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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Posted by ArbitraryWater

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.

Posted by Mento

Man, that guy's skin just falls off at the slightest provocation. More like Thlayed's Quest? No? Fine.

I didn't see much in that Interplay bundle I wanted. As you point out, the eight "for next to nothing" games seemed like hot garbage. The next two tiers were mostly also-rans and games I already own, so whatever. I suppose they're at least worth something for the comedy that can be mined from them, so have fun.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Mento: Yeah, after playing roughly 30 seconds of VR Soccer 96 (a game that doesn't actually seem to have a page on this site), I question my ability to write anything coherient about any of these games that is also informative or entertaining. Maybe I'll just finish Might and Magic IX, complain about that, and call it a day.

Edited by Mento

At least you can play crappy carnival mini-games and chase Loki around in circles for half an hour in M&M 9, does VR Soccer 96 let you do that? (I would probably be into a World Cup soccer game where the international teams are all pantheons from worldwide polytheistic religions, however. As long as they let me cheat with lightning bolts and the like. I'm sure it would be culturally sensitive.)

Moderator
Posted by BoG

That death montage made me want to play the game, oddly enough. There was one scene that I don't think counts as failure, when he is turned into a reptile man. Seems like a win to me. You said the game can be completed in a few minutes, how long is it? (I'm not actually going to play it, by the way)

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@Mento: I would play Populous Soccer by Peter Molyneux. I bet that game would be awesome. And I still stand by Might and Magic IX being an entirely playable game that is far too competent for being half-finished. Note that I never said it was good. Because it's the kind of game that only someone like me could squeeze any enjoyment out of. It came out only a few months after Wizardry 8, and the comparison is inevitable. And let me tell you, Wizardry 8 is fantastic.

@BoG: Well, following its arcade roots, you can totally beat it in 10 minutes if you know what to do (i.e. looked at the one walkthrough on GameFAQs like I did). If you don't, you tend to die a lot and get really inane hints from the animated persons.

Edited by Yummylee

Yeah, both RE2 and RE3 are two of the easiest RE games around. Though Nemesis in RE3 is still a complete bastard, and it's what I especially enjoy about that game; despite the fact that you've got all of these weapons and a decent supply of ammunition, you're still inclined to run away from him because he's so damn tough.

It's a problem with survival horror games like RE in general, when once you've completed the game a few times, the actual 'survival' aspect is lost. Of course you can say that about a lot of games; puzzle games lose their appeal once you've completed the puzzles for example. But it's why I appreciated the remake in particular, for how it had multiple difficulty levels and would then open up crazy shit like Invisible Enemy Mode (!?) and how they'd throw in the Forest Speyer zombie with a bandoleer of grenades around his chest so the game would just end right there if you shot him.

RE2's PC version apparently has a Hard mode, and the N64 version even added in some sort of randomisation mechanic similar to Resident Evil Directors Cut's Advanced Mode. So when you play through again, items and ammo will have been moved around in different places. Never played either version, but I may try out the PC version's Hard mode in any case. Been so long since I've been able to get that feeling of playing a survival horror RE game for the first time; even though RE2 and RE3 are a pile of piss when you head back, I can still remember having some trouble the first few times I played through them. But then I was also much younger of course...

Part of why RE4 is such a double-edged sword for me, because even though the older games are still there ect., their overall design structure isn't very sturdy against repeated playthroughs and it's impossible to get the same sensation of not knowing what to expect and where the ammunition/health items are; playing Resident Evil Directors Cut's Advanced Mode for the first time only a couple of months ago was as such a happy day for me.

I loved playing the older games because they made me think; they'd force me to hang in the inventory screen trying to come up with a strategy in how to deal with the situation at hand depending on my current status and selection of supplies. The original Resident Evil in particular, with its open environmental design of the mansion, is pretty impressive. There's usually at least two different routes to take you to where you may need to go, and I always found it stimulating to try and weigh on which route is the most profitable to take.

