much encouraged to explore) every corner of the world if you have the skills (Swimming, Pathfinding, Mountaineering) and the strength to fight whatever gets in your way, with a few optional side-dungeons and encounters here and there. Dungeons have their fair share of puzzles, the best and most awesome example of which is an entire floor of a dungeon being a massive crossword puzzle (at which point I said “Alright video game, you’ve proven your worth”) I’m not going to pretend I didn’t cheat on some of them, my laziness as a person playing this game in the 21st century showing through, but they’re all clever and for the most part quite solveable. Oh hey, here’s a video that I recorded like 4 years ago that shows something like that.

Oh hey there cloth map. Sure, the map I have is a .PDF, but it's still a map in my heart.

Ah, that’s all well and good but we’re still talking about what are essentially two separate games. Might and Magic IV: Clouds of Xeen came out in 1992 and is probably the way to start out, at least on a first playthrough. It’s pretty gradual with the RPG power curve and follows the structure of “Get x Megacredits to unlock the next dungeon, at which point you find that dungeon and earn some more Megacredits.” It’s made of pretty standard fantasy stylings, and the max level for characters is something like 20. There are some pretty good dungeons, the initial set of Dwarven mines being of note for being really big, but Darkside of Xeen (1993) is a step up in almost all ways. It’s still kinda linear, in that every town requires a pass and every dungeon requires a key, but the world is a lot weirder. The sky is orange, the monsters are more elaborately designed, and the soundtrack is moodier. The developers also went far crazier with their dungeon design and the power curve. When you got a million experience in Clouds of Xeen, it was announced in all caps as A MILLION EXPERIENCE. In Darkside of Xeen, the game throws free levels, +20 to stats, and millions of experience by the truckload. Remember how I said I finished Clouds with my party around level 20? I finished Darkside with my party averaging around level 60 (and the combined world content with some of my characters being around level 100). You start getting so much experience that the only real limitation to how utterly broken your party can be is the amount of gold you have to level them up, which you also need because of how tough most late game enemies can be. The dungeons are similarly cranked up to 11. Aside from the aforementioned crossword puzzle, there’s the insertion of vowels in sentences, cryptograms spelling out the names of Star Trek characters (something that would be used again in Might and Magic VI) and that part where you have to use the numbers made by the level geography to answer math problems. You know, old school video game stuff. Admittedly, I may be exaggerating Darkside of Xeen’s superiority, I finished the cloudside years ago and some of it is admittedly fuzzy. Still, I don’t think I’m exaggerating by much when I say that the darkside is easily the superior half of World of Xeen.

Lava Golem says: "Play this game or you will be sad!"

Regardless of which one I think is better, it still stands that I find this game to be amazingly accessible. Sure, the UI is obviously kind of crusty and unoptimized, but you can control everything with the mouse if you so desire and the graphics are still charming in their cartoony VGA-ness. While I’d still say that Might and Magic VI is the main draw of the 6 pack on GOG, I can confirm with blog-level certainty that World of Xeen isn’t a half-bad investment of time either (really though, the only questionable additions in that pack are the first two, but that’s mostly due to age and not necessarily qualitative, according to people old enough to be able to tolerate CRPGs released in 1987 and 1989 respectively. There’s also Swords of Xeen, some sort of fan mod, but I don’t know enough about that to give any sort of definitive answer one way or another.) I’ve spent enough time ranting though. End of story? If you like old RPGs that aren’t all about “story” and whatnot, give this one a look. Yeah. Old games are back, bitches.

4 Comments

ArbitraryWater's preemptive Game of the Year 2013*

Me? Writing about a Fire Emblem game? Crazy, I know.

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you surprised? No. Of course you weren’t. As the second most obsessive Fire Emblem fan on these forums, you knew that this would come up sooner or later. And, after only a mere 25 or so hours I can tell you with absolute certainty that… Fire Emblem Awakening is a Fire Emblem game and is definitively a better time sink than Dead Space 3. Oh, other games? What other games? Studying for midterms isn’t games, silly. Ok. A bit of Endless Space, but I haven’t played enough other than to tell you that it seems really cool and I will possibly be writing about it in the future. Much like how I’ll be writing about Far Cry 3/World of Xeen in the future. Yeahhhhh…. Really. Maybe I’ll do something with those 50 Genesis Games I bought off amazon downloads for $7.50 while I’m at it, unaware that they didn’t come with steam keys. (I also bought Binary Domain. You should really check out their sale).

Sadly, no special-edition 3DS for me, for as much as it breaks my heart. On the other hand, I saved like $25 getting one used off ebay, and it came with a bitchin Super Mario case, so I can't complain too much.

Anywhoo, if you didn’t already know, Fire Emblem is probably one of my single favorite series of video games, sitting alongside Might and Magic, Resident Evil, and “Anything that was made using the Infinity Engine” in franchises with an inordinate number of installments, most of which I have probably played. Admittedly, I haven’t played every Fire Emblem game to completion, four of the 13 still elude my grasp (five if you count Tear Ring Saga, which is Fire Emblem in all but name and also it’s on drugs). I’ve written about them a few times on this website, both as new, japan type, experiences as well as ranting about how Sacred Stones is too easy or how Radiant Dawn’s erratic difficulty curve and constantly shifting roster of units really bums be out. There’s something to be said for its particular brand of Turn Based Strategy, with a mechanical lightness that belies how devious things can get. I’d compare it to the most recent XCOM in that regard, except I’ve kind of soured on XCOM as of late and am secretly in my heart of hearts considering a retroactive demotion to second place with Dishonored as my GOTY of 2012. Ironman Classic isn’t fun, and some of the mechanical inadequacies of that game have reared their ugly heads a bit too often in my case. Oh well. What was I talking about? Oh right. Fire Emblem is cool, you should play it if you are into self-loathing or perhaps a deeply tactical experience that doesn’t involve endless grinding for JP just so you can be strong enough to fight Wiegraf.

“But what of this specific Fire Emblem”, you ask? Well, I’m glad you clicked on this blog, because that is what it happens to be about. Awakening can be best described as a grab bag of all of the best features of Fire Emblems past, which sadly does not include the ability to capture enemies and steal their items. No, what it does have is a world map (Fire Emblem Gaiden/The Sacred Stones), Alternate Promotions (Sacred Stones), Hella character skills (SNES and Gamecube/Wii titles), Reclassing (Shadow Dragon), a Player-created unit (Shin Monshou no Nazo), and Waifu obtaining (Geneology of the Holy War, though instead of a second generation the game uses time travel to explain why everyone’s overpowered kids are fighting alongside their parents. Also there is no incest, sadly). Also there is DLC, which I will get to in a moment. All of this together makes for perhaps the most mechanically interesting Fire Emblem and a nice return to form after the rather… underwhelming DS installments. It also clearly has the largest budget of them all, with voice acting, 3D graphics that don’t look terrible and those crazy prerendered cutscenes that are also quite good-looking. The soundtrack is also pretty awesome, if you’re willing to youtube it.

Meet the avatar of death himself/herself.

