By MajorMitch 5 Comments
A few items of note before I begin. First, I was on a podcast with a handful of Giant Bomb duders last week to do our own GOTY deliberations. I think it turned out pretty well (and it was a lot of fun to do), and if you want to give it a listen you can find it over here. Secondly, this is my first attempt at replacing my “Weekly Roundup” writings I did last year. Bear with me and treat it as an experiment for now, as if it sticks I’m sure it will get more refined as it goes. The basic idea is the same, but the format is slightly different to accompany various wants, and I won’t necessarily be posting every week (consecutive weeks are possible, it’s just not my goal). Anyway, we’ll see how it goes!
Resident Evil of the Year
I played through Resident Evil: Revelations recently, which is surprisingly good. Given that 2012 was riddled with multiple lackluster Resident Evil games (you know which two I’m talking about), it’s a welcome sight to see that all is not lost for a franchise that delivered something as spectacular as Resident Evil 4. Revelations does a decent job at emulating what made that classic so great, and even if it doesn’t do it nearly as well, it’s good enough to be worth playing. The over-the-shoulder controls work well on the Nintendo 3DS (even without the circle pad pro), the gun upgrades are cool, exploring the Queen Zenobia and its winding, atmospheric hallways is tense and exciting, and the game looks absolutely incredible. If Revelations is any indicator, the 3DS has some serious horsepower under the hood. It’s nothing revolutionary by any means (despite the name), and it bogged down a little for me near the end. But if you have a 3DS and appreciate a solid Resident Evil game, or merely want your faith in the franchise restored, Revelations fits the bill.
I really wanted to give Resonance of Fate an honest shot. My brother liked it a lot, and it seemed to have some interesting ideas; its battle system is certainly different in a neat way. I kind of appreciate the way the game opens everything up right from the get-go too, even if it also creates an insanely high learning curve up front. The in-game tutorials do a terrible job at teaching you the ropes as well, and if you’re anything like me you have to just get in there and try it (and die) a few times before you really figure out what’s going on. That was initially frustrating, but I was fine with it after a few hours. Ironically, I ran into my biggest problems once I had figured out the battle system. I feel like the game focuses on the core battle system to the point where that’s all it’s really about. Any semblance of variety and/or pacing is completely absent, as during the almost 10 hours I played I simply fought the same enemies over and over as I went on fetch quests and crawled through dungeons. From what I can tell the game seems to go on like that for upwards of 50+ hours, with battles forming at least 90% of that playtime. You simply have to be up for the grind, and I don’t think I am with regards to Resonance of Fate right now.
I don’t mind long winded RPGs on principle, but they need to do something past “fight battles for 50+ hours”. Past better variety and pacing, most good RPGs do it with upgrades and/or character progression that constantly change how the game plays in interesting (and perhaps subtle) ways, or a compelling story and characters. Resonance of Fate has none of that for me. While I think the gun modification stuff is neat, I also feel like it’s fairly thin. Maybe twice in the almost 10 hours I played I spent roughly 10 minutes tinkering with my guns, decking them out with the best upgrades available. Not only was that a small part of my playtime, but it also didn’t really change how battles played out. Past that, there’s no other meaningful customization or progression that I saw, meaning that battles seemed destined to play out mostly the same for the majority of the game. The game’s “story,” if you could even call it that, is virtually non-existent as well (and what’s there is laughably cheeky and dumb). By itself that wouldn’t bother me, but for a game that needs something past fighting battles, it seems like a missed opportunity. I’m glad I finally checked out Resonance of Fate for myself, and I don’t think it’s a bad game, but I ultimately decided that my gaming time is currently better spent elsewhere. It’s not like I have a shortage of games to play.
Thirty Flights of Scam
A lot of people have been giving Thirty Flights of Loving a lot of praise, and I’m not talking about the “That game is fun” kind of praise. I’m talking about the “This is a very important and innovative game” kind of praise. In fact, David Jaffe himself dubbed it his favorite game of 2012, claiming that it creates a new paradigm for video game storytelling. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I played through Thirty Flights of Loving (all 15 minutes of it), and didn’t think it was fun, innovative or... good. You do essentially nothing as the game drags you through a handful of bare bones, disjointed scenes via hard cuts, and attempts to tell a simple, loosely connected story through rough environmental cues. Not only is that completely terrible from a gameplay perspective, as you have virtually no input on proceedings (if you want to invoke the tired “is it a game?” debate, here’s your candidate), but the ambiguous storytelling it attempts to conjure is nothing new by any means. It’s also been done much better elsewhere, making Thirty Flights of Loving feel like a step backwards in that department.
To be honest, I found Thirty Flights of Loving to be straight up bad and worthless to the point where it felt kind of like a scam. Despite only costing me $2.50 (via Steam sale) and only taking me 15 minutes to play, I found it to be a complete waste of both time and money, and it didn’t feel any more substantial than any number of free flash shovelware games you can find all over the internet. I rarely feel regret for buying and playing a game, but Thirty Flights of Loving joins that dubious company, as I’ve now funded something terrible that I don’t want to see any more of ever again.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot more than normal lately are video game stories. I feel like 2012 saw a lot of different games succeed purely on the strength of their stories and characters, often times in spite of mediocre or dull gameplay. Binary Domain, Asura’s Wrath and Spec Ops: The Line are all examples of this trend, and I heard the following recommendation for all three of these games: “Play it on easy to get through it, because you’re playing it for the story.” I don’t know that I can think of many more damning things you could say about a video game. After all, if you’re actively trying to circumvent the part that makes video games distinct from other forms of media, then why even bother playing video games in the first place? (For the record, I have no problem with playing games on easy, if it’s done for the right reasons.) I’m all for having better stories in our games, and we shouldn’t have to settle for bad ones by any means. But I also don’t think we should settle for lackluster gameplay just because it’s in service of a decent story either. It’s an incredibly slippery slope that has me questioning the current status of the once commonly held notion that you play video games for “gameplay first.”