It started like any other day. My dad went off to work somewhere doing something, and I stayed at home and did nothing. Like any good recent college graduate, I was unemployed and still living with my dad. It was the day that Microsoft was going to announce their new console, and I was as excited as an alligator being released from a New York apartment into the sewers. What Microsoft showed was about as exciting as watching snails dry, but at least the Giant Bomb commentary was good. When it ended, the thought of a new game from Remedy reminded me that I had never played Alan Wake, and as luck would have it, the game, it's DLC, and Alan Wake's American Nightmare were on sale that week.
But without a computer that could play games, my options were limited to Xbox Live. Five dollars was a price I couldn't resist for the game itself, but I was leary about the DLC. Because of the brilliance of Microsoft Points, I would have to pay $15 for $11 of content (that of course would be way cheaper on the PC) and then be stuck with four dollars on my account for the rest of time. After putting in a lot of thought and decision making, I flipped a coin and decided to play the main game first, and then decide later.
I started playing and quickly found myself drawn into the game. Alan Wake was a writer. Not a lowly unsuccessful one like me, he was famous. He was the ideal that people like me aspire to be. Rich, famous, handsome, having a beautiful non-trophy wife, and able to wear a suit jacket over a sweatshirt without sweating, and making it look nice. And the entire game is framed with narration from Alan, almost like what he would write in one of his novels. Explicitly that way.
And so I played on, enthralled all the way. It was a story of mystery, intrigue, twists, deception, and Barry Wheeler. Yes, some of the twists were silly, and the combat, while initially fun, began to drag on near the end of the game, but I wanted more. The ending wasn't satisfying. There's a difference between leaving things open for interpretation and intentionally creating a bad ending to keep people wanting to come back, but I didn't care that this was firmly on the bad ending side. So, I paid Microsoft and I downloaded the DLC. And American Nightmare, and I started playing.
But like a pudding cup of sorrow, the DLC, while sweet, was over before I knew it, and I still felt like I needed more. But then someone gave me a copy of Dead Space 3, so I played that. But when that was over, I went back. Well, not back so much as to Alan Wake's American Nightmare.
And it was...interesting. It wasn't the same game as before. There was a higher emphasis on action. Revolvers and shotguns were replaced with uzis and assault rifles. Flashlights now HAD to be focused to force the darkness off enemies, but they recharged in less than a second. All the tension was gone, and in its place was a sad shell of an okay action game.
Not even the narration was the same. Alan would still read his manuscript pages, but now the fake Rod Serling from Night Springs narrated. And like Shemp from The Three Stooges, this guy was acceptable, but nowhere near as good as Curly, er, Alan narrating. The voice was evocative, but not enough. He lacked the certain charm that the real deal had, and I didn't like it. Alan, meanwhile, had one of the best voices in games. Not Nolan North or Troy Baker good, but close.
If it weren't for the glorious FMV, and something resembling closure, I would be tempted to call American Nightmare outright bad. But as it is, it's decent. But not the Alan Wake I wanted.
Okay, I'll admit that wasn't my best attempt at spinning a yarn, but the original idea was way sappier and didn't have things like "pudding cup of sorrow." I'll stop now. Alan Wake and I may share being writers (never mind that Alan isn't real), but I can't duplicate his style. Not without putting more thought into it, at least.
So, after playing through all that Alan Wake stuff, I finally got around to playing Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE. The game's not perfect, but MAN DO I LOVE IT!
See, the way I see it, there are three different ways to enjoy most Metal Gear games. There's enjoying them for the game play, enjoying them for the story, and enjoying them for the ridiculousness. And in REVENGEANCE, Platinum Games replaced stealthing with hectic melee action, and they bumped the ridiculousness not up to eleven, or even twelve. They brought it up to thirteen or fourteen.
I mean, in how many games is cutting open enemies and crushing their electric spines to gather electrolytes and repair paste a CORE mechanic? NONE! And on top of that, it's true, one to one cutting. Not faked BS like in the Dead Space games where you can shoot an enemy in its hand and have the whole arm come off from the shoulder. Well, I do think that Dead Space 3 was a little better about that, but the point is the same. Most games fake dismemberment by having limbs and things disconnect at pre-determined point, but REVENGEANCE doesn't. Where Raiden's blade hits is where the cuts are. Sure, it looks a little goofy some of the time. Okay, it looks REALLY goofy some of the time, but when it's cool, it's radical.
And let me tell you what's radical: Sliding into an enemy which knocks him into the air, and then whilst sliding, going into Blade Mode (which slows time), cutting him in half, and then grabbing that energy spine out of air and CRUSHING IT!
If you know me, you know I like things that are ridiculous and crazy. And this game is both, TO THE MAX. If you haven't played this game, and you like melee action games, then go play it. I don't really want to say anything else, because it just needs to be played to be experienced. I can sit here telling you that the combat is really fun, but of course I'm going to say that. Play it! It's rad! And crazy! And it has tons of Codec conversations, which is cool! And some stealth, because it's Metal Gear! And some typos in the subtitles! I blame 8-4! But I can't stay mad at them! Exclamation points!
That's it! Nothing else to say! I think I'll start playing Super Mario RPG tomorrow.
Oh, and hey, if you want an ebook to read, mine is a dollar, and features ample amounts of adventuring, a religion based around Batman, and a life-sized solid gold statue of RoboCop. And dragons. I'll stop shilling for it when it sells and I don't have to. US Link. UK Link.Canada Link.
It's available in other regions as well, just search for "Allegiance of Justice," and it's the one with the cover that looks like it was drawn in Microsoft Paint. It wasn't, but that was just because I used layers. I used GIMP. I think that's what it's called.
As I continue to be unemployed, and have nothing going on (not counting the occasional odd job working with my dad), I've been able to get a good amount of video game playing in. And some other stuff too, but I'll get to that after the games.
Now, if you read my previous blog, you may be wondering why this isn't about Alan Wake. Assuming that I am correct in remembering saying something about not having finished that in the previous blog. Well, I'm waiting until after I play Alan Wake's American Nightmare before I write up that stuff. As a novelist myself (albeit one who has only sold a handful of my book), a lot of that game spoke to me on a personal level, so I'm letting that one wait for a bit.
BioShock Infinite, however, is a game that I am prepared to write about. Spoiler free, of course. Although, I feel like anyone who REALLY cared about the story in that game has already played it. Conversely, I didn't play it until last week, so I guess I'm not one to talk. Actually, I changed my mind.
SPOILERS. For BioShock Infinite.
Okay, let me say this, before I get into anything about the game. About a month and a half-ish before I played the game, I was in the chat for a live video on Giant Bomb. I don't remember what it was, or when it was exactly. But I do remember that at some point before the video actually started, I saw someone say something in the chat. This something was framed as being a spoiler for BioShock Infinite, and I assume the a-hole who did that was intentionally trying to spoil the game for people who had not played it.
However, at the time my thinking was, "Man, what that guy wrote is so dumb that it can't possibly be the actual thing in the actual game, right? He was just trolling. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to force that thing out of my mind. It was one of those things that even if I did my best to ignore it, it would pop up every once in a while, particularly after I actually started playing the game.
What the person in that chat wrote was that Father Comstock was Booker from an alternate universe.
So, I played through the whole game with that in the back of my head. That thought popping up every time something appeared that seemed like it would be a link to the two. Every time Wounded Knee was mentioned. And every time I kept telling myself that it couldn't possibly be the case. They wouldn't dare have a dumb twist like that, which was already used in the game inFAMOUS (though, I should say that the two twists are completely different in context).
But then that was the twist. And I didn't care for it. Still don't, really. At first I thought it was dumb, and not properly explained. But after beating the game I went and watched GB's video of Vinny playing through the last chunk of the game with the rest of the guys talking over it. And I mean literally right after. Well, not literally. I ate a sandwich in between. And whilst watching that I talked about some of the story stuff with a couple of my friends, and then it started to make some more sense. Now I'm at the point where I think the ending (and that twist) is "good" in the sense that it accomplished whatever goal it was that Ken Levine and company set out to accomplish, but I still don't really care for it.
Okay, enough spoilers. And enough about the story. Overall I enjoyed it, and I want to go through it again at some point.
Now I'm going to write about the game part of that video game. I know a fair number of people describe BioShock Infinite as being a game where the combat is good, but not great. Or as a game where you "slog" through the combat to get to the story stuff. But I didn't think either of those things were the case. I outright loved the game part of this game. If anything, it was probably the part of the game that I found to be most consistently enjoyable.
The story, as I said, lost me with that twist at the end. The world is fantastic, and beautiful, but there's a bit too much indoors stuff where it's easy to forget that everything is taking place on a big city floating in the sky (though I could see that being argued as an issue with the game play and/or level design). Actually, the fact that this is a city in the sky is kinda inconsequential to the game as a whole. It could have easily been a more grounded setting (yeah, I know) and still been exactly the same game (though maybe that was the point? I dunno, I'm done talking spoilers for this insane game)).
Anyway, game play! It's fun, there's a lot of variety, but it's a little easy. I played on normal, but what I heard about playing on hard (from Drew on the aforementioned GB video) is that the game gets too hard on hard. Maybe I'll try playing it on hard at some point, but probably not. While it was a little easy, the lack of extreme challenge did give me more opportunities to experiment. If the game was super hard, then I probably would have just tried to figure out whatever weapon and Vigor combo was the most efficient, and then using that all of the time.
Which isn't to say that I was always trying new things, and doing something different in every other combat encounter. I did, by the end of the game, get into a groove of mostly using the Hand Cannon as my weapon of choice. And I did really like the combo of using Bucking Bronco to lift a bunch of enemies into the air and then using Devil's Kiss to engulf them in a sea of flames. But I would be lying if I didn't say that half the appeal of using Bucking Bronco was that a horse neighing plays EVERY TIME you do it, and I think that's hilarious.
As I said about, I really loved the "world" of BioShock Infinite. All the uber-patriotic imagery, and deified Washington/Jefferson/Franklin stuff was great, but I wish there was more of it. That stuff kinda disappears for much of the game, which makes sense given the parts of town you go to, but I still would have liked to see a little more done with it, or maybe have some more of the Founding Fathers show up in statue form.
And I guess those are my pseudo-rambling thoughts on BioShock Infinite. I really loved the game, and I'm definitely going to play through it again before the summer ends.
But now that I've gotten that out of the way, it's time to get down to some SERIOUS business. Fast. And. Furious. 6.
OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE.
Movie of the year!
I couldn't believe the ending! Most excited I've been at the end of a movie in a LONG TIME.
And all over the surprise appearance of Jason Statham in the time period of Tokyo Drift. Okay, the whole movie is fantastic, but that ending got me unreasonably excited.
That's all I have to say on that though. Other than to say that you should see this movie. Now.
And now, back to video games. Specifically, Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 3 is pretty good. It's a lot like the first two, only with more filler, and too many enemies. Not too many in the sense that it's too hard (at least on normal), too many in the sense that enemies often keep pouring into a room long after I felt like that encounter should have ended. The core combat in the Dead Space games is solid, and fun, but the suspense and surprise of the encounters in the first two games is gone. In its place are rooms with vents on them that enemies WILL crawl out of, and they will keep crawling out of them. And then some more crawl out.
But like I said, the core combat is solid, and I still got a lot of enjoyment out of the game. I just think that had it been a shorter, more focused game, it probably would have been better. And I don't say that very often. I like long games. Granted, I didn't HAVE to do all of the non-co-op side missions, but I wanted those upgrade circuits. For upgrading.
The weapon crafting in the game is well done, but not really necessary. I played through most of the game with the plasma cutter, which was how I played through most of the first two games. I didn't just use the stock plasma cutter, of course. I did end up upgrading it so it was a lot more powerful, but at the end of the day it was still a plasma cutter that I could rotate the beam of.
The other weapon I ended up using (more toward the end of the game) was half "chain gun" and half shotgun. I did have something along those lines with me for most of the game, but it wasn't until the last few hours where I got it powerful and fast enough that I felt it was useful. Because of that I kinda want to go back in New Game Plus and use that thing some more, but I don't want to just yet. Maybe after I play some other stuff I'll go back and mess around with that.
Story wise, I think the game almost ventures into "so bad it's good" territory with its weird love triangle, and other goofy things. But not quite. Don't get me wrong, the voice acting in the game is good. But the villain of the game would be a better fit in a Bond video game than Dead Space. And don't misread that, I said Bond video game, the assumption being that the bar for that would be lower than a Bond movie, given that there's only really ever been one good Bond game.
And I cannot understand why the proper laser sights are turned off by default. Dead Space 2 did the same thing, and I'm sure there are tons of people who played these games without even realizing that was an option (though, that's their fault for not looking through the options). Why would anyone want a lame targeting reticle when you could have rad lasers that are actually being shot out into the environment?
Speaking of which, Dead Space 3 is a really nice looking game. Granted, a year from now we'll be into the next generation and (hopefully) the standards will have risen (you could argue that they already have, given PC games). But for now, the (colored) lighting in the game is absolutely beautiful. It was in Dead Space 2 as well, of course, but I feel like they stepped it up even more than last time.
I think that's it for what I have to say about Dead Space 3.
John Carmack, who I hear is a fan of colored lighting. Or made a game with colored lighting in it.
Almost completely random pictures aside, I have other things to say as well! I know I'm running long (even for me), so I'll keep it short-ish.
On Memorial Day (Monday of this week, for you non-Americans) my dad and I went over to my cousins' house for a cookout. And while we did normal cookout things like eating grilled foods, and watching RoboCop (forget Fast and Furious 6, now THERE'S a movie), we also went out to the backyard to attack bottles of water with swords. And, as luck would have it, my cousin had bought a new sword.
This newest one is a katana. Nothing special or fancy, he even told me that it was a cheap Chinese knock-off. But still, it looked like a katana, and it was easier to use that his other sword, which is frankly too large to be using for chopping bottles of water. And, after a while, we decided that since his aforementioned large sword and his dagger had names, that the katana needed a name as well.
Now, the way too large sword was named Steven Seagal. This is partly because the sword, like the original, is large and slow. And also because my cousin looks kinda like Steven Seagal, and I think he did it as a way to get use to stop calling him that. The dagger, on the other hand, is small and agile, and thus is named Jean-Claude Van Damme. So, we decided to use a similar process for naming the katana.
Now, Steven Seagal is often associated with Eastern martial arts, and that type of stuff. Thus, naming a western sword (I don't know the terminology, but I can tell you that the sword is a replica of one of the swords from Lord of the Rings, Aragorn's, I think) after Steven Seagal was silly. But it gave me the idea to name the katana after someone not associated with Eastern martial arts. Mark Wahlberg was of course the first thing that popped into my head. But that wasn't quite good enough. So we went with Marky Mark.
Then we thought it would be smart to spell it differnetly, as the sword is a cheap Chinese knock-off. But then we decided that "Marcy Marc" would be read as "mar-see mark," and that wasn't right. So Marky Mark it was.
This is apparently the only picture of Mark Wahlberg that comes up when you embed a picture of him from Giant Bomb. I'm a little disappointed.
Okay. Next up on my video gaming is Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Then I'm finally diving into Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE. Can't wait.
Oh, and if you're looking for an electronic book to read, you should try mine. It's only a dollar. Or whatever the equivalent in your country is. It's available in these, and other markets around the world: US Link. UK Link. Canada Link.
The people who have read it tell me it's pretty good, so there's a wringing endorsement for you.
And here's Luigi. But I was running perilously low on good pictures of straight-up Luigi to use, so instead I've created a mash-up of Luigi and a shot from a game discussed in this blog. I present to you, Luigibeth.
I forgot to say that I really liked Elizabeth in that game. Fantastic character. Well voiced, well written, and great facial animation.
VIDEO GAMES! I've been playing them. And by them, I mostly mean Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I did manage to get some time with Dust 514 in (enough at least to say everything I want to say about it), and I started playing Alan Wake today (it's on sale, go buy it if you haven't). But I haven't beaten it yet, so I shan't speak of that yet.
But I have spent a lot of time with Ni No Kuni. About 52 hours. And in those 52 hours I beat the game, though I didn't finish all of the side quests. I might go back and do that, but I'm not sure.
If you know nothing about Ni No Kuni, then here's my silly attempt to describe it in one sentence. It's basically Pokemon, except with more magic, occasional voice acting, rude Welsh-talking fairies, and an art style done up to look like Studio Ghibli (those guys who make anime movies that aren't ANIME anime like something like DBZ (which means I've never actually seen any of their movies, because I only like anime for the crazy)).
Remind me to never do that again. Or to always do that. Either way, it was refreshing to play a game that is, is many ways, really old fashioned. I mean, most games these days are short and mad-linear. And even RPGs these days are way more streamlined and modern than Ni No Kuni is. Like Skyrim. You can fast travel right off the bat in that game.