With all that said, I’ll just say flat-out that the gameplay is fantastic, but of course you already knew that because it was a Fire Emblem game and I’m the one writing this blog. You can’t fall into the trap of raising a crummy unit because everyone in your army is useable and effective, if not an absurdly powerful whirlwind of death and destruction the way your created tactician character is. While the ability to use both tomes and swords is good enough, the real power of your tactician comes in the form of the veteran skill, which they start with and boosts their experience gain by 1.5x as long as they’re paired up, a new mechanic that replaces rescuing and involves having two of your units fighting together, one giving stat bonuses to the other with chances of an extra attack of a full damage block (which is increased by the units’ support with each other, which is where the Waifu element comes into play). Since there is usually little reason not to have your units paired up, this led to my tactician easily becoming overleveled even without grinding, which this game has. That’s not to say that Hard difficulty isn’t respectably difficult, it certainly was until I gave into the temptation of easy, unlimited grinding, further emphasized by the DLC.

Know what Fire Emblem really needed? A bride class that only Women can use (yes, it's DLC only and has yet to come out in North America. Male characters get the Demon Fighter class instead)

Oh man. The DLC. While I can attest that fighting and obtaining old Fire Emblem characters is cool, especially with all of the overpowered bonus characters you get as a result, one of the DLC maps I purchased also allowed for painless, quick grinding of the likes that could only be found in a Disgaea game, and there’s a different one that is part of that same pack that allows for quick, painless gold grinding. Needless to say, if you give me a way to ruin the game for myself, I’ll probably do it. If you are in your right mind and want to be around $2 richer, for the love of all that is strategic and such, don’t download that map. I can see it being useful for some of the absurdly difficult postgame content (which, again, is all DLC and none of which is currently out in the United States), but it kinda burned out a lot of the difficulty. That’s not to say that I didn’t have units die and was forced to restart (in this game, bows are actually hazardous to flying units), but generally most of my units could one-shot just about everything by the end. I’m tempted to start a playthrough on Lunatic and try not to grind, because everything I’ve heard and seen about that difficulty suggests I will hate myself for doing it, and as we all know, Self-loathing builds character. That’s why I’m a productive member of society here, sitting up at 1AM writing a blog about crazy strategy games.

Henry likes murder and bad puns. Also puppies.

Certain classes are better than others as well, though that’s to be expected. Pegasus Knights and Dark Mages are hilariously broken, thanks to the Dark Flier’s ability to move again after killing an enemy and the Dark Mages in this game actually being super dangerous tanky mages (with buyable Nosferatu, no less) instead of the useful but also somewhat crummy novelty characters they were in previous installments. Below that, your main unit’s tactician class is unsurprisingly deadly in its versatility and unique skills, and of course the main lord Chrom is good at killing everything as long as he isn’t targeted by like 4 mages in a row. My personal favorites though, are probably the hilarious War Cleric (using axes as well as staves, made even more hilarious if you make Lissa one instead of a Sage like you’re clearly meant to) and the assassin (having an instakill skill with a pitiful activation rate but otherwise being the glass cannons I want out of such a class). I would’ve made an army of War Clerics if I could, but not enough of the units I used had it as a class, so I was forced to settle for having no less than 3 assassins by the end and another unit with the insta-kill skill inherited. Also the weapon triangle still ostensibly exists, so I guess variety is… good? Bah. If I wanted weapon triangle control, I would’ve made a bunch of great knights. Also, you should use Henry, if only because he’s a dark mage (and thus crazy powerful) as well as being the most delightfully sociopathic character I have encountered in a while.

Don't do it. I know you want those forged Brave Axes as much as the next man, but you're a better person for saying no.

Oh right. The characters. I feel like the plot needs to be mentioned as mostly being a way to justify the presence of children characters, and the entire middle of the plot feels like it’s barely connected to how the ending shakes out, and it’s pretty easy to tell who is the bad guy and who isn’t. I wouldn’t call it bad, most Fire Emblem games aren’t especially masterful with their storytelling, unless you really identified with the overt “YO GUYS, RACISM IS HELLA BAD” subtext of Path of Radiance. Instead, it’s probably the characters that are worth mentioning. Since supporting is a pretty important mechanic in this game, and since almost every female character can support (and thus marry) almost every male character, there’s A LOT to be found in that support archive once you’ve finished the game, and I give mad props to 8-4 for the localization, which is top-notch and successful at making characters that otherwise fit pretty squarely into certain anime archetypes interesting and occasionally hilarious. Just… just watch this. Not a support (though those are probably all up on the youtubes), but easily an example of why having professionals at work can be a definite boon on the script. (Minor Spoilers, I guess)

Pega-Pony-Princess indeed.

With all of this said, I’m pretty sure this still isn’t my favorite Fire Emblem game. Most of the later maps don’t have any victory conditions other than Kill Everyone/Kill the Boss, and with the last game I played being Thracia 776, with its definitive trait probably being its utterly devious and clever level design, this one didn’t quite do it for me in the same way. But seriously. If you have a 3DS, you should probably purchase this game for a sum of money, though if you want a physical copy they’re apparently a total bitch to find. I only had to go to two gamestops to get mine, but I’d give caution to those seeking for such. Fire Emblem is still Fire Emblem guys, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Dinosarus?

*It's not impossible, but for all I know Bioshock Infinite will really blow my socks off.

29 Comments

I play modern games (Dead Space 3)

Alternate title: On the Ice Planet, no one can hear me scream except my co op buddy and that's because we failed that stupid climbing sequence like 4 times.

Man, I’m surprisingly relevant this year. Normally, you’d be listening to me talk about some RPG that came out more than a decade ago and probably only came out in Japan or from similarly obscure roots. Well, not today. Today, we talk about a game that came out this week, as opposed to 1999. I’m on the bleeding edge here, and I’m not going to stop until I run out of blood (i.e. money. So… after this blog. Yeah, just don’t expect me to be writing about Bioshock Infinite any time soon). But before I regale you with tales of me dismembering limbs and being kinda “eh” about it, let’s talk other games.

Easily the best Zelda game to have been released in this decade!

I played through the first dungeon of Darksiders, and that game seems pretty neat with how blatantly derivative it is, but I could really do with fewer of those stupid challenge rooms the game seems to throw whenever padding is required. I also kind of dig the game’s extremely 90’s aesthetic and the deathly seriousness that it presents itself despite being the most McFarlane/Liefeld esque thing ever, at least to my untrained eyes. I’ll probably keep going, and I have the second one as well, so a direct comparison blog is not out of the question. Apparently people don’t like the second game as much? Other than that bit, not really much else, other than me messing with a bit of the post-game in Valkyria Chronicles II and the usual indecision that takes place whenever I finish a game and try to find a new one. Storm of Zehir? Dinosaurs? That game I intend to finish? That other game I intend to finish?

