I Need To Conquer My Gamer Brain, Ch III: Zeitgeist Fury Go

Let's face it, we all have things we dislike about ourselves, be it mind or body. I've recently decided to get into shape and eat better, no problem I can do that. But their is this other beast that I need to conquer, and this one doesn't make it easy at times. This little blog series is about conquering the gamer brain so that I and those who have similar.... issues, can enjoy gaming and life more!

Zeitgeist

Why do I come to this site? To find out about the latest games and laugh at Vinny's playful, sometimes racist, sense of humor. It's a lot of fun getting a new game day of release and discussing how great or shit it is with fellow duders on the forums here at Giant Bomb and finding out the teams personal views on the game I'm playing. But I feel like I am beginning to live and consume media like the Giant Bomb team, buying way more games than I have time to play.

There is a point in everyone's life where we start earning an income of our own and have free reign to purchase what we want. For me I just began to buy every game I had any interest in day one. Unfortunately this has led to a steam account full of 100s of unplayed games and a bunch of half played console games I need to get back to but can't because a new release is just around the corner. Perhaps this isn't a problem for everyone as they may have a more specific interest in certain games and are ready to play every new release they have interest in, but my love for games is so broad that mainly only sports games get a miss.

So what I am going to do is stop buying games until I've played everything single one in my steam and console collection No that's definitely not the solution, like I mentioned, it is a lot of fun being part of the Zeitgeist. The real solution is I'm just going to stop impulse purchases and only buy games I am really excited for. This way I can go back to games I missed and buy them at discount price later and still enjoy them. If a game is good, it doesn't matter when you play it, it will be good.

Frustration and Suffering

You're racing the AI across a long and winding road, avoiding countless challenges and obstacles along the way. You approach the finish line, your heart beats like a madman and you know you've got this 20min long sequence in the bag. BOOM!! you stub your toe, fall over and your competitor, Mr "stupid" AI whizzes past you and takes the victory and you have to start the whole goddamn mission again. How does that make you feel? It makes me want to rip out my own hair and shove it down the game designers throat (Well not really, I am not an aggressive personality type but I thought that may have more impact than an image of me weeping on the floor). Why? I hate repeating long sequences again in games and it is the main reason I don't play most games on hard. I prefer just to get through a game with a few challenges but ones I can manage without too much repetition of failed checkpoints. But this is a personal weakness of mine that I want to overcome because experiences like beating Dark Souls can be a nightmare at times, but can also be the most exhilarating experiences.

I fear failure, I know it. I have trouble trying things that I may fail at. But I want to shape a new mindset for myself. A line between living too safely and self defeating masochism. I need to be able to try something, fail at it and try again while maintaining a completely positive attitude. If I continue to fail I need to stop, because if its just not fun or working out then I shouldn't be doing it. Experiencing new things while trying to avoid pain and suffering is life, time to deal with it the right way.

Life tip

"Don't let artificial highs (Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Video Games) be your only way of maintaining happiness, as they will ultimately run you into the ground." - benspyda, you may have heard of him.

Anyway that's it from me and my insanity. The key to solving all lifes problems is by asking yourself why that problem exists in the first place (no matter how painful that answer may be). Live long and prosper \V/

PS

I have been a long time flash game developer (even professionally for the education department for 3 years) and have began making my first mobile game for IOS and Android, my new site is http://www.eyespyda.com/ if you'd like to check out my work. I have also been thinking of making a Giant Bomb flash game starring the giantbomb crew and would love any ideas.

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Game Buying Inception

When a new game is released I tend to have a ritual. If I am unsure of a game, I go to Metacritic and look at the scores and maybe read a couple reviews. I then wait for the quicklook and make a judgement call whether I want this game. But I have come to realize that Metacritic reviews rarely sway me at all and I'm starting to wonder why I look at them. It's the core game concepts, gameplay trailers and quicklooks that sell me on a game 99% of the time.

This game just reaks of cool right?... Right?