Not so in Ni No Kuni. I had to EARN the right to fast travel I had to play that game for hours and hours to get something that would be a basic thing in most games today. And it's totally understandable WHY fast travel is a basic thing in most games these days. It's because people these days are impatient. They don't want to have to work toward things, or wait for stuff. Why walk across this virtual world when you can just teleport across? Why spend time working toward something when the game can just give it to you? Why wait until you get home to check the internet when you can just walk around like an idiot with your face in a phone the entire time?
Okay, I got a little off topic there. But the point I was trying to make is that Ni No Kuni is a rewarding game in a lot of ways. It makes you work toward your rewards, and when you finally get them, it feels great. When I got the ability to fast travel, it felt like a fantastic reward that I had earned. When I acquired my own wyvern (or dragon, as the game incorrectly calls it) and was able to fly freely around the world, it was amazing. The thrill of soaring through the air was way more thrilling than it really should have been given the rather lackluster way that the game presents said flying around the world (it's the same overworld thing as when you're walking around on the ground).
This is a much better vision of wyvern flying than what you normally see in the game.
Conversely, I really like the look of that wyvern. And really most of the game. Or at least all the characters/monsters. For whatever reason, all of those things are cell-shaded and done up to look like the aforementioned Studio Ghibli stuff (there are even a handful of fully animated 2D cut-scenes), but the environments aren't. Someone in a forum somewhere said that's what the Studio Ghibli thing is, to have characters that "pop out" from the world around them. My counter argument is that instead it makes the world around the characters look bland and boring, and I think it'd be a way better looking game if it was all cell-shaded.
But whatever, the stuff that is cell-shaded looks fantastic, and I wish that more games would be cell-shaded these days. Cell-shaded stuff used to look real blocky and kinda cruddy back in the day (well, everything did, I guess). But I think now we've gotten to the point where it can really look incredible if the time and attention to detail is put into it, like this game.
And there was definitely a lot of craft put into it, given the hundreds of different monsters in this game. Like I said earlier, this game is basically Pokemon, only less consistent about when you can try to catch them (which was rather irksome a few times). Instead of always being able to throw Poke Balls at the enemies once you've hurt 'em up good, here you have to defeat one and hope that the game decides that you can catch it. At least from that point you WILL catch it if you want it, so that's nice.
After you catch a new monster (well, I guess I should be calling them familiars like the game does, but I never really liked that term in that use) the game forces you to name it, unlike Pokemon where I never named a single one of my Pokemon. But Ni No Kuni gives you suggestions for the names, and they're almost always brilliant. Out of all the ones that I saw though, I think Dinomight and Tyke Myson were my favorites. I'm not joking, Tyke Myson is a suggested name for the Tyke type monsters in the game. It cracked me up every time.
As always, it doesn't take long for the pictures I embed to get way off topic.
But having all sorts of monsters at your disposal wouldn't be anything great if the combat was lousy. But I'm happy to say it's pretty fun. Not perfect. I do wish that I could still retain control over character movement after issuing the "attack" command, rather than watching the character's often not great pathing get it stuck behind a different enemy, or a team mate. But aside from that, I enjoyed the combat, and thought it provided enough of a challenge, but not too much.
The story is pretty good too. I know it starts off cliched (BOY WHO WILL SAVE THE WORLD), and there's a certain level of cliche that sticks through to the end, but as a "published" author who is working on his second book, let me tell you that writing lengthy stories without falling back on a cliche or two is hard.
But really the thing that helps keep the story afloat for me are the characters. By which I really mean Lord High Lord of the Fairies, Drippy. If you've seen GB's Quick Look of the game, then you know how great he is, both in voice and writing. And while the game isn't fully voiced (by biggest criticism with the game), the writing shines through the lack of voice so that Drippy's lines are always filled with the same Welsh (at least I think it's Welsh) flavour. I only put the U there because I thought it was a funny joke. Or a joke, at least.
Hm... What else should I say about Ni No Kuni? If you're at all interested in RPGs, things that look cute in a goofy way, wyverns, or feeling rewarded for accomplishing things, you should play this game. It's well worth your time, and your money. I know it took me 52 hours, but I know others have beaten it in less (like 40-ish) if you don't have as much time. Still, if you have a PS3 and like RPGs, PLAY THIS GAME!
Drippy is now one of my favorite video game characters of all time. He's truly great.
Oh, and I played Dust 514 too. Not a ton. Couple hours worth, probably. But I had played some of the beta, so I had a bunch of ISK and skill points that had built up (somehow) from that. But of course I had to waste a bunch of skill points by not reading clearly. Oh well.
Okay, now here's my one sentence description of Dust 514. It's like Battlefield, only in space, heavily privatized, and kinda mediocre. There's definitely fun to be had in the game. Blowing up enemy tanks is fun, and the vehicle physics are just crazy enough to allow for some stupidity. But while I love how huge some of the maps are, I also feels like there aren't enough people on the maps because the player limit is too low (32, I think (that's total, it's 16 vs. 16)).
I also really like that aside from the standard gear, you have to buy everything, and keep stocked in everything. Sure, it's a money sink, but I think it fits in with the EVE vibe perfectly, and I think it's funny that you could spend all sorts of money on something and then lose it all because you died too much. I think it's less funny that you could spend all sorts of REAL money on that, but whatever. That's the price you pay for having the game be free.
I did join the GB community Corp, Kite Co. Couriers. I recommend joining if you think about playing the game. Why? I dunno, why not?
I'll probably play some more at some point, but probably not in the next couple of days. I still have Alan Wake to beat, and my copy of BioShock Infinite arrived today (it has a fully color manual!). My copy of REVENGEANCE should arrive soon, largely because I canceled that previous order, and then reordered it from Amazon proper. I just couldn't wait anymore when I was able to order a different game and have it arrive before I even heard if the first game was in stock from that seller.
Or in other words, my advice is that if you're buying something on Amazon, you're probably better off paying a slightly higher price and buying it from Amazon itself, rather than some other company on the Amazon website. I'm sure that works fine most of the time, but in this case, not so much.
This is a much better game with Dust in the title. I think it's supposed to go on Steam soon. If you didn't play it on 360 because you don't have one (cough, @cjduke, cough), you should play it there.
That's about it for interesting stuff going on in my life. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, and liked it a lot. While I agree that the movie isn't very Star Trek-y, I disagree with the notion that it isn't Star Trek at all (which I know Ryan Davis said on this week's Bombcast, I think in reference to both JJ Abrams Star Trek films).
When I think of Star Trek, specifically for The Original Series, the first thing that comes to mind are the characters. And this is because everything else about the show has aged horribly. The special effects are laughable, the "science" is suspect at best, and a lot of the plots are really corny (and probably were back then too). But the characters stand the test of time. Watching Kirk, Spock, and Bones go back and forth after a mission is still immensely enjoyable to this day.
I think the new Star Trek films nail that perfectly. Especially Karl Urban as Bones. He channels Deforest Kelley so perfectly that I swear he must have eaten Deforest Kelley's ghost to gain his power, or something along those lines. He just nails it EVERY SINGLE TIME!
Also, rest in peace, Deforest Kelley.
Oh, and I decided to start linking to my book in all my blogs. Feel free to stop me, mods, if this is considered advertising. It's only a dollar, or the equivalent for your region of choice.
It had been a while since I used a picture of Luigi from something resembling a video game, rather than an actor portraying him. Speaking of which, I watched the Super Mario Bros. movie the other day. On VHS. I can't call that movie good, but it makes me laugh every time I see it. I think it's hilarious.
Ever since the reveal of the MGSV trailer earlier this year, I've had a crazy desire for some Metal Gear action. At first I thought that reliving the stories of some of the games would satisfy this urge. So, I spent a Sunday afternoon watching a five and a half hour long video on YouTube that was all of the cutscenes and important Codec conversations in MGS2. But that didn't do it, so the following Sunday I watched all of MGS3's cutscenes (about five hours long). Then I watched all of Portable Ops' (that was much shorter, only about an hour and forty minutes).
But then I realized that I needed to actually play one of them, so once I got back from college (oh, I graduated, so yay?) I downloaded Peace Walker HD on my PS3. It was on sale. And, in the time since, I beat it.
I should say that this was not the first time that I had played Peace Walker. I played the game back on the PSP in 2010 when the game was originally released. And including all the side missions, and replaying things, I put about 67 hours into that game. I played a whole lot of that game back then, in spite of its control issues (having to aim with the face buttons).
And when I played the PS3 version, I ended up stopping after putting in about 35 more hours. Now, I know what you're thinking, that I just Transfarred my save over and went with that. Well, you'd be wrong, and that's because you can't get Trophies with a Transfarred save that was created on a PSP or on another PSN account. And I wanted to go through the game again anyway, to prevent it from being too easy because of all my high level gear.
But the game ended up being a lot easier than I expected anyway, at least in the main story stuff. I'm not sure if that's because the game was altered to make it easier (I doubt that), or if it's because of the greatly increased ability to control the game with a proper controller instead of a PSP. That definitely has something to do with it.
So, as you can guess from my putting another 35 hours into a game that I had already played so much, I really like this game. It has that solid (pardon the pun) core stealthing game play, and around that is basically XCOM light. Recruit soldiers, research projects, etc. And the amount of different weapons, different types of gear (again, pun), and other odd items is pretty crazy, though some of the crazier ones are reserved for multiplayer, like a gun that turns someone else invisible, or a cardboard box tank where one player "drives," and the other aims the turret.
I still haven't played any multiplayer, though I do know a guy who says he'll play the PS3 version at some point and that we can play co-op then. Although, while he claims to be a fan of the series, he still hasn't played MGS4, and I'm pretty sure he bought his copy back in 2008. While he'd never admit it, he's a total over-achiever who never manages to get things like that done (he's had my copy of Uncharted 2 on loan for a while, and he still hasn't finished reading the book I wrote). He's also probably reading this, so I'll end this paragraph by saying that I don't hold his lack of having time for these things against him. And that I want my copy of Uncharted 2 back. It's not as good as Uncharted 3, but it's still a great game, and I want my "collection" of PS3 games all back in one place by the time the PS4 comes out.
But I've gotten off topic.
I know, Diddy, I can't believe he hasn't played MGS4 yet either.
Peace Walker! It's still a rad game, though playing the PS3 version makes me wish it had been made as a console game from the very beginning. Even if it was a budget downloadable game, that still would have been better. I don't mind the low res textures and low polygon characters/environments (though they were pretty slick by PSP standards). It's the size of the environments that I wish was different. They're just too small. There aren't ever enough guards in any one area for sneaking through to ever be a real challenge. And it doesn't help that everyone in the game has awful eyesight.
I realize that having enemy guards that behave and act one hundred percent realistically would be hard to do technically (especially on the PSP), and might make the game too hard, but I think Peace Walker veers too far in the other direction. And, so far as I can tell, there's no way to adjust the difficulty. And as a result, I breezed through all of the stealth parts of the game, and never had much trouble in the bosses. At least the ones you have to play.
Because some of the side mission bosses still feel like they are balanced for mutiplayer, and multiplayer only. I did manage to beat most of them (including all of the Monster Hunter bosses) on the PSP version, but that was because I spent 67 hours grinding to get the best rocket launchers. Okay, that's a BIT of an exaggeration, but not much. And as much as I'd like to get that Trophy for hunting all of the Monsters in the game, that last battle against Gear Rex on Mother Base is just too much, and I don't feel like spending another thirty hours with this game. I already did that once, and it's a shame that I can't get Trophies for things I've already done, but I understand why it works that way (preventing Trophy fraud).
But I did Transfar my save over. I had to charge my PSP for a decent chunk of time to get it to stay on long enough for that, and it'll probably be the last time I ever use the darn thing. But I can not think of a better way to send the ole PSP out to pasture.
So that's about it on my thoughts on Peace Walker. If you're a fan of the MGS series, well, then you've probably found a way to play Peace Walker by now. If you're not, well, it might be a decent place to start. Well, no. Don't start with Peace Walker. I don't know what to say to people who aren't MGS fans, but would like to jump into the series. The first few games just aren't much fun to play. Even back in the day, they were really clunky. So, I guess I'd suggest watching all the cutscenes of them on YouTube (starting with Twin Snakes, because as I've said before, if you have never played the PS1 version, Twin Snakes is the way to go, because you have nothing to compare it to, and you won't think the voice acting isn't as good, cutscenes too action-y, etc (also, it looks nicer, even if it is dated by modern standards)). Then play MGS4. Then Peace Walker. Or just don't get involved in the series.
I really hope that MGSV has a lot of the base building type stuff from Peace Walker, especially if you can actually walk around the base and talk with people. As cool as building up Mother Base is in Peace Walker, never having more than that bird's eye view for most of the game was a little disappointing, though understandable given the limitations of the PSP. But really, for MGSV I'll just be satisfied if the "open world" Kojima is claiming it'll have is a fully realized and well used game world. Actually, I'll just be satisfied if it's a quality Metal Gear experience.
In other news, I started playing Ni No Kuni today. I'm about seven and a half hours in, so I shan't talk about that yet. I've also ordered Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE on Amazon, and I have a code for Super Mario RPG that I got on Club Nintendo (if you have the points, go get that game). I'll be writing about all these games once I feel like I've played enough of each to talk on them.
So, that's it. Out of college now, still no job. No job in sight, either. If my book would sell, then I could at least feel like I was contributing slightly to the income of this household (myself and my dad), but complaining here won't get the sales I need. Maybe one or two of you will take pity on me and buy a copy, and I'm grateful if you do, but that's just small potatoes.
Maybe the sequel will sell better. From what a couple of my friends tell me from reading the early parts of it, they say it's better than the first, so there's that. It won't be ready for public consumption for a while though. I'd say several months at the earliest. I'll keep you guys posted.
And, since it's still the Year of Luigi, here's Luigi. The original idea was to go with a picture of Luigi being stealthy (because of MGS), but instead here's John Leguizamo as Luigi, because I think someone on the GB crew was talking about that movie recently. I still think that movie is hilarious. I haven't seen it in about ten years though.
Alrighty, so, this last weekend I went home, and despite very strong urges to do something stupid like download Amy for $2, or buy MGS: Peace Walker HD (which would be dumb because I already own that on PSP, but I'll get that eventually), I instead downloaded Guacamelee! And in between things like going to a funeral for a guy I never knew (who apparently looked like a Puerto Rican Abe Lincoln (despite being a white guy) (I'm not joking, he DJ'd as Abe Lincoln, complete with a stovepipe hat, I was told)) and going to a birthday party where a bunch of "Russians" (who are really from Georgia, but we all call them "The Russians") were talking about the benefits of flying first/business class and giving inside secrets of the pharmaceutical industry, I managed to play through all of Guacamelee.
Also, I think that may be one of the longest and weirdest sentences that I have ever written. Hm. Anyway, Guacamelee! That game is quite excellent, but not without flaws. If you have absolutely no idea what Guacamelee is, then you should watch GB's Quick Look (though, really, if you're here and reading this, I think the chances of knowing nothing about this game are extremely low, so I don't even know why I bothered linking to that).
Or, if you're short on time, I could just describe it as a Luchador themed Metroidvania. And, as stated above, it is an excellent one of those. The game play is tightly focused and toned just like any good Luchador, and I mean that both for the platforming and the combat. This is important, as the game features ample amounts of both. In fact, the game has a large number of "arenas" where it blocks off the exits to the room and forces you to defeat a bunch of enemies before you can proceed. Really, they feel a lot like they are there just to pad out the game, but the combat is so much fun that not only do I not mind them, I'm glad they're there, because I want more of that wonderful combat.
It's pretty simple to start off, as at the beginning of the game pretty much all you have are a few basic attacks. There's a three hit combo, an upper cut, and a downward air attack called a "Downer-Cut." But as the game progresses, Juan (the main character) gains new attacks that allow him to break different colored blocks in the world to access new areas. But they add a large amount of depth to the combat, especially later in the game when he have enough stamina to combo them together one after another.
And this is not a game where you can just use the one three hit combo to beat it. Not that the game gets especially difficult on Normal (though it does get tricky, especially on Hard). This is because later in the game there are enemies with colored shields that can only be broken by specific special moves. Color coding like that might be troublesome to the color-blinded out there, but I don't know for sure, as I am not a person of color-blindness. At first I thought the colored shields were a bit of a gimmick, but I ended up liking fighting the guys with the shields, because like I said, it forces you to change up your tactics.
Another added wrinkle to the combat is that the game has two different "worlds" that you can be in at any time, the world of the living, and the world of the dead. Part way into the game you get the ability to switch between the two at any time, so of course this leads to some Ikaruga style mid combat switching to get at enemies that you can't otherwise. Okay, I admit that Ikaruga gave you a damage bonus for changing polarity, it wasn't a case of doing no damage, but what am I supposed to reference, Outland?
Here's a video I found that has nothing to do with Guacamelee, outside of Luchadors.