The game I actually finished

Alternate universe me is wrecking fools with Donnel as we speak

In an alternate universe, this blog would be about Fire Emblem. Sadly, because I don’t currently have a job and because the onset of adulthood has made my parents reluctant to purchase me video game related things, I don’t have a 3DS. Until I do, which is basically when I get a job in like the spring or something, I’m going to have to rely on Tear Ring Saga and it's "This is pretty much Fire Emblem but on acid" for my turn-based-tactical murdering action. But enough about that, let’s talk about Dead Space 3! It’s… ok? Yeah. Ok. That’s about the highest level of praise and enthusiasm I can muster for it. That’s unfortunate. As you may remember, Dead Space 2 was #3 on my “Best of 2012 that didn’t come out in 2012” list, and I put that game on roughly equal footing with the first game, which didn’t make a list whenever I played it, for whatever reason. Point is, I liked those other two games quite a bit, and I found this third one to be underwhelming, albeit competent and still enjoyable.

Current universe me is wondering how best to spend the $10 credit on Green Man Gaming that he got for purchasing this game

DS3 is a game that goes in the wrong direction, plain and simple. While I question the scariness of the other two games other than some cheap jump scares and some gloomy atmosphere, Dead Space 3 doesn’t even bother with either. It soon becomes apparent that enemies are going to spawn any time you do anything of note, and there will probably be a few behind you, or something. I’m usually not one for nitpicking nebulous traits like “atmosphere”, but the way the game is designed makes most of the non-set piece encounters in the game blur together into a mess of “BLARGITY BLARG I AM A NECROMORPH” followed by me shooting aforementioned fake-zombie in the legs with my chaingun. Much like our very own Brad Shoemaker, I blame the repetitive level design and lack of variety in enemies for that, both traits being far more prevalent in the second half of the game than the first. Also there are exactly 5 boss battles, 3 of which are against the exact same enemy, oh and they’re all on the ice planet. Blame everything on the ice planet, because I was actually enjoying myself quite a bit when I was on that flotilla of ships.

Despite having a cooler looking suit, Carver feels entirely unnecessary. Kind of like every member of the cast

The ice planet is also when the story gets significantly dumber, so it has that in its favor too. Oh right. The story. It’s… something else. While I don’t think the first or second games are masterworks by any stretch, they kept it subtle for the most part and didn’t focus so much on the human drama (and the parts of DS2 that did were the parts that kinda sucked). I still maintain that making Isaac talk was a terrible idea, and the things they make him say in this one continue to confirm that assertion. This game loves itself some poorly-written human drama, and some poorly written explanations for what the actual nature of the markers actually are, leading up to an ending reveal that is hilarious in how colossally stupid it is. Carver sucks too, with his only character trait being that he is a tough-guy soldier prick for most of the game and then comes around for ill-explained reasons. Having played parts of the game solo and parts of the game with random people online, I can confirm that his presence seems forced when he is there and it’s even funnier when you’re playing through a segment alone and the game comes up with some absurd justification for why he can’t follow you around. It all operates on this middle ground between the isolation of the other games and the constant companionship of Resident Evil 5/6 and it doesn’t work nearly as well as either of those did (keep in mind that the presence of Sheva in RE5 didn’t bother me nearly as much as it apparently did for other people). I mean, the actual act of playing with another person makes things somewhat more enjoyable, especially if there is some shared humor involving my webcam mic being automatically turned on without my knowledge, but I’m going to side with the people who say that the co-op is totally unnecessary, but it also fits for the kind of game Dead Space 3 is and it’s sad that I have to say that.

Blargity Blarg aim for the legs

If the game does something good, it’s that the shooting is still pretty great and the weapon customization is actually quite awesome. I messed around with various weapons before finally settling on what worked for me, which is to say a Contact Beam/Chain Lightning Gun on one hand and a Chaingun/Magnesium Afterburner on the other. However, if there is an issue that arises from this nifty customization, it’s probably the whole “universal ammo” thing. I was always drowning in it, and much like Deus Ex Invisible War it meant that I could abuse heavy weapons as well as I darn pleased, as you can tell from the above weapon choices. I bet the pure survival and the classic modes would fix those specific issues and I can confirm that I think the set weapons of the previous games were probably better, but it’s still a neat mechanic that fits the kind of game that Dead Space 3 is, which is to say that it’s a third person shooter where you shoot things that run directly at you. (Except for those parts where you fight enemies with guns because apparently that’s a thing that they needed to throw in. Those parts are also not great).

I’m not going to waste much more time with my prattle, other than to say that Dead Space 3 does its job with a workmanlike degree of competence, no more but possibly more less. I think I as a person could have probably been ok with not ever having to have played it, but at least it’s given me the opportunity to say that if you plan on playing this game, wait for it to be $30 and possibly grab a buddy so you can make fun of the story and kill necromorphs together. Now I’m poor and that much further away from Fire Emblem-ing it up. And that, dear reader, is the scariest thing of all.

7 Comments

Devil May Cry, but Valkyria don't care.

Alternate title: ArbitraryWater versus lengthy tactical RPGs and also heavy metal demon murdering.

Oh, what's that you say? A new year and only one blog from famed bloggist ArbitraryWater? Well, that's about to be fixed. Now there are two blogs. Before we talk about a video game, let's talk about a different video game.

A DIFFERENT VIDEO GAME:

It's not necessarily the best game in the series, but it is worthy of being part of the series

DmC: Devil May Cry is successful at being a Devil May Cry game. While, admittedly that isn’t a high bar considering that DMC2 and 4 are also Devil May Cry games, it’s also a good Devil May Cry game and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as DMC3, at least by me. While my attempts to play the first one have fallen flat because of the controls and camera and my playthrough of 4 was halted by the realization that I was going to have to play the entire game again, backwards, as Dante, Devil May Cry 3 remains one of my favorite PS2 games and probably one of my favorite old games that I’ve blogged about. So basically, what I’m saying is that a lot of the vocal opposition to this game is unwarranted. While the controls have been tweaked and the lock-on removed, I can still do the thing where I hit dudes, juggle them in the air, slam them down and then rush them with Stinger/Trillion Stabs. Maybe I’m not hardcore enough or whatever, but I think that DmC nails the gameplay of the series quite well. I’m not going to go as far as to say it’s better than DMC3, but it also makes up for it with visual aesthetic and storytelling flair both of which are lacking in the other games outside of my ironic enjoyment of the kind of nonsense that comes from Dante surfing on missiles or whatever. If I have any qualms, it’s that the game didn’t break my knees and then kick me while I was down. I played on hard and was distinctly not getting horribly defeated like I was with the third game. That probably has to do with the game having fewer bosses and fewer asshole bosses, so I’m hoping that Son of Sparda mode fills that void when I inevitably go for another playthrough. Point is, I like this game and think you should play it if you like this kind of game. Speaking of games I like and think you should play if you like that kind of game…

Some short impressions of other games, if you care:

The original Star Fox for SNES is interesting. As a game, it’s not dense enough for me to be able to write a blog about it (also, I’d have to play through it on the other levels), but as a technical achievement for the SNES it’s impressive. As a game… it’s still totally ok. The controls aren’t quite as smooth as its N64 counterpart, there’s no lock-on, but I’ll be danged if it isn’t Star Fox.

Tactical maps and anthropomorphic animals. Really, why did this get canceled again?

