Weekly Roundup 04/29/2012

A striking art style guides a memorable adventure.

This past week began with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. I don’t own an iOS device, so its recent Steam release was an opportunity to play a game that I’ve been interested in for a while. And man, that game is a trip. I mean that in the best possible way too; S:S&S EP is a game that walks its own path, and is infinitely more interesting for it. It has such a unique vibe and aesthetic that I really enjoyed, though it’s also kind of hard to describe. Perhaps that’s because it’s just kind of weird. When your starting point is a dapper, cigar smoking gentleman addressing you directly as the player, and goes on to feature oddities such as singing bears, you know you’re in for an interesting experience. The game’s lively art style and catchy soundtrack are perhaps the highlights of the whole thing, and everything comes together to create an oddly personal adventure that will stick with me in its own way. I’m certainly glad I signed on for this one.

The actual gameplay is pretty simplistic. Most of it is just pointing and clicking your way around the dozen or so screens in the game, and seeing what there is to see. Otherwise there’s some extremely simple combat, which was easily my least favorite part of the game. The regular fights were a joke, and the “boss” fights were just kind of annoying. Then again, there are only a handful of fights in the game, and I do feel that combat of some sort was a necessary part to the game. Given that they were limited to the iOS interface at the time, they did a relatively fine job, but I still wish the combat could have been more interesting.

The Witcher 2 looks amazing, and sounds just as good.

S:S&S EP isn’t a long game. It took me somewhere between three and four hours to finish, which felt appropriate given not only the $6 I paid for it, but also the kind of game it is. I don’t think there was enough meat at its core to stretch it any more than that, and I appreciate the game’s ability to recognize when its cards are played. After that, I moved on to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, another game that came out last year that I always had my eye on. Despite it just coming out on the Xbox 360, I actually grabbed the PC release. I’m lucky enough to have a PC that can run the game well enough to be worth it (the game looks and sounds incredible by the way), and took advantage of the PC version’s temporary sale price of $42. I am playing it with a 360 controller though, it just feels more natural to me.

Anyway, I’m really liking The Witcher 2 so far. I haven’t read any of the books, nor have I played the first game, but I can already tell that this is a rich fictional universe. I have a feeling there’s a ton of history and background to everything that’s going on, and while I’m sure I’m missing some context from not having any prior experience with the franchise, I like the idea that there’s a lot more to this world than meets the eye. It makes it feel more real, like I’m stepping into a well established universe with its own well defined timeline of big, important events. The Witcher 2 is but one segment of those events, its own nicely contained story arc that nevertheless fits into a much bigger picture. It’s neat, and lends a lot more gravitas to everything that happens.

The game talks a lot, and a lot of it is really good.

Sure enough, my favorite parts of the game so far are its setting, characters, dialogue, etc. This is a game that has a lot of exposition, and takes its time conveying most of it. It’s fortunate then, that the dialogue is as sharply written and as well acted as it is. There is a ton of quality voicework in the game, and it’s all entertaining in a way that fits very well into the established universe. This isn’t your average Tolkien style fantasy world; this is a hard fantasy setting. Everything is grim and gritty in a no nonsense sort of way, and there are no real “good guys” to root for. Everyone operates in the greyest shades of grey possible, and I really like that the game lets you make decisions without assigning them an arbitrary morality system. You’re constantly having to make decisions between two choices that appear equally dire, and it’s refreshing to be able to make those choices based off of your own gut rather than feel like you have to commit one way or the other for the sake of some contrived rewards system. Interacting in a story is gameplay in and of itself, it doesn’t need to give you bonuses elsewhere to be justified.

As for the quests and combat, it’s fairly standard RPG stuff for the most part. You go on quests to fight bandits and monsters, or retrieve items for anyone and everyone. I actually really like their pacing though. Quests feel like they move at a pretty snappy clip, and enough story stuff happens in them to make them feel engaging. This is a nice change from the grindy, meaningless quests of recent RPGs I’ve played such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Xenoblade Chronicles, whose quests were as boilerplate as they come. I’m still getting used to the combat in some ways, which can be a little wonky at times. I’ll talk more about that next week, along with the various other gameplay systems. I’ve gone on long enough today, and there will be plenty more Witcher 2 playing coming up. So that will do it for now, until next time!

