Well, self published at least. That's a lot easier than getting a publisher to approve of your book, but that's irrelevant now. After working on it for months, it's finally out there for people to read.
"But what is this book?" Great question, theoretical question asking person! The title of it is "The Telluric Adventures: The Allegiance of Justice".
And because I realize the name doesn't make a whole lot of sense on its own (but it was the best I came up with, trust me), let me elaborate. It's a science fiction/adventure/kinda fantasy-ish novel. I won't just rehash the description I wrote for it on Amazon (you can read that (and buy it) here), because I know you guys deserve better than that. Here's a more in depth (but not spoiler-y) description of the story. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I made the "cover" art myself, which is why it's maybe a little less "professional" looking than it could be.
The basic premise is that in the far flung future, society as we know it on Earth is all but gone. Instead everything has "gone medieval," literally. It's all castles, kings, knights, stuff like that. Except it's in Michigan, or as it's called in the book, The Kingdom of South Michigania.
And, as you might be able to tell from my "clever" naming there, the book is (for the most part) pretty lighthearted. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a comedy or anything like that, but I definitely tried to put in a decent amount of comic relief.
But back to the story. Aside from an increase in Bandit attacks, South Michigania is at peace, as is the kingdom to the north, which is the aptly named North Michigania. At least until a man known only as Clint shows up warning of some sort of mysterious doom. He asks the King for help, and then adventure ensues! And going any farther into it would be delving into spoiler territory.
Still have no clue what the title means? You'll have to read it to find out!
But, all "advertisements" for my book aside, I'm just glad I finally got it finished and out there for people to read. I started working on it mid October of last year. And even though I definitely took some time off from working on it here and there, this book is still the result of almost a year of my life. To a certain extent, this is a dream come true (well, the actual dream was to get rich by being an author, but that's going to take a while). I still have a long road ahead of me in terms of getting people to buy it and read it, but if the book is good (and my friends tell me it's good (but of course they would, they're my friends)) then hopefully the sales will come.
Speaking of which, I might as well go all the way and tell you guys how much it costs. It's (in US money) $4.98. Or, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can get it for free. Of course I'd prefer if you paid the $4.98, but you could always do that later if you really liked it. It is available in other regions, but I don't know what those prices are off hand. I think it was set to just figure it out based on the conversion rates. It's only in English, but if you're reading this blog, then you know how to read English.
And that's about all I have to say. If you do buy it, please ask me any questions you have on GB here. If it's anything spoiler related I'd prefer if you just did it as a private message, so others won't accidentally see spoilers. And if you like it, tell your friends, write a user review on Amazon. I don't want to sound desperate (it's only been out a couple days), but I'm serious. If you want to see more books from me, it needs to sell well enough for me to justify writing more. Actually, that's a lie, I'm going to keep writing either way, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, thanks for reading this, and extra thanks if you downloaded my book (extra extra thanks if you bought it, because I get more money that way). I'm thinking of doing a blog series about writing novels, publishing e-books, that kind of stuff. Make sure and stay tuned for more updates!
Oh, and I played a bunch of Tokyo Jungle, but I'll save that for a blog that I can attach to the Tokyo Jungle forum. I'm not attaching this to any forum, because advertising for products is against the rules on the forums (and I'm hoping it's okay on blogs). And if it's not... Well, mods, I promise this'll be the only time I mention it on the site. Spamming it isn't going to make people want to read it, it'll just make me seem more jerk-ish.
Before I write anything meaningful, I'm going to say that I had a better/more sensible title that I didn't have enough room for. Does anyone know why blogs posts have such a low character limit for titles, but forum posts can have super long titles?
Anyway, all of that is irrelevant, because I've been playing video games. A decent number since the last time I blogged (over a month ago), but I'm just highlighting a couple of the more noteworthy ones, because I've also been replaying several games that I've (probably) written about in years prior.
First up: The Walking Dead game, the first two episodes of which (as of this writing, the only two episodes available) were free on PlayStation Plus. But, before I get into my thoughts on the game, I think it's important for me to explain my history with zombies as a concept. I don't like them very much. The only zombie movies I like are either comedies that just happen to have zombies (Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland) or straight up parodies of zombie movies (Planet Terror). I think zombie movies are boring. Zombies as a threat just aren't interesting to me, and the whole, "man is the real monster" thing can be easily done without zombies. Look at Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. That's a fantastic post apocalyptic movie, and there's no zombies in sight. You don't need zombies to have man be the real monster. As a side note, I only referenced Road Warrior because Mad Max one is pre-apocalyptic, and Beyond Thunderdome is a bad film (but that's a blog for another day).
Zombies are slightly more tolerable to me in video games, because there are some games (namely Dead Rising) where it's fun to just mow down dozens of zombies within minutes, or hundreds over the course of the game (I don't think I ever lived long enough to get to thousands (or maybe I did, I don't remember)). But still, Dead Rising falls under the same category as stuff like Planet Terror. I don't like it because of the story, or because I think the zombies are a great idea, I like it because it's ridiculous and dumb.
Serious zombie games though? No interest. I'm of the point of view that the only redeeming qualities of pre-Resident Evil 4 RE games are the voice acting and FMV, and that's really only the first one (not to say the others don't have their moments in terms of bad voice acting, they're just nothing like the Master of Voice Acting that is the first one). And no, I'm not saying those other games are bad (though I definitely think aspects of them (namely the controls) are bad), so please don't attack me in the comments. I'm just saying I don't like them very much, but I can see why people would find them appealing.
So far as The Walking Dead as a franchise goes, well, I've never watched the show or read any of the comics. My dad watches the show, and I have a couple cousins who read the comics (and watch the show), so I know a bunch of people who are really into it. But prior to the game I had no direct exposure to anything related to it. All I knew going in was that there were zombies, and that it was set in the south.
So, I started playing one day, with the hopes that strong writing and player interaction would be enough to break past my anti-zombie inclinations. And you know what? It totally was! The Walking Dead game is great! The writing is good, the voice acting is good, and the situations they put the player in...They are messed up! I kinda want to say what some of them are, but I also don't want to spoil it for people who haven't played. I suppose I could go into a spoiler-filled discussion of my specific decisions throughout the game, but I think that would be better after all five episodes are out. I have no clue when that'll be, but keep a watch out for something I may or may not write about that in the future.
I am very excited for future episodes of this. I knew from the second I saw that the first two episodes were going to be free on PlayStation Plus that it was really just a ploy to get people like me hooked, and it worked. Assuming the remaining three episodes have the same high level of quality, Tell Tale may have made the best zombie game ever made. Definitely the best story ever in a zombie game.
That's not to say it's perfect though. There's definitely lots of moments that made me go, "No you idiot(s), why would you do that?" For example, and without getting too spoiler-y, there is a moment in one of them where two people are trying to fix a fence. They find a couple posts that have fallen over, and decide to put them up. One of them says, "I think we'd get better leverage on the other side." Even without knowing any context of the situation at all, you can probably see why this would be an incredibly stupid thing to do in a world filled with zombies. It's even dumber when you know everything that's going on. And don't get me started about all the times when people trip, or are too frightened to run or do anything. But these are just blemishes on an otherwise excellent experience.
I feel like I should have my dad play the game. I think it'd be interesting to watch someone else play this and try to make decisions on the fly. He'd be able to handle it, as he is no stranger to video games (though his heyday was in the arcades in the 80s). Maybe I'll do that and write something about that. Or not. Probably not. Maybe as part of the other aforementioned possible blog.
But before anyone asks, no, The Walking Dead game has not sparked any sort of hidden interest in zombies in me. I still have no interest in watching zombie movies or watching The Walking Dead TV show (or reading the comics). Part of it is that it's the specific characters and writing in this game that hooked me. I want to see the continuing adventures of Lee and company, not that sheriff guy in the TV show. And the other part is the player input. Watching characters in a TV show make a decision doesn't have the same impact. If I make a bad decision in the game, then I feel like an idiot. When a character in a TV show makes a bad decision, then I think that character is an idiot. And the best/worst part of The Walking Dead Game is that it feels like almost every major decision in the game has no right or wrong choice. It feels like everything is bad and will have negative impacts. And after playing lots of games like Mass Effect 3 where any time you have a decision there is a "right" choice, it's refreshing to see something that is so negative and awful, but in ways I love.
But that's not the only new game I've played recently. As you may have noticed, Darksiders II came out last week. And by being lucky with the Postal Service, my pre-ordered copy actually arrived a day early, meaning I got to play a day early. I started Monday of last week, and I just beat the game today. Overall, my opinion of the game is a little mixed.
But like with The Walking Dead, here's some back story before I get to it. I played the original Darksiders close to release a couple years ago, and I liked it a lot. Then a couple weeks ago I replayed it to refresh myself of the story. And, oddly enough, I ended up liking it more the second time. Maybe it's because I played the game a little differently, or maybe it's because I got all obsessive about finding all the items in the game (which I did). Either way, I think Darksiders I is a fantastic game in every way. Game play, story, and even voice acting (thanks largely to Mark Hamill as The Watcher).