And the platforming in Guacamelee is excellent as well. Remember that world switching that I mentioned not too long ago? No? Well, you need to get your brain checked out then, because you have some serious memory issues.
But that plays into the platforming as well, as there are objects in the world that only exist in one world, or the other. At first this is as simple as switching to make platforms become solid so that you can land your jump, but later on you are doing things like switching multiple times in mid jump while wall jumping to avoid spikes, and it gets VERY tricky. But thankfully the controls are fantastic, and aside from my L2 button on my controller being a little worn out (because it's a PS3 controller), it's all very responsive. And even with the L2 button, I never felt like it was really THAT hampering. Just ever so slightly.
I also really like most of the art and music in the game. Some of the music is definitely very "HEY, THIS IS SOME MEXICAN-ASS MEXICAN MUSIC," and I think that stuff is hilarious (especially the "You just got a new power" music). But a lot of it manages to have that Mexican feel without sounding like parody, which I think is impressive, given that this game was made in Canada.
The art is good too. Except for all the dumb references in the background stuff. But none of that got in the way, so I'm not going to talk about it beyond that.
What did get in the way, and is really my only complaint (other than wishing the game was longer, though I think it's a good value for the price) is the technical problems with the game. The game runs well, I never had any frame rate troubles. But every once in a while the scripting would break, and I would have to pause the game, back out to the main menu, and restart from the last time the game saved.
This happened during cut-scenes three or four times. What was worse was the time (when I was playing on hard) right after I beat a boss. Now, on the one hand, I was enjoying that because the boss was changed in more than just having more health, as the arena was slightly different, and the boss had new moves. What I didn't like was how the game froze in the cut-scene after, and I had to go through the whole boss again. That made me upset.
And there was another time when I grabbed an enemy near the top of the screen, and went to do a suplex, but the enemy ended up getting stuck off screen. The problem was that I had to defeat all the enemies to proceed, but that one could never die, and I was stuck. So I reloaded, and the problem didn't happen the next time. But it was still unfortunate.
I also wish the game had voice acting, but that's not a big deal.
Here's an actual screen shot. But now that I look at it, I just realized that this is from an old build that features a different UI, including a button prompt for a 360 controller. Oh well, too bad, I already inserted it.
So, that's been it for my video game playing. In a couple weeks I'll be graduating from college, and hopefully then I'll get a chance to play stuff like Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE, BioShock Infinite, and the Deadly Premonition Director's Cut that should be available by then. And I'll probably go and Platinum Guacamelee, because I'm two Trophies short.
Oh, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I'll play that too. And I'll probably download Peace Walker HD, because I have no self control.
And Ni No Kuni. I actually own a copy of that, but I didn't want to get 10 hours in and then not play it for three weeks.
Hey! I know it's been a while since the last time I wrote up a blog here on GB, (a month to the day, actually), but I'm back! Not that I ever left, I just hadn't been doing much in the way of playing video games. Last week I had no classes, and thus I went home and relaxed while crazy stuff happened around me. But more on (some of) that in a bit.
Resident Evil 6.
I finished Resident Evil 6. If you read my previous blog, then you know that I made it through the first three campaigns (Leon, Chris, and Jake, in that order). And on the first day back home from college, I powered my way through the fourth and final campaign (Ada's).
And I liked Ada's campaign the least of them. Not that it was any worse mechanically (it's definitely not as bad as Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign), I just didn't like it. And I did enjoy a fair amount of the other three campaigns. Maybe I was just in a less forgiving mood, or maybe it was the story, which despite supposedly being the "wrapping up" of the story for the whole game, I wound up more confused than I was before.
Either way, Resident Evil 6 isn't a very good game. I also don't think that the game is as bad as most people think. It's okay. Aside from a couple of spots nothing was really that frustrating or too bad. Conversely, aside from a few spots, nothing really ever rises above mediocrity. I can't say the game was disappointing, because I went in with my expectations incredibly low, but compared to RE4 and RE5, it's disappointing. But we all know that.
Oz The Great and Powerful.
Let me start by saying that The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love that movie so much that even things like the book it's based on seem inferior and shoddy in comparison. I can't overstate how much I love that original movie.
And, on the day after beating RE6, I found myself roped into going to see this movie. It's not bad, but it's also not great. I will say that it's FAR BETTER than any other movie I've seen directed by Sam Raimi, but that's not saying much. I should say that I have never seen Army of Darkness, so I won't go so far as to say that I hate all Sam Raimi films.
I have two central complaints with the film. The first is that it's not a musical. I don't love every song in the original ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is just a little too long), but to not even attempt to make this one a musical is disappointing. Some Munchkins do break out in song at one point, but it doesn't take long before they get interrupted and stop, and it feels more like a joke about the singing than anything else.
My other complaint is that neither of the "wicked" witches were anywhere near wicked enough. And I was rather surprised at that, because most of the reviews praised the witches, and said James Franco was wooden. If anything, I found the opposite to be true. But what do I know? I'm no film critic, and any time I do any acting I always ham it up.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A much better movie with James Franco in it. He was pretty wooden there though.
Mass Effect 3 DLC.
Then I started in on the DLC for Mass Effect 3. I had already played the Javik and Leviathan stuff, which left Omega and Citadel. If you follow what the GB crew (ie, Vinny and Brad) have been saying about the ME3 DLC, then you know that Omega is okay, but not great, and Citadel is great.
I would go so far as to say that it is fantastic. But I don't really have anything new or interesting to say about this piece of content, other than to say that anyone who is a fan of the series should play this piece of DLC. But if you are a fan of the series, you either already have, or plan to soon enough. Or if not, then nothing I can say will persuade you if what Brad and Vinny have said hasn't.
I think it's a much better end for the series than the actual ending of the game was. At least in the context of all the hullabaloo about the ending and all the time that has passed. I know that BioWare has said that there will be another Mass Effect, but I'm glad that they at least ended the Shepard story arc the way that they did. It was a good ride, but it's over. And I'm kinda sad, actually. I really love these games.
Hopefully Mass Effect 4 is good.
I'll miss you Shepard, but I should go.
Rock Band X Happy Action Theater.
Because Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE refused to go down to reasonable prices (not counting PC downloads), after I finished that DLC, I was pretty much out of stuff to do. So I went over to my cousins' house to do stuff. And after a while, we (mainly me) came up with the idea of playing Rock Band 2 and Happy Action Theater at the same time.
Now, I should say that this is only possible because of the set up my cousins have. Both are still high school age, and I don't want to say that their parents spoil them, but their parents spoil them. As such, they have two TVs right next to each other in one room. Each TV has its own Xbox 360 and PS3 (and they have a few Wiis too, but those aren't hooked up). One of those TVs has a Kinect, and they own Happy Action Theater (and technically Kinect Party as well, but we didn't use any of those games on that day).
So, after a lengthy set up process (the Rock Band stuff was strewn about the house, and we had to use a back scratcher as one of the drumsticks), but we eventually had Rock Band on one TV, and Happy Action Theater on the other. Specifically, we had it set to the lava one the whole time, so we would be playing music in lava.
And we had fun. Eventually it devolved into us taking turns singing Painkiller to see who could do it the best. And I don't mean to brag, but my Rob Halford voice was FAR superior to all the others. I still couldn't hold a candle to the true Halford, but I was better than those chuckle heads I was with.
I think Tim Schafer would approve of combining Happy Action Theater with metal.
Once back home, I was incredibly bored. But Rayman Origins was $14 on PSN, so I downloaded it. I later learned that at the same time, the game was about $6 or $7 on Steam, which seems about right.
That is not a comment on the quality of the game, it's a statement about digital product pricing. Why? Because Rayman Origins is a FANTASTIC game. If you have not played that game, then go play that game! It had been quite some time since the last time I had played a straight up platformer (games like Dust and Fez don't count, as one is Metroidvania-ish, and the other is more of an adventure game), and I'm glad that the one I came back to was as great as Origins is.
Now, it's not a perfect game. But it's pretty darn great. I think the hardest levels in the game (and unless I'm mistaken, I believe I played all of them, including the "secret" one(s) in the Land of the Livid Dead) are a bit too hard, but maybe that's just me being not great at the game. Conversely, I did beat all those levels, so I dunno!
But Rayman Origins is incredible. I'm now very excited for Rayman Legends. Can't wait!
I know, Rayman, I'm as shocked as you are that Origins was so great. Though, I say that as someone who never played more than a Dreamcast demo disc of Rayman 2 before Origins.
Replaying Black Ops II and Uncharted 3.
After Rayman Origins and $30 worth of ME3 DLC, I didn't feel like spending any more of my dad's money (aside from the shoes he got me, which are quite nice), so I went and replayed some stuff. Also, I don't have any income of my own, which is why I'm still dependent on my dad for money.
I made sure to get the "best" ending in Black Ops II, but if you follow me on Twitter, then you already saw me talking about that. I do think that the best possible ending has some cool things that could lead to a very interesting/convoluted Black Ops III, but I don't know that they will necessarily keep that story going.
Also, I still think it's hilarious that David Petraeus is in the game. Or his likeness is, the character wasn't voiced by him. If you don't remember the trouble he got into last year, well, don't worry about it.
Uncharted 3 is still fantastic. I know every once in a while someone comes out and says something (negative) about it, but I maintain my controversial opinion about the game. In other words, I still think it's MUCH better than Uncharted 2. Of course, I can't replay Uncharted 2, as SOMEONE borrowed my copy a WHILE ago, and he has yet to play it. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
That was my third time with Uncharted 3. I played it twice close to release, once on normal, the second on hard. This third time I just played on normal again.
All in the name of Stabbery.
No one reading this is going to get that joke. The only other people who would are not reading this, as they don't use the internet much, and they don't know that Giant Bomb exists. But I'm rolling with it anyway!
Yesterday I was back at my cousins' house again. But this was after he had gone to my dad's garage to use his vice to help re-tighten his sword. Because he bought a sword and a dagger off the internet from a Canadian swordsmith, and the blade of his sword loosened when he cut down a "tree" (that later turned out to be a bush of a bamboo-like plant).
And while I was there, we decided to go out in the backyard and attack water bottles with his weapons. I was using the dagger. And while I know that attacking bottles of water with weapons is nothing new, I can say that it's fun. And it was nice to get some practice for my back stabs. I didn't try the sword, as it's a pretty big sword, and I was happier with the dagger.
That dagger looks nothing like the dagger my cousin has.
And now I'm back at college. In a not very long time, I will be graduating from college. Unless I fail a class, but that would be crazy. I might end up with a C in one of them, but I doubt even that will happen.
And until I graduate, I probably won't be playing any games. Maybe I might return for a weekend and play a game, but I don't know. After I graduate? No idea! My plan to make money from my book that I self-published on Amazon (electronic book, that is) has not really worked (due to no one caring). I know these things take time, but it's still demoralizing when my friends tell me the book is good, I know the book is good (or at least not-awful), but people continue to not read it, largely because there's so many dang books on Amazon and no one knows about it.
It also doesn't help for motivating me to finish the sequel. I had been planning on finishing the first draft of it over the break, but of course I instead didn't work on it at all. But I have time. Even without the prospect of finding a job (pro-tip: Don't switch into Political Science as a major halfway into college after a year and a half of Computer Science), I can at least leech off my dad for the time being, so I at least won't starve.
Whatever! Here's Luigi, because it's still the Year of Luigi. I'll buy a 3DS eventually, and play that Luigi's Mansion game on it. I'll also eventually buy a Wii U. Eventually.
Mario is also in that picture. I didn't feel like taking the time to find one with just Luigi. Deal with it.
On the most recent Friday before I wrote this blog, I found myself on a failed quest to buy boots that resulted in my being in the video game section of the local Target. Within the span of a few minutes, I decided not to buy Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE, because I decided that $60 was too much to pay for such a short game when I have no source of income, and use my dad's money any time I buy something. Then I thought about getting Borderlands 2, which was on sale for $40.
But all of that changed when I saw what Target had for $20. Resident Evil 6. So, I bought it. Because I make poor decisions.
A little while later I was at home, because I went home for the weekend after not having been home for over a month since the start of the semester, and usually I end up back home for a weekend before a full month goes by. This is meaningful because, if you don't already know, I leave all of my video game apparatus at home so I can focus on schoolwork. Well, "focus."
The first thing I did was check PSN to see if I had gotten one of those codes for $10, because I figured that someone like myself, who had been a member of PSN since I bought my PS3 in 2007, and had spent over $250 buying things in the years since (I did the math) would surely have been considered loyal enough to get one. When I saw that I did not get one, I turned the PS3 off and put Resident Evil 6 into my 360 and started installing it. While the disc installed, I laughed at the fact that the game had no manual, but had a second disc with the languages other than English on it, for those who wanted to play the game in another language and didn't mind installing that second disc to the hard drive.
And once the game had finished installing, I turned it on, downloaded the patch(es) for it, and prepared myself for the worst. Because I make poor decisions.
Instead of taking me to some sort of main menu, like a normal game, Resident Evil 6 opens with a "Prelude" that acts as something resembling a tutorial, albeit a rather poor one, especially for a game with no manual. After I got through that I was at the main title screen, and went through the options menu to adjust my options, which leads me to the first of several things that made my experience with RE6 different than that of most who played it, and help explain my opinion of the game.
In the time since the release of RE6, Capcom went to the trouble to patch the game in several ways to try to improve the experience. The first thing I saw in the options was the ability to change the field of vision, which I did. However, I hadn't noticed this in the in game options I saw in the Prelude (and actually, I knew about that being patched in beforehand, which is why I went to the main menu options after the Prelude), so I then had to go back and forth between Mercenaries Mode (which was faster than loading into the campaign) and the main menu options before I got to a point where I felt comfortable with the FOV. I made sure all the other options were set to my liking, which included turning off the default targeting reticle and turning it back into the laser from RE4 and RE5. But I did not turn on the patched in option to have the game auto-complete QTEs, because I thought that would be going too far to make the game easy.
Once I was done in the options, I went to the campaign, and started playing as Leon Superfly Kennedy, with the game set to Normal. And thus my journey through Resident Evil 6 began in earnest.
That was on Friday, and as of this writing, it's Sunday. In the time between, I spent about 18 and a half hours playing RE6, with most of that being the campaign, all on my own, no co-op. In that time I beat Leon's, Chris's, and Jake's campaigns, but didn't start Ada's because I knew I wouldn't have the time before I went back to college (where I currently am). So, what do I think of it?
Honestly, I enjoyed most of it. I liked just about all of Leon's campaign, despite thinking there were a fair number of poorly designed encounters, and a boss at the end who shows up too many times. The story is total nonsense, but it's so ridiculous, crazy, and dumb that I can't help but like it, even if it is total nonsense. It's for the same reasons that I like things like Snakes on a Plane or Planet Terror. It's really, really dumb, and I think it's glorious in its stupidity.
Chris's campaign started to drag a bit toward the end, but I felt that through most of it I was constantly either on the verge of running out of ammo, or literally out of ammo. Ammo was never really a concern when playing as Leon or Jake, and I really don't know why I had so little of it as Chris. Maybe I was just being too inaccurate for my own good. I dunno. But aside from the final boss, which I wasn't doing well at because of my lack of ammo, I enjoyed most of my time with Chris.
And then there's Jake. Hoo, boy, Jake. Let me wait a minute on Jake, and instead I'll talk about the core combat in RE6. While I definitely don't hate this game like many people do, I'm still not going to try to convince people that it's something great, or that it's really even good. I'd say that it flirts a line between all right and good. Even after spending a good twenty minutes messing around with the FOV to get it just right, the aiming never felt as good as a game like Gears of War, or Resident Evil 5 does without any adjustments at all. And that's not even taking things like the poorly designed roll mechanics into consideration.
And then there's healing. Given the type of game RE6 is, it really should just have regenerating health. It sort of does, but it's Riddick or Resistance Fall of Man style health where it heals up to a certain point, but you have to use a health item to get it up higher. And that's where it gets too convoluted for its own good. To heal, you either have to use a first aid spray, which just fully heals you (but those are very rare), or use herbs. But you can't just use herbs, first you have to mix them and put them into your one button healing slot. In the Prelude, the game teaches you how to do this, but it doesn't tell you about the quick way to do it without fumbling through the inventory to manually mix herbs. I just discovered that you can hold RB and push X to quick mix herbs by accident. Later I did briefly see how to do that flash in a pause screen, but something like that should have been in a better tutorial, or a manual.
But the combat. Most of the time it works well enough that I can take down enemies and have fun doing it. In my experience with the game, most normal encounters with enemies aren't really that tough, and I haven't really run into things that I remember hearing or reading about closer to launch that people complained about. I mean things like having enemies constantly pouncing on you and knocking you to the ground. Am I just lucky?