Currently playing: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

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Posted by MajorMitch
A striking art style guides a memorable adventure.

This past week began with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. I don’t own an iOS device, so its recent Steam release was an opportunity to play a game that I’ve been interested in for a while. And man, that game is a trip. I mean that in the best possible way too; S:S&S EP is a game that walks its own path, and is infinitely more interesting for it. It has such a unique vibe and aesthetic that I really enjoyed, though it’s also kind of hard to describe. Perhaps that’s because it’s just kind of weird. When your starting point is a dapper, cigar smoking gentleman addressing you directly as the player, and goes on to feature oddities such as singing bears, you know you’re in for an interesting experience. The game’s lively art style and catchy soundtrack are perhaps the highlights of the whole thing, and everything comes together to create an oddly personal adventure that will stick with me in its own way. I’m certainly glad I signed on for this one.

The actual gameplay is pretty simplistic. Most of it is just pointing and clicking your way around the dozen or so screens in the game, and seeing what there is to see. Otherwise there’s some extremely simple combat, which was easily my least favorite part of the game. The regular fights were a joke, and the “boss” fights were just kind of annoying. Then again, there are only a handful of fights in the game, and I do feel that combat of some sort was a necessary part to the game. Given that they were limited to the iOS interface at the time, they did a relatively fine job, but I still wish the combat could have been more interesting.

The Witcher 2 looks amazing, and sounds just as good.

S:S&S EP isn’t a long game. It took me somewhere between three and four hours to finish, which felt appropriate given not only the $6 I paid for it, but also the kind of game it is. I don’t think there was enough meat at its core to stretch it any more than that, and I appreciate the game’s ability to recognize when its cards are played. After that, I moved on to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, another game that came out last year that I always had my eye on. Despite it just coming out on the Xbox 360, I actually grabbed the PC release. I’m lucky enough to have a PC that can run the game well enough to be worth it (the game looks and sounds incredible by the way), and took advantage of the PC version’s temporary sale price of $42. I am playing it with a 360 controller though, it just feels more natural to me.

Anyway, I’m really liking The Witcher 2 so far. I haven’t read any of the books, nor have I played the first game, but I can already tell that this is a rich fictional universe. I have a feeling there’s a ton of history and background to everything that’s going on, and while I’m sure I’m missing some context from not having any prior experience with the franchise, I like the idea that there’s a lot more to this world than meets the eye. It makes it feel more real, like I’m stepping into a well established universe with its own well defined timeline of big, important events. The Witcher 2 is but one segment of those events, its own nicely contained story arc that nevertheless fits into a much bigger picture. It’s neat, and lends a lot more gravitas to everything that happens.

The game talks a lot, and a lot of it is really good.

Sure enough, my favorite parts of the game so far are its setting, characters, dialogue, etc. This is a game that has a lot of exposition, and takes its time conveying most of it. It’s fortunate then, that the dialogue is as sharply written and as well acted as it is. There is a ton of quality voicework in the game, and it’s all entertaining in a way that fits very well into the established universe. This isn’t your average Tolkien style fantasy world; this is a hard fantasy setting. Everything is grim and gritty in a no nonsense sort of way, and there are no real “good guys” to root for. Everyone operates in the greyest shades of grey possible, and I really like that the game lets you make decisions without assigning them an arbitrary morality system. You’re constantly having to make decisions between two choices that appear equally dire, and it’s refreshing to be able to make those choices based off of your own gut rather than feel like you have to commit one way or the other for the sake of some contrived rewards system. Interacting in a story is gameplay in and of itself, it doesn’t need to give you bonuses elsewhere to be justified.

As for the quests and combat, it’s fairly standard RPG stuff for the most part. You go on quests to fight bandits and monsters, or retrieve items for anyone and everyone. I actually really like their pacing though. Quests feel like they move at a pretty snappy clip, and enough story stuff happens in them to make them feel engaging. This is a nice change from the grindy, meaningless quests of recent RPGs I’ve played such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Xenoblade Chronicles, whose quests were as boilerplate as they come. I’m still getting used to the combat in some ways, which can be a little wonky at times. I’ll talk more about that next week, along with the various other gameplay systems. I’ve gone on long enough today, and there will be plenty more Witcher 2 playing coming up. So that will do it for now, until next time!

Currently playing: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings