By EpicSteve 9 Comments
It’s been a little over a week since my return home and it feels like I never left in the first place. Afghanistan just seems like one big blur. Despite a few bumps in the road, I’ve cemented myself back into civilian life. Which mainly includes me being able to buy Tacos made up of Dorito and not having to strap on body armor to walk outside.
While I’ve been filling my schedule with mundane adult tasks, I’ve been indulging myself in videogames. This seems to have been the best time to deploy; game releases have been slow at best. I’m confident I’ve played every major release I would possibly care about, but I feel making a GOTY list will not be so easy this year. I’m scrolling through my list of played games right now while examining upcoming games and honestly, it’s dull. We might not have “The Game to Beat” like previous years.
This isn’t to say I haven’t been having a great time behind a controller or keyboard this past week. And I’m no hermit; I’ve been exploring my newly found status as a 21 year old. But we can’t party everyday. I’m desperately trying to not come home to live a cliché veteran life. Incidentally, I’ve been exclusively playing loot-based games. And while these games are similar on paper, they’re all radically different in terms of tone, mechanics, and just about everything that makes a videogame unique.
First on my to-do list was Diablo III. With the lack of Internet, I missed out on Blizzard’s latest while deployed. I was stoked to get my hands on a game from the house that’s known for quality. I was aware of the horror stories revolving around the game’s launch, I assumed those issues were well passed. Boy, was I wrong! My game was plagued with server disconnects. I often couldn’t play 10 minutes without the game booting me off. Once I’ve gotten to the point of being afraid to play a videogame and getting into it in fear of my enjoyment being stripped at anytime, the developers have completely failed to pull me in. A player should never be consciously thinking about the game working.
Eventually, I was able to have a lengthy play-session. With that, I decided Diablo III wasn’t for me. It may have been due to the constant barrage of server issues, but I convinced myself that the game has no character or excitement. Action RPGs already have the tendency to get boring and when the world is dull and the gameplay is unchallenging, it’s impossible for me to enjoy.
That’s when I turned to Borderlands 2. I ordered my copy off Amazon months ago and after I realized it wouldn’t be delivered until the Monday after release, I went out like a sane person and bought a copy from Gamestop. That game is exactly what everyone says it is, Borderlands again but better. Despite some negative reaction to the over the top characters like Tiny Tina, I love most interactions in the game. Borderlands 2 is bursting with character. Something a lot of games fall prey to is riding a very safe line with dialog being strictly to service the game itself. Borderlands 2, however, revolves around its consistent tone making Pandora itself its own character. I can see how really specific callbacks to old jokes such as might put off some people, “I used to be a Vault Hunter like you then I took a bullet to the knee”. However, it’s never intrusive to the experience and only adds to the goofy motif.
The gameplay mechanics, however, are universally praised and rightfully so. I actually got a legendary weapon within the first 2 hours of play and at level 22 I’m still using it! I look forward to all the encounters and legitimately bummed when I’m not pulling the trigger. I feel like I’ve put a lot of time into this game thus far and I’m nowhere near tired of it. I seek out every quest and even when I’ve accidently wondered into a dungeon with no quest objectives, I don’t feel like its time wasted.
I am disappointed in the Commando class. In the first game it was very rewarding to be a major functioning element in a party. I was able to shield my allies with a rocket-shooting turret, shoot to heal and even be self sufficient enough to regenerate health and bullets. While one can argue the way I developed my Commando in 2009 wasn’t severally overpowered, it was the source of a lot my enjoyment with the first Borderlands. Now I feel all the skill trees just boil down to making me shoot better or allotting me more health. The turret shield doesn’t appear to be as useful as I remember it being in the first game either. Nevertheless, I’m constantly picking up amazing weaponry that serves as an amazing carrot on the stick. I love Borderlands and its pretty flawless in executing everything it sets out to do. But the lack of Dub-Step is a goddamn bummer.
Finally, I downloaded Torchlight II. I’m deep into Act II and playing as an Ice Wizard. Torchlight II is weird because I’m having a great time with it despite it lacking the most important videogame quality for me, a realized world. Borderlands 2 has an amazing and consistent aesthetic while Torchlight II never really nails down a tone or does a great job immersing the player in lore. That flaw aside, the mechanics are so solid I’m getting plenty of bang for my buck. At $20 who wouldn’t want this easy to run PC game? It doesn't feel like a spread sheet like Diablo III. I don't feel limited because I have a Wizard. My armor looks badass and I'm not locked down to wands. If I want to use a damn gun or sword, I can.
Torchlight II is super straight forward and probably won’t surprise anyone going in. It ultimately nails the most important element of this franchise, the loot system. It’s simple to compare new items and sending your pet to sell your junk and even buy potions in two for you just encourages you to constantly move forward. Which makes Torchlight II the antithesis of Diablo III, is does everything in its power to keep you playing.