Then I played Darksiders II. Overall, I think Darksiders II is a great game, and probably the best game of 2012 that I have played thus far this year. I just think the story in it is pretty lousy. I didn't think that until the end of the game, not because the ending is really bad (though it's certainly not good), but because I kept thinking there was going to be some great twist, or some exciting new development that would flip-turn the game on its head. But it never happened. There's certainly interesting aspects of the story that could have been great if they were fleshed out, and the game definitely implies that there will be more Darksiders games that I will probably play, but...I just didn't like the story.
The voice acting is pretty good though. I especially liked Death as a character, if only because he felt more like an actual person than War ever did. War suffered from what I like to call "Kratos Syndrome," which is to say that he was always angry. Angrier than Kratos, actually, because at least Kratos had a few moments of inner reflection and quietness in a couple of the games. Conversely, Death knows how to take a joke, and even make a few of his own. Not that he isn't serious, or that the game is suddenly a comedy, he just feels like a more fleshed out and believable character.
Game play, well, that's just more Darksiders. That's not entirely fair to say, what with side quests, and optional dungeons, but it still follows the same formula of going to a place, solving puzzles, and moving on. But this time it felt less like a Zelda game, and more like a Prince of Persia game. The dungeons revolved more around climbing stuff and things of that nature, and it felt very Prince of Persia-y to me most of the way through. But then again, I don't think I've seen anyone else mention Prince of Persia when talking about this game, so maybe that's just me not remembering the Prince of Persia game correctly.
There are other changes, like leveling and loot. There is a skill tree, but I only ever put points into two of the skills, so by the end of the game I had pretty much maxed out all the things I wanted for those skills and I stopped caring about leveling and getting skill points. Loot, on the other hand, has more of an impact. There's tons of different effects and whatnot that gear and weapons can have. But at the end of the day, regenerating health and getting health on every hit with a weapon are the best two things. At least I think so, so I ended up ignoring most items if they didn't have regenerating health or health stealing.
And there are possessed weapons, which work like MAGs. By which I mean you feed them, and they level up. And you can rename them, and I always made sure to give them names like "MAG AXE I" and "MAG SCYTHES I." You know, so people can see me referencing games that I've never played.
Hm. There's something else in the game I kinda want to complain about, but I'm not really sure I should because it's completely inconsequential and partly based on images of something in the game that plays no real presence in the game. Ah, what the heck.
Okay, Darksiders I was about War, and Darksiders II was about Death. Thus, we can assume that there will probably be two more games, each of which starring one of the other Horsemen. Now, I have two problems with the other two Horsemen. One is their names. Fury and Strife? Whatever happened to Famine and Pestilence? Or, if you want to be old school, why not go with Conquest? That'd be an awesome name! Or why not be like Metallica, and have one of them be Time? Think of the possibilities for dungeons if you're manipulating Time itself! But at the end of the day, names are little more than meaningless.
Now, my other complaint, which is the one I kinda feel like maybe I shouldn't voice, is the silhouettes of the other two Horsemen. Or, specifically, the one for Fury. By which I mean the fact that Fury appears to be a woman.
I went with a small image because the full size was just a tad too tall. Click on it for better detail. That should maybe work. And I should say that there's an image of her in Darksiders II with way more ridiculous looking "proportions" than that.
Now before you start calling me sexist, let me explain. They're the Four Horsemen, not the Four Horse-people. It just seems dumb to me that they would make one of them a woman when they're called the Four Horsemen, and (so far as I know), literally no other interpretation of them has ever had one of them be a woman.
I know what some people are going to say. "They've changed so many other aspects, what's wrong with them changing one more?" "You haven't even seen more than just a couple concept-art looking images, maybe she'll be really cool and well developed." "Maybe Fury is really a transvestite." Okay, maybe no one was going to say that last one.
Maybe I'm just being old fashioned, or sexist, but I just don't like it. Partly it's because the couple of images look so...sexual-ized, for lack of a better term. Unless I'm totally misjudging what their intent is, it looks like Fury is a lady just so they can have one of the Horsemen be a "sexy lady." I could be wrong, maybe she'll be a well written and intelligent character. But aside from looking "sexy," I doubt they had any legitimate reason to make Fury a woman.
How about this for an example. What if there was a new version of Charlie's Angels, but one of the Angels was a guy? That'd be super weird! And no one would ever approve that idea because it'd be counter to the spirit of the original, and because it'd be one less "sexy lady" to appeal to the theoretical person that would watch a TV show just for "sexy ladies." Oh, who am I kidding, there's probably tons of people who watch things like that just for that reason.
I guess what I'm really complaining about is that they felt the need to make one of the characters a lady just to appeal to the people who would want one of them to be a "sexy lady" just to have a "sexy lady" to look at. And I wouldn't not play a Darksiders game just because the protagonist was a lady. Just a few months ago I picked up Bayonetta on sale, and that game is incredibly fun, despite how overly sexual-ized and ridiculous Bayonetta is as a character. Though to a certain extent, that level of ridiculousness was part of what I liked about the game, so maybe it's not that great of an example.
Conversely, if it turns out that Fury was just a transvestite, that would be great. Not because I'm trying to be all forward thinking or anything, but because it'd make me think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is a pretty hilarious movie. Or at least weird.
So those are my thoughts on Darksiders II. You should play it. Go buy it now and help support THQ. If they go out of business, then there might not be any more Darksiders or Saints Row games. Well, there might be, because some other company would probably buy the rights, but you know what I mean.
That's it for video games. Well, I started playing Outland today, because it was free on PlayStation Plus. I mostly like it thus far, but I've written enough for one blog.
I am, of course, still working on my book. It's closer to ever to being ready for the public, and I'm at a point where (aside from a few typos that I may have missed), I think it's pretty much done. Of course, I thought that last week, only to have a friend of mine read part of it and point out things that he thought should be expanded on (and I agreed, so I did). Nothing too major to the story, just background stuff to help flesh out the "world."
I've long since given up on getting it published as a paper book. Not because of quality (of course I think it's great, I wrote it), but because the process of doing that is too long and convoluted. So yes, impatience is the largest factor here. Instead I'm probably going to self-publish it as an eBook (probably through Amazon), because that seems like the easiest/best way to do that. I'm aiming for end of September at the latest, and I'll make sure to keep everyone updated on when that happens. Because I feel like if you read my long-ass blogs, maybe you'll want to read my book. I put way more thought and effort into the book. I just write these blogs without any planning or prior thought. Okay, maybe a little prior thought. No proof-reading though. That's how there was a typo in the title of my last blog post.
Okay, I'll be honest, I just came up with a title that has both of those game names in it, this really has nothing to do with them in any sort of crossover or anything (because that would be weird). So, I'll not beat around the bush and get straight to Crysis.
But that's a weird way to transition into Crysis, because I found that a large percentage of my time with the game was spent hiding behind or inside bushes. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, first I need to address what version of the game I played because, as you may know from my previous posts around the internet, I don't have a computer that can run modern video games (by which I mean anything running on something more advanced than a Dreamcast). So obviously I didn't play the PC version, because if you're going to do that, you might as well go all the way and run it on something that can run the game with everything maxed out.
Instead I saw that the PS3 version was on sale for $10, so I decided to buy it. Then I realized that might be folly to just buy it, given that this is still a world where major, game of the year winning games are significantly worse on PS3 (even if that example did get patched to mostly fix the issues). I went on the internet and did my best to figure out if there was anything horrifically wrong with the PS3 version (in comparison to the 360 version, I mean), and that didn't seem to be the case, so I bought it and downloaded it.
After the surprisingly short download and install process (the game is only about three gigs on consoles), I started playing it. Right off the bat I was impressed to see that it runs at 1080P on PS3 (which I know is probably "low" to many of you PC Master Race Gamesmen out there). Most console games don't do that, so I thought it was a sign of the game being technically proficient on PS3. And guess what, it totally is!
No, it doesn't look as good as the PC version. From what little I've seen of that version, it seems like the primary scaling back in the console version was to remove a lot of the foliage from the PC version. What foliage remains (which is still a good amount compared to most games) is also not as good looking as what I've seen of the PC version. Aside from the lessening of foliage the only other significant graphical change (that I could see based on my limited knowledge of the PC version) is the shortened draw distance (or at least I assume it is). A large portion of this game (at least how I played it) involves using binoculars to look at the area ahead of you. In some cases to check for enemies when creeping along through forested areas, or when near enemy encampments, it's to see where enemies are, and what kind of mounted guns and other things they have. But at long distances, sometimes the stuff doesn't look that great. There were even a few cases where some textures didn't load at all until I got close, which resulted in some ugly checking out of the area. The framerate was decent overall, but there was some slow down in a few spots, and the game would hitch up for a second or two whenever it auto-saved.
Speaking of which, that reminds me of my biggest issue of the game, and one that I assume is only in the console version. There's no ability to manually save. It's auto-save or nothing. That's fine in games that are entirely linear and checkpoints are plentiful, but neither of those are true of this game. Yes, it's linear in the sense that aside from the occasional sub-objective (of which I think there are about ten in the entire game) the game only ever has one thing for you to do. But conversely, most of the environments in the game are enormous, and even if you have only one path to go (such as early in the game when you're moving near a road down the coast to get to some stuff), there are often enemy patrols meant to ambush you. Even on normal death can come fairly quickly if you don't have fast enough reflexes (which I almost always did, even if I only got through by the skin of my teeth). That means that if you spent fifteen minutes crawling through bushes and die from an ambush, you have to sneak through those bushes all over again. Or, to use examples of what happened to me, you have to redo a bunch of sneaking after jumping over a fence and directly onto mines, or redo a bunch of fighting after trying to find out what happens when you shoot gas pumps.
