By MajorMitch 1 Comments
Continuing my recent foray into genres I don’t traditionally like (that’s what a backlog is for right?), I decided to give Lone Survivor a shot and recently played through it. Maybe this was a little naive of me, but I was kind of hoping that if something like Mark of the Ninja could make me like a stealth game, then maybe the same could be done for survival horror. If that’s possible, Lone Survivor isn’t it. Pretty much everything I dislike about the genre is present and accounted for in Lone Survivor, including messy inventory management, painfully clunky combat, and poor communication. In fact, that lack of communication was the most frustrating thing about Lone Survivor to me. It’s often incredibly unclear what objects in the environment you can interact with, which results in a few almost “pixel hunt” type moments. There’s also no real explanation for how a lot of the items and systems in the game work (such as food and eating), and the combat (in addition to controlling poorly) gives little feedback; I often couldn’t tell if I was hitting enemies or not. I actually can’t tell how much of this is by design either. Survival horror has always been the type of thing to actively handcuff players to try and make them feel uncomfortable, even during the most menial tasks. It all just ends up being annoying to me, and I can’t tell if Lone Survivor is intentionally trying to be that way, or if it did so by accident. Either way, I don’t like it.
All of these issues are things that feel like old school staples of the genre, and are the exact same things that never endeared me to the likes of the original Resident Evil or Silent Hill in the first place. I will give Lone Survivor credit for its atmosphere (how sad would it be if it didn’t do that well?), and I really like the look and the art style. That said, I also didn’t find the game to be scary at all, and pretty much everything about the gameplay was either dull or frustrating. Survival “horror” continues to not be my thing.
The Biggest Bo
I also played through Binary Domain recently (it’s been a good few weeks for getting through some shorter games I got on the cheap; thanks Steam!), which is a really dumb game. The gameplay is super generic third person shooting, even though it actually tries to do a few clever things with party management and gaining favor with your party members. There are almost hints of a BioWare style party dynamic in there, but it never goes as far as it could, and what’s there is really silly. I mean, you can respond “God damn” or “Love you” to most questions your party members ask you, and it never makes any sense. Anyway, 95% of the gameplay is very bland third person shooter gunplay, which is mostly serviceable if uninspired. Ironically though, the gameplay doesn’t even compromise the majority of the game. Binary Domain is surprisingly heavy on story, complete with tons of dialogue and cut scenes. All the characters are the biggest stereotypes imaginable, and the actual plot is dumb in that summer blockbuster kind of way. And yet, I still managed to like the story overall. It’s ultimately pretty pointless, but the delivery is good enough, the characters are fun (Big Bo!), and it makes for an enjoyable ride if nothing else. Binary Domain doesn’t win any points for originality in either gameplay or story, but it does both of those things just well enough to be entertaining. It’s still pretty dumb though.
Act II is Always a Desert
Some friends and I had been making our way through Torchlight II over the past few weeks, beating it last week. There’s not really a whole lot to say about Torchlight II; it’s one of those kinds of games through and through. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Diablo-inspired subgenre of RPGs, as I’ve never given a crap about randomly generated loot. And that’s ultimately where Torchlight II fails to grab me as well, as it’s pretty exclusively focused on pure and simple loot. I can see why some people might enjoy that over Diablo III, because it does emulate the slot machine vibe much more directly. Put bluntly, you keep clicking and colored goodies keep popping out of everything in sight. But as someone who doesn’t care about loot, Diablo III was still able to grab me with with its snappy, great feeling combat and its robust, varied skills (it's perhaps the only game in the genre to do so). By contrast, Torchlight II’s combat is mindless clicking, and the skills don’t seem to have a lot of functional variety to them (most of them are simple damage dealers). I also prefer the way you can mix and match skills on the fly in Diablo III, which rewards experimentation and allows for more diverse combat options. In Torchlight II I was more or less stuck with the few skills I chose early on, and spent most of the game putting more points into the same skills rather than earning new ones. That meant that the play experience remained mostly unchanged throughout, and it got pretty old pretty quick to me as a result.
Anyway, enough about Diablo III. Torchlight II is generic, lighthearted fun, and was fine to play through with friends. It's also cool that it's priced at $20, which feels like a solid price for a game like this. I’ll probably forget it just as quickly though, as it was pretty uninspired on the whole. You know exactly what you’re getting before you even begin; Act II is still in a desert, as always, which speaks to the game’s lack of imagination and creativity as much as anything. But if you crave nothing more than the clicky-clicky and loot geysers, it will probably give you your fix.