I just ordered a copy of Dragon's Dogma despite the somewhat mixed reviews because everything about it looks like a game made for me (aka I love Dark Souls, Skyrim and Shadow of the Colossus). Similarly when borderlands came out it wasn't super well received but I bought it day one because an fps diablo sounded amazing and I wasn't disappointed (not that it received bad reviews, that's just the example that came to mind). I instantly bought Trials Evolution because that game looked addictively simple and fun not because it got a 90 on Metacritic, in fact I bought it before even looking at Metacritic. Conversely I haven't touched Fez, Journey or Minecraft despite the rave reviews because they just don't sound like my thing.

When it comes to Metacritic, obviously the least trustworthy part is the user reviews because lets face it, they are often just people trying to make a stand against DRM or developers hyping up their "totally awesome amazing great game dude". But it sucks because this would be the most useful information for a buyer. Professional reviewers tend to nitpick or hype up games beyond what they deserve to get hits, where as a legit user review can be the most truthful. But there lies the problem, decent legit user reviews are few and far between. Overall Metacritic doesn't seem to have any sway over my buying decisions but it worries me that their are possibly many who do.

You will buy our game...

Not that I haven't been tricked a few times, Jeff always gets me excited for Killzone games but when I play them I always feel swindled. And the hype of Rayman Origins got me to buy it but have yet to touch it because I'm not a huge platformer fan (I will try it at some point). I guess that's more of a Giant Bomb related thing, anything those guys say have unusual powers over me. Brad and Jeff's excitement for specific games in Quicklooks and on the Bombcast kind of inception thoughts into my brain.

I feel a major issue with most reviewers is that they can critique a game based on a lack of story or graphical glitches, when the core game could be super fun and addicting so it can be misleading. I find games generally sell me based on their core concepts and whether they appeal to me. What do you guys think?

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What makes a good fantasy RPG?

Endless tedium

Kingdoms of Amalur can get tough to push through once you get roughly 20-30 hours in. What starts off as interesting god of war esque combat becomes tedious and dull. I've re-speced my character countless times trying to make the combat more interesting but it's finally run out of steam. But I feel a large part of the tedium is less to do with the combat and more to do with the exploration. Exploration in the game is meaningless, you just pick up quests and follow markers, there is zero reason to explore the world. If you do explore all you find is gold (which is pretty useless) or loot that will 99% of the time be way worse than what you have equipped. I'm about 40-50 hours in and I'm trying to just brute force the main story content, but I often get sidetracked and accept a side quest along my path and end up wishing I hadn't. I also wish I didn't buy the first expansion because that adds to my laundry list, I just hope it has an interesting story at least. I want to see how the story turns out because the faction quests are pretty interesting and the main story is alright.

Endless opportunities

So then why am I so addicted to Skyrim even though I've completed just about every main quest in the game 2-3 times and spent 100s of hours in the world already? It can't be the combat right? I've heard people complain that the combat is pretty janky and they are not wrong but for me personally it is about 10x more engaging than Amalur's. Amalur takes away everything that makes real time combat engaging, such as aiming a bow or spell or sidestepping enemies to land a sword strike because its all completely automated. In Skyrim despite the awkwardness of the animation, you feel like you are actually in control. You can sneak up behind people and slit their throat, snipe them with well place arrows from a distance or use them as distractions, run in with a hammer and crush their skulls, raise the dead to fight for you while you set the others on fire, precisely block and attack with a sword and shield and so on. The combat just feels natural and intuitive like you are in that world. But more importantly every cave and area feels handcrafted and interesting making exploration rewarding. Maybe you'll find a diary that will start a quest, run into someone who needs your help, stumble across a battle between bandits and Falmer. Generally you'll always find something useful, like a necklace that improves archery or something you can sell so you can raise much needed funds for some training or smithing. While playing Skyrim I always feel like I am being rewarded. In Amalur I built the perfect warrior 20 hours ago and very little of what I've done since then has got me anything useful.