On the flip-side, the decision to have no manual saves means that I had to live with my mistakes. If I got spotted, I couldn't just reload my save and do it again (unless it happened to be very close to a checkpoint). I had to just keep on rolling, even if that meant gunning down a whole bunch of guys. I totally respect that as a game play decision on the part of the developers, but I also feel like potentially losing that much progress is poor design. And I'm pretty sure that the PC version had manual saving and all that jazz, so I doubt it's really some statement on the part of the people at Crytek about just keeping on trucking after making mistakes, and more just an oversight during the production of the console version. I suppose there could be some technical reason as to why, but there are plenty of other console games that let you save anywhere (including large and open ones like the aforementioned Skyrim), so I can't see why it would be impossible to do it, but I'm not game developer.
I was going to insert a picture of a chicken from the game, but I decided not to for the sake of keeping this weird.
Anyway, now that I've covered everything wrong with the game (or at least everything wrong with the first two thirds (or so) of the game), let me get to the stuff I liked about the game. Which is pretty much everything...at least up until the aliens showed up. But more on that in a minute. I thought the game looked pretty good (aside from some weird shadowing on plants at distances), and the scale is huge. Most of the time you can't really go too far, but later in the game (specifically the harbor attack scene) the amount of area that you can go in a game this detailed (even the console version is very detailed, for the most part) is kind of nuts. Or at least it seemed it to me, I dunno, maybe the PC Master Race Gamesmen are used to such things, but whatever, it impressed me.
And the core game play was quite enjoyable. Whether I was sneaking through grass MGS3 style, sniping dudes at long distance, or racing around buildings and gunning down fools, the game is just straight up fun. I can see how a lot of people might not like the open ended nature of it, or the heavy focus on stealth (especially when playing on Delta, which I did try out), but I love that stuff. I wish there were more games like this, and I really want to try out the PC version with everything maxed out at some point. Someday I will have a computer that can run it, even if only because one day even cheap-o budget computers will be powerful enough to run it, though at that point there may be issues getting it to run at all, and I'll be emulating Windows 7 or something. Or maybe I'll fall into cash and get one next year, I dunno. Actually, now that I think about it, I probably should buy a new laptop, and what I spent last time (several years ago) could buy something way better today, so maybe I'll have some decent in the new future and I shouldn't have bought the PS3 version at all.
As I mentioned above, I did try playing the game on Delta difficulty after beating the game. If you don't know, that doesn't just make the game harder in terms of damage needed to die, it does stuff like remove cross-hairs (which isn't that big of an issue since I usually aim down the sights), removes grenade indicators, and makes the enemies speak Korean instead of English. That also isn't really that big of a deal, because I never really listened in on what they were saying in English to get a read on what was going on, because it was usually very obvious for other reasons if they were looking for me or not. But then I decided not to play the whole game on Delta.
Actually, that's not true, I already knew that I wasn't going to do that. Why? Because I played the late parts of the game with the aliens. They're not very good. I see what they were going far in parts of it, making it more action focused to coincide with the shift in the story and everything, but it just wasn't fun. The fun in Crysis is in using the tools at your disposal (the cloak, super strength, etc.) to outsmart and outmaneuver human enemies in relatively realistic environments and situations. If you're smart and careful, you can get through just about all that stuff without setting off alerts. Yes, there are parts like the tank sequence where you're just driving around in a tank blowing stuff up, but it's mostly slow paced tactical greatness.
Fighting the aliens is little more than just spraying them with bullets. Unless I missed something, they don't seem to have any sort of weakness like the regular soldiers who (aside from some later ones with a lot of armor) can be felled with a head shot, or at most a few shots to the chest. Now, I did realize that the enemies in the zero gravity bit could be shot in their heads and felled quickly, but I didn't have problems until the part after that. I was literally being swarmed with so many enemies that I couldn't defeat them all, so I just had to cloak and run for it.
And the worst part is the game's final boss. Not only is it a giant beast with things like one hit kill attacks (on normal), it summons a bunch of large flying enemies to distract you so it can hit you with the one hit kill attack. And of course to finish it off you need to use a special weapon that you have to wait until certain times in the fight to use against it. I don't know for sure, but I want to say I died during this fight as many times as I died throughout the rest of the game. For a while I thought something about the fight was literally broken, or that I had encountered some sort of horrible bug where the thing kept hitting me with the one hit kill move.
I did eventually beat it, and you know what? The game ends with an awful cliffhanger. I obviously haven't played Crysis Warhead, so I'm hoping that expands on the cliffhanger, because what I know of Crysis 2 has it starting way after this cliffhanger, and it'd be a real a-hole move on Crytek's part to just jump over that.
So, long story short, most of Crysis is amazing, and wonderful, but it falls apart at the end when they make it more action focused, and specifically when the enemies turn from fun to fight to not fun to fight.
Oh, and I played Gotham City Impostors too. That game is great. It's the most fun I've had playing a multiplayer game online since Black Ops. Maybe more fun, just without Ice Cube doing the announcing. But then again, the announcing in the game is pretty good. The Bats have a good Office Bat guy, and the Jokerz have a pretty good imitation Mark Hamill as Joker (I know it's not him, but a few of the lines are almost spot on). The style is great (especially the cardboard cowl featured in the GB Quick Look), and most importantly it's fun to play.
But it's a team based first person shooter with a few different modes in it, so I don't really have much to say. But I do think making it free for PlayStation Plus was brilliant, because the influx of new players has been pretty massive, and it's been (overall) very easy to find games. Of course, there are occasionally issues finding matches, and I've been disconnected a few times (but that may be an issue on my end). And, in the PS3 version, there do seem to be some almost Rage-esque texture loading problems that make the game look rather ugly at times.
But it's fun, and I like it. And that's it for today. Still playing Just Cause 2. I did a great mission today with Japanese soldiers from WWII that thought the war was still going on and giant Tesla Coils (or giant towers that shot off electricity at least).
So, in my continuing quest to get as much out of the three months of PlayStation Plus that I bought, I've been continuing to play video games. And since I have nothing better to do (or at least nothing better that I want to do), I'm writing this here now.
First things first, when last I wrote, I mentioned that I was excited to play Just cause 2. And play Just Cause 2 I did! The last I checked (which was a day or two ago), my play time was up to 19 and a half-ish hours. Aside from a few, minor issues, I really like it. It's fun and ridiculous in all the right ways. At this point even people who haven't played the game know about the ridiculousness of the game play, but even the "story" stuff in it is silly and dumb. Most of the voice actors have some sort of ridiculous/borderline offensive accent, and the story...Well, I can't really comment on the story. Why? Because despite being almost twenty hours into the game, I only did the first two story missions that the game makes you do before you can go out and do whatever you want.
The game is structured in such a way that you need to do side stuff, like missions for the three factions in the game, before you can do the next story mission. But I decided to use my usual method of playing games like this. And that is doing side stuff until I run out or get bored with it. And neither has happened yet, but there's still literally hundreds of things left to do (or arguably thousands). The game is set on a fictional island nation (or, to be more accurate, a small nation comprised of numerous islands). And within this nation there are 368 (I think) "settlements." These range from small villages with nothing in them but a few collectibles (which can be used for things like upgrading weapons or health) to large and heavily guarded military bases with lots of stuff to blow up (and collectibles). The game keeps track of which ones gets completed (ie, blow up and collect everything that can be blown up or collected). And at this point I feel like I should go and complete all of them, because why not?
For the most part, this structure is great, because it allows for an easy way to know where you've already found everything there is to be found. But the problem is that not all collectibles in the game are within settlements. Some of them (the ones used to get cash from the factions) are marked on the map, but the aforementioned ones used for upgrades are not. And there is a finite amount of each type in the game, so people obsessed with 100%-ing the game could be driven mad by this. However, it's a small complaint.
What isn't a small complaint is how the game handles health. Unlike most game protagonists these days, Rico (the game's protagonist) doesn't have fully regenerating health. Some of it will come back, but not all. This wouldn't be a big issue if the game was mad easy, or if there were health packs everywhere, but neither is true. The game isn't especially difficult, but the health packs are extremely rare. Aside from gas stations, I've yet to find something in the game that reliably has them. A lot of the military bases will have one, but it's still lead to a lot of cases where if the health had come back fully, I wouldn't have died. I suppose the counter argument is that I should just play better, and that's true. But I do hope that Just Cause the Third has fully regenerating health.
Not much else to say about it at the moment. I do love that in the game Rico can survive a fall from any height if you just grapple the ground (or a roof) before he hits it. Somehow the action of grappling it and the grapple pulling him in faster causes him to survive where he would have otherwise died. Or maybe it's just something the developers didn't notice, or think was worth changing. It's the silly things like that that make me love Just Cause 2. I'll be continuing to play that one for a while, though I will be switching it out for other games every once in a while.
