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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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?)

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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?

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ArbitraryWater vs Interplay Round 3: Dishonoring Zombies

Hey there guys. Let’s sit down for a while, maybe have a chat about the video games. Thankfully, my haul from the Steam thanksgiving sale was decidedly low-impact, or at least as low impact as one can do when they’re purchasing stuff from steam because “shiny”. In this case, I got The Walking Dead, KotOR 2 (you know, just in case I ever need to trash that game again), and Dishonored, two of which happen to be the main subjects of this blog.I also bought the PC version of Dark Souls from Amazon for $15, and then won a copy of Gauntlet Dark Legacy from Ebay in a moment of nostalgia/poor judgment. Also I paid for the THQ humble bundle and gave it all to charity, which is to say that I gave it all to THQ. While I’m usually not one for RTS games that came out after 2002, I find that Relic’s more tactical affairs are the exception to the rule, and considering how awesome I think Dawn of War II is (I should really finish that, shouldn’t I?) I bet that Company of Heroes is in a similar vein, and I’ve wanted to play Darksiders for a while. (Metro 2033 and Red Faction are icing, if anything). See? I play modern games too, on occasion.

Modern Games 2: On Occasion

Do you like being horribly depressed? What about small children in peril? If either fits your criteria, then The Walking Dead is right up your alley!

The Walking Dead is barely a video game, and yet it is one of the best narrative experiences I have had in a long time. While the first episode does make a somewhat half-hearted attempt to be like the rest of Telltale’s ilk (Man, I should really play more Sam and Max), any pretense of TWD’s “gameplay” being anything other than filler between the amazing writing and dialogue is in full effect by the second episode. And know what? That’s fine. The Walking Dead is less about “Use Axe on Zombie” then it is about making terrible, horrible choices that inevitably lead to people hating you or dying. Not since I finished up The Witcher (I should probably finish The Witcher 2) have I made a choice I immediately regretted after seeing the outcome. While the story itself is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much the same regardless of how you choose, the way the choices are presented and referenced give a strong illusion that what you’re doing has weight, though I still think The Witcher has it beat in the “actual gameplay consequences” area. But whereas The Witcher had an ok, if overly padded RPG underneath its great writing, the brisk pace of TWD and the extreme shortness of the gameplay segments that don’t involve you mashing buttons means that it’s being great (and by great I mean emotionally draining and unremittingly depressing) almost all of the time. I almost feel like I can’t talk specifics because it’s the kind of experience that would probably be cheapened if you knew anything about the story going in and in a surprising deviation from my spoiler-happy internet viewing, I went into it without much foreknowledge of what was going to happen and I think that really made it for me. All you need to know is that Lee is a great character despite just being a proxy for the player, and Clementine is a rare example of a child character being written in a way that comes off as realistic. If I have any sort of qualms that aren’t philosophical in nature, they’re probably directed towards some of the supporting characters, namely the ones featured in Episode 4, but if I elaborated it’d probably go into nitpicky territory, and we don’t want that. Thus, I end with my ringing endorsement (it’s going to be high up on my GOTY list for sure), and suggest that if you are not a cold, emotionless robot like me, maybe you shouldn’t play through multiple episodes in one sitting. Considering that this game got any sort of emotional reaction out of me at all suggests that normal people will not take well to the awful happenings therein.

Stabbing dudes in the face and neck without uttering a single word: kinda awesome...