Endless ways to die

Then there is Dark Souls. The combat in Dark Souls is my personal favorite action RPG system of all time. Its fun, skill based and brutal. Every new weapon or upgrade is life or death. Everything you do is meaningful. Every combat scenario with a couple of the weakest enemies in the game will test new players abilities. And once you master the combat and can destroy those enemies that used to destroy you, you feel great. The dark atmosphere and complete bewilderment you feel while playing it is an experience everyone should try but I know is not for everyone. The lack of any cohesive story telling adds to the mystery, but can be off putting to those who come to RPGs for story.

And story is where Witcher 2 succeeds in leaps and bounds. It really feels like Game of Thrones in fantasy RPG form. The characters are deep, nasty and dark. The world's back-story is the same. Unfortunately I never got into the combat and I have never enjoyed alchemy in games which is a large part of this one. But that's more a personal taste thing rather than a gripe. Also the vagueness of the side quests and what your current goal is can be frustrating at times.

To me there are a few key concepts that need to be done well to make a great fantasy RPG. A great sense of exploration that rewards you for doing so, engaging combat that can vary greatly based on character builds, an interesting world or narrative and most importantly a motivation for everything your doing in the world. I've only focused on modern games but obviously there are hundreds of great examples from over the years. So what do you look for in a fantasy RPG and what game floats your RPG boat?

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I Need To Conquer My Gamer Brain, Ch II: Quit When You Need Bed

I've spent a lot of time gaming in my 20 or so years on this planet. It has taken me a while and I still have a long way to go but I'm coming to terms with some simple issues that effect how I play games. Here are some new and old ones that I have been thinking about recently.

Must Beat Game in this Session

This boss was so easy when I took a break.

There is always a point in a game where I know I'm near the end. I don't know how long is left but I know it's close. Often this is late at night or there something else I need to do in an hour or so. Then it kicks in and I must beat it within this allotted time. I begin to stress as I look at the clock, as my time starts to run out. The end result is the same, I either beat the game without enjoying the ending that I spent hours working towards or I run out of time and walk away frustrated. Even if I do beat it, it is often really late and I know it wasn't worth the tiredness I will feel the next day. The biggest issue with this is that games sometimes give you false endings and in fact there is 3 - 4 hours more to go. Either that or they end the game with a boss battle that is 30x harder than anything else in the game just to fuck with you.

Answer: If it looks late and/or you don't have much time to finish this game in, save when you can and quit. I guarentee that super hard boss battle will be a cinch when you have no time limit. Unless the boss actually has an in game time limit. Then you're fucked.

Don't Do Things You Don't Want To Pt 2

I feel the need to reinforce this issue. In every medium we experience this. I was reading a book (The Shining) and got about 1/3 through it and realized how agonizing it was. I was not enjoying it one bit. I immediately started reading the Horus Heresy series and have been hooked ever since. The same goes with movies, not all movies are written for you, especially comedies! Last weekend over the Easter break I tried watching Gangs of New York (bit late to the party I know) and I just didn't like it at all. I did not find the main character or in fact any character interesting (which is another topic I will probably post about in the future). I also tried watching Rango, the western inspired animation, and none of the comedy hit me. I got all the jokes but just didn't find it funny at all (I call this the 'Bones/How I Met Your Mother' effect). So both movies I stopped watching. Something I never used to do. I would normally just sit through the whole thing and then say 'Meh' at the end. No more! I then stuck on 2 movies I know I love to bits, Scarface and Tintin and loved every goddamn second. I already talked about this in a previous blog about games and my backlog, but I thought I'd give a few examples relating to other forms of media(because I can).

Answer: If your not enjoying it, shelve it.

Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin

OK, in the last one of these blogs, I talked about backlogs and why I shouldn't just play a game because I think I should. I also said you should just play what you feel like at the time. There is an inherit issue with this that I have discovered. If it is a game you've played before and seen through, there is no issue, play it every now and again and not touch it for months, who cares. But for unfinished games this leaves horribly fragmented play sessions all over the place. This makes it hard to go back to any of them.

