By Sparky_Buzzsaw 0 Comments
After a week's hiatus, it's the return of the only gaming update ribbed for her pleasure. Yeah, you know it and you love it. It's Sparky's Update.
I'm super exhausted and frazzled this week. I'm running on about two hours of sleep and several cups of tea, so this update is going to be relatively short and probably incoherent. Er... more incoherent than normal, I suppose. The Retrospective is on a longer hiatus - I've only just hardly scratched the surface of Tales of the Abyss. I can tell you this much though - that is without question the prettiest handheld game I've ever played. Also? The hero? Kind of a dick.
Today, though, I'm going to drop some final thoughts on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Jolly Rover. Now, longtime readers might remember I've mentioned Jolly Rover before. I decided to go back through it due to Steam achievements being added and for my own desire to play through a traditional point-and-clicker again. Why I didn't play one of the many other adventure games still on my Pile of Shame, I have no idea.
Anyways, on with it.
Oh God, Make the Good Man Stop
I need to preface everything I'm about to say about Kingdoms of Amalur with a statement - I really liked it as a whole and think it's one hell of a fine start to a new IP. There. Now that I've said that, you're about to read a hell of a lot of complaints.
It's not that Kingdoms of Amalur is bad in any regard. It really isn't. The combat and leveling mechanics are straight-up awesome. Being able to respec my character at the drop of a meager handful of gold means I can constantly try new playstyles and tactics. The world is straight-up gorgeous, for the most part. It's a colorful, vast world with lots of neat little touches. There's a ton of quests and NPC's to interact with as well, which is great - in theory. But somewhere around the midpoint of the game, I realized Kingdoms of Amalur had lost a great deal of its charm.
I don't want to say that there's too much - that's not quite entirely right. I actually love the sheer amount of quests and places to visit. But there's never a really great reason to see those quests through. Most of the quests feel drab and cliched in nature and in writing. There are a few exceptions, most notably those quests dealing with the Summer Fae, a group of ancient magical beings who have lived, died, and been reborn as specific characters in roles they must fulfill in their lifetime. Except that with world events happening the way they are, the Summer Fae are slowly fading, much like the elves of Tolkien's fantasy. These quests are given early in the game, and show some tantalizing promise of things to come... except that the rest of the game never quite lives up to those particular quests.
Some quests do offer up some neat, tangible rewards in the form of Twists of Fate, which are essentially permanent bonuses to your character's stats in such things as damage taken or received, resistances to magic, and damage to specific types of creatures. Sadly, though, the quest lines offering these neat rewards are very, very few. You can also scope out lorestones scattered throughout the various regions for more permanent stat boosts. The lorestones also offer up some backstory for the world, but none of it is very intriguing.
It's super frustrating that of the hundreds of quests (and I do mean hundreds), there are only ten or so that offer these permanent rewards. The experience given for quests is nice, and sometimes you're given a decent piece of equipment, but in a game where new weapons and armor are always a few levels away, it seems sort of pointless to worry over finishing every last quest. And speaking of armor sets, there's a disappointing lack of variety in the designs offered. For each character class, there are a handful of general styles of armor with slight variations in color. What's there looks really good, but I wish more time had been put into variations of costumes for characters.
The quests not only point out the limited scope of working with someone like R.A. Salvatore (who makes his bread and butter writing generic-ass fantasy, and it shows here), but the limited creativeness of RPG sidequests in general. You'll fetch. You'll kill X monster for hapless villagers aplenty. I don't really know what the solution here is, but holy hell, someone needs to find it soon. Mini-games of some sort, certainly - but not the same three or four mini-games repeated endlessly.
Simply put, a game as good as Kingdoms of Amalur deserves content worthy of its breadth and scope. I am genuinely excited to see what Curt Schilling's company is up to next.
Good Ol' Guilty Pleasures
I'm an unabashed adventure game fan. If games were food, adventure games would be my comfort food. Sam and mac & cheese, to make a bad pun. And this week, I've needed a bit of gaming comfort food. That need was nicely met by Jolly Rover, a modern point-and-click RPG with the backbone of games like Monkey Island.
Actually, Jolly Rover pretty much is a complete and total homage to the first two Monkey Island games, and that's not a bad thing. The visuals have a nice, clean id-90's adventure game flavor to them, with 2D cartoon graphics and basic animations. The gameplay is ripped straight from the mid-90's too, but with the addition of a neat little hint system to help more modern gamers who might not be familiar with moon logic (thanks, ArbitraryWater, for reminding me of the term). Sometimes it devolves into a bit of a pixel hunt, which is highly annoying. For those not familiar with the term, old adventure games often had you scanning for minutia in order to find items to interact with. That's front and center in several parts of the game, unfortunately, but the game is ridiculously good about holding your hand when you want it and pointing you in the right direction.
The game's inspirations don't just come from its mechanics or looks, either. The game follows James Gaius Rover, who seeks reperations for the pirating of his ship. Along the way, he must fight and join up with pirates, fall in with a piratey woman, and fend off voodoo-powered beings. Sound familiar, LucasArts fans? It should. It's never as sharp or funny as the Monkey Island games, but it's charming in its own right. In any case, it was just what the doctor ordered this week, and since I hadn't played the game through with achievements, it made for a nice distraction.
-I've finished up my run on YA novels. In the past couple of months, I've read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (well written, but ultimately flawed as he shoves his own atheistic agenda down the readers' throats) and the Hunger Games trilogy (fluffy mind candy with a surprisingly solid finale and a whole lotta annoying YA love triangle bullshit). I've gotta catch up on some research (namely, the Life in a Medieval... series), and then.... well, I'm not sure. Something definitely not YA.
-Finished up the first season of Game of Thrones. The TV show draws to mind a complete reflection of my thoughts on the novels. I like Tyrion and most of the Stark stuff, and speed my way through the Targaryen stuff. Good stuff, though. Very shiny. Sean Bean is one of my favorite actors, so it's cool to see him in such a high-profile TV role.
And that's it for this week. Thanks as always for reading. Now enjoy the sweet, sweet dulcets of Mark Wahlberg.