And speaking of games made by Avalanche Studios, I also played Renegade Ops. I have beaten Renegade Ops, and I even played a level of it in co-op (via the internet). Like Just Cause 2, aside from a few small issues, I liked it a whole lot. The "feel" of the vehicles was nice, and the game has plenty of explosions. It's challenging, but not too challenging. The story is ridiculous, especially ending. I won't say what it is, but man, is it great.
So far as issues, well, I found that as I played the game, which often involved me careening around the levels like a madman, I got stuck in stuff. Like the trees at the edge of the playable area, or behind fences. And as a result I'd then have to wait for the game to un-stick me and put me somewhere else. That's little more than an annoyance (and one caused by my recklessness), but I did die a few times because of it. The enemies don't bother to stop attacking, so that just leaves me as a sitting duck, and thus death ensues.
And speaking of death, the biggest issue I have is that when you die, you lose and power-ups you found. Everything from machine gun upgrades to the secondary weapon you have. I don't even need to explain how that would be annoying.
That's about all I have to say about Renegade Ops without going into a detailed analysis of how it's played, and I'm not going to do that. GB had plenty of coverage of it if you honestly don't know anything about it. I played it, I enjoyed it, but I probably won't play much more of it.
If you don't recognize this creepy little guy, well he's the "Spider-Demon" from Closure! Don't know what Closure is? Well, here's a handy Quick Look GB did! I'll give a brief explanation anyway. The concept of the game is that the only things that exist are the things that are lit, and everything in the darkness ceases to exist. Thus, the game revolves around manipulating and moving light sources to get through environments (to a door, which may or may not be locked, depending on the level). And for the most part, the game does a really good job of crafting fun and puzzling puzzles in these levels.
There is one problem I have, and much like the other problems I've mentioned today, it's largely my own fault. It's very easy to mess up a lot of the puzzles in the game. It's easy to move a light just a little too far and then a key or a box falls into oblivion, and you have to restart the whole thing and do it all over. Thankfully restarting is as simple as hitting the Select button, and the game (with its 2D sprites) resets instantly. If there was any sort of delay for loading, the game could have been much more infuriating. And a related problem is that since most of the puzzles in the game are somewhat complex and feature multiple parts, it's easy to get into a mindset where you reset because you messed something up, and you are so focused on the second or third part of a puzzle that you make a stupid mistake on the first part, and then you have to start all over again. But, as I said, that's all user error.
Well, not all user error. There is a certain amount of physics going on in the game. For example, if you push a box off a ledge, how it lands is dependent on the physics of the game. That means that, in certain cases, the box might land perfectly find 90% of the time. But in that other 10%, it'll box just the wrong way and fall down to oblivion, and you have to start all over because the game didn't "work right." Thankfully that didn't happen very often, but it happened enough that I feel like it was worth mentioning here.
The art style is great, both well done and appropriately creepy and dark. As is the soundtrack, which may be the best part of the game. Speaking of which, I feel like I should point out that (aside from a few people listed as Q&A), this game was made by three people. One guy did the programming and design work, another guy did the art (and "additional design"), and a third guy did the music and sound effects. So what I'm saying is that if you like buying games made by small numbers of people to help the "independent scene," then buy this game. It's on sale until Tuesday on PSN (I want to say it's only on PSN, but I can't confirm that), and I'd say it's probably worth the $10 (or $7 for PlayStation Plus users). Maybe a little pricey at the usual $15, but not too pricey. It's decently long, as it took me a few hours to beat.
And that's not all! But that's all I'm saying for now. This post is long enough as it is, and I will do up another one in the near future to talk about the other games I've been playing. But I will leave you with one last goofy picture, and since I already used one of Nolan North, here is the six time reigning Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Champion, Joey Chestnut:
It's been a while since I've wrote up a proper blog thing here on GB. I didn't really play much new stuff after Gears 3 for a while. I went back to Mass Effect 3, and S-Ranked it. As you probably know by now, that new ending DLC is out tomorrow, but I have low expectations for that actually addressing any of the issues I have with the game, and the fact that you apparently have to go through the last couple of missions (I presume just as a way of getting your current Galactic Readiness score) bums me out, because I was planning on using my old save from when I had max Readiness. I'm not spending another day grinding that out for an ending that will probably just disappoint me anyway. So I'll probably just YouTube some of that stuff once people find out what it is and get the various versions of it online. I'll probably play through it at some point, but not soon, because I've been using my PS3 a lot.
Why, you ask? Well, aside from liking the PS3 more than the 360 (for various reasons I shan't go into), I bought three months of PlayStation Plus because I was super bored and there was a lot of stuff that could be downloaded there. I've already more than gotten my money's worth, and I'm still not done with the stuff I've downloaded, and there should be more stuff next month. Much like last summer when I got the most out of the free month of PS+ that everyone got, this has resulted in my playing a lot of older/really good games that I had missed.
Like Virtua Fighter 5. Okay, technically it's the Final Showdown version, which is new, but I never played any previous version of this game. Or any Virtua Fighter game. The closest I ever got was Shenmue, which was a game about story and exploration first, combat second or third. Anyway, VF5 is pretty great. Too complex for me to really grasp, at least with the amount of time I'm willing to put into it. But I've had some fun with it, and it has that great "This game was made in Japan" feel. Stuff like the characters. One of them is a Canadian professional wrestler named Wolf Hawkfield. And the voice acting! It's great! By which I mean it's bad, but in a great way. I wish there was more of it, but that's just me being spoiled by last year's Mortal Kombat. But really, expecting all that from a $15 game (that has its origin in a time before that specific MK game) is unrealistic.
Then I played Choplifter HD. I link to that page because I wrote all of it, and I feel like I wrote far more than that game deserves. Not that I made stuff up, or that the game doesn't have enough stuff going on to warrant that much text. I just feel like it's mediocre at best, and I've spent far too much time thinking and writing about that game. The best part about it is that Duke Nukem has a cameo appearance, and he's voiced by Jon St. John. Four or five lines of dialog from a tired old character whose last game was a train wreck. I dunno. It's not a bad game, and I had some fun with it. Some of the humor is kinda funny.
Then I started playing Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. That game is awesome, and I had a lot more fun with it than I expected. I don't really have much to say about it that hasn't already been said, but I do think they could have done a little better job explaining stuff to people like me who don't know much about the Warhammer 40K universe. All I really knew before going into it was what Vinny has said on the site since Space Marine came out. Enough to get by, but not really enough to have a solid understanding of what's going on. Not that I want to go all out Vinny-style on it and start reading Warhammer 40K books or anything. I guess I could have looked some of it up on Wikipedia, but too late now. I hope they make a sequel to the game, because it's excellent, and I definitely want to see more of this universe, specifically in the form of another action game. And I'll buy that one, instead of getting it free on PSN. I feel kinda bad for not buying it, what with THQ being in financial trouble and everything.
And after I finished Space Marine, I discovered that Choplifter HD had DLC missions that were free, so I played some of those before finally getting fed up with it.
Speaking of getting fed up with it, I realized that I segued so well that I forgot to mention that I played Fez between Gears 3 and all this PSN madness. I really liked it, and I did just about everything without checking the internet, but there were three puzzles in particular (people who played it probably know which three) that when I looked up, I realized I never would have gotten them on my own. Fez is one of the best XBLA games I've played, and definitely the best "indie" game I've played (though I dunno how "indie" it really is, and I don't care enough to look into it). I cannot recommend it enough to those who haven't played it.
Back to PlayStation Plus games, after I gave up on Choplifter HD (those DLC missions aren't great), I started playing Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. And after getting through the first mission, I noticed there was Kane and Lynch character skins that were free to download, so I did. And I proceeded to play through the whole game as Kane (played single player), and I think it's great that they actually change the dialog in the cut scenes. I think it's even better that when they swear (and they swear a lot), they bleep out the swears in a comical fashion. Sure, I missed out on whatever the normal story is, but this was way better. And I made sure to replay the first mission with that on, and yeah, way better with them.
But with Kane and Lynch or the normal characters, I really liked that game. It has a much higher emphasis on puzzle solving than I thought it would, and I really liked that. The combat is fun, but at a certain level the combat is really just another dual stick shooter, just with more weapon variety than most of those. The puzzles, meanwhile, are pretty good. Again, I highly recommend this game to those who haven't played it. And play as Kane and Lynch. It's funny and ridiculous.
That was the last of the games I've played. I still have three more that I've downloaded. One is Hard Corps: Uprising. I've heard mixed things about that one, so I dunno. I probably won't like it much, because from what I've seen (the Quick Look on GB), it looks really hard and like it has really bad checkpointing. The second game is...Well, I forgot the name of it, but it's some zombie game that I downloaded because the description said it was set in Canada. Also it was free, but that's a given. But the last game? Well...
Yup, Just Cause 2. You may be thinking, "Moosey, how have you never played Just Cause 2?" My answer is that I don't know. When it came out I thought, "Oh, I'll buy it when it goes on sale," but I never did. If I ever saw it in a bargain bin for $20 (or even $30) I would have bought it. But to the best of my knowledge, I never did. Anyway, this is the game that sold me on the PlayStation Plus time, and I'm very excited to play it. I just played that other stuff first because I think this will take up more of my time, even if most of that is just wandering around and exploring (and then blowing stuff up).