With something like RE4, it's all about the general gunplay, intense boss battles, and variety. It's much more feasible to play through RE4 again and still go through the same motions. Even though RE4 is... surprisingly easy heading back in now (I can still barely tell the difference between normal and professional modes), it doesn't lose what made it so appealing in the first place.

Also I wouldn't necessarily consider RE2 a short game. Sure, one single scenario is easy to complete in like an hour, but that's also after you've played through the game. After all Dark Souls could technically be labelled as a 20 minute game courtesy of some of those speedruns out there. And when you combine the four scenarios together, along with 2 (eventually 3, in certain versions) minigames as well, I think RE2 has a surprising amount of content in there. RE3 on the other hand, now that's a short game.

BTW, I take it you're playing Borderlands 2 on the PC? After around 100 hours, completing NG+ with one character and finishing up the first DLC pack with my alt, I'm just about ready to have a little break. Though I've been playing it all on my lonesome (splitscreened with the little brother here and there) and I've always wanted to try it out with a full posse.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Yummylee: Yeah, I'm playing BL2 on the PC. This overpriced gaming laptop is the only thing that I have for games right now besides my PS2. Speaking of that and a related topic, I didn't play Silent Hill 2 for Haloween like I was thinking about doing, so fie. I guess my problem with it is that it is both more effective at being really unsettling whilst also having worse gameplay, with hallways of identical, far too dark rooms to go along with obnoxious riddle puzzles. I will finish it. For my credibility as someone who likes "those types of games" (to use a Patrick-ism) I will finish it. I know you like Silent Hill as well, so I wouldn't mind some encouragement to pick it back up, or something (my current slate of games is pretty empty).

You're probably right on most counts as far as survival horror is concerned, in that your first time is your best time. I actually own the N64 version of RE2 (but have not played the randomized mode) and that is in fact the version I initially finished all four scenarios on. However, because I am a weirdo, I also own the Gamecube version, which at the very least has the benefit of having controllers that aren't worn down from all those times I had to throw Bowser and skippable cutscenes (allowing for a lower completion time). Back in the day, I also totally beat REmake on real survivor mode, which along with beating it in under 3 hours is something I'm not sure I could do today. If we get back to RE2 for a second, a complaint I do have is that I feel like the scenarios could do with a bit more differentiation if the game was to ever be remade. Also, I'd really like it if the reward for doing all that optional stuff in the Umbrella lab wasn't just another SMG, as I recall that being the reward for registering guest accounts in both the A and B scenario.

Edited by Yummylee

@ArbitraryWater: Well, you can at least take solace in the fact that while SH2's gameplay is some of the clunkiest of the clunk, it's all exceptionally easy. Once you find the handgun it's clean sailing from then on, so if you're only returning for the story and the atmosphere (although really, what other reason is there) then you're most likely going to have an easy time with it. Some of the puzzles are definitely kind of obtuse, though I actually kinda liked that about the game. It made it all the more weird and other-wordly with all of that additional nonsense. Unfortunately my own Halloween gaming plans fell flat, too as my copy of Clocktower 3 still hasn't arrived! Instead I decided to play the first chapter of Amy... And Dear God. As someone who is well versed in sluggish survival horror games, even I think Amy is kinda rubbish - runs at like 12 fps on the ps3 at that. And this is after the patch that fixed the checkpointing issues ect. I really wanted to like Amy as well, but I currently have little desire to play through any more besides because... I dunno, it's a survival horror game released for consoles so I take what I can get >_>

I'd really love to play the N64 port of RE2, for the randomisation thing, but also because you apparently unlock a STARS uniform for Leon there. Which sounds awesome. Don't know if I could ever handle picking up that controller again, though... And yeah I've got the gamecube version, too; once RE4 was released, I then bought me a gamecube and every Resident Evil anything that was available. Well, I say ''I'', but it was out of my mum's pocket. Perfectly fine port, though the fact that they were charging full price for both that and RE3 was ludicrous. Of course I was too young, and my mum too naive, to care.