Dishonored is the best Deus Ex game since the last Deus Ex game. Considering that Arkane Studios Austin is apparently brimming with Ion Storm alumni, this is not a surprise. What was a surprise is that I liked Dishonored more than Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that I like a lot despite its occasional hiccups (mostly stemming from the part where there were totally stupid and pointless boss battles in direct contradiction to what the rest of the game was trying to do), and perhaps even more than the first Deus Ex. But perhaps I’m overselling this comparison a bit. Yes, Dishonored is one of those games where you can approach a situation from whatever angle you see fit, be it stabbing dudes in the face and neck or sneaking around every single one of them and not killing a single person (an attempt I made on my initial playthrough, foiled by someone I must have accidentally killed at some point), but it’s certainly its own game and while if you like Deus Ex, you’ll probably like this game, even if you didn’t you possibly may like this game as well. Where it differentiates itself is partially aesthetic in how steampunk it is with its whale-oil powered machinery and Victorian costuming (also, you can tell that Dunwall was designed by the guy who designed City 17), but it’s mostly in the way that traversal is handed. Corvo’s ability to blink teleport from the first non-tutorial mission onward gives a pretty clear message that you won’t be needing to play “find the vent” nearly as much as that other one. With that teleporting magic, the incredibly useful Dark Vision, and maybe some Possession and some Time Stop, I found that I was not only enjoying my attempt at a no detection/no kills playthrough, but actually succeeding (though I didn’t get the achievements for some reason, which is fine by me since the game is short enough that doing something like that again wouldn’t be too time consuming). Unsurprisingly, being able to silently teleport both vertically and horizontally makes slipping past or behind guards (so you can choke them out and throw their unconscious bodies in a pile) far easier than in some other games, where I feel like most enemies have an almost preternatural sense of being able to detect you from far too far away. Of course, having gone through half of the game again, but with the intent of killing everyone I encounter, I can confirm that the more direct route is also not very challenging, at least on Normal difficulty. Either way, Dishonored is an enjoyable time.

... but with that being said, I think there's no real reason that Corvo needed to be a silent protagonist. Which is pretty much the opposite of how I felt when they made Isaac talk in Dead Space 2

But, it’s also a short time. I beat the game in around 6 hours, in which some save scumming and some pretty extensive exploration was done in my vain quest to not be detected or kill dudes (I also replayed some missions a few times because I accidentally killed some people). That’s actually fine and dandy, considering that there is something to be said about a game that exercises brevity and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also worth multiple playthroughs if you want all the achievements, a task I am very much considering. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the story at all. This is intentional. While Dishonored is very much a game that succeeds by being mechanically sound and exceptionally polished on the gameplay front, I can’t say the same for the story. This is partially because, for as much world-building can be found in whatever scattered books you find laying around, the fiction that is built up is never truly capitalized on as well as it could be. Thus you are left with a tale of “kill the people who betrayed you, but then there is a twist”. Twist: The people who you were working for betray you for ill-explained reasons. I didn’t find any of the main characters particularly interesting, and the side characters who seem interesting are just side characters. All of this leads to a surprisingly flaccid, underwhelming conclusion ending with one of two voiceover narrations depending on how many dudes you iced throughout the course of the game. It should be stated that while it can’t compete with the likes of Mass Effect 3 or Assassin’s Creed 3 in pure disappointment, the ending to Dishonored is pretty terrible and unsatisfying. If I had to nitpick something about the gameplay, I’d probably say that it’s a bummer that most of your items and some of your powers aren’t useful if you’re trying to go the nonlethal route, but that’s probably intentional. Qualms about the narrative aside, Dishonored is probably also going to be pretty high up on my GOTY list, and I also suggest you purchase it for a monetary sum. It’s also led to me taking another look at Arx Fatalis and keeping an eye out for the eventual occasion when Dark Messiah of Might and Magic will be on sale. As a nifty bonus, it totally ran at a smooth 60fps the entire way through with most of the settings turned up pretty high. While that’s probably more the part where Dishonored’s visuals rely more on art design than technical prowess, it was still a pleasant surprise, especially since Dark Souls wants to run at like 20 FPS the entire time despite the part where my computer far exceeds the recommended requirements. Stupid unoptimized PC ports.

Oh right. I guess I should probably talk about the rest of those interplay games, now that I’m almost done with all 8 of them.

Interplay Junk, I guess if you’re still reading this far.

Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business is a standalone expansion to Jagged Alliance 2, which is to say that it’s a game I like on a conceptual level but actively fail on an executional one. I’m not entirely sure what doesn’t click with me, or what I’m doing wrong that ends with me getting half my guys killed on any given encounter, but I bet it’s probably the best game of the 8 Interplay titles that were part of that bottom tier in the “Pay what you want” promo. So that’s cool, I guess?

M.A.X. is a turn based strategy game that seems kinda like what would happen if the original C&C was a TBS. No, it’s not full of amazing FMV, as far as I can tell, but it does have a near future setting and base building and junk. It seems nifty, and may be the first game in this set of 8 that I won’t immediately uninstall. I did get wrecked by the computer on the tutorial mission though, so we’ll see one way or another. Sadly, M.A.X. 2 doesn't seem to work on my computer.