Star Fox 2 is a lot weirder, and not just because it’s a complete game that was never released and then leaked to the public like it was Thrill Kill or maybe that PS1 port of Baldur’s Gate (which is horrendous, by the way). It’s also even weirder in hindsight, with a lot of the mechanics it used being incorporated into the underrated Star Fox Command for DS. That means there’s this whole pseudo-RTS portion with your goal being to intercept enemy missiles and blow up bases, and you can also select from different pilots who have different characteristics. It also probably holds up better, because the draw distance is less of an issue and the controls are a bit more responsive, at least on my Xbox controller (and yes, I have a real one now as opposed to that horrible bootleg one I’ve been complaining about for all of last semester)

Dino Crisis is Resident Evil with Dinosaurs, and being that I could use some more old style Resident Evil in my life, I will attempt to play more.

Now then, our main event:

Valkyria Chronicles II: It's not as grindy as those other grindy games!

Being that I don’t own a PS3 and don’t intend to until an undetermined date (On my list of consoles to buy, a 3DS ranks higher. Because Fire Emblem) I haven’t played Valkyria Chronicles. Right next to Demon’s Souls and MGS4 (and maybe like... Ni no Kuni?), it would probably be one of the first games I would buy if when I eventually get one, and thus I decided to go for its sequel instead, which is generally seen as inferior for reasons I’m not entirely sure of because I don’t know enough people who have played both games to give me any sort of valid opinion, other than that the Japan-only 3 installment is of course the best. Luckily for me, Valkyria Chronicles II is pretty dang fantastic in its own right, and if this is what I have to expect from the original, I think I will do just fine. Like the other 75% of my PSP library, it’s some variety of tactical and some variety of RPG, but whereas Final Fantasy Tactics is grindy and slow, and Tactics Ogre is grindy and slow (but I like it far better than FFT for some reason and have played significantly more of it), Valkyria Chronicles II is… less grindy and slow. Hey, it’s tactical RPGs we’re talking about here. If the hour count is less than 40 hours then it’s either in the Fire Emblem/XCOM camp of simple mechanics extrapolated into brutal deathtraps or it’s not actually a SRPG. Also there is crafting, because of course there is.

Oh, I'm sorry, did someone say Class systems? Sold. Like, really. The international version of Final Fantasy XII? I would totally buy that if I didn't have to do horrible things to a PS2 and also learn Japanese.

The best way to describe the gameplay is that it’s kinda like XCOM or maybe Fire Emblem, but with a bit more FFT/Tactics Ogre type of thing going on and you directly control your units when you move them. Also it’s anime WWII, but I’ll get to that later. It also has a branching class system, and as you know from my love of Final Fantasy V and my irrational love of Final Fantasy X-2, I really like class systems, but thankfully unlike all of those games every class in VC2 is actually useful. Ok, to be fair I barely ever used engineers because of my kamikaze style of engagement (which the game encourages by rankings only being based on how quickly you finished any given mission), but I guess if you wanted better healing or universal stat boosts that only last a turn (part of the Anthem Corp sub-class) they’d do the job perfectly fine. The same goes for Mortarers, whom I rarely used because just rushing a dude with a shocktrooper or gunner would usually produce superior results and enemies would rarely group up in a way that would make a mortar worth using. If there were classes which I considered invaluable for most missions, I’d probably go with fencers and snipers, both low-movement units capable of one-shotting most enemies and putting a dent into bosses. I also found little use for the commands features, which are basically CO Powers from advance wars if the CO Powers made it so you couldn’t make as many moves. I don’t care about a nebulous boost to my anti-personnel attack power. It costs 4 Command Points. 4 Command Points I could use to make 4 other units move and be far more efficient with their murder sprees. And really, the only way to beat some boss characters is by bum rushing them with your fencers (or snipers, at least until they run out of ammo) anyways, which is made more annoying by their tendency to dodge your attacks. There’s also a nice variety of missions, most of which can be solved by killing everyone, but there are also escort missions that suck and collection missions that suck less.

If you took a drink any time any of these characters said anything stupid, you'd be dead before the game even starts.
But on the other hand, you kill tanks by shooting them in the back, so I guess all is forgiven. If you like these kinds of games, play this game. Or the first one, because that's apparently better.

Regardless of how much I hated the escort missions due to the fragility of the escort APC, the fact stands that I think VC2’s gameplay is fantastic. Like most games of the genre it starts slow, perhaps too slow, (also it doesn’t help that the mechanics aren’t necessarily explained all that well) but by the 7-10 hour mark most of the systems have been revealed and you can start messing with the advanced classes and building a more diverse squad that suits your play style. I would say it’s a shoo-in for a high spot on my inevitable “Best of 2013 that didn’t come out in 2013” list, except for one thing… The story and characters are really, really, really bad. How bad are they? That’s a good question. While the story of the first game is apparently no masterwork and the story of the third game is apparently pretty good, the story of Valkyria Chronicles II is predictable and generic throughout. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. You all know that I’m fine with generic stories if the gameplay is good, but the problem with VC2 is that there is a lot of story and all of it is the worst anime tropes and archetypes imaginable. The three main characters are a headstrong young guy who’s kind of an idiot but is full of determination and heart, a supportive young girl with a tragic past and a dream, and a cynical fellow who is a foil to the main guy, but still goes along with all of his boneheaded schemes. If you find these characters original or interesting, play a few JRPGs, maybe watch some high-school anime and get back to me. Oh, and don’t worry, the rest of the supporting cast falls squarely into bad archetypes as well. Yes, I am aware that archetypes can be used for good, just look at Persona 3 and how it handles and develops its cast, but the character development is all of the most unsubtle moments of stupidity. I think my favorite is still the part where Avan shoots himself so that Cosette will overcome her fear of blood and whatnot. Then we get into the whole dichotomy between these hilarious anime high-school antics and the part where all of these characters are mass-murderers and it gets a little more… weird, let’s say? I was fine with it in Full Metal Panic, where the entire point of the parts that were good (i.e. everything that they would later put into Full Metal Panic Fumoffu), was that Sosuke’s utter inability to view the world through anything other than the lens of combat was a gold mine for comedy. But I’m ranting again, and falling down the “Talking about Anime” hole. I’ve also started watching Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, and think it is pretty dope, if we’re on the subject.

Dinosaurs

But enough prattle. I think Valkyria Chronicles II is sort of awesome, in spite of it also being the worst high-school anime ever. I’m glad I sunk my requisite 50+ hours into it, but I also don’t think I’ll be sinking any more, at least not anytime soon (even though it has some postgame content for funsies). I’m nearing the end of World of Xeen, and the only real handicap preventing me from finishing it are the parts where leveling up now costs absurd sums of money, and my characters have a lot of leveling up to do. You can expect that one… soon? Dinosaurs?

29 Comments

A blog about blogging

Here I have sunk to writing about what I want to write about over the next few months. Oh well. It fulfills my self-inflicted rule to write something every two weeks, and since I'm not taking an english class this semester I guess I won't have any other real output. I figure this is dumb and personal enough that anyone who would care is following me, and thus I don't need to attach this mofo to the forums. Tell me which ones I should play first, and I'll probably somewhat listen to you!