I think not. Probably the biggest change in the patch(es) is also the one that I know least about. According to the internet, Capcom patched the game to make it easier. But how or where? I dunno. I didn't find that info. So what I'm saying is that, much like with Dark Souls, the game I played was made easier, which in turn made my experience better than most other people's (though, I will accept that some may have liked the grindier Dark Souls of late 2011 better). I mean, I enjoy the combat in this game enough that I was actually playing Mercenaries Mode for fun. I got a 50 kill combo and 73,000 points once, even though the game only considered that a C Rank. But whatever, I had fun there.
But back to Jake. Oo, Jake.
I knew going into this game that Jake's campaign was the worst. But getting through things that I remember people complaining about with few problems (like the rope climbing bit) made me feel like perhaps Jake's campaign had also been patched to make it better. And it probably has, but it definitely has some rough spots.
And by rough spots, I mean that almost all of Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign is AWFUL. The rest of it I actually enjoyed a good amount. I think Jake's hand to hand combat is fun, and I think Jake has the best final boss of the three final bosses I've fought thus far (it's a fist fight over a pit of lava). But man, Chapter 2!
It started off well enough. But soon I found myself doing things like fighting through a blizzard. At first I thought it was neat, because not many games have blizzards in them. But when things like being shot by a sniper from behind that I couldn't see happened, I quickly soured on it. And then there's the icy hill path, which I only slid down all the way once, but I can't ignore how poorly designed that bit is. Then there was the snowmobile bit, which wasn't awful, but I still died more than once. And after that was the stealth sequence.
Yup, a stealth sequence. The stealth sequence actually isn't hard, it was laughably easy. And just laughable, because the "guards" are these weird bug creatures that Jake was literally slapping out of the air. It was so dumb that I actually laughed. But the laughs quickly ended when I got to the end of that part of the game, and what is easily the worst part of the game (at least in what I've played).
Jake and Sherry (the requisite co-op partner) found themselves in a large room where the big fake-Nemesis guy was guarding a corpse with a key that the duo needed. So I boosted Sherry up onto a thing so she could sneak around and steal the key whilst I distract the thing. The only clue the game gives is to use remote bombs. It doesn't say where, just to use them. So, I figured the thing to do was to run to the middle of the room, set a bomb, lure him onto it, and detonate the bomb, which would stun him.
Of course nothing of the sort happened, and what followed were about twenty or thirty attempts at this awful part of the game, every attempt resulting in either Sherry (who, as an AI partner, usually has infinite health) or Jake dying. And it often made no sense at all, with the monster going after Sherry, despite my shooting at him with a magnum and her doing nothing other than grabbing a key.
Eventually I stumbled my way through it (pro-tip, use the bomb on the spot where you boost Sherry up, and then run to the other side of the room, he's attracted by the sound of the bomb), and I got through the rest of Jake's campaign, which I had some fun with. Again, that melee combat, while still kinda clunky, is ridiculous and silly, and I like it.
And here I am, about 3/4 of the way through RE6, and with several weeks before I'll be home again and able to keep playing. And like I said, I've enjoyed most of it. The game is still really clunky overall, and I fully understand why many people hate it, especially given that the game I played is (even on normal), a lot easier and less frustrating than the game people played back in October. But I'm having fun with it, even if buying it may have been a poor decision at the time.
Don't take that the wrong way though, I'm not saying other people should play it. If you're like me, and you like things that are really dumb, and really ridiculous, and if you have a high tolerance for games that are clunky, then you might also enjoy it. But even then, don't pay any more than $20 for this game. Even $25 seems like it'd be a stretch. There are definitely some genuinely good moments in this game, and I feel like those moments are probably worth experiencing if you are a fan of Resident Evil, but those people have probably already played this game. Either that or they're like me, and just waited until the game was $20.
So, yeah. I still have to play Ada's campaign, which will likely happen in mid-March, when I have a week off from school. After that I'll do another thing saying what my final thoughts are, but unless Ada's is somehow worse than Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign, I doubt my opinion will change much. But who knows. This game is weird.
I do definitely make a lot of poor decisions though. I'd like to try to turn that into a semi-regular blog thing, actually. Just write about poor decisions that I make and try to justify them. The only problem is that most of them are things that aren't worth writing about (though I suppose an argument could be made for Resident Evil 6 not being worth writing about). But I mean things like getting dinner, and eating pizza and french fries instead of something healthy. That's definitely a poor decision, but not one worth writing a blog about.
So maybe you'll be seeing "I Make Poor Decisions" returning. Maybe not. Only time will tell! In the mean time, I expect someone to comment here about how I am a crazy person for enjoying this game, or maybe a fellow crazy person will comment by saying that he agrees with me. I can't be the only one on GB with poor taste (regarding third person shooters), right? I mean, a website with so many thousands upon thousands of users...
Oh well. As this continues to be the Year of Luigi, I leave you, once again, with a picture of everyone's favorite ghost busting plumber, Luigi.
Boy, it sure has been some time since the last blog I wrote here on GB, hasn't it? It's not that I haven't had anything to write about, it's more that I just never felt like writing. It's one of those things that you have to be in the right mood to do. And after a while I wound up back at college again, so I've been neglecting my blog here.
But that changes today! By which I mean that I'm writing some stuff now, and I'll write again the next time I have something to say, which might be a week from now, might be a month. WHO KNOWS! I don't. But I do know that I played some games since the last time I wrote here.
Retro City Rampage.
Don't know what Retro City Rampage is? Well, GB did a Quick Look of it, if you have the time, or I could just tell you that it's basically Grand Theft Auto, except done up like a NES game. Only not really, because while some of the time the game does a good job of replicating the kinds of weird things you would see in games back then because of self-censoring (like feeling "weird" after drinking too much "milk"), there was a fair amount of humor in there that I don't think would have gotten into a game back then.
And the humor is really the most noteworthy thing about the game, because the game itself replicates the clunky-ness of bad NES games just a little bit too well. It's all intentional, of course, but it doesn't help when the later parts of the game get way harder than they should be to be any fun. The last boss was especially difficult, and took me well over half an hour to beat. It didn't help that it was a last boss that introduced a new thing that wasn't seen anywhere else in the game up to that point (at least not in the main story). I've never been a fan of games that add new mechanics or change them for the last boss fight, and this game does it especially poorly.
But overall I enjoyed Retro City Rampage, despite its flaws. It's fairly lengthy for the price (I got it on sale for $10, but a brief glance at Steam says it's $15, which seems like a harder sell (also, I played the PSN version)). It's all right.
That underwater part wasn't great.
Let me say this upfront: Rest in Peace, THQ.
I bought this late last year when it was on sale on Xbox Live for $10, but didn't get a chance to play it until early this year (or maybe super late last year after I wrote the stuff for The Moosies, I don't remember). So yes, I played the inferior 360 version, I know. I still don't have a computer that can handle modern video games, and unless I get a sudden and unexpected large quantity of cash soon, it'll probably be a while before I do. but that's all beside the point.
I really liked Metro 2033. Again, it has its flaws, even beyond the kinda crummy textures and stuff of the 360 version, but they were pretty easy to look past. What I liked best about the game was the atmosphere. Not the literal atmosphere (though lack of quality air to breath is important to the game), but the tone and style of the game. Most of it takes place in the dank and dark tunnels beneath bombed out Moscow, and the game creates a very foreboding atmosphere that almost makes traversing the tunnels scary.
Maybe I was playing the game wrong, but I feel like it was kinda easy. Now, I tried to stealth my way through the game, as I always try to stealth my way through games that allow for stealthing. But for whatever reason I almost always ended up slipping up and alerting the enemies and having to shoot my way through all of them. And I never had much trouble doing that. I never found myself wanting for ammo, as I had far more than I ever needed at any given time. I was playing on normal too (assuming there was an easy mode, I don't really remember what there was for difficulty options in the game). Who knows!
What I do know is that Metro 2033 is a great game, and I hope that Metro Last Light is even better.
I have not done a great job of selecting images for this blog thus far. Oops! Not changing it now!
This is the one that I wanted to write about the most, but never found the time to do so. Or let me put it this way. Metro 2033 and Retro City Rampage are games that I liked, but Dark Souls is a game that I loved. Had I played this game back in 2011 when it was new, it would have been a serious contender for my game of the year.
Or would it have been? It's hard to say, because from what I've read online about this game, the Dark Souls that I played sounds like a significantly different experience than what most people experienced back in 2011. It seems like in the time since its release From Software patched the game. A lot. Some of those patches were to reduce the effectiveness of certain weapons, or do things like that. But a lot of them were to make the game easier, or at the very least less grind-y. Things like increasing the amount of souls gotten from most enemies, increasing item drop rates (including humanity), and even changing enemy placement in a few spots to make certain areas less difficult.
What this means is that I was able to get through stuff faster than people used to be able to, as I was getting souls and leveling faster. But even at the rate that I was leveling, it still felt just a tad too grind-y for me. So what would I have thought back in 2011? I dunno. I think I would have persevered, because I really loved the combat in this game. I know that a lot of people are put off by the, let's say, deliberate nature of the combat, but I enjoyed that aspect of it. Most melee combat games (I refuse to use the term "character action game," even if it is generally accepted as a thing that people should say around these parts) are extremely fast paced and arcade-y in nature. Playing Dark Souls felt fresh and different compared to those types of games. It was just responsive enough to never feel broken, but just slow paced enough (and hard enough) to be a challenge.
Or at least that was how I played the game. I know there are plenty of really fast weapons in the game (I found a bunch of them), but I always found myself going back to the black knight great-sword that I found relatively early in the game. It was slow, but it packed a punch. Especially after upgrading it a bunch.
Speaking of which, I never really did much crafting in the game. I upgraded some stuff from time to time, but I never did anything crazy, or craft any unique items that used those boss souls. No, I didn't just instantly use those souls as soon as I got them, but I did eventually consume them for souls near the end of the game because I figured that at that point I was never going to use them for crafting.
I also played the DLC for Dark Souls, Artorias of the Abyss. And I have to say that while $15 for it seemed steep at first, especially given the fact that I got the whole game for $20, after completing it I feel that it was well worth my $15, if only for the story aspect.
Yes, the story. I know that Dark Souls gets a bad rap for being so obtuse with most of its story, but I actually got really intrigued by the story in the game, and tried to get every last bit of story out of it that I could. I talked to each and every NPC that I found until they ran out of things to say, and then I'd talk to them again the next time I passed through the area (and they often had new things to say). And honestly, the further down the Dark Souls rabbit hole that I fell, the more I came to really like the story that they crafted for the game, and the world itself. There's a lot of history to the land of Lodran, and I'd like to know even more.
But back to the DLC itself. It's pretty long (I didn't time it, unfortunately), and has some really fun bosses in it. I ended up summoning people to help with three of the bosses, though I feel like with the exception of Manus, the Hand of Fate, I could have gotten through on my own. I'm glad I did summon those people though, because the fight against the Black Dragon Kalameet was really fun with two other people to assist. I'm not sure if this was what they were really trying to do or not, but it felt like they were just trying to distract Kalameet so that I could do most of the damage against him. Or maybe I just happened to get most of the hits in, I don't know. But it was a really fun fight, and sort of made me realize while people like playing something like Monster Hunter with other people.
Or it would if the Monster Hunter games weren't garbage games that played poorly, but I digress.
That Manus though, oo boy. If you can beat Manus on your own, then you have my respect. That dude is FAST. Crazy fast.
And then I beat Dark Souls. It took me about 70 hours (including the DLC), and I loved just about all of it. Not the frame rate down in Blight Town, but hey, what are you gonna do when the PS3 version is the only option? Well, I could have played the 360 version, but then I wouldn't have been able to summon people, because screw paying for Xbox Live.
And after beating it of course Demon's Souls had to appear as a downloadable game on PSN. I was very tempted to buy it, but I didn't. Part of it was that I didn't want to get involved in another Souls game so soon, part was that I only had a week left before I had to go back to college, and part is that Demon's Souls doesn't have an open world like Dark Souls does.
No, Dark Souls isn't a truly open world in the sense that something like Skyrim is an open world, but the interconnected nature of the game was one of my favorite parts. Stumbling my way through an area only to wind up in an area that I was in before was always really cool. The people who made this game clearly put a LOT of time into the level design, and the design of the world as a whole, and I can not understate how much I loved the exploratory aspect of the game.
And a big part of that is how little information the game tells you about what you're supposed to do, or where you are supposed to go. Yes, you can find out a lot by talking to the NPCs, but even then it's mostly just vague stuff like, "I heard of a smith in the forest that can forge divine weapons." Just enough to point me in the right direction.
Or maybe in the wrong direction. Because after I rang the first Bell of Awakening, I ended up going into the forest and doing everything there (from the Hydra to even Sif himself) before I even stepped foot into the lower portions of the Undeadburg, let alone the Sewers or Blight Town. That led to me struggling to beat Sif in an stoic battle where I had no Estus left, and beat him with literally seven health, and then I breezed through Blight Town with relative ease. I say relative because Blight Town is still a confusing mess, and I died once from super poison.
So, yeah. Dark Souls. I loved it, and I can't wait for Dark Souls II. I know some people are worried about them dumbing it down, but I think there's still room to make it a little more accessible without ruining the parts of it that I love. It's obviously much to early to know when all we have are a pre-rendered trailer and some statements from people working on a game that'll be out in 2014 at the earliest.
Okay, now this is a nice image, even if it's not game play.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure.
This game is dumb. Astoundingly dumb. And I love it.
Let me tell you a story about three travelers, going west. At one point they decided to swim a river that was too deep to ford, and too long to jump. While doing this they braved many a piranha, jellyfish, and narwhal, only to do battle against a giant squid. But the travelers were successful, and as their reward they received a treasure chest. With trepidation they opened it, and what did they find inside?
Why, a trained falcon of course.
This game is amazing. I played way too much of it, but I never beat it. And I'm sure that I'll play even more of it, because MAN. This game is FANTASTIC. And it's only a dollar. Go buy it. NOW.
You can also go into space.
I know this is a flash game, but it's still pretty cool. I also haven't beaten this one, but I enjoyed my time with it. And the music is rad. I've had the main title theme on loop as I've written this blog (by which I mean I have the game open in a different tab, and left it at the main title screen). If you haven't played it, it's worth a look. It is a little buggy though, and the keyboard only controls aren't the best possible controls for this type of game. But they're serviceable.
Yes, I have actually played a 2013 release this year (well, Westerado is a 2013 game too, but whatever). And I won't write too much about The Cave, because this blog is much longer than I originally intended, but I do want to say a little bit about it.
I really enjoyed The Cave. I think part of why I enjoyed it as much as I did was that I played it co-op with two of my friends, and we played the entire game in one sitting. Playing it in co-op does two things to improve the game. The first is that with three brains, it rapidly increases the rate at which puzzles get solved. And the second is that there's way less backtracking when you have different people controlling the different characters, and you can relax and watch other people play during a lot of it.
Again, I liked it. We went Hillbilly (me), Scientist, and Twins. There's some good variety with these guys. I thought a lot of the puzzles were well designed, and I thought the game was pretty funny in spots.
But as much as I liked it, I think I had my fill, which is why I'm glad my friend bought it and we played it on his PC. If you have a couple friends to play with, and a few hours to kill, then I'd say The Cave is totally worth your time.
Also, we somehow lost the post card halfway through the game. That made me sad.
So that's it for games that I've played this year. There's been some that I would have played if I had the money to play every game. Namely Devil May Cry and Dead Space 3. But with so many other melee combat action games this year, I opted not to play DmC (yet), and I'm waiting on a sale for Dead Space 3. I love the Dead Space games, but I feel like I ought to wait a bit on DS3.
Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE is out next week, and I'm super pumped for it. So far as I know the only review from an outlet I've heard of for it (as of this writing) is a 39/40 from Famitsu, which is encouraging, but it's also from Famitsu, so who knows. It'll definitely be smarter to wait for reviews that are, A. From people I have heard of, and B. Written in english so that I can read them.
Aside from that? There's plenty of other games this year (probably) that I'm looking forward to, most notably whatever Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain end up being, but even more notably...
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am INSANELY excited for this game. The only problem is that I don't have a 3DS. I'm going to have to buy a 3DS. I need some money.
I just hope that it winds up being another Superstar Saga or Bowser's Inside Story, and not another Partners in Time. Partners in Time wasn't a bad game, it was just really disappointing after Superstar Saga.
Not much of interest has been happening in my life outside of games. I'm still working on my second book, which is a sequel to the first. You can still totally buy that first one on Amazon as an ebook, but I won't link to it because I fear what the mods will do to me for advertising here in a forum. Yeah, this is a blog post, but nobody reads these things if I don't attach it to a forum.
And I am especially fearful for what ZombiePie will do. He laughed at us earlier this week as he mercilessly cut down all our hopes and dreams. I understand that the mods have rules to enforce, but dammit ZombiePie! Can't you let us have any fun?
I'll be graduating after this semester in college. Or dropping out if I fail a course, because I'm not going to another semester just for one class. But I doubt that I'll fail anything. This stuff isn't that hard.
As this is, apparently, the Year of Luigi, I've decided to make a change to my blogs. This is also partly because of a recent Northies related development from Giant Bomb dot com.
There will be no more unrelated pictures of Nolan North in my blogs.
If the GB Crew have retired the Northies from their end of year awards (which I disapprove of, for the record), then I feel like I've let the Nolan North picture gag go on long enough. Thus, unrelated pictures of Luigi shall be the thing I end all my blogs with! Enjoy!
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the most momentous... Okay, let me be serious for a little bit. This was an interesting year for video games. While there were certainly plenty of really great games this year, there weren't many that didn't have any sort of horrible flaws. Between bad endings/stories, strange bugs, and general jankiness, a lot of really good games this year were also really messed up. And I also didn't play a bunch of really big releases this year, whether it was because of a lack of interest (XCOM, Journey), or because I just didn't have the money or the time (Binary Domain, Sleeping Dogs). Okay, maybe Binary Domain wasn't a really big release, but you know what I mean. The point I'm trying to make is that this top ten list of my ten favorite games this year has several games on it that probably wouldn't be there if I had played more games. But whatever, these are my ten favorite games I played this year (that were released in 2012, at least), even if I didn't really play that many more games than the ten games on this list of my favorite ten games of 2012.
I'm still very conflicted about Dishonored. On the one hand, I do think it is a very well made game, and there are a lot of really imaginative powers and abilities in the game. The openness of the level design and structure of the game is fantastic. Every level (outside of the tutorial level) is littered with alternate paths and different ways to get through. And most of the time there are different ways to complete the end goal of the level, and those methods are often substantially different, and involve going to different parts of the level and doing completely different things. All of that is fantastic, and I really love that part of the game.
It's just that the rest of the game is kinda lackluster in comparison. Sure, there are a lot of abilities, especially if you like killing enemies. Conversely, there are two ways to knock out enemies in the game. You either get them in a choke hold (which you can only do if the enemy doesn't detect you), or you shoot them with a tranquilizer dart (and you can only carry ten of those). Now, I fully admit that I may have just missed something, but I couldn't find any other way to knock enemies out in the game. I think it's unfortunate that a game that encourages you not to kill every step of the way only has two ways to defeat enemies non-lethally. Sure, there are ways to get away quickly, or stun them (I think level 1 of the wind spell would be good for knocking them over), but the fact that you can't even do something simple like sheath the sword and fist fight is a massive oversight. Or maybe it was intentional, I have no way of knowing. Either way, I didn't like it. I mean, even Snake can CQC guys to the ground after he gets seen in something like MGS4.
And I have the same issues with a lot of the world, and the story in Dishonored. I love a lot of the ideas of the city of Dunwall, and things like super whale oil that can power electricity. But a lot of it just feels half-baked. "How do we explain the main character having magic? How about we make this magic guy who just gives it to him?" That's really dumb. I'm not saying that all games have to have really good stories, but the story stuff in Dishonored is not good. It's bad. And when a game has as much story as Dishonored does, it should be good. I would rather there be no story than bad story, and the story stuff in Dishonored really does lessen the experience. For me it did, at least.
But at the end of the day, Dishonored is a pretty good stealth game that gets bogged down by its limp attempts at story. I still enjoyed playing it a lot, and I am definitely very intrigued at the eventual sequel to Dishonored (or whatever it is that the people who made the game make next).
X. Darksiders II
Darksiders II is another game that I really liked playing it, but didn't care for a lot of other things in it. Unlike Dishonored I did at least think (for a while) that the early plot events in Darksiders II could have culminated in something interesting later on in the game, and I do still think Death was a well written and voiced character. But the story just falls apart later on in the game, as do the dungeons (which has led me to theorize that they did not have the time to make the game they wanted to, but I have no idea if that was really the case or not). And while I do not count myself among the people who really loved the ending of Darksiders I (I still think it's just another cliff hanger "See you next time" ending), the ending of Darksiders II was really lame in comparison.
Don't get me wrong, I really liked the part of Darksiders II where I was playing it. If Darksiders I was a good Zelda clone, then Darksiders II is a good Prince of Persia clone. The game still followed a similar dungeon structure as the first, but the puzzles relied more heavily on environment traversal, like a Prince of Persia game. And while the dungeons ultimately aren't as good or well designed as the ones in Darksiders I, I still had a lot of fun jumping and climbing my way through most of them, and I had even more fun fighting in the game. The camera may have had a tendency to be too close to the action, but the combat was still varied and deep enough to be fun. And it was really fast paced too, and I like my melee combat fast.
I also loved the MAG-like possessed weapons in the game. "Feeding" weapons and gear to other weapons to pass traits and stats onto the other weapon is a great idea, and I think the game handled it really well (aside from my not finding many possessed weapons, and a bug straight that up prevented me from buying them from Vulgrim, which my friend claims is possible, but I could never do it). Either way, I wish more loot based games would do creative things like this with their loot. Crafting is all fine and dandy, but I think there's something weirdly compelling about feeding things to other weapons to make them more powerful.
So what's my final thought on Darksiders II? I was really excited for this game. Excited enough that I pre-ordered it through THQ to get the DLC free (and so that all my money would go to THQ, because THQ needs money). I believe it's the third game that I've ever pre-ordered, and the first one in about five or six years. But then the DLC turned out to be lousy, short, and bug-ridden. A scripting bug prevented me from seeing most of the second dungeon in the second DLC, and then the game crashed on me four times in a row in the same exact spot in the third DLC, so I just stopped trying. On the fourth try I was literally not touching any buttons or control sticks, but the game still crashed the same time after a cut-scene played, just like the previous three tries.
I was let down in a lot of ways, but I still enjoyed most of my experience. The combat was great, and I liked a lot of the puzzles. It's just that the story was lousy, and now we might never see what happens after the events of Darksiders I. And that sucks. But who knows.
IX. Assassin's Creed III
Talk about games I was excited for! I didn't pre-order this one, but everything about this game had me dying to play it. The setting (I live in New England, and there aren't many games set in this zone), the changes to the game play, and the idea of playing through the Revolutionary War had me pumped! It's just that they completely botched most of the story, and almost all of the missions in the game. I've already said all I have to say about the game's awful ending(s), but the story leading up to it was a real downer too. So much potential that was just thrown right out the window! It's a game set in the middle of one of the most important and interesting periods in American history, and they completely ruined it by skipping over most of it, and focusing on the wrong things.
My favorite mission in the game, and the one time where I think they got it right, was the Battle of Bunker Hill. That was a thrilling and exciting mission that had a lot of variety, and got the historical hooks right. You hear the famous, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" line, and it's delivered with the exact right amount of gusto and energy needed by a cigar chomping general. That moment literally could not have been done any better, and the rest of the mission after that is fantastic! There's a great use of a large scale battle, with Connor slipping behind enemy lines, and then there's some stealth where Connor attempts to take out his target. All of that is great, and I haven't even mentioned the (mostly scripted) part with all the buildings blowing up. It's easily the high point of the game (not counting the Haytham twist), and definitely one of my favorite levels/missions of the year.
But aside from that one mission, most of the fun I had playing Assassin's Creed III was either the naval combat (which is good enough that I think they could make an amazing $10 (because screw $15 being the normal price) downloadable game out of it) or just exploring the world. I think the combat was fantastic (best of the year), and the tree climbing was better than I could have dreamed! Sure, most of it was just pushing forward on the stick and holding a button, but hey, that's video games. But even when I was exploring the world and having fun with that, the game's frame rate had to jump in and try to ruin the fun. It never got game breakingly bad (though, this is from someone who suffered through one hundred hours of Skyrim on PS3), but the frame rate was almost always chugging, at least a little, especially in the cities.
So, like the other two games I've written about thus far, I liked a lot of the game in Assassin's Creed III, but the rest was pretty disappointing. And here's a spoiler, that trend doesn't end here.
VIII. Far Cry 3
In a lot of ways, Far Cry 3 is like professional wrestling. There are only about three likable characters, most of which are villains (Vaas and Hoyt), and the rest are villainous in appearance (Sam). It's chock full of great ideas, and has some great moments, even in the story. But any time something truly interesting or has any potential happens, it gets quickly squandered or ruined before anything special can happen. And when it's all over, you just feel dirty for having sat through all that. So dirty that you start to wonder about what it was that you enjoyed about it in the first place.
No, before you ask, I didn't get the bad ending when I played the game. I got the good one, but I still felt dirty, and only felt exponentially more dirty after I looked up the other ending on YouTube. I had no idea that ending would be what it was, but man, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WHEN THEY MADE THAT ENDING?! Really, what were they thinking when they did anything related to the story in that game? I want to say that it's all shoddily made, and that they threw it together at the last minute, but the facial animation is so good that I really doubt that was the case. I mean, it's not LA Noire good, or Uncharted 3 good, but it's still pretty good facial animation.
The story was so bad that in the immediate aftermath of beating the game, I kinda forgot about all the things that I loved about the game. If you asked me what I thought of that game after playing through the first few hours, I would have said that it was easily the best game of the year. In fact, I did say that to my cousin when he asked me (though I believe I did say that I was early on, and that I couldn't speak for the game as a whole). Now though? I still think the core game play is great. The shooting is great, and the stealthing is great. I know Dishonored tried its best to make combat in a stealth game great, but Far Cry 3 is the true victor when it comes to mixing great action with great stealth. It's just that, even with decent weapon variety, taking over enemy outposts gets old after a while. Running out into the woods to hunt gets old after a while when there isn't really that much variety to animal AI.
What I'm trying to say is that Far Cry 3 is a one trick pony. That one trick is pretty amazing, but after twenty nine hours, that trick got old. Sure, a lot of the story missions are actually pretty good, maybe good enough that I might replay a couple of them for fun if the game had the ability to replay missions (I don't think it does). But it's still just the same couple of things over and over again, and it just got old and repetitive. And even the late game appearance Sam (the German) and the increased amount of Hoyt couldn't save the game from itself.
A quick side note, when I made the nominations for this year's Moosies, I hadn't actually beaten Far Cry 3, and I had yet to make it to Sam. If I had, he definitely would have been nominated for Best New Supporting Character, because I do think he is a really great character. His play on the stereotype of Germans as villains is great. But I also really wish they had done more with him. Like I wish they had done more with Vaas, and more with Hoyt.
So what's the moral of the story? Far Cry 3 is another game that has a lot of really great game play, but a lot of the other parts of it are just not done well enough. And maybe that's more a comment on how games have advanced in the last few years. When games like Uncharted 3 and Batman Arkham City come out in years past and combine fantastic story with fantastic game play, it becomes easy to expect that in big budget games. But sometimes you just have to settle for something like Far Cry 3 that has fantastic game play that doesn't quite hold up for its run time, and has a pretty lousy story.
Now, luckily, I'm getting to the games that I don't feel bummed out about issues with the game. Which isn't to say that Fez doesn't have issues, because this is yet another game that can have a chugging frame rate (and when it was patched, it corrupted the save files for some people). Fez was a fun time, and not one that was ruined by the frame rate, or a lousy story. Unlike the other games, that tried to have stories, Fez didn't even bother. Well, there's plenty of things that can be learned about the world of Fez by examining the environments, and there are NPCs to talk to, but that's not the point of Fez. The point of Fez is the experience of the adventure.
And while there are a lot of people out there who like to say that the real Fez doesn't start until after you beat it the first time, I still really enjoyed my first time through. I think Fez is a really fun platformer with a nifty hook (the world twisting thing). No, it's not hard, or that tricky, but exploring the world was still fun, and I think it still invokes the olden days of my youth when I could get lost exploring a game's world, and just exploring the world. No quests to take, no dungeons to raid, just areas to explore. Okay, maybe there weren't really many games like that when I was a kid, but you understand what I mean.
But then I beat Fez, and I transitioned into detective mode. That was when I broke out the pen and notebook. And yes, I have a notebook with pages of insane scribblings and notes, just like many other Fez players. That was when I tried my best at deciphering the language of Fez, and the other mysteries of the game. The only problem was that I didn't get it. I wasn't able to crack the code. I thought I had figured out a few letters of the Fez alphabet, but when I went online to check, I quickly realized that I had it all wrong, so I just went and looked up the whole alphabet, and the way in which you're supposed to crack the code. Of course, after seeing what that was, I felt like a complete idiot for not noticing it as I quickly jumped through the lazy room in question. And that just led me down a horrible road to looking up the solutions to the truly crazy puzzles in the game. But I never would have figured out some of that stuff, like the telescope one that involved some sort of weird binary or something, I don't remember.
Either way, I really love Fez. So much that I almost wish I could wipe everything I know about Fez from my mind so that I could replay it again, but without knowing anything about it. So I could re-experience things like the rumble puzzles. Remember those? Those were neat, and a really great use of the rumble in the controller. I had never realized that the 360 controller had two discrete rumble things in it that could be operated like how they are in the game. And the whole game is filled with really neat and fun things like that. Go play Fez. It's a fun time.
VI. The Walking Dead
If Fez is a fun time, then The Walking Dead is... Well, it's also a game you should play, but for completely different reasons. This game made me feel terrible, several times. But terrible in absolutely the best way possible. Some of the things that this game makes you do are nuts. It's crazy! I almost can't believe that the people at Telltale Games thought it was a good idea to make people do some of these things in this game. This game is dark. DARK. Almost soul crushingly dark.
The game does a great job of making the characters believable, and if not likable, then it at least makes you realize that you need to work with them in order to survive. Take Kenny, for example. Kenny is both really great, and also kind of terrible. In retrospect, Kenny is another character that probably deserved a nomination for Best New Supporting Character. Conversely, he was messing up and doing the wrong thing as often as he was doing the right thing, so maybe not. But I like that. A lot of people are like that in real life. They do the right thing a lot, but screw everything else up.
That's what The Walking Dead is about. People screwing up. This is not a game to be played to succeed, or to triumph. This is a game that is played to watch people suffer through horrible events. To see people who are, for the most part, good people try to survive through truly awful tragedies, time and time again. And when I think about it that way, I start to feel real dirty again. It makes me question why people enjoy things like that. Why did I enjoy playing this horrible game that made me do all these horrible things? Did I enjoy it, or am I merely recognizing that it's a well made game that is different than any other game I've played?
I dunno. But clearly it left an impression on me, because I got through several paragraphs without mentioning all the game's problems, like the bad action sequences, the lack of tension caused by my knowing that Lee would never die from a random zombie attack, so I never felt worried about his well being (until the final episode, but hey, I won't spoil anything (or have I already said too much?)), and the general bugginess of the game (like the time the camera fell through the world and I had to reload the game because it wouldn't come back up).
Also, I hate zombies. This is the only serious zombie thing that I like, everything else is either a comedy that happens to have zombies in it (Shaun of the Dead) or a parody (Planet Terror). I think that my liking The Walking Dead as much as I do is an accomplishment. I mean, I am surrounded by people who like The Walking Dead TV show and comics (my dad and my cousins, for example), and yet I have literally zero interest in any of that. Even if at the end of the game the choices didn't really matter that much, Telltale made it feel like my choices mattered, and that's really what mattered.
Now I just need to get my dad to play the game, and see how he reacts to it.
V. Asura's Wrath
I'm still baffled by this game. One part beat 'em up, one part Panzer Dragoon, one part Quick Time Event, one part Dragon Ball Z, and about twenty parts INSANE is how I would describe Asura's Wrath. Even that still doesn't really fully explain this game. But if you're reading my thing on Giant Bomb, then you already know enough about Asura's Wrath that I don't need to describe it, especially when I'm really supposed to be discussing what I thought about it. But I guess I am, given that I'm still kinda confused.
Let me start with the things I don't like. The hot springs level was awful, and totally unnecessary. The melee combat isn't quite deep enough, and feels a little clunky (though after I got the hang of the charge attacks, I got pretty good at it (good enough that I got mostly S-Ranks in the game)). And there are way too many times in the game when a flashback appears out of nowhere, and is just Asura fighting Gohma. These parts add literally nothing to the story. All they do is mess up the pacing by making you fight a bunch of uninteresting enemies, and pad out the length of the game.
That's another thing that's been irking me. Any time anyone ever speaks about this game, they make it sound like the game is 90% QTEs, and while I don't know what the exact percentages are, there's definitely a lot more direct control than that in the game, especially if you count both the on foot combat, and the shooting sequences. But that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that this game is totally bananas. It's crazy, it's ridiculous! And up until the true ending of the game, I absolutely love it.
But that ending. While I think it's awful that they made the game's true ending DLC that they charged money for, I also think Asura's Wrath is a better game without the true ending. It has a bad plot twist that trivializes everything done up until that point in the game, most of it is padded with unnecessary fights, and the final boss isn't that fun to fight. There is a neat moment when the boss's button prompts begin to appear during the final QTE section (his have weird symbols on them that aren't on any controllers), and as the fight drags on, he begins missing them, and does worse as a result. That's actually one of my favorite moments in the game, but the rest of the DLC was lousy.
So lousy that it actually made me put this game at number five on this list, instead of number four. I was very conflicted for a long time about the specific ordering of this game and number four, and I kept switching them on my numbered list before I wrote any of this. But my end decision rested on the fact that I didn't really have any serious complaints with number four, and I think Asura's Wrath suffers from the True Ending.
Either way, I still really enjoyed Asura's Wrath, both when my friend and I played through to the on disc ending, and when I replayed it on my own and got through the True Ending (which ends with "To be continued" anyway). And honestly, I'll probably replay it again at some point next year. Something about the game's enthusiastic insanity and madness is very compelling to me. Also...
I know that over the years it's because quite popular to poke fun at the Call of duty franchise for the games being what they are (running forward and shooting hundreds of guys), but hey, I still like them. And honestly, Black Ops II is easily my favorite in the series yet. Not because of the Zombies mode (which I have to say, I'm quite disappointed that they took out the Smash TV style mode from Black Ops I, which was easily the best part of the Zombies mode in that game), and not because of the non-zombie based online modes.
It's because of the campaign. While Black Ops I combined the traditional Call of Duty style campaign with a pretty good story, Black Ops II went the extra mile with both the story and the game play. When I heard that Treyarch was claiming that Black Ops II was going to have more open level design, and have a branching story, I was incredulous. I thought that they were probably lying about the first thing, and greatly exaggerating the second. But lo and behold, they actually did it. And more importantly, not only did they do it well, they did it so well that it's my favorite game of the bunch, and I really love some of the Call of Duty games.
The horse riding mission (I don't remember the name, and I don't feel like looking it up) early in the game is a perfect example of both the improved level design, and the great way that the story stuff is handled. By Call of Duty standards, that level is huge. It's a big wide open area where Mason and Woods are riding horses from one area to the next where they have to get off and do some shooting. But by the end of the level, all hell has broken loose, and you're riding around this big area shooting rockets at helicopters and tanks. It's thrilling, it's exciting, it's fun, and it's different. Different from the usual Call of Duty fair, at least.
But after the shooting is done, there's a story bit at the end with a, let's say "non-traditional" way of making a story choice. I'm not going to spoil what happens, but in order to make the "good" choice, you have to literally struggle against "something" (by mashing a button) in order to make that choice. Of course, in the heat of the moment it just comes off as another Quick Time Event, but if you don't mash that button, things can go differently. Not differently enough to change the entire course of the story, but enough.
And that is one of the best parts of the game's story, it doesn't always telegraph all of the choices in an extremely clear manner. Sometimes it does, of course, when you see two button prompts on screen, but it often doesn't. In fact, I ended up getting the "middle of the road" ending because I didn't figure out a better way to accomplish something during one of the game's big choice moments. In fact, I didn't even realize that I had a choice in that moment. Though, I do kinda wish that had been shown more clearly, but I can't both praise the game for not showing everything and then complain about it in the next breath. That'd be crazy talk.
Also, the story in Black Ops II is pretty good. I almost gave this game my award for best story this year. The game's two stories (past and future) are interwoven extremely well, with Raul Menendez's convoluted (yet brilliant) schemes serving as the connecting force. He deserves a shout-out as well. While everyone else is out there ranting about Vaas, Menendez has been left out in the cold, despite being a much better fleshed out, and honestly, more interesting villain than Vaas. But that's because Vaas was a mostly blank slate, while Menendez is given a lot of time to have all of his motivations developed and explained. This is a minor spoiler, but you even play as him a couple times through the game, though very briefly. And one of those is a really fantastic moment that I don't want to spoil for those who haven't played the game.
And yes, I should be clear, Black Ops II has a good story, but it's still an "action movie story," and it doesn't even have a crazy twist like the Reznov twist in Black Ops I. But I'm a big fan of that type of story, and Black Ops II does it extremely well, and it does it well with all the different ways that the story can play out. Though, the best ending (and I'm guessing what will probably be the "true" ending for when they make Black Ops III) is kinda crazy, and I wonder how on Earth they would explain what happens there.
So, yeah. Black Ops II is a rad game. I don't play a ton of first person shooters, and maybe if I did I'd be sick enough of them to not be so impressed with Black Ops II, but as it stands, it's one of my favorite games of 2012. I should play some more of the online. I liked running around with just a knife. I wasn't very good playing that way, but I had fun.
III. Xenoblade Chronicles
When I bought Xenoblade Chronicles, it was mostly out of a feeling of obligation. I wanted to buy this game because I wanted to show support for it after all the trouble it took to get Nintendo to release it in the US, and I wanted one last hurrah for my Wii before I rushed out to buy a Wii U (or at least that's what I thought this spring, I still have yet to buy a Wii U). The fact that the game was critically acclaimed and seemed cool from a setting/world standpoint was nice too.
But I didn't expect to get pulled into the game as much as I did. I can be fairly finicky about the RPG combat systems that I do and don't like. I've played a lot of traditional turn based JRPGs, but I hated games like Knights of the Old Republic when I tried to play them. Usually anything that wasn't strictly turn based or strictly real time wasn't anything that I wanted to have anything to do with. But to my surprise, I ended up loving the combat in Xenoblade. I think part of it is that leading man Shulk has a lot of skills based around attacking from the back, or the side, like rogues in many RPGs. And somehow that was also the first time I ever played a non-stealth game where that was a core thing for the character I was using.
Not that the game forces you to use Shulk. You can go into battle directly controlling any of the characters in the party, but Shulk is clearly the main character, and it's always wise to at least have him in the active combat group. Anyway, the combat in the game is cool. A lot of my strategy revolved around using Shulk to knock enemies off balance, and then Reyn would knock them down, at which point I'd try to use a (and at this point, I start to forget the actual names of the mechanics) tag-team move. That's when the game would switch from real time to completely turn based, with control switching from one character to the next until the chain gets broken (I think they're called chain attacks, now that I think about it). I'm doing a poor job of explaining it, but when you do it right, it leads to this crazy chain of one attack right after another, and the characters are absolutely pummeling the enemies into submission. It's truly satisfying, especially when it ends up being the final blows dealt after a long and grueling boss fight.
And that leads me to what is probably my biggest complaint with the game. It involves just a bit too much grinding. I do appreciate that it is always possible to just level yourself to a point where you can defeat whatever stands in your way more easily, but it's just a bit too grindy. Near the end of the game I got to one boss where I literally had to go and grind for eight hours before I could beat it. Now, I fully admit that I was probably missing something in that fight, and that if I went in with different characters, or a different strategy I might not have needed to do that grinding. But instead I ground my way to victory.
And the reason why I didn't just stop playing the game out of frustration was because I was so invested in the characters and the story of the game. Yes, the story is a JRPG story, and there is a very JRPG-ish plot twist late in the game. But unlike another game this year that had a twist like that, this game at least hints at it beforehand, so it didn't feel totally out of nowhere. That twist also led to some of the most insane and ridiculous stuff in this game, so I'm not complaining too much. But like I said, it's the characters that drew me into the story. None of them are super original, or really anything you wouldn't see in any other JRPG (or anime, for that matter), but the voice acting in the game is great, and makes everyone in the central cast (you know, the combat party) likable and believable. It'd be easy to think that a super Japanese game with a budget British voice cast would be half-baked, or not well done, but it's actually quite great.
And please don't take that as an anti-British comment, I love the British voice acting in the game, and I have nothing but respect for British actors. I just mean that it's a miracle that the game got not only translated for Japanese, it also got an English voice over, and a very good one at that. If anything, my only complaint with the voice acting is that there isn't enough of it. All the cut-scenes are voiced, and there's plenty of banter during combat (which is less annoying when you're playing than it seems when you watch videos online, trust me). But there's a lot of dialog in side quests that is just text. I'm fine with that, but there are lots of areas around the world where you have have characters S-Link with each other (or have "heart to hearts," as the game calls them), but those also aren't voiced. And that's unfortunate, because they turn what could be touching moments into throwaway things because those do feel half-baked without voice acting.
But those are minor issues. Xenoblade is a fantastic game, and I think it's a shame that more people won't play this game. I know that even if conditions were ideal (better marketing, not on the Wii) it still wouldn't be a huge hit, but it has more than enough appeal to sell a lot better than it did in the US at least. But that's a discussion for another day. For now, I'll just say that if you have a Wii and you like RPGs, play this game. It's my third favorite game of the year, and my third favorite game on the Wii (second favorite, if you discount Twilight Princess, as that was technically multi-platform).
And man, the music is AMAZING.
II. Dust: An Elysian Tail
In a lot of ways, Dust is probably actually the best game I played this year. Or at least the most consistently good game. I don't have any faults with this game. There's no part of this game that makes me think, "Well, I wish this was better." Okay, I kinda wish the map was more Metroidvania-ish, but that's such a minor issue that I feel like I'm nitpicking for even mentioning.
But you know why I wish the map was more Metroidvania-ish? Because I love this game as much as I do. Because I felt compelled to scour every last inch of the game for any and every item that I could find. And I did. I got to whatever the weird percentage it was that was the max for the game, because of course it wasn't 100%. The game was such a joy to play that I couldn't stop playing it. After I beat it and found everything in the game, I started playing it again, but on hard (to get an Achievement). And then I made my way through the game on hard and got that Achievement.
I suppose a more substantive "complaint" with the game is that it's too easy on normal, and that the combat in the game could have been deeper. But if the alternative was deeper combat that wasn't as fluid, smooth, and perfect feeling as it was, then I would have stuck with the existing combat (not that deeper combat would have made any of that happen, of course). I'm sorry that I don't have a clearer way of explaining what it is about the feel of the game that works, but it just works. And it feels perfect. Everything about the way Dust moves, jumps, and attacks just feels right. You have to play it to understand, and I understood it within seconds of starting the game. By which I mean within seconds of starting the demo, because before I even finished that demo, I knew that I had to play the game from start to finish.
The thing I loved most about the combat in the game was the dynamic between Dust's spin attack and Fidget's magic. I fully admit that the lightning spell in the game is over-powered, but that didn't stop me from spiraling through the air sending out giant bolts of electricity to defeat my foes. Again, it's the kind of thing that you have to play in order to appreciate, especially because you don't start the game with that power. You have to work your way up to get that, and once you figure out how to use it right, it's magical (literally and figuratively).
Unlike a lot of other games on this list, I didn't finish this game feeling bummed out, because this game has a really rad story. Well, rad probably isn't the best word, given how serious the story is (GENOCIDE), but it's a great story. Even if the story wasn't great, the characters are, and it would have been worth seeing through to the end just to see more interactions between Dust, Fidget, and the Blade of Arah. I can't stress enough how perfect this trio is together, and they really are the glue that keeps the whole thing together.
But the most impressive and truly insane thing about the game is the origin of how it was made. And though I know Dean Dodrill isn't actually reading this, I just want to take this moment to congratulate and thank him for making this truly fantastic and unforgettable game. It's mind blowing that one man could have done all this (not counting music and voice acting), and I think that alone is worthy of praise.
Mr. Dodrill created a world that feels alive, and he did it all on his own (again, not counting the audio end). Yes, it took him years to do it, but you can't argue with results. Even though that's exactly what a lot of people do when they look at the game. And, to be honest, when I first saw the game I even thought it looked just a tad too bright and colorful. But it didn't really take too long for me to change my tune and come to appreciate the game's art for being as great as it is. Also, I have to say that a lot of the game is pretty dark and grim looking, which I appreciate, because those parts are dark and grim for a reason.
But I think the thing that speaks most to how much I love this game is that as I sit here typing this, I'm getting the urge to start it up again, and play through it once more. I know I replay games more than most people do, but it takes a lot for me to want to play a game more than twice in one year. But there's only one game this year that made me do that...
I. Mass Effect 3
Yup. Mass Effect 3. I played through this game three times this year. I almost want to say I played through it four times, actually, but some much stuff happened this year that I can't remember, and I'm not going through the trouble to load up the game and figure that out. And this isn't a short game that I was speed running through, this is a thirty hour game. It takes a lot of time and effort to get through Mass Effect 3, especially when one of those playthroughs is on Insanity, again, to get an Achievement. But what could drive me to play through a game that many times?
It's my love of Mass Effect. It's my love of that style of space opera-y science fiction. When I was young, I was obsessed with Star Wars. When I was in middle school, it was Star Trek. When it was early high school, it was Stargate SG-1 (and for the record, SG-1 is better than most people give it credit for, even if it's not up to the high caliber of something like Star Trek TNG). But once Mass Effect came out? I can't even begin to describe how my first playthrough of the first Mass Effect was. It was like when I was six and a half years old and went to see those "digitally remastered" versions of the Star Wars movies in the theater in 1997. It was magical. Yes, the game had tons of technical issues, but that didn't stop me from obsessing over the universe that BioWare had carefully crafted.
Then I played Mass Effect 2 in 2010, and was blown away all over again. They had worked out the bugs in the game end, and upped the ante with a bigger and better cast, better production values, and just better everything. Well, not the story, but everything else was done so astoundingly well that I could easily look over the fact that Mass Effect 2's main story is little more than The Illusive Man sending Shepard off to fight some bug people. It was another fantastic experience that only drew me further into the universe than the first one did (though I should say, I never actually went as far as reading any of the books).
So as you can imagine, I was very excited for Mass Effect 3. Due to college, I wasn't able to jump in and start playing right on the day it was released. It was only a week or two, but it was enough. The internet was filled with people talking about the game, and the ending. While I managed to avoid any spoilers about the specifics of the ending, one thing was clear: people weren't happy about it. So I went into the game wondering how I would feel about it. Would I hate the ending? Would I hate the side content? Would I be disappointed?
And, up until the last hour of the game, I could not have been happier with it on my first playthrough. No, it wasn't as good overall as Mass Effect 2, and the story wasn't as good as Mass Effect 1's, but the game still drew me in. I was still fully engrossed with every decision that Shepard had to make, still fully committed to saving the galaxy from the Reapers. And as I kept going, I kept loving the game more and more. Sure, it's a big coincidence that you end up having to team up with Mordin again to deal with the genophage, but conversely, the climatic moment in that subplot is one of the best moments in that entire series. If you've played the game, then I think you know what I mean.
And the same goes for the climax of the Geth/Quarian subplot in the game. Yes, I admit that it is perhaps too convenient that it is possible for Shepard to solve the situation as neatly as he can if you do it right. But I wasn't thinking that after I did it. I was full of joy at being able to bring about a satisfying resolution to that conflict. I had triumphed in a situation that seemed impossible, and it felt great, even if it wasn't all happy (again, fellow Mass Effect 3 players know what I mean).
But then I got to the end of the game. And even right before the end turns sour, there's a fantastic scene between Shepard, Anderson, and The Illusive Man. Say what you will about the specifics of what actually happens there, and why it happens, but that's a great moment. The moment after that is great too, but again, spoilers, so I won't go into specifics. What I will say is that after three games, it was a very emotional moment, and again, one of the best in the series.
The problem is that what happens after that was the ending, which was complete and utter garbage. But I won't bore you with that, we all have our opinions, and this isn't what this is about. This is about why Mass Effect 3 is my favorite game of the year. And why is that? Because even after I got totally bummed out about that ending, I still went back and played it again on Insanity. And then I played it a third time, but with a different imported save from Mass Effect 2 (I had accidentally picked the wrong one when I started Mass Effect 3, but didn't realize it until pretty far into the game). I wanted to see how things played out differently, so I played it that third time.
Then some time passed. Eventually, BioWare put out the retconned ending. So I went and replayed the final parts of the game, and YouTubed the other endings (because I refuse to go with any ending other than red (aside from the first time when I got the secret fourth ending by "accidentally" shooting the other thing)). And while I still wouldn't say the ending is great, they definitely improved it a lot. Enough that I'm at peace with the ending of the game, even if it isn't how I would have ended it.
But even that wasn't the end of my Mass Effect 3 playing for the year. Then they put out the Leviathan DLC, which I played. And it was really great. I wish that had been part of the main game, just like how Javik should have been there for everyone (like he was for me), and how the ending shouldn't have been as atrocious as it originally was. But that's all in the past.
But what's the point of all this babbling? The point is that no other game took up as much of my time this year as Mass Effect 3 did. And I mean both in terms of actually playing, and discussing online. I was in those forums talking about what I thought would be in the retconned ending. I was discussing the Indoctrination Theory with people. And while that Theory does sound like chem-trail-esque madness now, anything seemed possible back then. And, honestly, I still think that could have been a cool twist, but now it's obviously just forum-created insanity.
So what I'm saying is that while Mass Effect 3 isn't the best game I played this year, it's definitely my game of the year. It's the game I'll remember the most, and it's the game I'll think about the most in the coming years. And I know I'll end up replaying it again, and again, just like I have for Mass Effect 1 and 2. Like I said, I absolutely love the Mass Effect games, and even though Mass Effect 3 is weaker in some ways, it's still an amazing experience, and I'm glad that I was around for the ride. I'm definitely hesitant about the future of Mass Effect, but so long as whatever comes next isn't complete garbage, I'll probably be there, ready and willing as ever.
It's been a good ride indeed.
I'm sure that after reading that rambling mess the last thing you want to do is read more of my stuff, so I'll try and be quick. I just want to say that 2012 was an interesting year, for my life outside of games (college, working on that novel), for the video game industry as a whole (Wii U, other consoles being pushed off too long), and for Giant Bomb (CBS?!). And I feel like 2013 is going to be even more interesting. New consoles are on the horizon, and I'm sure that'll be fun and exciting. I'll be graduating from college, and I'm sure that'll be terrifying and horrifying.
But however weird and crazy 2013 gets, I'm looking forward to experiencing it with the fine folks here at Giant Bomb. Thank you all for continuing to read my blogs, and I hope you continue next year. I just finished Retro City Rampage, and I've played through most of Metro 2033, so I should be doing a write up for those in the near future. Once I've recovered from writing this mess, at least.
Abraham Lincoln Award for Best Use of Facial Hair.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Black Ops II is a perfect example of how the subtle use of facial hair can improve the overall experience of a video game (or any sort of story, fictional or otherwise). None of the beards in Black Ops II are ridiculous, or over the top. Instead, they're all reasonable, if a bit scruffy at times. But it's the ways in which characters' facial hair changes over time that makes the game's use of facial hair as effective as it is. The overall story of Black Ops II take place over a pretty long period of time, and the state of a character's facial hair in the game is often a physical embodiment of that character's mental well being, or state of mind.
Take the game's villain, Menendez, as an example. The better he's doing, the more well kept and majestic his beard is, but the worse off he is, the more pathetic it looks (and the beard can be pretty pathetic, depending on how the story goes). And that's just one example. For having beards that reflect the inner spirits of characters, Black Ops II easily wins the Best Use of Facial Hair award.
Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Asura's Wrath
George Washington Award for Best Returning Protagonist.
Winner: Commander "Loco" Shepard
Shepard may have a lot of hammy lines in Mass Effect 3, and Shepard might not be voice actor Mark Meer's finest role (that's Blasto, or maybe the Vorcha), but Shepard really went above and beyond the call this year in Mass Effect 3. Sure, he kinda acts like a creepy stalker guy by overhearing conversations and then traveling halfway across the galaxy to get something for a random person, but conversely, he pulls off a lot of really crazy stuff in Mass Effect 3, especially if you (the player) play your cards right (cough, Quarian/Geth conflict, cough).
But the real reason why Shepard wins the award for Best Returning Protagonist is that his return means more than the return of any other returning protagonist this year. By which I mean all the decisions from Mass Effect 1 and 2. And don't go saying, "Those decisions don't really matter." Yes they do. If Wrex is dead, then Wrex isn't going to show up. I don't care if you still go to the same places and do the same things, if Wrex isn't there, then it's not the same. And for me at least, all this baggage (for better or for worse) makes Shepard the Best Returning Protagonist of 2012.
Runners up: Alex "The Numbers" Mason, Desmond "Nolan North" Miles
Teddy Roosevelt Award for Best New Protagonist.
Winner: Lee "…" Everett
I could say a lot of things about Lee winning this because he's likable, because of his race (given so few leading African Americans in most video games), and numerous other things. But the thing that I liked most about Lee is how no matter what decisions you make in the game, it almost always seems believable. He's the kind of guy who is kind hearted enough to help a young lass through a zombie apocalypse, but also be cold hearted enough to do the truly brutal and awful things that have to be done in order to survive. I won't go into any details, because you either haven't played the game, or you have. If you've played it, you know what I mean, and if you haven't, then I don't want to spoil anything for you, because there are certainly plenty of places online where you can get things about this game spoiled for you. But rest assured that Lee Everett is a fantastically written and voiced character who handily won this award, and will probably go down as one of the best protagonists in video game history. Or at least he's become one of my all time favorites.
Runners up: Dust, Shulk.
Thomas Jefferson Award for Best Returning Supporting Character.
Winner: Garrus "Space Monocle" Vakarian
I think that after three games of constantly having Shepard's back, and just generally being cool Garrus needs to win this award. This award was definitely very Mass Effect 3 heavy in nominees (and for good reason, I think), but even against characters like Wrex and Mordin, I think Garrus takes this. My favorite moment out of any video game this year was in Mass Effect 3 when Shepard and Garrus went out shooting cans on the Citadel. In a lot of ways it's a throwaway moment that doesn't add to the overall story at all, but it's also the culmination of the relationship that's been built between the two over the course of three games. It's a fun bit that shows two buddies taking some time off and enjoying life. And the part when Garrus says, "I'm Garrus Vakarian, and this is my favorite spot on the Citadel" was so perfect that it just sums up not only everything that I like about Garrus as a character, but also Mass Effect in general.
And, if for no other reason, I think Garrus is a really solid character to bring with you in combat, because he's good at range, and that Overload skill is crucial, especially when you play a Soldier class Shepard and are on Insanity (because of Achievements). But discussions of Mass Effect 3 on Insanity are outside the scope of this, so I'll just conclude by saying that Garrus is a rad character, and playing through three games with him was great. Also, he has a space monocle.
Runners up: Mordin "Gilbert and Sullivan" Solus, Urdot "Shepard" Wrex
Mr. Spock Award for Best New Supporting Character.
Winner: Javik "Prothy" The Prothean
Javik is a character where if the writing or the voice acting was just a little off in a few spots, the whole thing could have fallen apart and he would have been forgettable, or even awful. But both of those things hold up, and the end result is a character who is, to be frank, kind of a jerk. But he's the kind of jerk that you can't help but like. Every time he makes fun of one of the other races I couldn't help but smile, and occasionally even laugh out loud. And he doesn't do it because he doesn't know any better, he's purposely making fun of everyone. He takes pleasure in it, even if he never really seems happy on the outside.
Another reason why Javik is such a great character is all the ways in which he fills in holes about the history of the Mass Effect universe. Before Javik, the only direct experience with Protheans in any of the games was talking with Vigil (the AI) in Mass Effect 1. And that part was kept intentionally vague in many ways to keep the mystique about the Protheans alive. And while there is an argument to be made about keeping that mystique, I like that the people at BioWare decided to show us what the Protheans were really like. The fact that they were jerks was only icing on the cake. Yes, it's criminal that they held back the best new character in Mass Effect since Mordin in DLC, but that doesn't change the fact that Javik is a rad character, and one of the best in the series as a whole. And like Garrus, he's pretty all right in combat too.
Runners up: Haytham "I should be the protagonist through the whole game" Kenway, Fidget
Christopher Lee Award for Most Villainous Villain of Villany.
Winner: The Hubris of Man
This was the second image to appear when I searched for "hubris" on Google.
When you get down to it, The Hubris of Man is really the ultimate villain of life itself. Pretty much any bad thing in the history of mankind is caused by someone's hubris. Someone thinking his beliefs were better than others, or that his nation had the right to rule over all other nations. Hubris is at the center of it all, and this year was a shining example of how hubris can be the downfall of a great many people in video games. Almost every major release of the year, from Tokyo Jungle to Asura's Wrath to Dishonored featured the ills of hubris being brought to bear upon someone or something. And while The Hubris of Man is a pretty vague and formless thing in a lot of ways, and my going with it is a bit of a cop out, I feel like it really is the true villain of many of these games.
Take Far Cry 3 as an example. That is not a game about fighting crazy pirates, it's a game about what happens when you and your idiot friends go out partying in a third world country. It's about succumbing to their hubris, which is summed up really well in that intro cutscene with them partying and what not (a scene you may remember as Giant Bomb's best use of a licensed song). It's also the best use of hubris for 2012. But that isn't an award (it will be next year though). And until then, The Hubris of Man remains the greatest villain ever faced by humanity.
Runners up: Raul Menendez, Vaas Montenegro
Nolan North Award for Best Non-Nolan North Voice Actor.
Winner: Adrian Hough as Haytham Kenway
To a certain extent, Haytham Kenway is the most criminally underused character in video games this year. Okay, maybe that award should go to Vaas, but Haytham is a close second. And really, he's a much better and more interesting character than Vaas could ever dream of being (that, however, is an argument for another day). And that's due in no small part to the phenomenal voice acting from actor Adrian Hough, who is not exactly a household name. But not everyone can be Nolan North and be known for voicing numerous well known characters, sometimes you have to settle for voicing one really great character. It's hard to say exactly what it is about Mr. Hough's performance that stood out so much to me, but he definitely delivers each and every line extremely well, and made Haytham into the great character that he is, instead of being another lame character in a game filled with characters that don't live up to their potential. Now if only Ubisoft would give us a prequel just about Haytham...
Runners up: Dave Fennoy as Lee Everett, Michael Mando as Vaas Montenegro
Crash Time Award for Best Overall Voice Acting.
Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Dust doesn't win this award because the voice acting in it is leaps and bounds better than the other games this year, it's because the voice acting in the other games wasn't as consistently good as it is in Dust. Games like Black Ops II and Mass Effect 3 have a lot of great voice acting, but they also have a lot of pretty bad voice acting. Dust, meanwhile, has a solid cast of no-name voice actors, and they all portray their characters excellently. Yeah, some of that could be considered intentionally bad (I'm looking at you, underground hillbilly), but like I said, it's intentional, which makes it great. Of course none of that would be relevant if the main cast wasn't great. Luckily the voice actors behind Dust (Lucien Dodge), Fidget (Kimlinh Tran), and the Blade of Arah (Edward Bosco) all bring their A games, and make up one of the most memorable trios in recent history. Because of them, and all the great voices behind the numerous NPCs, Dust wins the Best Overall Voice Acting award.
Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect 3
Multimedia Celebrity Poker Award for Best "Celebrity" Cast.
Winner: Mass Effect 3
I'm not going to lie, Keith David and Lance Henriksen are the main reasons why Mass Effect 3 won this award. The other reason is that Michael Keaton replaced Ed Harris as Hudson. But even if Ed Harris had returned, Mass Effect 3 still had a larger list of "celebrities" who (for the most part) did better than the celebrities in Black Ops II. But like I said, Keith David and Lance Henriksen are in the game. And Martin Sheen! I know I should really be writing about the great job done by the myriad of other "celebrity" voice actors in the game, but I think I can rest my argument at those three actors. At least when the competition is Hudson without Ed Harris. Come back to me with parallel universe Black Ops II that has Ed Harris, and this will be a totally different fight.
Runner up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Dishonorable mention: Dishonored. No, that isn't a pun based on the name of the game, that's because this game makes really bad use of its "celebrity" cast.
Monty Python Award for Funniest Game.
Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Very early in the game the character Fidget makes a joke/reference to the merchant in Resident Evil 4, and does it in a really funny way. I actually laughed at what was really a kinda silly joke. But right then and there, I knew that Dust was a rad game, and a funny one. And while the story of Dust is ultimately very serious (more on that later), it has plenty of genuinely funny moments peppered throughout the game. Many of them involve Fidget, who is a much better goofy idiot sidekick than a floating ferret thing has any right to be. But like the voice acting as a whole, a lot of the humor comes from the dynamic between the main three characters (okay, mostly Dust and Fidget, because the Blade of Arah is mostly all business, as talking swords often are). Nonetheless, Dust is a very funny game, and by far the funniest game I played all year.
Runners up: Far Cry 3 (mostly random goofy stuff), Xenoblade Chronicles
Bruce Springsteen Award for Best Bosses.*
Winner: Asura's Wrath
Asura's Wrath may not have the best melee combat, but the parts where the you have full control are only a small piece of the boss fights in the game. These are often multi-part fights where one part might be a traditional one on one battle of fisticuffs, the second might be a Panzer Dragoon-esque shooting sequence, and the third would be some sort of Quick Time Event where various acts of insanity occur. But it's the way these parts weave together seamlessly that makes the boss fights work as well as they do. It also helps that the bosses in the game are named characters, and you're given plenty of reason as to why you are fighting them. Not counting the various Gohma bosses, like the giant elephants. But I'll ignore them for now. They're more like mini-bosses anyway, and that's a separate award (that doesn't exist). Regardless, Asura's Wrath has the best boss fights out of all the games I played this year.
Runners up: Darksiders II, Xenoblade Chronicles
*Note, I still do not like the music of "The Boss."
"Push X to Win" Award for Best Quick Time Events.
Winner: Asura's Wrath
The first time I experienced Asura's Wrath, my friend and I were playing the game "Endurance Run Style," which is to say that one of us was playing whilst the other watched. And for the first two thirds of the game, my friend was playing and I was watching (we switched for the last third, and I played the True Ending DLC on my own after replaying the rest of the game). And I was literally yelling "BURST" every time the button prompt appeared on screen when my friend was playing. The Quick Time Events in the game are so well done that they work even if you aren't actively playing the game. But after playing through the whole game on my own, I can say that they are even better when experienced first hand. I was almost worried about breaking the R2 trigger on my controller from slamming it so hard so many times. But maybe that's commentary on the quality of the R2 and L2 on PS3 controllers than anything else.
But back to Asura's Wrath. If you've been keeping up with Giant Bomb's coverage of the game, then you already know about things like filling the screen with button prompts, and the other ingenious ways in which the game uses Quick Time Events. The other aspect I like is how the game rates how successful you are at hitting the Quick Time Events. It's the Synchronic Rate. You know, for how well synchronized you are. Makes perfect sense.
Runners up: The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3
"Never Not Shooting" Award for Best Shooting.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Black Ops II also wins the award for Best Horse Riding. But that's not a real award.
There are a lot of things that factor into what makes the shooting in Black Ops II so good, but what it really comes down to are the core controls and handling of the Call of Duty series. Part of it is the ever smooth frame rate, and part of it is the blend of realism and video game-ness. But like I said, that's all par for the course for Call of Duty games. What makes Black Ops II even better than the rest are the improvements to the variety of the guns, and to the sounds of the guns. Unlike the previous games in the series, that were always "bound" to reality, this one features a fair amount of near future goings on, and as such the people at Treyarch crafted a bunch of fictional guns that have some more variety than the regular old normal real world guns in the game. But the point I'm trying to make is that Black Ops II provides not only the best video game shooting experience of the year, it's also the most varied (at least of the games I played, and I didn't play many shooters).
Runners up: Far Cry 3, Gotham City Impostors
Cardboard Box Award for Best Stealthing.
While I definitely have a fair number of issues with Dishonored as a whole, its core stealthing mechanics are more than strong enough to make up for the issues with the story and a few other small things. Dishonored has a wide array of weapons, items, and magic skills for sneaking past enemies, or killing them outright (though there aren't enough ways to knock out enemies, I think). Get into a pickle? Just use the Blink power to dash away into safety. Or why not stop time and then stab a guy in the throat? Well, that leaves a body. So just summon some rats to eat the corpse. I never did that, because I found that the ability to auto-disintegrate enemies after killing them to be far more effective. Add in the ability to see through walls and it almost becomes too easy to get past the enemies, especially because like most enemies in stealthy games, they don't have good eyesight (at least on normal). But regardless of the nearsightedness of foes, Dishonored wins the Cardboard Box Award for Best Stealthing with a flair and style that few stealth games have. Also, I didn't play Mark of the Ninja.
Runners up: Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed III
"Holy Fistfights Batman!" Award for Best Melee Combat.
Winner: Assassin's Creed III
Over the years the combat in the Assassin's Creed games has gotten progressively faster and deeper. Assassin's Creed III is no different, especially with the new focus on tomahawks as a way to make the combat even faster. And while you could get through a lot of the game by just mashing the attack button over and over again, the combat allows for counters, grapples, throws, and probably other things as well. And it's always fun to go into a fight with no weapon equipped, steal an enemy's weapon, and then fell him with his own blade. Actually, much like Dishonored, Assassin's Creed III gets somewhat easy because Connor is so much more powerful and skilled in combat than the countless unnamed foes that he defeats throughout the course of the game. But Assassin's Creed III's combat is still the best and deepest melee combat in any game I played this year.
Runners up: Dust: An Elysian Tail, Darksiders II
Bob Goddard Award for Best RPG-ing.
Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles
Where to even begin when describing Xenoblade's RPG-ing? There's leveling, like any other RPG, and of course leveling leads to becoming more powerful, more health, and more talents (attacks). But in addition to those things, Xenoblade has Skills, which are passive, things like buffs and whatnot. Each character (you can play as any of them in combat, by the way) has several Skill trees. You pick the one you want to level, and that's where the XP goes for unlocking new Skills until you decide to focus on a different Skill tree. But the part where it gets crazy is that there are another set of "trees" where characters can share the Skills of other characters based on having enough Skill Points and fitting the Skills (which all have different shapes) into the right slots on the trees. It's nuts!