I'll make sure to write something up about those games once I play them. And I'll probably throw something in about what I think about the new Mass Effect 3 ending. Or maybe that'll be it's own thing, because of spoilers. Or, if the mods are as active as they were with the original ending, I may just end up commenting on a forum here. But I'll get my opinion about it out somehow. I've spent too much time playing, thinking, and writing about the Mass Effect games to not do that. I just don't think it'll be good. It's a shame too, because I liked most of the story stuff in Mass Effect 3. It just kinda implodes within the last hour or so.
Okay, worst probably isn't the right word. "My least favorite" would be more accurate, but hey, I have to have something "eye catching" to get people to read something about a game that came out last year and everyone already knows about.
By now everyone knows what the Gears of War franchise is about, and probably knows about all the improvements the fine people at Epic Games made to stuff like the Horde Mode in Gears 3, and the inclusion of new things like Best Mode. Bear in mind that I didn't play any of that. I don't pay for Xbox Live, and I didn't feel like trying to play Horde Mode on my own (which I think is possible, but I'm not sure). When I got this copy (which I borrowed from my cousin), I started a new campaign on Hardcore, and I played through to the end, on my own.
But in order to better understand why Gears 3 is my least favorite of the trilogy, I think some background information on my experience with the other two games is needed. I bought Gears 1 back in '06 when it came out. I played through it on my own, in co-op with a friend (mainly split-screen), and since that was during the one year when I had access to Xbox Live Gold, I played a fair amount of the game online. And I loved all of it. There is a reason why so many games have aped the formula established by Gears of War, which more or less invented the third person/cover based shooter sub-genre (yes, games existed with all these mechanics before, but Gears is the one that made it a thing people cared about).
Then, in 2008, Gears of War 2 was released to much fanfare. By which I mean people kept complaining about how the online was messed up. But whilst those people were complaining about that, I was playing the campaign. Again, I played it on my own, and in co-op, and I loved every last second of it. I thought that they improved on the original in every way. It looked better, there were new weapons, the vehicle sequences were fun (at least I liked them) instead of being awful like that one sequence in Gears 1. It was a bigger and more ambitious game, and I loved it, and continue to love it to this day (even though it's been quite some time since I played either Gears 1 or Gears 2).
Nolan North who, according to the internet, voiced the character Jace in Gears of War 2, but not in Gears of War 3 (and yes, Jace is in Gears of War 3). Already the game was doing things I didn't approve of.
In all seriousness though, I came into Gears of War 3 with high expectations. Everything I read or saw about the game sounded fantastic. They had once again revamped the graphics to make the game look even better, and they went out of their way to create even more variety in the environments (something that they did well in Gears 2 as well, though I always found something compelling about the oppressive grey-ness of Gears 1). And I think these high expectations were part of the reason why I ended up feeling a little disappointed by the game, as opposed to Modern Warfare 3, which I recently went into with low expectations and was blown away.
But where to begin with what I didn't like? I suppose the weapons is a good place to start, as the game involves a lot of shooting. Most weapons from the first two games are left unchanged, so the Lancer still works the same as it ever does. I think they changed the Hammerburst again, but I never really used it in Gears 2, so I'm not sure (I can say with confidence that it does not have burst fire, so they should have changed the name (it did have burst fire in Gears 1)). One weapon that did change was the Gorgon pistol, which was a new weapon in Gears 2, and my favorite pistol in that game. The gun fired in four round bursts, and carried 16 shots (so four four round bursts). It was such a weird little gun that I found using it compelling, so I held onto it for much of the game. But I must have been in the minority, because it was changed to a regular-ass fully auto gun, which sounds like it would be better, but I didn't like it. It was far too inaccurate, and I felt using that pointless when I carried the Lancer all of the time, so I just carried the Boltok revolver instead.
More critical to how I play Gears of War, however, were the changes made to the Longshot sniper rifle (which still "morphs" depending on how it is held in the game (ie, the "bolt" of the bolt action rifle switches sides, which always stood out to me as a silly oversight in the design of that weapon)). The gun still handles the same way it always has (single shot bolt action, scope, etc), but they changed how you can get ammo for it. In the first two games, you could get Longshot ammo from the ammo boxes found throughout the game, meaning you could play through most of the game with the Longshot, as I tended to do in both Gears 1 and 2. But in Gears 3, you can no longer get Longshot ammo from those ammo boxes. It's only from Longshot rifles found in the game, meaning that ammo for the gun is severely limited, and that you can really only use it when the developers want you to. And since you can only carry a max of 24 rounds at any time, it's not like you could load up in a spot and then carry it with you forever. So I ended up not using it anywhere near as much, and I just thought it was weird to make such a change in the third game in the series.
Both of those aren't huge issues, however. Even in the previous games, I would often switch out the Longshot for a shotgun or something else if I felt the situation warranted it. More critical to why I liked this game less than the other two are the enemies. Most of the enemies from the first two games return, but there are a bunch of new ones as well. Yes, making new enemies for a game is a good thing, because it's always better to have variety, rather than the same old thing rehashed for the third time. The problem is that the rehashed enemies are way more fun to fight than the new ones.
See, the problem I have is that a lot of the new enemies seem to have been built around the idea of getting players out of cover and moving around. Enemies like that existed in the first two games (Gears 1 had the wretches, and Gears 2 added tickers), but Gears 3 adds a couple more enemies like that. One are these weird spider-ish things that just run at you, and the other are basically fast zombies that run at you and melee you. Yeah, zombies. Those well loved and interesting enemies that fit well into a game that is best when you are in cover shooting at guys who are also in cover.
And there are other enemies that have attacks that seem to have been designed specifically to force you out of cover. There's one that throws these larges gobs of orange goo that are one-hit "kills" (more on why I quote that later), and another that has a Stretch Armstrong arm with a blade at the end, which is also a one-hit "kill." And on top of that, there is a new weapon called the Digger that sending a grenade through the ground that pops up, and can go beneath cover. I like that weapon, however, because unlike those orange gobs and arm blades, the Digger can be used against the enemy.
Now, those enemies thankfully do not make up the brunt of what you fight in the game. There's certainly a lot of them, but I want to say that most of it was fighting regular-ass Locust, which is the same tried and true stuff from the first two games (minus throwing grenades into holes). But even when fighting the "better" enemies, I still found the game a little...flat? That's not really the right word, but the game didn't feel as exciting to me as Gears 2 did. Or as well designed as Gears 1 was. I don't really have any concrete examples as to why, but I didn't like the level design as much in this game, or the set-piece moments. There's no vehicular sections, aside from a couple of decent (but not great) mounted turret bit (though some people will find that to be a plus), and the boss fights are bad. Not only are they not fun to fight, but they last way too long. The Gears games aren't exactly known for great boss fights (aside from that one on the raft in Gears 2), but these don't do anything to help their reputation. I almost want to say that this game's final boss is worse than the boss in Gears 1, but it's been years since I played Gears 1, so I can't really comment definitively.
Speaking of difficulty (because by worse, I meant harder), Hardcore mode in Gears 3 is weird. On the one hand I want to say it's harder than it was in Gears 2 (and maybe Gears 1) because it feels like the amount of damage needed to die is way less than it was before. Conversely, you don't really die most of the time in Gears 3. What I mean is that instead of dying, your character falls to the ground waiting to be revived, like if it was being played in multi-player. So if it's hard to die, large parts of the game become trivial because you always have three AI characters to revive you. Even if the spots where they "split-up," the other two always manage to get back to you within about 30 seconds. It is possible to die, of course, but I was never able to figure out what exactly was causing death, so it ended up feeling super contrived as to what could or couldn't kill you. Sometimes I felt like explosions would kill me, but then I was clearly put into "revive me" mode by a Torque Bow shot (which is explosive, for those who don't know), so I don't think that was it. I know it's possible to bleed out (I had that happen once or twice), and enemies can curb stomp you, but I also had plenty of instances where I would just die without going into "revive me" mode.
And on top of those game play related things I didn't care for, I didn't like the story as much as in the first two games. Yes, the first game didn't have much of a story (at least in the game, I know the series has a lot of back story), but I think that was a case where less was more. Not that I didn't want things to be explained, I just didn't like some of the "twists." For example, the one about Imulsion (which I will not spoil). I'll just say that I thought that one was really dumb. And there were some other things that didn't make sense, weren't explained at all, or contradicted things in the first two games.
I know that story was never really the strongest part of these games, but The Cole Train definitely was. And one of my biggest complaints with Gears 3 is that The Cole Train just up and disappears from the story for a large portion of the game. Yes, there is a lot of The Cole Train early on (including a section where you play as him, which includes one of the best Cole Train moments), but it wasn't enough to make up for his absence later in the game. And yes, I remember that there was a large lead up to The Cole Train's appearance in Gears 2, but his intro in Gears 2 was better than his best moments in Gears 3, and that wasn't even the best Cole Train moment in Gears 2 (his little "speech" to the Locust Queen wins that award). And then, of course, there was The Cole Train Rap in Gears 1, so I feel a little disappointed with the amount of Cole Train in Gears 3. Too top heavy, left me wanting for him through large stretches of the game, and with only fake Chris Rock (or at least I thought Jace sounded a little like Chris Rock) and Claudia Black to (poorly) fill the void.