Let's get this S*** Done: An experiement in self-discipline

If I have any resolutions for 2013 that are in the petty, video-game oriented vein as opposed to serious life decisions (i.e. work out more often, go to the library to do homework, etc.) they mostly revolve around attempting to clear up the wide swath of unfinished games I have laying around. With that in mind (as well as the implicit assumption that I'm probably not going to be buying a whole ton of games this semester, sans perhaps Bioshock) I'm going to play a little game with myself and you, the reader. Can I finish most or all of these games before Mid-April? Hell if I know, but won't it be fun to try and watch me fail in the process? Also, maybe I'll try to stick to the order presented here. That should be fun, right?

1. Valkyria Chronicles II

I'm currently playing through this, and if not for my crummy PSP AC adapter I'd probably be playing it right now. If anything, me writing something about this is guaranteed at some point within the next few weeks, though I'm a little less than halfway through at the moment

2. Far Cry 3

I've captured every single tower and camp on the first Island but have done barely any of the main quest. Once again, me writing about this sometime soon is kind of guaranteed.

3. Might and Magic IX

I've sunk enough time in this game that I may as well go the whole way and recoup my investment. I think I've said it before, but I'm pretty sure only people like me should play Might and Magic IX. Anyone who isn't a fan of the franchise already should give it a wide bearth, and even people who like Might and Magic should treat it as strictly optional. That being said, the state the game is in, with it clearly being half-finished makes the actual act of playing simultaneously fascinating and depressing. Also the gameplay is still fun sometimes, in spite of itself.

4. Might and Magic: World of Xeen

The other Might and Magic related blemish on my backlog (sure, I technically never finished The Mandate of Heaven, but I was close enough and I lost that save when I had to wipe my computer), I'm actually quite far in World of Xeen. Like, I could probably knock out the rest of the game pretty easily. Maybe I will.

5. Final Fantasy X-2

And here's where things get a bit more nebulous. While I've got my mind on finishing those above four games for certain, the rest of the list and the order of the rest of the list is less clear. While I certainly played enough FFX2 to feel comfortable writing about it, I should probably go the extra mile and finish it while I'm here. Assuming I am not secretly swamped with homework the entire time.

6. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

See above, although the difference between these two JRPGs is that SMT Nocturne is balls hard and kind of intimidating. But hey, satan, right? Can't beat that.

7. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

This game starts slow, but I can already tell it does a lot of things that I would like.

8. Tear Ring Saga

In terms of "I should probably finish this game", Tear Ring Saga is not necessarily pressing. But on the other hand, it's like Fire Emblem but crazy, so I really want to see the extent of insanity past the first few maps I've completed.

9. Fire Emblem Gaiden

FE Gaiden is, once again, not necessarily great when compared to what the franchise has become. It is weird as hell, and I'd like to be able to express in exact terms how weird as hell it is.

10. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

And here's where we reach even more nebulous territory. I've sunk 2 hours into this game, liked what I played but never touched it again. If I am to truly be able to rank Troika's games from 1 to 3, I will have to give their final title a go.

11. Neverwinter Nights 2

Pffffft. Yeah. Right.

13 Comments

An addendum to GOTY: 2012 Strikes Back

Because nothing quite says bringing in a new year like dragging the old one through the mud a bit. Which is fine with me. 2012 wasn't necessarily a great year for me personally, but as my GOTY list will attest, it was preeeeettyyy good for video games. So thus, let's talk about some games that I've now had the opportunity to play thanks to my overly long Christmas break. So let's dive in?

Dragon's Dogma

Fighting Giant Monsters is far more fun than it probably should be, considering what else there is.

Dragon's Dogma is some sort of weird masterwork, a "flawed gem" if you will. While the first 90% of the game itself is a open-world RPG with not a lot to do and has a story that doesn't really go anywhere until you fight the titular Dragon, that last 10% of the game, with the dark, messed up world, the multiple chambers of the Everfall and the utterly insane ending are kind of brilliant. While I was already on board enough to give it the #7 spot on my list, I think the ending probably would've put it above Borderlands 2 on that list, though obviously I still think Dragon's Dogma has some problems that would probably make someone who isn't me balk. Be it the utter lack of charm from any of the characters (though I find the pawns' tendency to spout encyclopedic nonsense every 3 seconds charming in its own obnoxious way), the lack of fast travel or the somewhat clunky menu structure, I can see why this game isn't for everyone. It's messed up in some pretty obvious ways. To use a direct, albeit confusing comparison, it's basically Final Fantasy V (or basically any other game that I'm weirdly into) in that my enjoyment of the mechanics at play far trumps whatever other inadequacies the game has.

But know what? Most of that didn't bother me, and some of what excites me about Dragon's Dogma is the potential it brings for a sequel, and the various directions Capcom could go in reaching that goal. The core gameplay, being the combat, is already solid. Maybe make it a bit more dungeon crawl-y, maybe throw in some 4 player co-op (I mean, with the whole mechanic of pawns you're practically halfway there), and make there be more giant monsters for me to crawl up and stab in the face. All of those things would make whatever sequel that comes out of Dragon's Dogma something that I could justly support. In other words, you should play it, but only if you are a crazy person who can be sustained by good combat and not a whole lot else. I still like it more than Amalur, something that I probably should use the last week of this break to finish as well.

Persona 4 Arena

If I had played it before writing my GOTY list, Persona 4 Arena would have been available for the following awards: Best Fanservice, Best Justification of a Spinoff, Best Bad Ending, Best Visual Novel (sorry Katawa Shoujo!), Best use of Foreshadowing, Best Robot Ladies, Best Spinoff to a Game I've Never Actually Beaten But Have Watched Being Beaten, and also probably Best Fighting Game, but that's mostly because I didn't even find Street Fighter x Tekken disappointing or infuriating enough to mention in my Dishonorable Mentions category. While the story mode echoes that of Blazblue in that there is proportionally more dialogue than there is fighting, the difference is that Persona 4 Arena has fantastic writing that I enjoy and more than its fair share of callbacks to both P3 and P4, rather than bullshit anime nonsense (and not the good kind either). In fact, since I have yet to face an actual human opponent, the story is really all I can comment on, since you can literally win every battle in story mode by mashing X (or square). It certainly seems like an ArcSys fighting game. And with that said, the story mode is some sort of narrative genius, since it manages to believably justify its existence, the (oh!) collusion of the casts of Persona 3, a robot having a northeastern accent, and in the process sets up story events that make me really want to see where Persona 5 will go. I mean, seriously. In a year of bad endings, it's nice to know that Dragon's Dogma and P4A are still holding the torch for conclusions that are kind of balls crazy in a good way. If you have any love of Persona 4, any at all, you should play this game. I picked it up for $30 new at gamestop, so you don't have much of an excuse. Hell, it's probably a good fighting game too.