There’s one Interplay game from that promo left, but I’ll keep it a surprise (also I haven’t played it yet). Instead, I’ll just say that if you tell me your favorite method for playing the Deus Ex-like games of the world, I may send you a GOG code for the game in question, because I already owned it. Have fun?

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ArbitraryWater vs Interplay vs Resident Evil vs Might and Magic

Hey guys. In the interim between this blog and the last, I’ve played some video games, done some homework, had a birthday, voted, and suffered rejection at the cruel hands of a woman. Truly a large variety of things. Thankfully for you, I will be focusing pretty much entirely on the first one, since the internet is probably the worst place to talk about your personal life and that’s what Facebook is for anyways. So, right. Video Games. This is ostensibly still about the other 7 Interplay Games, right? But really, let’s not kid ourselves. That’s just the excuse. Of course, Interplay’s entire catalogue was 50% off recently, ensuring that anyone who paid $35 for that full bundle feels like a sucker. It’s not hard to figure out what games to pick: Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics and Freespace 2. Done. No more Interplay games needed. And I don’t even like Fallout 2 that much.

Oh right, other games

The way siege combat is handled in Heroes IV is probably one of its worse aspects, along with the terrible art design. Seriously, what is up with the plastic-looking monster design?

I finished Heroes of Might and Magic IV: The Gathering Storm, for the 3 of you interested in my completion of a middling expansion to a sequel with a mixed reputation for a franchise that has fallen from grace in the eyes of its fanbase. But Might and Magic fans are crazy. Not as crazy as Fire Emblem fans, but far more bitter and far less likely to be fluent in English. Heroes V and Heroes VI are a-ok, whatever they might think. Oh right. The Gathering Storm. The last campaign is suitably insane, having your 5 ultra-powerful heroes with powerful artifacts go against large numbers of powerful enemies. It also reveals how totally broken heroes are at higher levels. What's that? You're throwing hundreds of Goblin Knights at me, who are durable as hell and resistant to magic? Too bad the archmage character's artifact set totally allows him to ignore magic resist, which means he probably casts Hypnosis or similarly broken spell (seriously, Hypnosis is the most broken, and was ultimately the spell I used in order to win the absurd final battle where the odds are clearly stacked against you in large fashion). Oh well. Still enjoyable, if not necessarily recommendable. Maybe I’ll try The Winds of War next, since that is less about broken heroes and a bit more about “strategy”. But really, thanks to the proverbial stupidity of Heroes IV's AI at times, it's more about exploitation than actual countermeasures. I bet Heroes IV would be a pretty rad multiplayer game.

Code Veronica can certainly DRAG at times (get it? Because Alfred is this comically over the top villain who cross-dresses as his sister? How did they think that was a good idea?)

I also played through Resident Evil Code Veronica again over the weekend, mostly because the alternative was thinking about playing Silent Hill 2, and while SH2 succeeds at making me very uncomfortable, it kind of blows as a game. For whatever gripes I have with Code Veronica (and there are many), it’s still a perfectly competent Resident Evil game and is usually totally fine. Silent Hill 2 is all about fog and obnoxious riddles, two things that I’m less than keen on. Thus, because I only have my PS2 with me I had to make due with my least favorite game in the series (at least until I play 6). Unsurprisingly, my opinion has not changed much in the last 3 years since I played the game last. Code Veronica still does a lot of smart things with the way the camera is handled, how the map shows you items you haven’t picked up and how you enemies don’t really have invincibility frames (allowing you to dump with impunity). It squanders this by being crazy long (the par time for the Rocket Launcher is under 4 ½ hours), surprisingly difficult at times, and in general being the clear jumping off point for the series from more puzzle-focused adventure type stuff to third person shooting. Also you don’t really ever have to manage your inventory because both characters get side-packs that give you 10 inventory slots. On the plus side, it’s still totally cool that the knife isn’t complete garbage and can be used as something other than a weapon of last resort. Not that it matters much, as while Claire can genuinely be screwed over in the ammo department if you used a few too many grenade rounds, Chris has enough ammunition to kill every enemy he encounters, especially if you leave Claire’s weapons in the item box when you switch characters. And you will want to do that because the shotgun kind of blows in this game. Also I wrote a list where I rank the old RE games in a numerical order. You should read it?

Probably Interplay

Baldur's Gate is a classic. This game... is not.

Shattered Steel is a name that you know for one reason and one reason only: it was Bioware’s first game. Having played…. 4 missions, I can confirm that your lack of knowing or caring about the game that they made before Baldur’s Gate is justified. Admittedly, my knowledge of mech games is not expansive, but as far as I can tell, Shattered Steel is… a totally ok mech game. You have lasers. You can equip your mech with different weapons. You can turn your head independently of your legs. The hitboxes for enemies seem kinda messed up. I dunno. Seems rather simplistic, considering when I see a mech game I expect at least 30 different meters telling me the temperature of the right gun barrel. So thus, my conclusion is… inconclusive? I dunno. It fits with my assumption that most of the games in that bottom tier are boring, rather than out and out garbage the same way Kingdom: The Far Realms was. But, to be fair, that game was at least entertaining in how not good it was.

VR Soccer 96 is a soccer game and I have no idea if it would be considered good or not. I can tell you that it was the lowest-selling game on GOG until that promotion, and probably will continue to be an unfortunate stain in my GOG library. Also, it doesn't have a page on this site. Moving on.

Screamer is an “arcade style” “racing game” that is perhaps only novel if you have never played a mid-late 90s arcade style racing game in your life, and I imagine it’s comparable to the Ridge Racer games of that era. Personally, I just found it to be kinda boring, with the unfortunate exception being the announcer, who is both obnoxious and never shuts up in that 90s “In yo face attitude” kind of way. Why is this a game that anyone would buy again? Oh right. Because I paid a dollar for it.

And thus ends yet another excursion into the darkness of Interplay’s catalog and thus allows me to uninstall a few more Interplay games from my computer, never to return. Silent Storm is 60% off on GOG this weekend, and personally I think that game seems pretty cool, as opposed to most of these games.

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In which I talk about video games and maybe Interplay junk

In "commemoration" of GOG's ended "Pay what you want" promo for Interplay's entire catalog on the service, I have decided to blog about every game. Actually, no. That would be stupid, because if there's anything to be learned from that promo, it is that Interplay's catalog is pretty awful at this point and the desiccated husk of a company has been sustaining itself off the original Fallout for far too long. Instead, I will probably blog about the eight games at the bottom tier, the tier that I shamelessly paid a dollar for (if you want the good stuff, you're going to have to pay $35), though I will not guarantee a full blog on each (Hey, I bet that Jagged Alliance 2 Unfinished Business plays a lot like Jagged Alliance 2). But before I regale you with tales of a crummy Dragon's Lair wannabe, let's talk for a bit, shall we?

Musings

Zero is a pretty great character class.

I finished Borderlands 2. I stand by my (and everyone else’s) statement that it’s basically a better version of the first game, no more and no less. However, as someone who never actually finished the first game (I’m probably pretty close. I bet I could knock it out in a weekend if I felt so inclined) that was enough to tip the scales in my favor. A better sense of pacing contributes to this, as does smarter designed skill trees and more distinguished weapon design. I feel most of the attempts at dramatic storytelling fell flat, and the attempts at humor were decidedly mixed, but the part where I had an automatic sniper rifle that does corrosive damage with 22 bullets in the clip was A-OK. However, I’m not sure if I am going to play anymore, at least for a while. Much like Diablo III, my tolerance level for this kind of stuff isn’t quite enough for me to play through it again to get to max level. Maybe once some more DLC is released, or maybe if I can get some people to consistently play with me.

Survival horror isn't hard the 5th time through.

