By MajorMitch 4 Comments
This past week was a week of two halves. The first half was spent playing Vanquish, a Platinum Games joint that looked pretty cool when it came out that I simply never got around to. I really like Platinum and the way they go about things; they seem to be one of the few Japanese developers who really gets it. They’re able to find that balance between offering the kind of complete insanity that only Japan can offer while still making it appealing enough for western audiences to actually buy. Put another way, they seem to be able to reach the west without giving up what’s made Japan such a force in the video game industry.
Vanquish definitely fits that mold too, even if it isn’t my favorite Platinum game (that would be Bayonetta). Vanquish for the most part plays like your everyday third person cover based shooter. You know, Gears of War type stuff. In fact, I almost wonder if Platinum looked at games like Gears of War and said “Hey, this is popular in the west, so what if we do that and make it a little crazier?” Vanquish takes those tried and true methods and adds in ridiculous characters, a totally rad boost ability, and bullet time. The game is also thematically and tonally absurd and over-the-top in ways you might expect from the makers of Bayonetta, though it never goes quite as far as that game did. It kind of bums me out to see them reign it in a little, as a lot of what I liked about Bayonetta was how stupid and insane it was. Vanquish never reaches those heights, but it still has its moments. One of my favorites is during a semi-stealth section where you have to snipe some security cameras, and your character (Sam Gideon) complements himself after you make a shot: “Great shot Sam!” Nobody else is around, but he just has to let himself know how great that shot was.
The gameplay is similarly reigned in, but still has its moments too. For the most part it’s standard “stop-and-pop” shooting, but if you’re feeling daring (or are playing on easy) you can boost around the battlefield. I think all the action feels super snappy, especially the boosting, though I didn’t always get to use it to its full advantage. I played on hard, which meant I had to spend most of my time sitting behind cover to stay alive. That’s the basic mantra of cover based shooters these days: the higher the difficulty the more time you spend behind cover. Still, the basic action is really solid (probably as good as any such shooter), and the bullet time is a nice touch; it makes managing particularly gnarly fights less tedious. And with that, I don’t really know what else to say about Vanquish. I found it to be a well made, quick, fun action game that, other than a few glimpses of Japanese craziness here and there, didn’t do a whole lot out of the norm. Basically, I enjoyed playing it, but doubt it will stick with me for very long.
I ended up finishing Vanquish just in time for this week’s deluge of new releases, and the one I was the most immediately interested in was Dust: An Elysian Tail. So I picked that up, and have spent the latter half of the week playing it through from start to finish. I think that game is super cool. It’s kind of a mishmash of a bunch of different stuff, but the most common term thrown around when describing it seems to be “Metroidvania”. I can see what people are getting at with that comparison, but I find it to be a tenuous one at best. At a glance the map looks like a Metroidvania style map, and there is some small amount of ability gating here and there, but it’s all pretty minor. The game is very linear, leaving little room for exploration, and there are maybe four or five abilities in the game total. More than that, those abilities are generally used to restrict story progress, with their only other use being to hide a few treasure chests here and there. Furthermore, the world map is broken up into a dozen or so smaller maps, which makes it feel less cohesive than I tend to expect from the genre. It also means you’re never finding shortcuts or alternate routes, which is further enhanced by its linear nature and limited abilities.
Despite what it may sound like, none of this is meant as a slight against Dust; it’s not like I hate anything that’s not full on Metroidvania. It just means I don’t make that same comparison. At the same time, that somewhat flawed comparison goes a long ways towards describing Dust as a whole. It takes ideas from a lot of different genres, including Metroidvania style games, and mashes them all together. Yet none of these ideas are as fully realized as their sources. The combat is fast and somewhat technical, but there’s not a lot of moves or enemy variety. There’s some light customization via leveling up and assigning stat points, as well as crafting and equiping different items and gear. None of it is very involved, however, and I get the impression that most everyone probably ends up with more or less the same build. There are also side quests and loot, which are again very simple and straightforward. Even the story is standard fare, though it tries to be more dramatic than it really is. All of that said, the way all of these different aspects combine makes for a fun game. None of these ideas are terribly impressive on their own, but by having so many different ideas from wildly different genres come together like this, there’s enough different stuff going on to be engaging. I never got bored playing Dust, which is fairly impressive given how surprisingly long it is. Granted, I did literally everything there is to do in the game (S-rank get!), but my final time clocked in around 15 hours. That’s sizable for any game, much less a downloadable game largely made by a single person.
The one thing about Dust that does really stand out is it presentation. I think the art style is awesome, and the soundtrack is fantastic. The voice acting can be hit or miss though. Also, apparently people have a thing against “furries” (which I didn’t even know was a word)? I don’t know what that’s all about; I thought the game looked great, and not once did I find it off putting. Anyway, I thought Dust was really fun, and I enjoyed playing it a lot. It’s not a particularly deep or inventive game, but it’s made well enough in just about every department to be a good time. I would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a good, lengthy downloadable adventure. After finishing up Dust I checked my mailbox to find Darksiders II sitting in there, which was pretty darn good timing. So that’s the next game for me, and I’ll probably start it sometime today. I’ve also been (very) slowly poking at Aliens: Infestation here and there, and will continue along with that (and actually comment on it some next week). But that’s going to do it for now, until next time!
Currently playing: Darksiders II, Aliens: Infestation