Mark, of the Ninja

Mark the Ninja is a preeeettyyy great Stealth Game that also happens to look really good and probably would have been somewhere on my list had I played it before December 23rd. It succeeds at making you feel like a crazy badass Ninja, and while the ending twist is predictable, at least it's executed well for the level of ambition that the story pursues. That being said, while it is mechanically excellent and pretty awesome, it is by no means my favorite stealth game, and find the comments of the Bomb Squad during GOTY, namely those of Patrick and his somewhat retarded claim that "Stealth is terrible and all trial and error but nope this game isn't trial and error at all" (yes I am aware that everyone else on the GB crew has shared something of a similar opinion, but he was the most vocal so he gets the call-out) to be unfortunate. In it's mechanical preciseness, Mark of the Ninja loses a lot of tension that comes with stealth, because you know exactly what a guard will do upon you using an item or tactic. Some may find this predictability comforting, but it irks me in some odd way because of how artificial it feels. Sure, stealth in games has never been the most believable of mechanics, but the absolute nature of the mechanics in Mark of the Ninja make it feel like a machine. I'm nitpicking and probably being a crazy old games person, so I'll have to mention that I'm probably crazy and you should still play Mark the Ninja, even if the Giant Bomb staff is a bunch of pussies who are probably incapable of playing any sort of game that challenges them and praise games that make frustrating mechanics palatable to their watered-down game journalist sensibilities. Blargity Blarg I am so hardcore.*

Far Cry 3

So, to get off the subject of things that will probably incense the wrong sort of people on these forums, I think Far Cry 3 is alright, 8 or so hours in. I've done barely any story missions and have instead taken out every radio tower and base with a focused precision. Silenced Sniper Rifle is my friend and companion, and I've died far more times to falling and wildlife than I have to enemy gunfire. I'm having a blast, so I'm hoping it stays that way once I accidentally clear out the entire map before getting anywhere in the main quest. I guess we'll have to see, won't we?

*: Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but yeah I am still sort of annoyed that the kind of games I like are ignored or treated with derision by the staff of this website (see: that awful, borderline insulting Baldur's Gate Quick Look) Probably the reason why I read Rock Paper Shotgun even though those guys are on the opposite end of the spectrum and are crazy old-guard PC enthusiasts (or elitists) who gush endlessly about some C64/Amiga game that came out before I was born before complaining about how the kids these days don't get what makes the games good.

Happy New Year?

6 Comments

ArbitraryWater's Best Games of 2012 (that came out in 2012)

Hey guys! Remember that other list I made before you made all your lists? Well I made another one. I'd like you to see it.

GOTY 2012

My personal games of the year. As per usual, the optimal place to see this list is in the blog form, where any game marked with an asterisk (*) has additional commentary, and the ones that don't probably don't because I wrote something lengthy about them in the past and will no doubt have provided a link therein. This is probably not as exciting as my other list, but I bet this one will get more views.

1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Original Blog

Simply put, Firaxis has managed to make a modern version of XCOM that stays true to the original whilst still being its own thing, a precarious balancing act that I applaud. Admittedly, I feel like the game became far too easy by the end on normal difficulty, something that was well made-up by how poorly my attempts at Classic Ironman have gone.

2. Dishonored
Original Blog (also for TWD)

After I finished Dishonored, I immediately started another playthrough where instead of sneaking everywhere I murdered everyone and had just as much fun the second time. Say what I will about the underwhelming conclusion, the game's failure to use its setting to any real benefit, or the decidedly brief length it all takes place in, Dishonored is crazy fun and probably the best Deus Ex-type game since Deus Ex.

3. The Walking Dead

The fact that TWD got any sort of emotional reaction out of me is impressive, considering that I'm a robot with no feelings and the last game story that got any sort of major reaction out of me was Persona 3. Sure, the actual game parts are boring filler between the parts where you make horrible decisions and make people hate you, but I feel that the game is good enough with the pacing that it doesn't necessarily matter.

4. Eador: Genesis

As this is an ArbitraryWater list, it has to have at least one obscure game that you've probably never heard of, and if you have heard about it it's probably because I've been ranting about how good it is. Eador is that game. *

5. Halo 4

It's more Halo. Surprise. It's more Halo. Having not played a significant amount of Halo since the 3rd one, I'm totally fine with that. *

6. Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 succeeds at being more Borderlands. This is fine. While the humor hits as much as it misses and I feel like Gearbox could have afforded to be more ambitious with its improvements, the core gameplay is still pretty fantastic.

7. Dragon's Dogma

Consider this to be somewhat preliminary, as I haven't finished it, but I've played enough Dragon's Dogma to tell you that it is a hella weird game that I'm pretty sure only someone like me could consider hella dope.*

8. Hotline Miami

Because indie games need representation too. Hotline Miami is the closest thing to an actual murder simulator, but it's also a puzzle game and kind of an action game? Either way, the soundtrack is probably the best thing.*

9. Mass Effect 3
Original Blawg

Looking at the rest of your lists, my opinion on Mass Effect 3 isn't quite as an aberration as my opinion on Dragon Age 2, which I fully admit is a not-good game that I happen to like. Mass Effect 3 happens to be a perfectly good game with a terrible, horrible, not very good ending that Bioware has since gone and attempted to retcon the hell out of. It's all a messy business and the reaction is similarly messy, but talking about any other part of that game I can tell you that Mass Effect 3 is still totally alright. Even the multiplayer is totally alright.

10. FTL: Faster Than Light

Because spaceship rougelikes are fun? The final boss is still totally BS though. Video Games.

Vidya games indeed. Now onto special categories and junk!

Honorable Mentions: Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Diablo III and Civ V Gods and Kings

All 3 of these games were on my list at some point, but due to various circumstances (namely, me liking these other games more) they failed to make the cut. However, that being said, these games definitley deserve their props for being what they are. Amalur is interesting inasmuch as its combat and class system are concerned with some pretty great flexibility in how you want to approach the game, but the world is pretty dull and I could do without the whole "Single player MMO" thing it has going on. Admittedly, Dragon's Dogma does a lot of what I'm ragging on as well, but that game is... different somehow. In ways that I have yet to entirely comprehend. Regardless, I should probably play more of it because I think it is a preeeeeettyyy good game despite how much hates it with the burning fury of a thousand suns.

Speaking of burning fury, Diablo III was also totally good. While they apparently messed up the endgame (It certainly sounds that way) and told a dull, not especially exciting story that was as predictable as it was boring, they made another Diablo and (once again) I am pretty much ok with that. Loot is great, random people are ok, and being able to play with fellow bombers during the early days of launch was similarly fun. Of course, I only played through it on normal and then a bit of Nightmare, so I can only comment on it as someone who didn't necessarily see all that the game had to offer. Either way, it got the cut.

Gods and Kings fixes a lot of what I had against Civ V, most prominently how much I hated the AI in the base game, with their constant take take take only to get mortally offended any time I would so much as sneeze. It also adds a bunch of new civs that are cool, religion and espionage (which are kind of just additional screens, if anything). I guess the reason why it didn't make the list was because it still didn't motivate me to play a ton more Civilization V despite how much those small tweaks really did contribute towards me enjoying that game a lot more. Whatevs. You get the picture.