Whilst home for the weekend, I decided to mess around with some of the games I had left there. While me playing an hour of Dark Souls isn't particularly interesting, I did decide to pop in Resident Evil 2 for a spin and was surprised to see a Leon A save file that had reached the sewers. I then proceeded to finish it with a final time of less than 2 hours. (unlocking the Rocket Launcher in the process). This, if nothing else, prompted me to remember that Resident Evil 2 is hella short and also hella easy. The game practically throws ammo at you (something that I remember getting worse in Resident Evil 3), and Leon can murder pretty much anything with his upgraded shotgun or magnum. I’m not sure if there’s a point to that story, other than “Resident Evil 2 is pretty short and it kind of sucks that you can ignore a lot of the stuff in that last area”

Not the world's greatest expansion

I’ve also been playing a lot of Heroes of Might and Magic IV, specifically the set of campaigns from the Gathering Storm expansion, and I still stand by that one time I wrote that Heroes IV is pretty good and somewhat underrated. That’s not to say it doesn’t have problems, problems showcased even more by this expansion, but eh. Perhaps the most prevalent one is how you can solo maps with the right type of hero, especially if they have Nature or Chaos magic (creature summoning or direct damage). You don’t need to recruit guys if you can have an army of unicorns or fairy dragons in a few turns, and similarly one of the campaign heroes straight up gets grandmaster stealth in her first map (she also has nature magic) allowing her to run around maps alone with impunity and basically breaking the difficulty presented. While I haven’t played the original campaigns in quite some time, I remember them having a lot of writing as well as scripted events, things that seem conspicuously absent in these ones. I guess 3DO’s dire financial straits didn’t really allow New World Computing to do more than they had to.

But let’s talk about bad games. Like this one.

Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Oh boy. I really started with the showstopper. While most the other 7 games in that bottom tier of interplay seem to range between “bad” and “not especially great” (I imagine Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business is the exception, but I really never enjoyed JA2, so I probably won’t write about it), Kingdom: The Far Reaches should barely be called a game. The first warning sign is that it’s actually a port of an arcade game called Thayer’s Quest (released in like the 80s), which was basically Dragon’s Lair with the concepts of that applied to a crappy adventure game. The second is that, in addition to DOS, it was also ported to the CD-I and the 3DO. Kingdom falls into the realm of “So bad it’s ironically enjoyable” . The animation is bad, the voice acting is bad and the game itself can obviously be completed in a few minutes. There’s also a lot of insta-death, somewhat but not really alleviated by you having 3 lives that falls in line with the part where it was originally an arcade game that was meant to be unfair ‘n junk. Thus, if you were to guess that most of the puzzle solutions are total BS, you’d be right! I don’t even know what to say. . I dunno. The idea that anyone would pay money for this is both sad and hilarious, and I suggest you don’t do so. Unless you already bought that interplay pack, at which point go for it. Just watch this death compilation, which is from the arcade version and thus has better video quality.

Well, that may have been the first blog where my preamble was longer than what I theoretically was writing about. Whatever.

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I play modern games (XCOM: Enemy Unknown)

Oh hey there. I write about video games sometime. Not yesterday. Yesterday I was at a funeral.

Video Games

Borderlands 2 is pretty great. Have I said that before? I must admit, rather guiltily, that I never finished the first one because I got bored of it. That has yet to happen with Borderlands 2, and that probably comes down to tighter pacing and enemies that aren’t totally dumb. You aren’t going to get a full blog about it, but it’s a cool enough game that I will most certainly finish it, since I’m also like 17 hours in… which means I’ve probably played more Borderlands 2 than XCOM. Huh. The humor is super hit and miss for me, with some of it being pretty cringe-inducing. Oddly enough, the use of the term "Bonerfart" was not one of those moments.

I decided against writing a whole blog about the bizarre Russian mod for Heroes of Might and Magic III that just straight up adds another town, mostly because I’m pretty sure that’s all that it adds at the moment (with another two towns on the way at some point in the next decade and maybe some other things), though I’m not quite sure because I can’t read Russian. Thus, if I am going to write anything about it, you can be assured it will also include me talking smack about the other batshit insane Russian mod for Heroes of Might and Magic III (thus proving that Russians are crazy): In the Wake of the Gods. Because man. I would have field day writing about that.

With Icewind Dale II no longer my RPG white whale, I’ve decided that World of Xeen fits that role quite nicely. It is my intent to finish it before the end of the year, but let’s be realistic. Have I ever told you that, much like the rest of Might and Magic, World of Xeen is pretty awesome? Because it is. It’s surprisingly accessible for an RPG of that era and doesn’t bludgeon you over the head with difficulty the same way Wizardry VII does. Other candidates include the unfortunate “I’m still playing and planning on finishing it even though it is clearly not a good game” Might and Magic IX, Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, Legend of Grimrock and The Witcher 2, though a few hours of play probably isn’t enough for it to earn “White Whale” status yet. It certainly gave off a good first impression and I want to play more. That game is probably the most intimidating of all of these though. It's clearly as dense, if not moreso than the first game. Just be assured that Inquisitor is not and will never be on this list. Because eff that game. Yes, I'd rather play Might and Magic IX than a game that is only getting the attention it is from enthusiasts because it exists, and not because it's any good.

EDIT: Oh right. This looks balls crazy. 17 years? What. That's more than Duke Nukem. It also looks way better than Duke Nukem. I am not endorsing throwing money at this project (I haven't and will not, at least for a while), but I am endorsing looking at that insane pitch video.

But enough about that, onto the aliens!

The Aliens

A strong candidate for Game of the Year, despite my qualms

It’s fair to say that I was a pretty vocal advocate of the original XCOM when I played it for the first time two years ago. Since then, I’ve messed with other, similar games (including the “Holy shit this game is hard” stylings of Terror from the Deep, and the “This is actually not very good” stylings of the UFO franchise.) and it remains pretty clear that UFO Defense is the best, despite being an old game with a horrifically inefficient UI and some major balance issues. I think my opinion on it has lessened somewhat in the interim (whereas I can tell you with a straight face that Wizardry 8 is still totally rad and awesome and such). There are certain aspects of it that aren’t so much entertaining as they are tedious or frustrating, though I still probably consider it one of my favorite games of all time (as the near 50 hours I have logged onto steam can attest), just maybe… less so than when I wrote about it at that time. Thus, you can imagine I was decidedly pumped for this new one. And you would be right. Thus, you cannot imagine how I felt when I realized that the game is complete and total garbage. Ha! Just kidding. It’s awesome, as many of you can attest. Thus, to avoid redundant information, I am going to assume that you know most of the details about this game and focus on what I think about all of it. Because I want to. And because you want me to?

I understand why the base is the way it is, and it certainly forces you to make tough choices, but that doesn't mean I think it's better than how the original handled it.

If there is something that needs to be spoken on the outset, it’s that Enemy Unknown does a frighteningly good job of being a lot like the first game, for as much as is different. I am of the opinion that most of these changes were justified, inasmuch as they’re making a game in 2012 is concerned. Class designations are great, as it forces soldiers into individual roles rather than the army of psychic flying heavy-plasma-wielding monsters that the end game of the original eventually turned into. It’s still raw in a way I can get behind, with your soldiers being incredibly vulnerable, especially at the beginning. The controls for mouse and keyboard are fine, though clearly still optimized with a controller as priority. The gameplay still rewards patience, reaction shots still always miss when you don’t want them to and Chrysalids are still total jerks. The base is probably one of the less enthralling changes, though I understand why it was made, even if the result is a less important geoscape and far less UFO shooting down. It’s a different enough game to be its own thing, which is good. Xenonauts, for as cool as it looks, has yet to convince me that it isn’t just taking every single page from the playbook of UFO Defense, though obviously I will find out for myself soon enough.

With that being said, I have no clue where Ryan Davis is coming from when he says on the Bombcast that Normal difficulty is crazy hard (other than the obvious: he’s bad at strategy games). I’d go as far as to say it becomes a bit too easy by the end, even with Elite Mutons, Sectopods and Ethereals messing you up. The final mission in particular is noteworthy for being simultaneously underwhelming and hilariously easy. Keep in mind that I am referencing Normal here. I’ve started messing with Classic, and the jump in difficulty is… significant, to the point where I feel like it actually succeeds in being the sadistic monster the developers claimed it would be. Obviously I will have to play more at some point, but my academic situation is such that I can’t really afford to spend much time with games until I get things sorted out. Wait, why did I spend time writing this again? Oh yeah. Easier than homework. Crap. Theoretically you can also expect a bit less of a presence on the forums from me, for aforementioned reasons.

XCOM is pretty great, and Firaxis is probably the best developer it could have had. For all my praises though, I feel like I burnt out on it playing the way I did (I beat it on Thursday, which is to say that I beat it after about 2 days of not doing much else. ) and classic is intimidating enough that another look will not be for a while. It's a fantastic game, though I would be hard-pressed to say if it is better than the original. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some spreadsheets to spreadsheet!

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