Answer: It's simple! Make a TODO list that has about 3 games on it that you intend to complete in the next month or so and don't crack open any other new games until they are finished. However, the exception to the rule is that if you are not enjoying a game on that list, don't brute force it. Shelve it and add another onto that list. This process becomes an amalgamation of all my former answers and processes.

That's about all that was on my mind for the time being. Let me know if there is anything you do while your gaming that you wish you didn't but you do anyway. Over and out!

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Did Mass Effect 3 Suffer From Uncharted 3 Syndrome?

From what I can tell there is a simple metacritic equation at work here: big budget = high Metacritic score. Uncharted 3 scored a 92 from critics but something was off about it. The game didn't win many game of the year awards and overall left a somewhat bitter aftertaste for the franchise. For me the issue with Uncharted 3 was that it felt almost identical to the experiences I had in Uncharted 2 and any changes made to the formula were for the worse. Frustrating flanking shotgun dudes and big open environments where the enemies hit you with 100% accuracy from every angle to name a few. I have similar feelings towards Mass Effect 3, but I feel there are a few significant differences.

Edit: Just a heads up, this is based on my previous blog about Mass Effect 3: http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/benspyda/will-mass-effect-3-suffer-from-uncharted-3-syndrome/30-90226/

Gameplay

Mass Effect 2's gameplay was a great improvement over the originals, adding precise shooter controls on top of a great action rpg base without sacrificing too many RPG trappings. Although some may disagree and would say Mass Effect's gameplay was better and more stat focused, I found it clunky. ME3 improves on the formula of ME2's by making the controls even more precise. They have also added a weight system that allows you to carry whatever weapons into battle you want but will effect your power recharge rate. I found roaming around with light weight weapons and using powers as my primary offensive was a lot of fun. Overall I found the tweaks to the gameplay an improvement. In comparison, Uncharted 3's changes to gameplay were minimal and in some ways worse.

RPG Elements

Yes, you can play this game purely as a shooter by just picking a straight up soldier, but with a slightly more in depth skill tree system I found it rewarding focusing on powers and min/maxing my way to a badass character build. Yes it's still more streamlined than most RPGs but I feel they nailed their goal of making this game their most accessible and at the same time deep. I wouldn't call it perfect and I personally would love the return of random loot and stats but I felt engaged by the systems in place. Now don't get me started on how non existent Uncharted 3's RPG elements were.

Co-op

ME multi-player??? Blasphemy, how dare they feel confident enough with their combat to put it to good use? To be honest I doubted Uncharted 2's MP and it turned out great and I feel the same has happened here. The MP is well made and a lot of fun. All the character classes are rewarding to level and play with. It's challenging and tactical. The rotation of objectives keeps it interesting and for some reason hides the fact that it is really just horde mode with character leveling. I think it is a great addition and well made.

Story

When it comes down to it the reason to play a Mass Effect game is its story and characters. If you think otherwise you are WRONG! And this is where everything falls apart. Going back and doing an alternate playthrough of ME2(badass renegede femshep), using my alternate playthrough of ME1 save, the story and characters are incredibly in depth and engaging. In comparison ME3 feel hollow, a husk of its former self. Terrible dream sequences and the shitty artsy ending shows how much the writers of ME3 have lost the plot (in fact there are some scary similarities to Dragon Age 2 as far as ending and plot).

Every situation in the game involved meeting 'friend from the past', shooting dudes and then followed by saying goodbye to said 'friend from the past'. In fact the game felt more like a high school reunion than a game all of its own. I enjoyed the combat so I still enjoyed playing the game but there is no emotional connection to the characters even when well known characters started sacrificing themselves, the reasons just felt contrived. Also continually returning to the citadel to give people relics and have a chat with a couple squad members felt like a checklist at a super market. In fact the whole citadel felt contrived and I did not enjoy anything that happened there. I'd prefer the mining from ME2 (in fact I find it quite relaxing) to the stupid pacman reaper chase and then wandering the citadel looking to distribute 'reaper artifact 02' to 'thankful alien'.

Anything that wasn't on the Citadel/Normandy was a Call of Duty inspired explosion fest followed by a combat arena. Where have the interesting places like Omega gone where you can explore and talk to people and take in the story through osmosis rather than reading endless codex's? Overall this was the biggest let down, far more important than the stupid ending(hell ME2's ending was almost as stupid). I could probably go on forever about how well thought out ME2's story events were in comparison to ME3's but I'm sure others have already detailed this to death in other blogs. In fact this is where Uncharted 3 wins over ME3 as there were some actual interesting characters and plot twists in that game. (Mordin is still amazing however and picked up some of the slack I guess).

So is this game bad? (Or suffering from some sort of Syndrome?)

No this game is not a 0/10 or a 10/10. Neither was Uncharted 3 really. ME3 at least tries to be a unique game on its on right and is successful in terms of gameplay and co-op. But either the writers couldn't handle the weight of having to write conclusions to the 100's of decisions Shephard made or it was just written by the Dragon Age 2 team, the game just didn't have the emotional resonance it should have had. All it needed was a Return of the King sort of ending where all the races come together to celebrate a glorious victory and I'm sure everyone would have been happy with the outcome. All your decisions had zero impact on the ending anyway and I don't care about that. Why did the game have to conclude every single story line from the originals? Why couldn't it introduce new characters and stories? I won't pretend I could have done it better, but I won't deny being disappointed. But the Matrix sequels don't stop me from loving the original and I feel the same here. Mass Effect 3 is still a fun game, but like Jeff said, Mass Effect 2 was one of the greatest games of all time.

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The Future of Gaming and the Tale of the Past's Future's Present

So where are we at?

Remember when this was next gen graphics?

Every 5 or so years in gaming there seems to be a huge leap. Just look at the transition between Atari 2600 games compared to NES or SNES games. Remember the jump to full on 3D graphics with the N64/PS1 and how cool that was. 3D graphics then became fine tuned in the ps2/xbox/gamecube era to something that wasn't just a blocky blur. Fast forward to the far flung future of 2005 and along came the "current" generation of consoles which brought us complex shading and bump mapping that blew my mind the first time I saw it in action. Along this road the PC maintained a lead in graphics technology and the continuous incremental advancement that it continues to do to this day. But what's next? If the next generation of consoles will be about as powerful as a high end PC is now, will it change much?

Still looks pretty good if you ask me.

I feel we are still at some very incremental stage in computer graphics where every iteration just adds more shaders and triangles but still doesn't look a whole lot more interesting than 2007's Crysis. Yes video cards now are over 10X's more powerful than the 360 but they certainly don't look 10X better. Battlefield 3 maxed out looks very cool but it's really Dice's multiplayer style that is the real draw which really hasn't change much since Battlefield 2. We have yet to see any advancement in rendering technology that comes close to the jumps between vector graphics > Sprites > 3D graphics > DirectX/OpenGL.

Now pat the dangerous animal.

Yes there have been attempts to reinvent the wheel. Kinect's/Wii's motion controls are a crazy new way to interact with technology and games, but what is it used for? Party games mostly. Sony's push to sell 3D tvs also effected gaming but in the end 3D, although a cool little feature, hurts your eyes after a short period of time and is very much a fading gimmick. If anything the best implementation of 3D is the 3DS, I can play that for 2-3 hours on max 3D just fine and it really makes a game like Ocarina of Time 3D look more impressive than anything new I've seen recently. Glasses free 3D really is the only way it can be enjoyed. Maybe motion controls and 3D will be better implemented in the future and change gaming forever but where it's at now I'm not that fussed about either.

The main reason the current generation was so significant is because along with a considerable boost in fidelity, came a console that was designed to be online. Achievements, multiplayer and DLC became a standard. Yes the original Xbox and PC gaming started the trend but Xbox Live on 360 really did nail it. The future will likely bring more social networking, digital downloads and multiplayer experiences but again it's only gonna be very incremental to what we already have (and have already had for a while now if you consider Steam).

So what's next? Will the next generation of consoles bring something new to the the table or will a slightly better coat of paint suffice?