And I haven't even mentioned the combat, with all the tons of status ailments, talents, tag team attacks, buffs, debuffs, and the myriad of other things going on whilst in combat. And then there's the gem crafting! Xenoblade Chronicles is a game with very deep mechanics that is also pretty easy to understand, and more importantly fun to play. Thus it easily wins this award, especially in a year where the other nominees just have skill trees.
Runners up: Mass Effect 3, Dust: An Elysian Tail
Michael Bay Award for Most Ridiculous Game.
Winner: Asura's Wrath
You know, I actually tried ginning up some sort of reasoning as to how I could give this award to something like Xenoblade instead of Asura's Wrath which is, as someone pointed out to me, the obvious choice. And while Xenoblade Chronicles is a very ridiculous game in many ways, Asura's Wrath is the most ridiculous game I've ever played, hands down. It's almost TOO ridiculous. It's so ridiculous that it even puts Michael Bay to shame, and Michael Bay is the Shame-Father.
The moment when Asura's Wrath became too ridiculous for even me was in the True Ending DLC, and I suppose this is a very mild spoiler. But the specific moment was when Asura grew to the size of a planet, and began flying through space while destroying dozens of planets and stars. In some ways, it's just more Asura's Wrath, but with big spheres instead of space ships or space fish, but it's so crazy and dumb that it got even me to roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.
Believe me, part of me definitely wanted to give this award to Xenoblade, which is many other years could have easily won this award. And while Xenoblade has some truly ridiculous and insane stuff in it (especially toward the end), it's still not Asura's Wrath ridiculous. But like I said, Asura's Wrath is more ridiculous than Michael Bay, and that is something I never thought was possible. But it is. IT IS.
Runners up: Xenoblade Chronicles, Tokyo Jungle
Machete Award for Best Use of Blood and/or Gore.
Winner: The Walking Dead
It's easy to assume that a game about zombies would have a lot of zombie related dismemberment, but the memorable dismemberment in The Walking Dead pertains to the living. But I don't want to spoil it for anyone, and if you've played it, then you don't need to me summing it up. But I will say that no other game this year made the removal of body parts integral to the experience like The Walking Dead did, and for that, it handily wins this award. That was an unintentional pun. You know, handily. I'll just move on now before this goes too far.
Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Far Cry 3
Mister Sparkle Award for Most Japanese Game.
Winner: Tokyo Jungle
Tokyo Jungle wins this award both literally for being set in Japan, and metaphorically for being the most Japanese in terms of design. Every little thing about this game screams of Japan. The level design, the items, the item descriptions, the character models, the choices about what animals to include, the sound effects, the music, the menu layout, the stiff animations when you attack, and the generally clunky feel that the whole game has. No, that may not have been a grammatically correct English sentence, but Tokyo Jungle comes off as the video game equivalent of a grammatically incorrect English sentence. The core of something great is there, but it's also broken in some key ways. And the ways in which Tokyo Jungle is "broken" (and that's a bit much, "flawed" would be better) are very Japanese things. The story mode's awful stealth sequences and poor plot twists feel like they are straight out of bad Japanese game design. The unrelenting difficulty of the non-story mode and crazy high requirements for unlocking high level animals are other examples of the game's bad Japanese design. Or maybe that's just bad design in general, I don't know.
In other words, Tokyo Jungle is an extremely Japanese game. In fact, it's the Most Japanese Game of the year, for better or for worse.
Runners up: Asura's Wrath. Xenoblade Chronicles
"I need a cloth map to figure out where to go." Award for Best World (Open or Otherwise).
Winner: Far Cry 3
As much as I wanted Assassin's Creed III to win this award (for being set in and around New England, a place I know moderately well), it's not actually an open world. And while I have adapted this award over time to be open to games that don't have strictly open worlds, the islands of Far Cry 3 are so expansive and beautiful that I couldn't not give this award to Far Cry 3. And more importantly, Far Cry 3 manages to have a much larger world that Assassin's Creed III, and do it with a much better frame rate. I played both games on PS3, and while ACIII was chugging up a storm, Far Cry 3 ran pretty smoothly for me almost all of the time.
Far Cry 3's world feels more natural and real as well. Both games tried their hand at wildlife, and I think Far Cry 3 came up on top, with a larger variety of wildlife, and more realistic actions for those critters to be taking (predators will sometimes run away from you, instead of always attacking, like in ACIII).
And there are vehicles too. Nothing is quite as fun as careening off a cliff in a tiny car whilst goofy music is playing in the background, only to die in a giant explosion. At least in video game form.
Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Xenoblade Chronicles
Dark Middle Chapter Award for Darkest Dark Game of Darkness.
Winner: The Walking Dead
It's easy for a game to make you do awful things, or put the character(s) in a horrible situation without it really having much impact on the player. But that's not true darkness, that's fake darkness. Like closing the shades at high noon on a cloudless day. True darkness is at the dead of night with full cloud coverage. And that's what The Walking Dead is, but in the best way possible. But I still refuse to spoil anything about the game, so I'll rest my case there, and say once again that if you have not played this game, you should play it. But man, this game is DARK. They make you do some messed up stuff in this game.
Runners up: Tokyo Jungle, Dishonored
"Split-Screen will never die!" Award for Best Multiplayer.
Winner: Kinect Party
First off, I want to say that I couldn't find any good pictures of this game, so I just went with Tim Schafer. Also, this is the only time that a game that requires Kinect will ever win an award at the Moosies. EVER. But, the time I spent "playing" this "game" at my cousins' house during their "end of the world party" was easily the most fun I had "playing" a game with other people all year. It was the only game that got me not only to jump up and down flailing my arms like an idiot, it also got me to yell, "Now I'm the fairy princess, oh wait-" at one point. Black Ops II may have camouflages for knives, but it doesn't have malevolent Tron toasters, or aliens hidden in sand.
But the true "brilliance" of Kinect Party is the way in which is brings people together like those other games can't. Sure, I can online in Black Ops II and shoot internet people to my heart's content, but I'm not interacting with them like how I do when I "played" Kinect Party. By which I mean "accidentally" hitting people in the head. Really, the only thing holding Kinect Party back is the Kinect itself, but we're all well aware of how not great Kinect is.
Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect 3
"Mistakes were made." Award for Game I Wish I Played Most.
Winner: Binary Domain
Binary Domain has all the elements of a game that I should have played. It's weird and Japanese (in good ways), it's a third person shooter that isn't terrible, and it has a robot that speaks in English with a French accent. And of course we can't forget Big Bo! But for whatever reason, I just never ended up playing Binary Domain (or buying it, for that matter). But that's what happens when you don't have the money to buy every game that you want to play. I'd like to talk more about Binary Domain, but I never played it, so I can't. BIG BO!
Runners up: Spec Ops: The Line, Sleeping Dogs
"IT'S SO REAL!" Award for Best Graphics Technology.
Winner: Far Cry 3
I have already discussed the vastness of the world in Far Cry 3, so now would be a good time to go into the level of detail in the game. There's a lot of it. The guns all look nice, the faces of the named story characters all look fantastic (side characters, not so much), and it's just a very nice looking game. The fire tech is cool too, but it doesn't spread anywhere near as much as I would like it to. My dreams of lighting entire islands on fire (in a video game, don't be silly) will have to wait until that is modded into the PC version... And I have enough money to afford both a gaming PC and a second copy of Far Cry 3.
Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Assassin's Creed III
Leonardo da Vinci Award for Best Artistic Design.
Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Dust is a beautiful looking game, from top to bottom. The care and craft put into every last piece of art in the game is absolutely astounding, especially when you take into account the fact that it was all done by one guy. I know there are plenty of people out there always ready to pounce on the game's art style, and its use of critter-people, but hey, those people are jerks. I, on the other hand, love the art style, and think it's goofy and cheery look is a perfect juxtaposition to the game's story. Speaking of which...
Runners up: Fez, Closure
Bill Shakespeare Award for Best Story.
Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail
As always, I like to avoid spoilers, but the heck with it; Dust is a game about genocide. And even if the plot ultimately wasn't about so grim a subject, the other side of the story, Dust's quest to learn about his mysterious past, is much better than such a clichéd plot has any right to be. Part of that is the quality of the characters (which I have already discussed), and the other part is the reveal of Dust's origins, and I definitely will NOT spoil that. Go play the game if you want to know. You should play it anyway, it's a fantastic game. It has a talking sword.
Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Xenoblade Chronicles
Koji Kondo Award for Best Music.
Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles
When I was first trying to decide the winner for this award, I was having a tough time, as Asura's Wrath also has some pretty rad music in it. But after going back and re-listening to the music from Xenoblade, I was reminded of how amazing and fantastic the game's music is. It's definitely the best soundtrack since Deadly Premonition, and maybe even better. Every last track in the game is expertly crafted, and it has a lot of music, that spans a lot of different genres. There's the orchestral themes that are very well done, then there's the driving beat that plays during some of the more intense cut-scenes. And I'd be crazy not to mention the insane anime-metal-battle-theme that starts to pop up late in the game. Or my favorite of the bunch, the music that plays during most of the boss fights. However crazy the music may get, it's always appropriate, and always goes the extra mile to invoke whatever mood the game is trying to set at any given time. And more than anything else, it's just plain good.
Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Closure
"POW! BAM! BIFF!" Award for Best Sound Effects.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
I just wanted to reiterate how good the guns sound in this game. They have a real punch to them in a way that the guns haven't in the previous Call of Duty games. All of the sound effects in the game, from the robots to the tanks sound great, and that's important in a game that has a lot of sound going on at any given time.
Runners up: Far Cry 3, Tokyo Jungle
Antioch Award for Best Weapon.
Winner: The Monado (Xenoblade Chronicles)
The Monado is an amazing weapon. The design is great, in that it looks alien (hence the "Xeno" in the title of the game) in a lot of ways, but also really cool looking. But the Monado really shines in combat, where its large energy beam and ability to do things like let its wielder see into the future combine to make it a killer weapon. So killer that Shulk (its wielder) can't switch to other weapons in the game after he gets it, unlike the other characters. That's right, it's so good that the game makes you use it (unless you go into combat without Shulk, but I think that wouldn't be wise in many encounters).
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the Monado is the only weapon (initially) that can hurt the Mechon. What are the Mechon? Robots, basically. I don't have the time or space here to go into more detail than that, because like any good JRPG, there's a lot more to it than that. Just like the Monado.
Runners up: The Blade of Arah (Dust: An Elysian Tail), Crazy Robot Deity Arms (Asura's Wrath)
Electronic Arts and The BioWare Present: The Mass Effect 3 Award for Most Disappointing Ending.
"Winner:" Assassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed III is pretty special when it comes to games with bad endings in the year of 2012. Why? Because unlike the other nominees, ACIII has not one, but TWO disappointing endings, an astonishing feat for a game with a totally linear story. (Actually, I lied, several other nominees have multiple bad endings, but you only get one when you beat either of them.) But while people are quick to point out the disappointing "All Story" ending to the Desmond story outside of the Animus, we shouldn't forget that Connor's story inside of the Animus is very disappointing as well, right up to its end. I can sort of understand why certain parts of Connor's story are bad (they were too tied to history, and made one of the central villains a real guy), but there's really no excuse for the awful ending to Desmond's story. Coming up with a good ending is tough, believe me, but when you have so many people working on something, and throwing so much money at it, you'd think they'd be able to come up with something better. But maybe that's the problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen, to use an old Earth saying I heard once.
Runners up: Far Cry 3, Dishonored
"The Dream Will Never Die!" Award for Best Game that Should Exist, but Doesn't (Yet).
"Winner:" Two Human
With all of the sad events that took place at Silicon Knights this year, I think it's pretty safe to say that we will never get a sequel to Too Human. And as such, I feel like this award can only go to Two Human this year, because I may have to retire it from the list of nominees next year. And I wanted to be the only person on Giant Bomb to bring up Too Human in a discussion of any game during game of the year season this year. But of course the GB Crew had to beat me to it with CollectSHUN yesterday, but I digress!
But in all seriousness, while Too Human was definitely a very flawed game in a lot of ways, it had just enough good parts to be mostly fun to play. And more importantly, it had enough promise and potential for growth that a sequel could have been something truly special in the right hands. But apparently the right hands that made the stuff Silicon Knights is (er, was) loved for got cut off in some sort of sword fight during the production of Too Human, and those poor hands never grew back.
It's been a good journey. By which I mean the wait for Two Human. But I think it's come to an end, and not the end I wanted it to come to. But alas, such is the way of things. But let us raise one last glass for Too Human, a game that had potential, and a bad camera. Long live Too Human!
Runners up: A new F-Zero game, Bravo Protocol (the sequel to Alpha Protocol)
"NOTHING STOPS THE GAME ROOM QUICK LOOK!" Award for Best Downloadable Only Game.
Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail
I've said enough good things about Dust for now. You already know that I really liked this game, and I will have more to say in my top ten list in the near future (spoiler, Dust is one of the games in my top ten list). Until then, I move on to the next award, because if you've read this far, you're either as crazy as I am, bored, or hoping this will end soon.
Runners up: Fez, Closure
"The TRAIN needs some renovations" Award for Best Overall DLC.
Winner: Mass Effect 3
Say what you will about making content that should be part of the main game into DLC (I think it should stop too), Mass Effect 3 had a lot of DLC this year, and it was all pretty good. Now, of course the only stuff I really dabbled with was the story stuff, but let's not forget that the game had a TON of multiplayer DLC. There were new maps, new characters, new weapons, and I think even a new set of enemies to fight. But like I said, it was the story stuff that caught my attention. Javik was an integral part of my Mass Effect 3 experience, and he alone would be enough to win this award this year. But let us not forget the ending retcon DLC that turned one of the worst endings ever into an ending that was simply bad. The Leviathan DLC was great as well, even without the ending that goes even further to make the ending of the game itself slightly less bad. Sure, none of this stuff (not counting Javik as a character) was as good as the best DLC for Mass Effect 2, but it was by far the best bunch of DLC for any game I played this year.
Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Darksiders II
"NOTHING STOPS THE NDX!" Award for Best Individual DLC.
Winner: From Ashes (Mass Effect 3)
As you can probably tell by now, I think Javik was pretty rad. I'd say he's right up there with the likes of Garrus, Wrex, and Mordin for my favorite Mass Effect characters. It's absolutely CRIMINAL that this content was DLC, but since it is DLC, it's up for this award. And while I think Leviathan was great, Javik was there from the beginning for me. And he's a rad dude. And a bad dude. He'd be bad enough to rescue Ronnie. But he wouldn't, because he has better things to do. Like scowl and make fun of people. Did you know that Salarians used to eat flies? At least that's what Javik says. Sometimes I think he was making up stuff, but either way, From Ashes is easily the Best Individual DLC I played all year.
It's simple and lovely looking. But what really wins this award is the true box art hidden within the game (by which I mean the reversible box art, which is the picture I put above). Now that's a lovely piece of art. But I'm no artist, so I don't really have much else to say. But I do like that the reversible box art has the name of the game down the spine, so I can reverse the cover and still keep it with my other games, and be able to tell which one it is. I hate how all other games with reversible box art don't have that, so they nice art stays hidden. So sad!
Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Fez
"MOST MODERN PUBLISHERS ARE TERRIBLE" Award for Best Instruction Manual.
Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles
Yet another award handily won by Xenoblade! This instruction manual has it all! Full color, lengthy, explains game play mechanics, and it's also in French. Sacré bleu, c'est un bon manuel! Oh, and Spanish too, I guess.
Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Dishonored
"Even the box is nice!" Award for Best Supplemental Materials with the Game.
Winner: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition (360 Version)
Two reasons why Witcher 2 wins this. The first is that it really does have a lot of stuff with the game. First is the cardboard sleeve that contains not only the game, but a mini-guide book thing that has details about how to complete every quest in the game. I never really looked at it until after I beat the game, because I wanted to keep my experience pure, but it's a neat addition. Then inside the game I was delighted to see a thick manual (black and white, but still detailed) a double sided map, and best of all, a soundtrack CD. The Witcher 2's music is quite fantastic, so I was thrilled to get it.
The other reason why Witcher 2 wins is that I felt compelled to mention The Witcher 2 here. It really is an amazing game that excels at just about everything it does. And the 360 version is great too, despite an abundance of loading screens. But hey, you gotta take the good with the bad.
And that is it for awards this year! I'm sorry if you were expecting another story line like in the Retro Awards, but with no sponsor, I couldn't afford to write one (by which I mean I couldn't think of anything good, so I didn't even try).
What's that, you say? No Game of the Year Award? No top ten list? PATIENCE! That's coming this Monday. I still need to write that stuff.