Dishonorable mention: Inquisitor

Hoo boy. Yes, technically Inquisitor came out in the Czech Republic in 2009, but it only came out in English this year, much like Eador, which as far as I am concerned is reason enough to give either a mention. However, whereas Eador is probably one of the single best fantasy turn based strategy games of the last 10 years, Inquisitor is basically a tribute to all that annoys me about old RPGs, a genre that you might have heard I think is preettttyy great. Maybe I'm being too hard on a low-budget Eastern European attempt at being a tribute to the classics, but while Inquisitor very much looks and plays like it would've come out 12 years ago, with such games as Baldur's Gate 2 and Icewind Dale, it does so rather poorly. The part where you play detective and read a bunch of text (one of the bragging features in the description is how big the script is. Most of it is redundant information) is alright, and I'm into the dark, dark dark tone even though I found the depicitons of torture to be... questionable. The part where it is a kind of terrible dungeon crawler in the vein of something like Diablo or maybe Divine Divinity however, is... really boring and more than a little bad. However, I obviously thought it was noteworthy enough to mention, and I'd really like to see if anyone else on these forums (i.e. not those crazies on the GOG boards) has a higher level of tolerance than me and would maybe be able to get something more out of it. Perhaps or , since those are both people who like old RPGs and not necessarily good old RPGs. No, I'm not going to fund you. I'm just going to point to the part where it's half off until the 3rd. Also the soundtrack is preeetty good.

Best game that you had no idea existed: Eador Genesis

Do you like Heroes of Might and Magic? Age of Wonders? Disciples? Master of Magic? I can name specific aspects of Eador that are taken from all of those games, but because it only just came out on GOG this month and I was the one who made the wiki page for it, I somewhat doubt you've messed with it. You should. As kind of a mish-mash of all of your (or rather my) favorite fantasy turn based strategy games, I can overlook the part where it could easily be mistaken for something to come packed in with Windows '95 and definitely being made by Russians. What it lacks in grafix it makes up for in being totally awesome. I'd go into specifics, like how you can hybridize your heroes at level 10, or how I'm pretty sure starting with a warrior is a great opening move, but I feel like then we'd be here all day and you probably have other things to do, like buy gifts for family members you forgot you had, so I'll just say: buy it and see for yourself. If you like those kinds of games. But really, you probably should. Also, a sequel is coming out with actual graphics, if you're into that. Vote it up on Greenlight.

Best Halo: Halo 4

I could not tell you if I like Halo 4 more than Halo 3, the last game in the series I spent any sort of significant time with (but man did I spend some significant time with Halo 3) but I can tell you that 343 succeeded, for better or worse, at making a game that is comparable to Bungie's work. While I'm not much for how the story sets up what is basically the exact same plot as the other Halo games, the campaign is solid and doesn't overstay its welcome (also I would like to confirm that playing 4 player co-op on Legendary makes what would be a frustrating experience an enjoyable one). However, having played almost 20 hours of the multiplayer thus far, I can also confirm that I like the Halo 4 muliplayer, for whatever complaints there have been about loadouts changing the nature of the game to a more mid-ranged affair. Now I just need to see what ODST was all about. I think I'd like it?

Best open-world game with a strong combat element but not necessarily a great story: Dragon's Dogma

On the surface, Dragon's Dogma holds a lot of similarities to Amalur, thus the comparison I made earlier. The difference is that Dragon's Dogma is weird, and not weird in the way that something like Saints Row the Third is weird. It's half Dark Souls, half Monster Hunter with some Skyrim thrown in for good measure, but at the same time it can't be considered analogous to any of those games directly. I'm not entirely sure what makes this game tick for me, but it's clearly made to appeal to someone with my tastes. I'm not even bothered by the lack of Fast Travel, for the most part. I think the game would be better with it, certainly, but I also think the combat is strong enough to stand on its own. Much like Dark Souls, I'd like to see how this viewpoint holds out once I actually finish it (preferably over the break), but like Dark Souls I doubt my opinion will change very much. I really need to see the bananas ending that every review mentioned. I have to.

Best Soundtrack/Murder Simulator: Hotline Miami

I don't particularly think this needs any more embellishment.

And then I was like: nah, I don't need to write anything about FTL. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, or whatever particular holiday you celebrate (Secular excuse to hang out with family and buy presents?)

22 Comments

ArbitraryWater's Best Games of 2012 that didn't come out in 2012

Best Games of 2012 (that didn't come out in 2012)

Ah, it's december, is it not? A time to reflect, a time to spend with family, and a time to wallow in self-loathing whilst studying for finals. It's also the time when people order games in a numerical fashion and declare them as having significant qualitative merit. For my part, I have always stood by this trend as something I do as well, but in order to prove to the world that I am cool and unique and different, as well as to give a nod to my old-game blogging practice, I also make a list of my top 10 games of the year... that didn't come out this year. As per usual, the criteria is that I hadn't played these games in years prior, because otherwise Heroes of Might and Magic III would be my game of the year every year. Or something. Either way, games marked with an asterisk (*) have additional commentary, and the ones that don't probably don't because I already wrote lengthy blogs about them.

1. League of Legends

Technically, while League of Legends was on my list last year, I spent far, far, far more time and far, far, far too much time with this game this year to not give it the top spot, for as occasionally regretful as it makes me.*

2. Saints Row: The Third

The number one purveyor of absurd, self-aware insanity wrapped up in what is also a totally competent open world action game. No other game released last year made me go: "The part where I am murdering people with a dildo as a naked cockney-accented gentleman is absurd!"*

3. Dead Space 2

Isaac Clark's second adventure succeeds at being no worse than his first one, which is to say that the game starts and ends strongly despite some dragging around the middle. Really, if I had a complaint to levy, it would be that the plot is kind of terrible and Isaac doesn't need to talk because he's such a generic ActionBro that I don't even care*

4. The Witcher

Original Blog

The Witcher is an unique beast of a RPG that combines great writing and storytelling with a well realized world... and also some kinda boring combat and it takes a few hours to really get up to speed. Either way, you should probably play it, and I should probably play the second one.

5. Conker: Live & Reloaded

Original Blog

Rare's attempt at making a more scripted, linear platformer is incredibly successful from both a gameplay and a writing perspective, though the second is subjectively based on how funny you find poop and 11-year-old popular culture references.

6. Suikoden III

Original Blog

A JRPG that succeeds not only at being a JRPG, but also a JRPG that I can play free of irony (as opposed to last year's surprise picking of Final Fantasy X-2). Suikoden III is the kind of game that I endorse with very few qualms other than the part where it's long and it takes a while for the combat to get hard.

7. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

The reason I like Dawn of War II, at least as far as the single-player campaign is concerned, mostly stems from the part where it is barely a RTS. SPAYCE MUHREENS! *

8. Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo - Hikari to Kage no Eiyuu

It's more than a little tragic that this never came out in the US, considering how absurdly superior it is to the other DS Fire Emblem game, Shadow Dragon. Don't confuse that for thinking that this is necessarily a fantastic Fire Emblem game. Had I not put them on previous lists, Thracia 776 and Seisen no Keifu would have ranked very highly on this one. *

9. Icewind Dale II

Original Blog

Probably my least favorite of the 5 games made with the Infinity Engine, but to say that IWD2 isn't a good game is much further than I am willing to go. Because it's a good game, with its multitude of character building options and varied combat encounters. Just not as good as the first one, or Baldur's Gate, or Baldur's Gate 2, or even maybe Planescape. That's right , I said it. Icewind Dale II is no Icewind Dale, and it's certainly no Temple of Elemental Evil. I DARE YOU TO CHALLENGE THIS ASSERTION.

10. Fortune Street

I commend this game with very little irony, and while its length and lack of flash doesn't necessarily lend it to being a great party game, it's totally fantastic with the right group of people. Because it's like monopoly, but with a stock market and Mario.

Video games.

Now onto categorical awards!

Best games I would have put on this list had I not put them on previous lists:SNES Fire Emblem

Yo guys, Fire Emblem is pretty good. Thus, I'd like to tell you that the 4th and 5th installments of the franchise are also pretty good, and I actually finished them this year. You can find my write ups on them a few pages back for specifics, but if you like yourself some sadimasochistic turn based tactical action, there's still no better place to turn than the only Nintendo series I won't complain about being pretty much the exact same game every time. Ok, actually, XCOM is pretty good for that too, but I still like Fire Emblem better because it somehow seems less bullshit when I screw up. In any case, we'll talk more about XCOM once my other list gets finalized, and for that list to get finalized I would have to play some more Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and some more Halo 4, both of which I've played enough to tell you I like, but not enough to feel comfortable giving full endorsements to.

Another game that I played: Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned is not a great game. Despite the whole part where it is Suda51 and therefore totally insane and kind of hilarious, the actual shooting is... pretty crummy, actually, and then there's the part where most of the tricks the game throws at you come in the first 90 minutes and are repeated ad-nauseum through the rest of the game. I could go on, about how it's basically a crummier version of Resident Evil 4 that can get you some easy achievements, or how there's a really bad turret sequence that lasts far, far, far too long, but it will suffice to say that I liked the game in spite of its flaws, but not enough for it to earn a place on the list. Worth a look if the idea of really dumb, juvenile humor and passable 3rd person shooting appeal to you.

Best GPA ruining experience/Old Game of the Year by default: League of Legends

If there's a hole in the games I've blogged about vs the games I've played an extensive amount of, there's probably no more obvious a discrepancy than that with League of Legends, which is easily the game I've played the most of this year and spoken very little about on these forums. I couldn't tell you why, other than that talking about the strategies required to be good to a person who hasn't played the game makes you sound like a lunatic, and I was probably busy... talking about The Witcher or something. The Witcher is pretty good. In any case, being that I was in a freshman dorm at the time, I was able to rope several other people into playing with me, including my roommate, and we thus created a 5 man team of death and destruction. Lemme tell you: playing that game with friends was some of the most fun I have ever had playing a video game. Ever. Being able to coordinate by just yelling at someone to stop being a stupid feeder instead of typing it is a pretty great experience, and the way the game flow works and the various abilities of all the champions are expertly designed. The obvious corollary to that is that playing with random people is inherently frustrating because they're unpredictable, often rude, and quite possibly capable of killing your entire team. Thus, when summer rolled around and we all went home, I played far less until I got a job, at which point I quit cold turkey because I had other stuff to play (namely Suikoden) and also it's difficult coordinating buddies when everyone is in a different time zone and junk. This has continued into the fall where I figured I may as well try to get a good GPA this semester, so I uninstalled it. Good grades didn't happen, but at least I can't blame it on me trying to perfect my strategies for jungling Sejuani (who is a great jungling champ, BTW). Maybe some day I'll go back, but tomorrow is not that day.

Best game that didn't result in me getting a lot of Cs in classes that I could've gotten a B in or something: Saints Row: the Third

At this point, I can understand Team Jeff's argument that Saints Row should've been Game of the Year last year. I would still probably pick Skyrim, if only because I feel that is probably a better game and the culmination of everything Bethesda learned from everything they made before. But I digress. Playing Saints Row this year was a great experience, because Saints Row is probably one of the funniest games I have ever played, with its weird, self-aware tone combined with all of the insanity that is present throughout. Burt Reynolds! That part where you are naked and on a bunch of drugs! The Ending! The Bad Ending! If there's a place where it falls apart, I think the side missions are kind of bad and I ignored most of them because (let's face it) the story is really the glue that binds the experience together. The shooting and driving are competent, but not especially noteworthy, and what I played of the DLC wasn't all that great either. Still, much like the ringing endorsement of the Giant Bomb crew, I must conclude that you should probably play Saints Row, and I'm really interested to see where the franchise goes next... assuming THQ even exists by then.

Best game to be pretty much the same as its predecessor, but that still being entirely ok: Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 is not a risk-taker. It sticks to what worked in the last game, which is to say that you fight horrible monsters by shooting off their various limbs, and at some points they will jump out of ducts and you will flinch a little. To be fair, it is a somewhat faster moving game and I really like the harpoon gun's alternate fire of ELECTROCUTION DOOM. Does the flamethrower still suck? Yes. Does the assault rifle still suck? No. Which is great. Does their attempt at making a more involved story suck? Yeah. They really didn't need to make Isaac talk, and the flow of the story is still "YO ISAAC GO HERE OH NOES THERE IS SOMETHING IN YOUR WAY SO YOU HAVE TO GO HERE TO GO THERE". I'm willing to excuse it, however, if only because I think the game is dope and because Dead Space 3 is kind of bumming me and hopefully that will change once it comes out.

Best RTS that is barely a RTS: Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II

This is a pretty late addition to this list, considering that I only finished Dawn of War II's original campaign yesterday. Thus, I can't say to have played any multiplayer, I've only done the first mission of Chaos Rising, and I haven't even thought about touching Retribution yet. But basically, Dawn of War II's single-player is a more tactical, micromanagement heavy version of Diablo. While I like Diablo, or at least I used to like Diablo (you will not be seeing Diablo III in my other list, except as an extraneous mention), I wouldn't mind a bit of Baldur's Gate esque tactical managment on the side, which is exactly what this game delivers. Have your heavy guys suppress your enemies and then have your rocketjump melee guys rocket jump in to finish them off? Yes. That is fun and enjoyable. My qualms mostly relate to every map ending in a boss battle of some kind, along with the part where you tend to see a lot of the maps repeat, things that are apparently addressed in the expansion. If someone wants to play Chaos Rising or Retribution Co-Op, or maybe that survival mode, I am very much willing to do so. Also I hear the multiplayer is good, but I doubt anyone is playing it at this point.

Best Fire Emblem game that I didn't put on another list: New Mystery of the Emblem

Fire Emblem Shin Monshou no Nazo recently got itself a translation patch, something that I haven't tried out yet because I played the game sans translation, in Japanese. This was during the beginning of summer, when I was kind of bored and in need of a strategy RPG fix as fast as possible. The game follows the continuing adventures of Prince Marth as he continues to be sort of bland and uninteresting, but with the added twist that everyone actually has good stats so using that class change mechanic actually makes sense, as opposed to how utterly useless it was in Shadow Dragon for all but a few units. I know enough of the story from the SNES original to tell you that it's still pretty simple and basic (although the addition of support conversations is not to be forgotten), but on a mechanical level it's a much more interesting (and difficult) game. Still a DS Fire Emblem, so it's still kind of ugly, but at least the new one is coming out in February. Oh wait. I don't have a 3DS. Crap.

And thus ends half of my Game of the Year junk for this year. You can expect my next list sometime next week. Have fun?

24 Comments