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I Need To Conquer My Gamer Brain, For Freeedoommm!

No this post really doesn't have anything to do with Braveheart (that I am aware of). I play a lot of games as I am sure many of you on the site do. But not every experience is an enjoyable one. Yesterday I had a rant about how god awful BF3's single player is, but in reality a lot of the pain was my fault in the end. It's time to man up and figure this shit out, so I can enjoy all my future gaming experiences.

There's that ant that was shooting me.

1. The worst offender - The act of brute forcing my way through a campaign from start to finish so I can be done with it and move on. If I am having this feeling towards a game then there is immediately a problem. Firstly I can't really be enjoying the experience if I am feeling this way. I shouldn't find myself yelling at the game when I die, resulting in having to re-do a checkpoint, because the gameplay should be so much fun that I'd happily head-shot some more goons. But I don't stop. I keep going. I beat BF3's single-player in one sitting in fact. Secondly I shouldn't feel the need to get through it in one sitting, I should be segmenting the experience so it lasts longer. This should be my first warning indicator about a game, because often it starts off on a sub-conscious level.

The simple solution - If I am enjoying the story but not the gameplay, Uncharted 3 for example (which I painfully beat on Normal and wished I hadn't), turning down the difficulty is the way to go, even if it means starting over. Playing through a mediocre game on easy can be more fun than it really should be. However if I am not enjoying anything about the game, I need to just shelve it. Even if I am half way through, just pushing through it to get my money's worth is a waste of my time and misery.

Not exactly the log I meant

2. Next up on the list is - Don't stop playing my favorite games because I feel the need to get through this thing they call the 'backlog'. I need to just play the game I feel like playing at the time, even if it is just a craving for a game I have already played and beaten. Who cares. The concept of a backlog can be confusing because it shouldn't exist really. Generally when I buy a new game I play it through to completion and if not I'm either not in the mood for that kind of experience it is offering and when I feel like shooting zombies for instance, I can go back and pick it up. But I should not pick it up just so I can clean up my backlog.

Its over 9000!!!

3. Obsessive quest for power - Whether it'd be making the most bad ass character in an RPG or trying to collect all those stupid achievements, I need to re-focus on just enjoying the game. This means no grinding for soul gems all day in Skyrim to max out enchanting. I need to progress my character at the speed the game designer intended. This means the difficulty remains challenging and I don't end up grinding. This is also why I haven't played an MMO for a long time, I find the the quest to get the best loot and player build painful. For some people however this is the only reason they play games. When I play with one of my friends in co-op games its all about getting all the achievements and making sure he has the best character build/weapons (better than mine anyway). I'm not the same but I do love skill trees and player builds I just need to turn off the part of my brain that wants to get caught up in the math of % damage output. I'll let crazy people enjoy that part.

4. This one isn't an issue but a solution (and somewhat of a tangent) - Mixing things up makes it more fun. Alright I love making new player builds in Skyrim (I think I'm on my sixth). It's somewhat freeing seeing that level 1 on my character screen and being able start out from scratch knowing the infinite possibilities of how my character could turn out. I love the feeling of getting a new perk point and having all sorts of great options to dump it in. Then I hit a point where I have purchased everything I wanted and things become boring. So for me I get a high from playing through a game with a different build.

Chakrams are pretty awesome even if they exist in the same game as the mighty Greatsword

I have been playing reckoning since its release day and I am enjoying it. I have been playing a straight warrior mainly because greatswords are extremely powerful and combined with relentless assault, makes you a force to be 'reckoned' with. But it got old after about 10 hours because there was nothing in the might tree left that made any difference to how I played. Nothing! So why keep playing if my character is already a badass at 1/3 through the game. Well thank the gods(or whatever religious icons appear in Amalur) Reckoning knows this and has a respec option that is super easy.

First I tried a might/finesse build that used poisons to enhance my greatsword and bows for ranged damage. But the issue was that bows are weak and useless from what I could tell (why have an arrow limit that takes forever to come back when other range weapons you can spam forever) and my character just felt weaker than my straight might build. Early on I also dabbled in a might/sorcery combo but changed to straight might because I made the mistake that I discussed in issue 3.

Then I did it! I made a Jack-o-all-trades build and haven't looked back. There is always a perk to upgrade in one of the skill trees that will be useful. So far I am using daggers for stealth and close combat, Chakrams and spells for ranged and the might skills Relentless Assault and Scorpion's 'get over here' spear for their usefulness. The combat makes me dodge, switch between ranged and close combat and is overall more fun than just activating relentless assault and pressing X to win. So if the combat in Amalur is boring you then go jack of all trades and mix it the f@#$ up.

Freeeedoommmm!

So there you have it. Some may find themselves in similar predicaments and I hope my solutions will help you out. But that being said human beings all seem to be wired completely different. One person's trash is another's treasure and things I hate will always be loved by others. But I feel in the end if I can figure out what experiences in life fill me with happiness and try to rid myself of obsessions that lead to tears, I'll be a happier person. I will probably continue to figure out the inner workings of my brain and why I enjoy playing games. It will be necessary if I have any chance of fighting through the barrage of sequels and sameness, to try and enjoy gaming like I used as a kid. The moral of this tale is really simple. Don't do things you hate because you feel (or have been told) you should. For freedom!!

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Dice, don't make any more single player campaigns!!!

Ok, I apologise for what is going to be a rant. I just played through BF3's single player campaign because despite how mediocre people have said it was, it couldn't be that bad right? Wrong! It is awful! Beautiful maxed out on pc, but damn awful.

Dice haven't really made that many single player games so I guess they could be forgiven, mirrors edge was ok and the Bad Company games had some decent humor, but man had nobody played through this before release. All you do in it is shoot ants through a scope. Little tiny ants in the distance that occasionally shoot a rocket at the car you were using for cover because it was scripted to do so. Wow is this game scripted in all the wrong ways. If your not shooting ants your getting jumped by some random dude round the corner where a little scene plays out that looks completely stupid. Or your attacked by a killer rat, how suspenseful that was.

I don't know how they did it but they took everything that is wrong with a COD campaign, ignored everything that makes it a fun roller-coaster ride and replaced it with shooting ants in a field. All the scripted moments were broken and looked weird. The only set piece that worked really well was the jet scene which was fantastic. A shame it is surrounded by such a turd of a game, albeit a beautiful turd. A very beautiful turd.

The story, well if you can call it a story, is completely divided into flash backs by people yelling at you and telling you to go over the events that led up to this moment. Its like Black Ops but worse ( to be honest I thought the story in Black Ops was decent). There is a scene towards the end where you ''act out" the event that they are so angry at you about and if you don't you die for no apparent reason. Then you have to watch the scene play out all over again. I did this scene 4-5 times because the first few times I had no idea what it wanted me to do. Then when I finally got it right, the scripting got stuck and I had to reload my checkpoint and once again watch the scene play out.

Anyway that's probably enough ranting, at least the multiplayer is amazing, but why include this in a package that was already offering dozens of hours worth of fun in the multiplayer alone. I would have given this game something like a 9/10 but after playing this I think I have to drop the score to about hmm... a 2/10. Sorry Dice.

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The Adventures of Mighty Thor: Don't Obsess Edition

Ok, I know what you're thinking. Mighty Thor has to be a Nord with a gigantic hammer; that would make sense right? Wrong. Mighty Thor is an Orc with a hammer because orcs have no doubt the best race power, Berserker Rage. This power mixed with a set of heavy armor and a badass hammer equals clobbering time. The resulting double damage output and half damage received is a great daily power and the only one I have really used that often.

Mighty Thor is the first character I have made on the PC version of Skyrim. This means from the get go I loaded up a few mods like improved skyforge and bag of holding. Nothing that will greatly change the experience, just enough to make things a little better. I stand by the fact that the console versions still look amazing and I commend Bethesda for that, but that said the PC version shines the brightest and looks real nice. Loading off a SSD is pretty great too.

For the first 10 or so hours with Mighty Thor I was having a great time. Crafting my own heavy armor and completely ignoring enchanting. Then I made a poor decision. I was at about level 22 and thought it was about time to max enchanting and make some badass armor. Little did I know that patches seem to have made enchanting take forever to level past 60 skill. It is no longer worth the time it takes to (a. collect 100s of soul gems and (b. sit in that menu enchanting 100s of crafted iron daggers. I got it to about 80, gave up and just console commanded my way to some ultimate armor that would have taken at least another few hours of grinding. Then I took him out for a spin and realized the foolish mistake I had repeated for the second time.

Once you craft and enchant an ultimate armor set there is no point playing the game anymore. You can't die and you one hit everything. This is what happened with my first character I made on Xbox. I obsessed over making the most overkill armor: enchanting armor that boosts smithing then smithed up some uber armor so I could then enchant while drinking enchanting elixirs so after that I could make armor that improved my damage output to over 300% of what it would normally be. If you survived that last sentence then you know what horrible spiral I fell into. This is one I fell into again with Thor and then I realized what I had done!

This isn't World of Warcraft, I'm not raiding with this character so what does it matter. I hated that obsessive part of WOW, aka grinding for the best loot so that you could raid for the best loot so you could get better loot blah blah blah. Who cares, it's all BS really. There's a point where a game becomes a job that your not being paid to do. I was getting dangerously close to that with Skyrim. It was time to let go and I hope this changes the way I play these games in the future. Don't obssess over making the ultimate character build. The best thing about Dark Souls was that there was no ultimate build and that game would mess you up no matter what. That's how it should be. Every battle encounter should be life or death. When you cover your character in health regen gems it ruins your enjoyment (which I did in Armalur, thanks Jeff!).

So I jumped back to my pre-'console commands hack save' where Thor had decent armor with some decent enchantments earned through honest means and the fun started to return. Then I started playing with the Creation Kit but I think that is something for another post. If you read this, thanks and I wish you merry Skyriming.

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The Adventures of Mr Sneaky: The Joys of Non-linear Game Design

I've played a lot of Skyrim, which certainly isn't hard with such an engaging game. The first character I made was a warrior who wore light armor and used a sword and shield (and later switched to dual swords). He was your standard jack of all trades and with him I did all the main quest lines and guilds. It was fun but once I maxed out enchanting and smithing, all the challenge was lost from the game as my dude became a tank that did ridiculous amounts of damage. My second was a mage who focused on Conjuration/Destruction. This time I brought Lydia with me too and I had fun decking her out with cool weapons and armor so she could tank for me. The mage pretty much became a support class for my summons and companion. Then I made a Khajit unarmed fighter based on that forum post for laughs but that didn't last me long.

By this point I had to force myself to take a break from Skyrim (by getting obsessed with Dark Souls instead) and when I felt like returning to Skyrim I realized there was one more build left to make, Mr Sneaky. I never touched much of the stealth stuff in Oblivion so Bethesda's implementation of stealth was mostly new to me. After a few hours of playing this way it became clear that this was the most fun I had playing Skyrim so far. I focused purely on 'sneak' early on to get the 15x knife backstab skill (and then became a member of the Dark Brotherhood for the gloves that double it to 30x), so that my backstabs got the job done. The risk-reward nature of this play style became apparent when I ran into a sabercat head on and it destroyed me. I loved the risk, knowing that if I failed at being hidden I would be as good as dead. I then invested in illusion magic so that if I did get spotted I could calm so I could find a spot to re-hide. I also used my bow mainly to cause distractions.

I love how every time I re-rolled a character in the game, it became a very different experience and it is something I wish more games did. Rather than just replaying a game on a harder difficulty, I 'd prefer 'the way' you get through each scenario changed making it a new experience with the same content. This is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Bioshock Infinite because of its 1999 mode and Kingdom of Armular: Reckoning for its destiny system. Other games I can think of that have done this well were the Deus Ex games. With the raging success of Skyrim I hope it inspires future games to be more open and less guided.

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