And I agree, the four scenarios really aren't all that different. They all transpire across the same environments, with you basically solving the same puzzles per character, but it's an old game and the idea of witnessing similar situations from a different perspective alone blew me away; plus there's a whole new array of additional boss battles, an extended ending, and of course the Mr X Tyrant! And without him there probably wouldn't have been any Nemesis. Though what's especially impressive is they didn't really need to add any of that and RE2 probably would have been considered a grand piece of software if it was just like in RE1, with Leon and Claire's default campaigns. But you're right, if there ever was to be an RE2 remake (and they actually stuck to the A/B scenario format) then expectations will have gone up and most people, critics especially, won't be nearly as accepting.

Oh, and yes! Giving you just another SMG was a really weak reward for registering those two accounts across both scenarios. The musical theme for that area was completely unique (and excellent) at least so it did feel like it was different; that it was outside of the main path, like you just uncovered a cool little secret. But yeah, considering how excited it no doubt got a lot of players (myself included) when they realised it was impossible to access in Scenario A, what you found in there after jumping through the hoops for the second time was a resounding disappointment.

As for the concept of an RE2 remake in general, though, it's impossible to predict how that'll look at this point. Like I said in that other thread, there's a higher chance that they'll just make RE5 in RE2's clothing, complete with coop *shudder*. What I think would be neat is if they release it as a digital download instead; sorta like that SFIII ''remake'', where they remaster it all. Better character models, new animations--I really like the way Leon/Eliza wield handguns in RE 1.5; looks more ''realistic'', and i'm surprised they resorted back to how it was in RE1--pile in all of the content across all of the different versions out there, mix in some additional goodies (Like, I dunno, the RE 1.5 build for example...), but still keep it as the same game - more or less.

That's pretty much the only way they could remake it while it still resembles some of the vision and the game design of the original. If they were to market it as another big budget release like how the first remake was, then that would only mean in this day and age that they'd resort to action-ing it up to a stupid degree. Though of course given how RE6 turned out (which I am ever so curious to hear how you fair with it when you get a chance to play through it), who knows if they'll even bother. They'll probably just want to try and get the franchise back on track for next-gen, hopefully via a complete reboot.

EDIT: Also...

Posted by mandude

Transforming into a reptile seems like a win to me. Maybe his skin wont fall off so easily.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Yummylee:Hey, I have to ask: did you ever play the unfinished GBC version of the original Resident Evil now that it has been leaked to the world? I was reminded that it existed and then proceeded to download it for raw novelty factor. I mean, that video you posted is footage from a build of RE 1.5 owned by a private collector, so there's always a chance that it might get leaked the same way that other unfinished or unreleased games have. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. That footage is such a tease.

I always assumed that Amy was a piece of junk, but then again I assume a lot of horror games are junk. I kinda want to track down a copy of Dino Crisis, if only because it's basically Resident Evil with Dinosaurs and that sounds totally dinosaurs.

Posted by Yummylee

@ArbitraryWater: Nope. And after a quick youtube search, who in their right mind would want to??? I've totally got a copy of Dino Crisis, though. And to be honest, I'm not a fan. Ironically enough considering my vocal stance on the 'decline' of Resident Evil from RE4 onwards, I actually much prefer where they went with Dino Crisis 2 far as that series is concerned. Just something about dinosaurs and the subject matter that wasn't inherently scary, even back when I first played it during the years when I at least considered the PS1 RE games to be frightening at times.

Besides that, though, Dino Crisis just wasn't a particularly great survival horror game. There's a lot less combat in there than even the older RE games, which I didn't necessarily have a problem with, but the adventuring elements were so tedious. An annoying amount of reading memos (which you don't automatically log btw for whatever reason) for a pass code and then taking that pass code to a door. Not nearly as much variety like there is in Resident Evil games, and the environments are primarily made up of super generic Facility/Office 101 stuff. Aren't all that many dinosaurs either from what I remember. I wouldn't mind playing through it again as it's still been a couple of years since I last played it, but I don't recall enjoying it all too much.

Also I primarily linked you that RE 1.5 video for the sake of the time stamp I left it at :P Dunno, just found the awkward silence and stilted animations of those creeper hands to be hilarious.