Ice T, who apart from holding fake guns in images that are much taller than I initially thought, voiced the character Griffin in Gears 3 (a much smaller role than I was hoping for), and whose band did a surprisingly shreddy song that plays during the credits of Gears of War 3.
I know most of what I wrote sounds negative, because it is, but remember that while this game is still my least favorite of the three, I still think it's a great game that everyone who likes gun-based-combat games should play. I just liked it less than the other two. I still wholeheartedly endorse it, however. So if you haven't played it yet, play it.
That's it. Nothing else on the immediate "play this" list. With Yakuza Dead Souls and Asura's Wrath still just a bit over my price range (well, Dead Souls is probably worth the money, but I got Yakuza 3 and 4 for real cheap, so I was hoping I could do the same, and Asura's Wrath is still way higher than I want to pay (I want to pay $20)), and those are about the only new-ish games out there that I want to buy. I could probably borrow another game from my cousin. He has Killzone 3, and isn't playing that, so I guess I could play that. Or maybe I'll go back to Mass Effect 3 and beat that on Insanity (though I know at least one person who will tell me to "forget about Mass Effect 3"). I'll probably do that. I have to S-Rank it at some point. I did for the first two, so I'm obligated by law to do it for this one.*
Oh yeah, E3 is soon. I'm really hoping that Nintendo shows off a bunch of awesome stuff. I love Nintendo, and in my heart they will always be my favorite, but I hope that the Wii U has more games worth buying than the Wii did. Don't get me wrong, I played most of the Nintendo published games like Skyward Sword, Super Mario Galaxy, and a lot of the good third party stuff like No More Heroes and Red Steel 2. But my collection of Wii games is dwarfed by the number of PS3 and 360 games I have. So I hope Nintendo blows us all away once again.
So far as Sony and Microsoft go, well, I'm not expecting much. Sony is probably going to push hard for Vita, which I don't really care about (not unless there's a serious price cut or a ton of games I want for it), and Microsoft's will probably be mad-boring once again (at least past the obligatory Call of Duty opening).
*Not really. By which I mean the obligated by law part. I did S-Rank the first two Mass Effect games.
Let me begin with my history with the Legend of Zelda series, so as to explain why I played this game to completion (for the first time) 12 years after its initial release, and am writing about it now (well, I'm writing about it because I have nothing else to write about on this blog).
Ocarina of Time came out in 1998, and while I did not buy it, I rented it (because that was in the 90s when every town had its own video game rental place). I didn't really like it that much. I was only 8 at the time, and I just didn't care for it. Same thing happened in 2000 with Majora's Mask, except that game had the added bonus of being weird and kinda creepy. To this day, I still think that moon glaring down at the planet is the most ominous thing ever put in a video game, and the process of Link transforming is still disturbing.
That image has haunted me for the better part of the last twelve years, and if anything, the other two transformations are even more disturbing (but I never got that far when I rented it back in the day).
Anyway, in the years since, I managed to play all the other 3D Zelda games, and found them all to be excellent (especially Twilight Princess, which remains my favorite). But not Majora's Mask. At least until I was able to get it free from Club Nintendo.
So, I downloaded it, and started playing it. A few days later, I finished it. And before I go on, I want to say that I wanted to enjoy this game. I wanted the game's goofy/weird charm to outweigh its negatives.
But that did not end up being the case. While the game is definitely weird, and dark, and kinda creepy (all of which I think are good), it's just...How should I put this...It's just not that good of a game. Well, fundamentally it's just Ocarina of Time, because it was made on the same engine and has the same controls and everything. When I say it's a bad game, I'm referring to things like the dungeons. They're not good.
"But what about the Stone Tower?!" Says everyone who supports Majora's Mask. Yes, the Stone Tower is conceptually brilliant. On paper it should be one of the best dungeons in the series. The fact that the dungeon can be flip-turned upside down is crazy. But the fact that, aside from two rooms, you have to exit the dungeon in order to activate this "feature" was disappointing to me. It was a great idea for a dungeon, but it felt completely underutilized, and aside from that one gimmick, the dungeon isn't that good. It's still easily the best in the game, but that's not really saying much. I don't really want to go into specifics, but too much of the dungeons (mainly the earlier ones) revolved around "platforming," for lack of a better word. And that inevitably led to me falling off of stuff all the time, which was a really big pain in the second one, and resulted in my having to go through a bunch of rooms more times than I would have if I didn't keep falling off.
Yes, part of that is just user error in my being bad at the game. The same goes for the boss fights, that I did not find particularly good, and had to re-fight several of them (especially the boss of the Stone Tower, which the internet said was super easy, but that wasn't the case for me). I sort of want to play it on the controls and the camera, but that feels a little like a cheap shot since it was an N64 game, and they did the best with what they had available. Conversely, I played through Ocarina a few years ago (also on a Wii with a GameCube controller), and I never had any problems in that game.
And so far as the out of dungeon stuff goes, well, I didn't really get into much stuff outside of the main quest stuff. Why, you ask? I'm not sure. I just got going on that, and the next thing I knew I was halfway through the game and I didn't feel like stopping to try to find a bunch of side quests. Part of it is the fact that everything is time based, and in the sense that events happen at certain times on certain days, and if you miss something, you have to go back to the beginning and restart it. The same is true in dungeons too. You keep whatever the "dungeon item" is, but everything else resets. That happened to me in the Stone Tower, so I had to go and do a bunch of stuff to re-open the path to the boss, and I was understandably disgruntled.
However, this resetting "feature" is also one of my favorite parts of the game. Not because it forces things to be redone, but because these things reset, and Link keeps whatever the rewards are. And since he keeps the stuff, there's no reason to redo the things, so of course you don't. And that kinda makes Link this total asshole who only cares about himself, and abandons people once he's gotten everything he needs from them. I think it's hilarious, and probably not something that the developers thought of at all.
I feel like there are a lot of things in this game that the developers may not have thought out as well as they should have. For example, in order to get access to the third dungeon, you have to take part in what is effectively a fetch quest to find these seven things (not Dragon Balls, unfortunately), four of which are in one area, and the other three in another. Four of them are hidden in a fortress filled with lady pirates, and you have to sneak past them to get the four things.
Wait, I know what you're thinking, "There was a lousy stealth bit in Ocarina of Time where you had to sneak past lady thieves!" Yup. They even reused the same character models for the lady pirates from Ocarina. And no, the actual act of sneaking in and around isn't that hard, but the problem is that each of these seven things requires its own empty bottle to be carried. And I only had one empty bottle. Yes, my fault for only having one, and not taking the time to find more, but it's still fundamentally bad game design when the game punishes me for not having enough empty bottles, especially when none of the other Zelda games require you to have empty bottles for story related things, and nothing else in the game suggested that I should have more empty bottles (or gave me any hint as to how I could procure them). So I was in a position of either leaving and re-infiltrating this place a bunch of times, or going onto the internet to figure out how to get more empty bottles (which probably would have been the smart thing to do).
So, yes, a lot of my problems with the game came from my lack of doing side stuff, which ended up making the game harder for me in the long run. But I beat it, and I'm glad that I did if only so I could say that I beat it. And there are some genuinely good moments in the game, but I find it hard to recommend it to anyone for any reason other than being able to say that you've finished all of the 3D Zelda games.
In other news, I borrowed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 from my cousin yesterday. I started playing it around 6:40 AM EST today, and finished it around 11:30 AM EST today. I don't really feel like going into detail about it, because at this point everyone knows what Call of Duty games are, but I do want to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to. Yes, it's unflinchingly linear, and all the other things that people complain about, but it's also completely ridiculous and insane, and I love ridiculousness and insanity, so I enjoyed the game a lot. In comparison to the other CoD games that I've played, I would say that I enjoyed it more than Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty 2, but not as much as Call of Duty 4 or Black Ops. And I borrowed Gears of War 3 from the same cousin today when I returned his copy of MW3, so I hope this leads to a streak of me borrowing and playing short-ish shooters that I want to play but not pay for, because he (and his brother) buy a whole lot of games that they end up not playing much of.
Beyond that, well I saw Men in Black 3 the other day, and I enjoyed it a lot. I think it's better than MIIB (which I liked more than most people do), but not as good as the first one. Josh Brolin is especially brilliant as young Agent K.
That's it! I'll write something up when I beat Gears 3, which I am very excited to play because I liked the story in the first two games (well, the second one, the first didn't really have a story beyond bringing a bomb somewhere).
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition is an excellent game. If you don't have time to read a whole blog post (then why did you click on this in the first place?), then you an stop reading now, because you know my overall thoughts. But I'll expand on them nonetheless.
