By MarkWahlberg 10 Comments
Hello! It's been a while since I've posted anything, as I’ve been... away, for some time. Some of you might remember me as the creator of the Space Whale page (read: no one remembers that). I thought I might address a few thoughts I’ve been thinking. It’s a bit rambly, but bear with me.
For those of you who were not aware, Mass Effect 3 is coming out soon. Now, I’ve been known to enjoy the Mass Effect games. They do some things that I like. However, I think it’s important that we address something: the main story in these games is not very good. Sure, certain aspects of it are interesting, but what it boils down to is ‘GIANT EVIL ALIENS ARE COMING TO EAT US AND ONLY YOU THE PURCHASER OF THIS FINE VIDEO GAME CAN SAVE US oh noooes’. You then attempt to stop the evil aliens. While I’m not entirely against this sort of thing, it has frankly been done better. Freespace 2 made the unknown motivations of the Shivans a key part of why they were so fucking terrifying, while simultaneously throwing in a sympathetic antagonist; Bosch's monologues are still one of the best examples of how to succinctly sketch out character motivations in a video game. Alternately, Dragon Age: Origins, the ‘medieval Mass Effect’ released by Bioware itself, hinged on almost exactly the same plot idea – giant army of evil monsters and etc. – but places those enemies in such a bizarre religio-historical context that they become much more than that (when was the last time you fathered a God-baby to save your own life?). Hell, even CoD 4 had a ‘save the world’ ending that actually seemed like the rational outcome of the preceding –and mostly believable– events, which is a hell of a lot better than ‘I’m Commander Shepard, and I’m the only one who knows what’s going on because video games’.
This is not to say that nothing about the story in the ME series is good. Shadow Broker was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with video games, period, in large part because of how it built off of what had come before. But precisely my point: I don’t want to have to worry about saving the world every time I buy an RPG or action game or the like. Yes, I know there’s plenty of games that have nothing to do with that sort of thing, but when it comes to games like these where the story is supposed to matter in some regard, I at least want there to be more variation.
Which what makes a certain group of upcoming games so interesting for me.
There are 4 or 5 games coming out in the near future that seem to all share a few qualities that, oddly enough, appeal directly to my interests. I have no idea whether they’ll be any good or not, and I’m jaded enough at this point not to get my hopes up, but the ideas that are getting tossed around, and what their developers are saying about them, are certainly interesting.
First, we have the New Tomb Raider. I’ve never played a TR game before, I found the movies boring and the character to be a complete turn off. But I’m completely fascinated by what they’re trying to do with this new game. Survival-based gameplay on a desert island, a female protagonist that isn’t embarrassing to play as, and a story that (based on what they’ve said) is more about the main character's development than any evil douchebag archaeologist’s schemes, all sound exactly like what I want to hear. At the very least this could fill the Mysterious Island shaped hole in my heart that’s been empty since LOST ended.
There are two other survival games that have been announced recently as well. Technically, I Am Alive was announced a while ago, but it’s recently resurfaced with new footage, and between that and The Last of Us, survival seems like one of the big ideas of 2012 (or 2013, depending on release whatnot). I haven’t seen all the material they’ve put out for these games, but I’m totally down for anything that has me making my way through busted cities and (more importantly) focusing on my characters issues, rather than humanity’s. Of course, both of those games could totally end up with Grizzled Protagonist Man leading the Rescue of Civilization Itself, but one can always hope. I’m not exactly huge on Post-Apocalyptic settings, but actually playing in one could be a lot more interesting than reading more about everyone dying always.
Fourth up is another Grizzled White Dude in Broken City game. Spec Ops: The Line got my interest the minute they said ‘Heart of Darkness’. Nothing makes my day like a good villain, and the concepts they’ve been tossing out about this – breaking down morality, the importance of the villain and your crew’s mentality to the story, and the decision based stuff – well, let’s just say I’m picking up what they’re putting down. I’m a total sucker for getting to make my own decisions in games (despite the fact that it’s usually meaningless), and to do that outside an RPG should be pretty refreshing. Since this is much more of a shooter than the previous 3 games I’ve listed, it’ll be interesting to see how they balance out the gameplay with the kind of story they seem to be going for (I’ve actually been avoiding the new trailers that came out a little while ago, since I know that if I do end up playing this, I want to know as little as possible going in).
Lastly, we return to an island setting but bring our frat buddy FPS along for the ride. Like I said before, I’m all about the villains (although who isn’t, really?), and Mr. Mohawk in Far Cry 3 is my kind of crazy. Sure, the trailer that came out today made the protagonist seem like a douchy college brat, but that could actually totally work if it’s done right (by which I mean it won’t be done right at all, because why would it be?). As with the other games I listed, a lot about this is still up to speculation at this point, and I’m not sure how I feel about what they’ve shown of the gameplay, but hey, if they manage to make it an average tropical shooter with a (relatively) interesting antagonist, I’m totally fine with that.
So, a bit rambly, but there you have it. 5 games, 3 destroyed cities, 2 islands, 4 totally fucked white men and 1.5 poor gals (Last of Us’ fake Ellen Page counts as half), and not a World Threatening Climax in sight. If just one of these turns out to be any good, I’ll count that as a win for me.