By MajorMitch 4 Comments
I got plenty of good, quality gaming time in this week, which hasn’t been the case for a few weeks now. It felt good to really get my teeth into some games, and it helps that there’s been some awesome ones out recently, with Borderlands 2 remaining my primary focus (here's last week's initial thoughts). The more I play it the more I remember why the first game sucked me in like it did, and the more I appreciate the fact that the sequel exists. It’s good stuff.
Anyway, my commando is currently level 30, which means I’ve gotten enough skill points now to make my turret pretty powerful. It was the skill that attached rockets to it that did it, and it makes the turret a DPS machine. I’m not sure I necessarily like it better than the one from the first game yet though. That turret still did a ton of damage, could be modified to deal elemental damage on top of that, and also kept everyone’s ammo full. I’ve actually run out of ammo a few times in this game, and every time I do I miss my old turret. Another minor annoyance is that pretty much all the good guns we find are SMGs and revolvers for whatever reason, which is kind of a bummer. Also, while there’s a ton of gun variety in this game I don’t enjoy using a lot of the weapon types. For example, the ones that start out horribly inaccurate but get better as you fire don’t seem great to me, and I also don’t like the ones that you throw when you reload; my compulsive reloading nature means I waste a lot of ammo with those. I've been especially frustrated with the assault rifles, as there haven’t been that many all around solid ones. They all do something weird, like take a while to start firing fast or shoot awkward explosives that are hard to hit with. I tend to prefer the straight shooters, which means I’ve been sticking to a lot of Jakobs revolvers. Those tend to deal a lot of damage, fire fast and are pretty accurate, which is all I really want. The goofy stuff can be amusing at times, but I generally just want to kill stuff efficiently.
I’ve heard and seen a lot of chatter about how Borderlands 2 is objectively “better” than its predecessor. To be honest, I’m not seeing that at all. I don’t think it’s any worse either, I simply think it’s more Borderlands. There are certainly minor differences, but nothing that amounts to any sort of quality disparity between the two games to me. In fact, if I do want to go down that super nit picky road I probably dislike the majority of the changes for Borderlands 2. I miss gun proficiencies, or otherwise some incentive to stick to a particular gun type. The side quests are more spread out in such a way that requires you to spend more time traversing the same areas multiple times; the first game seemed to have a slightly smoother side quest progression in that regard. There also seem to be more spots where enemies keep pouring out for way too long, which combined with the side quest progression makes the game feel artificially longer. It’s like they’ve tried to stretch things out a bit where they could without changing too much of the established structure. Again, this is all very nit picky, so take it with a grain of salt.
What really matters is that I’m having a blast with Borderlands 2, and for all the same reasons that I loved the first game. It’s just a fun world to spend time in, with crazy weapons, solid FPS combat and great character progression. Borderlands remains the only “loot lust” franchise I’ve ever gotten super into, and Borderlands 2 has only driven that fact home even more. I might speculate on that a little more next week, and will probably wrap up my thoughts on the game then (there's still more to say!), but I think that’s enough Borderlands 2 talk for today. The game’s pretty awesome. The other game I played during the week was Mark of the Ninja, which I only played when I couldn’t get the Borderlands crew together. I’m traditionally not a fan of stealth games, and I never enjoyed things like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. That said, I loved the stealth mechanics in Batman: Arkham Asylum. That game wasn’t primarily a stealth game, but it still had a lot of stealth in it, and embodied a lot of what I want from the genre.
The thing that made Arkham Asylum’s stealth so fun to me is that it didn’t make you feel weak and fragile like most stealth games do. To be honest, you kind of were; a few bullets would mess you up pretty fast. But the game realized that power in stealth games comes from knowledge, and things like detective vision gave you a lot of information to always give you the upper hand. Basically, you always had more info than anyone else in the room, and that made it feel like you were the predator hunting them down. There was no stumbling around in the dark, only knowing where a guard was by clunkily running into them. You could plan your attacks ahead of time (which is what most stealth games lack until you’ve done the trial and error part), and the game gave you plenty of fun gadgets and abilities that opened up plenty of options. Batman was also super agile, which made navigating all the nooks and crannies to get into ideal positions a delight.
Not to talk too much about Arkham Asylum here, but I feel like there’s a lot of parallels to be drawn between it and Mark of the Ninja (Batman’s pretty much a ninja after all). Knowledge is everything in Mark of the Ninja, and it’s super fun to approach a room and be able to see everything that’s going on in it. The game does a great job at outlining everything you’d need to know very clearly: you know what exactly what every guard’s vision range is, you know exactly how far the sound you make travels, and you know exactly how you can interact with everything in the environment. Your character is also extremely nimble, and the traversal mechanics work incredibly well, and make getting around each room as painless as possible. All of this makes you feel very powerful (even though you still die very fast once you’re spotted), and making your way through each room is a ton of fun. The levels are also designed very well to allow you to tackle them in multiple ways, and the whole process of planning your attack is highly rewarding. It’s almost more of a puzzle game than anything, which I think works well for stealth.
I would estimate I’m roughly halfway through Mark of the Ninja, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I get closer to the end, but those are my first impressions of the base mechanics. I will say that there have been a few annoying things so far. One time I got checkpointed into an almost inescapable position (I basically cheesed my way out of it), and I find any kind of time pressure to be very annoying, which the game has done a few times. Those gripes aside I’m really liking the game, and I really appreciate its take on the genre. Anyway, this has gone on pretty long again, so I should wrap this thing up. The coming week will likely be a lot more Borderlands 2 and Mark of the Ninja; keep the good times rolling. And that’s going to do it for now, until next time!
Currently playing: Borderlands 2, Mark of the Ninja