The thing that I think is The Witcher 2's biggest strength, but also the source of the game's only "frustrating" moments is the combat. Fighting normal enemies is fine, it's the boss fights that weren't so great. I don't want to go into too much detail, because I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't played it, but there are two boss fights in particular that are, to be frank, poorly designed. Each is a fight against a large monster, and (to quote a friend of mine), they "don't play to the strengths of the combat at all." And those strengths are about finding the right way to take out a group of enemies (be they people or monsters) without getting surrounded and overwhelmed (which could still result in quick death for me late in the game if I wasn't careful (but that was mainly my fault for never putting points into reducing back-stab damage)). Those boss fights play out like video game boss fights. You wait for an opportunity to attack, then you do. Then repeat that until it's dead. And they don't follow Miyamoto's Rule of Three, so they last a bit longer than they probably should.
But beyond those couple of boss fights, I thought the combat was extremely good, especially late in the game once I had leveled up a lot. The game has four "paths" in the character screen. There's the "Training" path, which is just there to force you to get some basic skills before the other three open, the "Swordsmanship" path, which has a lot of melee combat and defensive skills, the "Magic" path, which deals with magic (both offensive and defensive), and the "Alchemy" path, which I believe deals with potions and bombs. I say "believes," because I never actually put any points into it. I didn't check and see what the skills are, but none of them seemed that interesting to me.
At least not when compared to stuff like better fireballs, or the ability to create a circle that slows down all opponents inside it, but leaves Geralt moving at normal speed. Or the ability to do a group finisher, which as the name implies, allows you to finish off a group of enemies at once (I never got more than three at a time, so I don't know how many it can work on, but it does seem to have several different animations depending on who/what he's fighting). Both the time slowing skill and the group finisher skill are governed by an adrenaline meter that fills as you fight enemies (and does not deplete over time), but both are also activated by the same button (up on the d-pad). I'm not really sure why this is, maybe the people at CD Projekt Red never thought that someone would have more than one of those skills (both are near the ends of their respective "paths," and there is a similar one near the end of the Alchemy path). But it seems like something they didn't fully see out. So, what usually happens is that I would push the button, then Geralt would do a group finisher, and then cast the slow spell, which would slow down the remaining one enemy (so I guess it doesn't kill everyone, now that I remember more clearly). Or sometimes it would just slow down time, with no finisher. Maybe I should have just focused more on one path, but I'm not a min/max kind of guy, I like to be good at everything in games. Why be good at swords when I can be good at swords and magic?
While that may be a little janky, I found the story and voice acting to be far less janky. Well, some of the voice acting has a, "We hired people we found at the Ren-Fair" vibe to it, but most of the important story characters were very well voiced. Geralt and Vernon Roche stood out to me as the best of the bunch (also the best in terms of their faces, as both were among of the best non-LA Noire faces I've seen in a video game).
Of course, that was the impression I got based on the path I took through the story, which I will briefly describe within a "Spoiler Block" for those who have beaten the game. But remember, I will be spoiling a TON, so don't read if you haven't played the game yet.
Okay, the first big decision was between Iorveth and Vernon Roche. As you probably guess, I went with Roche in Chapter 1, because it seemed crazy to me to side with this Elf terrorist guy who Geralt just met, instead of the guy who broke Geralt out of prison. Thus, in Chapter 2 I was in Henselt's camp trying to disperse that curse left by the dead sorceress. A lot of stuff happens in Chapter 2, but I feel like the only thing that I really had a ton of impact on story wise was whether or not Roche killed Henselt, and I let him kill Henselt. I wasn't going to, because I had been trying to play the game as a "paragon" (to use Mass Effect terms), but seeing Henselt brag about having his way with Ves was too much. So I let Roche "have his way" with Henselt. By which I mean he stabbed Henselt. There was nothing sexual about it.
So with Henselt dead, in Chapter 3 Dethmold was in charge of the Kaedwani forces, and also holding the remaining child of the dead king of Temeria. I decided to help Roche save said child, which resulted in Dethmold getting what he deserved (death, and maybe some mold after the body started to decompose). After which I convinced Roche that instead of giving the child to the king of Redania, it would be a better idea to turn her over to the Termerians, where she would (eventually) be crowned queen. Then they went to a summit, which ended with a bunch of fighting and a dragon attacking. Geralt ran after the dragon, then I fixed a crystal in a teleporter thing, thinking that it would result in Geralt capturing the sorceress (Síle de Tansarville), but instead she fled (I would have let her died if I realized that would happen). Then a dragon attack, I fought the dragon, which impaled itself on a tree. I was given the choice to finish it off or walk away, and I walked away thinking the thing was going to bleed out anyway. It didn't, and I wish I had just killed it (oddly enough, doing so got me an Achievement for "Killing or Sparing Saskia," which confused me because Saskia was the "dragonslayer," and nothing I saw in the game showed that she was really a dragon). Then I had a chance to kill or spare Letho, so I killed him, because I didn't want him running around killing any more kings (which of course he was going to do).
And that's just the stuff that I was able to impact. There's even more stuff that I didn't have an impact on, and all the quests and story stuff that would have happened had I chosen different. Though, I should say that the people online who say that you make a choice that results in you going to one area whilst locking off another area aren't being fully truthful. What really happens (or what happened to me) is that you pick a path, which locks you off from a lot of quests, but you are given an opportunity to explore the areas "on the other side." I don't think I got full access, but I was able to explore a fairly large forest-y area and part of a town. And I was able to do one side quest that was on "that side" that involved finding harpy feathers for a guy and...Well, I shan't spoil what happens, but I'll say that it's probably the funniest moment in the game (and also really silly).
But overall I really liked the story in the game. Or at least I liked all the stuff about the kings, and all the political intrigue. I didn't really like the stuff about Geralt recovering his memories, because they were all about him trying to find a character that isn't in the game, and thus I had no reason to care about because I was never given any reason to care about this character other than Geralt saying that he wanted to find said character.
And now I'm excited for The Witcher The Third. Well, they'll probably call it The Witcher 3, and it'll probably take them a while to make it. And yes, there will be another one. The Achievement for beating the game (which is not a secret Achievement (and the game has plenty of secret Achievements)) is called "To be Continued..." And the end of the game clearly indicates that a lot of big things are going to be happening in this world, and that Geralt and company are probably going to play a role in those events.
Since I continue to not have anything going on in my life beyond video games (and that book I keep blabbering on about), I'm not really sure what to do next. The only other un-played game I have is the copy of Metroid: Other M that I bought last year for $10, but I haven't played that because my big TV broke, and my current set-up (small TV on a table) doesn't really allow for enough room to do the pointer stuff in the game. So...
I guess I could start playing Majora's Mask. A few months ago my friend and I started playing the game, but we literally haven't played since, so I'm probably just going to play it without him. We were able to get though all of Deadly Premonition and Alpha Protocol (both picked for their great stories but not so great game-play), but that was with me "secretly" beating Deadly Premonition on another save months before we were able to beat it together. We might play Fez together instead if I ever get a new TV (that seems like a game that would be good to play with two people, what with all those apparently insane puzzles). Or not, I dunno. Unlike me, he actually has a life, and a job (or at least last year he had an internship or something, so he probably has something similar), so whatever. I'm rambling at this point.
Or maybe I'll go back to Mass Effect 3. I still haven't S-Ranked it yet. If I remember correctly, all I have left are to beat the game (and every mission) on Insanity, romance someone, and get 5000 kills. All of those seem doable, just time consuming (especially the 5000 kills one, but thankfully kills from all modes/play-throughs count). Part of me kinda wants to wait until they put out the new ending DLC, but those 5000 kills aren't going to kill themselves (and if they did, they wouldn't count as me killing them). Conversely, the existing ending is astoundingly bad. But I suppose I could just skip most of that stuff since I've already beaten the game, and know what happens.
I'll figure out something, and write about what happens. But, I leave you with a clip of our greatest living voice actor, because that's what I do.
Actually, I changed my mind. I was going to embed a video of Nolan North on Hollywood Squares, but it contains footage of Brad Garrett, and I know how the GB fan base reacts to him, so watch the video at your own risk.
It took quite some time, but yesterday I finally managed to beat Xenoblade Chronicles. How long did it take, you ask? A little over 80 hours of in-game time. So not the longest game I've ever played (I put around 120 hours into one play through of Fallout 3 (including most of the DLC) and a little over 100 into Skyrim), but for some reason Xenoblade just felt longer.
Which leads me to my biggest complaint with Xenoblade, the fact that the game is too "grind-y," for lack of a better word. To be more specific, the game doesn't have any sort of level scaling. Aside from (maybe) the final boss (which is shown in the game as being "Level ???"), enemies stay the same level. There's some variation in the random-ish enemies you find running around, but those never vary more than a few levels. Now, this is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because no matter how bad you are at the game, you know that a boss will always be the same level, so you can go grind for a bit and make the fight easier. The bad part is that shouldn't be a problem in the first place. If I was able to fight my way through a "dungeon" to get to a boss, then I shouldn't have to go and level up for a few hours to stand a chance against a boss, which happened to me near the end of the game.
Now, I freely admit that part of the problem is probably in my relative lack of skill at the game. Not that I'm bad, because in most cases I fair pretty well against monsters that are around my level, and in a lot of cases even against enemies that are a few levels above the characters in my team. I suppose this is really more of a problem I had with a specific boss being harder than it probably should have been, and forcing me to spend several hours traveling around the game looking for enemies in the level 70-80 range to fight for leveling (I got bored fighting the same three or four enemies in the area immediately around where the boss was).
Aside from that I don't really have any complaints with the game. Some of the story stuff got a little too ridiculous and crazy for me near the end (specifically a plot twist that I sort of saw coming, but didn't care for, especially when it flip-turned everything in the story upside-down. So in other words, it's a JRPG with a JRPG story. But then by the end it got even crazier, at which point I realized that I wouldn't want it any other way, and that it had been far too long since I played a game with a story this ridiculous (not counting Bayonetta, which I played a few months ago, but that was a 2010 game).
So, to sum it up, I really like the game. You can read my more detailed thoughts on the actual game play in a previous blog, to which I will add that I liked the combat even more near the end of the game, once I got better at the more strategic side of combat, which involves all sorts of status ailments, and doing attacks in a specific order to get the right effects, etc. If you have a Wii, and like RPGs, you should buy this game if you haven't already (and if those two things are true, you probably already have). Just be prepared for some grinding, and don't get discouraged if a tough fight ends up preventing you from advancing the story for a while until you partake in said grinding. The crazy (and borderline nonsensical) story is worth it. Maybe. It's weird.
Oh, and the game does feature a new game plus mode, which is nice. I might revisit the game again in a couple months. Probably not the play through the whole thing again (but I suspect that being so high level would make the game go much faster), but I'm interested to see what (if anything) changes beyond stuff carried over from my first playthrough.
The above image is the reversible cover art for the US version of the game. Aside from looking very nice, I like that it has a logo, unlike other reversible cover arts I've seen on other games. It's useful for keeping games organized.
But as much as I liked Xenoblade, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was trying to rush through the last few hours of the game so I could start playing The Witcher 2. Specifically "The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition," for the Xbox 360 because, as you may or may not know, I still lack a PC capable of playing games, and the money needed to purchase such a PC.
However, before I start talking about my first few hours with the game, I want to talk about all the stuff that comes with the game. I got the game off Amazon (it was on sale for $45, and probably much cheaper if one were to buy the PC version), and when I got it, I was surprised at how heavy the package it. So much that I was a little worried that they sent me the wrong thing. I opened it, saw that it was indeed the 360 version of the game. The whole thing was plastic wrapped. Inside the plastic wrap was a cardboard sleeve (which I always think is a classy touch). Inside that was the game box (which itself was plastic wrapped) and a "Quest Handbook," which is a lengthy thing that has details about every quest and side quest in the game. It's a mini-guide that came with the game. I've been trying not to use it, because that kinda defeats the purpose of a game like this, but it's still a nice touch. Then, inside the game case was the game itself (which is on two discs), a proper instruction manual (that is lengthy, and explains a lot of stuff (but suffers from some typos), a color/two sided map, and my favorite bonus, the soundtrack on a CD.
I know CD Projekt Red is known for giving consumers all sorts of goodies in their games, but those are PC games that come in larger boxes. This is easily the most stuff I've seen come with a non-special edition version of a game (I know it's called the "Enhanced Edition," but there is no "Un-Enhanced Edition" available on 360, and it's normally priced at $60). In fact, this is more stuff than I've seen come with some special editions that were priced at $70. The craziest part is that this game was published and/or distributed by Warner Bros. (I don't know the specifics of the deal). This is the same publisher that put out two of the best games of last year (Mortal Kombat and Batman: Arkham City) without instruction manuals. I guess CD Projekt Red got the final say on what came with the game, because I'm sure that if WB had their way, none of this bonus stuff would come with the game. And I love CD Projekt Red for going the extra mile with this stuff.
But what about the actual game? Well, since the base game is largely the same as the game that came out about a year ago, you probably already know that it's about talking to people, getting quests, and fighting monsters. There's a lot more to it than that, but GB has plenty of coverage of bothversions of the game, so if you have a burning desire for more, you know where to look.
What I will say is that, for the most part, I think this game is absolutely fantastic. Aside from a few things here and that, I love it, and the only thing keeping me from playing it right now is the knowledge that if I didn't write this blog close to the time when I beat Xenoblade, I'd probably never get around to it (like how I never gave Singularity the write-up it deserved). I think the combat is challenging, but not too challenging (playing on Normal, despite the tutorial suggesting I play on Hard), but more importantly, I think the combat is fun. It requires strategy in the sense of knowing when to move in an strike, and when to stay back and wait for the moment to strike. But it's very straightforward in terms of the actual combat mechanics. There are fast and strong attack buttons, but you can just mash on one of them and Geralt will just keep on combo-ing so long as no one sneaks up behind him and attacks him.
Aside from some pop-in here and there, the game looks great. No, not as good as the PC version, but I already established that isn't an option. There's a ton of detail in just about everything, but especially the characters. In a game where you spend a lot of time talking to people, getting the faces right is crucial, and they more or less nailed it. Geralt looks grizzled in all the right ways, as do a lot of the characters (the world of The Witcher 2 is a grizzled world). The facial animation is good, but not LA Noire good (but nothing is, sadly). Good enough that I don't think about how it could look better (usually).
But the game is not without its faults. The first issue I have is a minor one, and (I assume) also present in the PC version of the game, but Geralt doesn't seem to have actual analog movement control. He either walks slowly or runs. There's no run button (I hate run buttons), but it feels a little jarring to go from slow walk to full run with no graduation in the movement speed. Again, it's a minor issue, and one I've gotten used to, but it still feels a little wonky.
And there are a lot of load screens. They're fast (largely because I have the game installed), but I can't help but notice that just about every time there's a door, the game has to load. Going into and out of buildings always seems to be a load, and there are loads between the different areas of the town early in the game (Flotsam). Again, this isn't more than an annoyance, but it is a little weird when I'm walking along with a character as part of a quest, and this character is talking with Geralt, but then the character walks through a door, closes it on Geralt, Geralt walks through the door, and it goes to a loading screen. All the while they're still talking, and it definitely feels like this is one of the things they had to do to get the game running on the 360. There's also a lot of fog (I think more than the PC version), but I don't mind that, because I like fog. It's moody.
Speaking of "it's," this is probably my biggest complaint. Typos. I don't know how or where this game was translated and everything, but whoever did it does not understand the difference between "it's" and "its." Or, more accurately, the person/people didn't know that "its" is a word, because I've seen "it's" used as both "it is" and the possessive form in the game, and the manual. There's other inconsistencies as well. I saw the word "vampyre" in the subtitles for the tutorial in the game (which I believe was made for the Enhanced Edition), but the word "vampire" in the main game (both clearly referring to the same thing). While I appreciate the spelling "vampyre" for its "olde timey" charm, it seems kind janky. Language jank.
But as I've said, overall, these are all minor complaints, and all understandable given the history of this game. Overall I love what I've played, and can't wait to play more.
That's about all that's been going on. I'm probably going to try to get a new TV soon (to replace the 61" TV that broke earlier this year (or maybe it was late last year, I don't remember specifically)), but we don't have a ton of money, so waiting to find a good deal on something decent has taken longer than I thought. The main problem is that prices seem to jump a ton once you get past 60", so we may end up getting a 55". I know, this is a first world problem. Heaven forbid the HDTV be smaller than 60".
I'm still working away at my book. Now that the semester is over I should be able to get my friends to read through it so they can tell me if it's any good, but getting them to do anything in a timely manner is difficult, to say the least. And I know two of them are reading this right now, so why are you reading this instead of my book?
They'll get to it eventually. I really have to start looking into getting this published. I still haven't looked any further into literary agents or anything since when I wrote up that blog about writing this. But come hell or high water, I will get this book out to the people so they can read it, even if I have to self-publish it as an E-Book (which, as I've said before, is the last resort). Even if it's terrible, I will get it out one day. Now, I don't think it's terrible, I think it's pretty good, but of course I do. It came from my mind.
That's it. I'll write something up when I finish The Witcher 2, or get a new TV.
Okay, so today I was watching the ARMA II: Day Z mod live Quick Look thing GB was doing, and I found it very intriguing.
For those who don't know, it takes the base of ARMA II, which is an extremely realistic military shooter, and drops players in a giant environment with other players and AI controlled zombies. There isn't much in the way of supplies, and death comes quickly.
But watching Vinny and Drew interact with other players in the game got me thinking...What if this game didn't have the zombies? What if everyone thought that the game had zombies, but they weren't really there? Am I sounding like Peter Molydeux now?
I think it'd be brilliant. People would be killing other players over nothing. Over the simple threat that death may be coming from zombies, and that you need to kill the other players and steal their supplies.
But, as I said, this would only work if people thought there were zombies in the game. So, perhaps the way to do it would be to make zombies extremely rare, but common enough that players actually see one every other match or something.
Am I crazy for thinking this, or does anyone else think this might be cool? Or would it only be cool until people realized that there aren't zombies? Oh well! I know I'm going to start thinking of ways to trick people into thinking there are zombies in a game when there really aren't zombies in the game.
Why is there a picture of young Nolan North? It's a mystery!
Edit: As people have suggested (and I kinda thought to begin with), it would fall apart as soon as people realized there weren't any zombies, and the better approach would be to have it be a random chance for zero zombies. I still think the idea of tricking the players into thinking something that is really a non-threat is a threat is an idea that I would love to see expanded and done by people who know more about making games than I do. The real monster is man!