By Sparky_Buzzsaw 5 Comments
"Is this heaven?"
"No. It's Sparky's Update." - Field of Dreams
Not gonna lie, folks. I'm pretty stoked about this week's update. The mirth! The merriment! The lamentations of the women! Good times, broskies and sisterlies. Good times. This week, I'm gonna talk a smidgen more about Vagrant Story. Quick housekeeping note - last week, I said I was at about thirty percent, I was reading the numbers wrong (I'm using my PSP to play and the numbers are freakin' tiny). I was only at about 15-18% completion, but am now well past that mark.
Other games I'll be talking about this week include Sonic Generations and Kingdoms of Amalur. Today's update will likely be much more brief than usual, so you may all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
RPG Retrospective - Vagrant Story, Part 2
After last week's complaint of the unvarying look of Lea Monde, I immediately have to eat crow because not three minutes after I loaded my last save, the environments change to an outdoors area with all sorts of greenery. It's immensely better looking than the dreary underground areas, though it also showcases the age of the graphics quite a bit more. The land appears blocky and ill-fitted. In a dungeon area, that look can be masked by the architecture, but in an outdoors area, it's much more noticeable. That said, the graphics are nothing gamebreaking by any stretch of the imagination, and is reminiscent (again) of Final Fantasy Tactics. Also readers, thank you for pointing out to me that the world of Vagrant Story is indeed the same as in Final Fantasy Tactics.
Actually, I think the graphical quality of the outdoors area lends the game a breath of fresh air. The crisp, brighter colors give a great contrast to the advancement of the plot, as our man Ashley stumbles upon a group called the Crimson Blades, who are also hunting down the nefarious, eternally shirtless Sydney. Lead by the fervent Grissom, the contemplative Guildenstern, and the quiet Samantha. Guildenstern seems to be seeking out immortality, but not the undeath that seems to be plaguing the cultists and soldiers Ashley's been encountering. Samantha seems to be something more than just a simple soldier - dying, or at least seeking some sort of refuge from death. Now here's where the plot begins to really get good. These three characters introduce a section of the game that notches up the plot and gameplay. Sydney and his right hand man Hardin are also aware of the Blades' presence, as Hardin has what appears to be psychic powers.
After a couple of battles, it's also become readily apparent to me that I should heed the warnings sent by readers last week about the necessity of crafting. I'm only scraping by battles on the skin of my teeth, so I hit up a workshop for some long overdue crafting. I've still got my incredibly useful shortsword (dubbed "Memory" - yes, fans of Tad Williams, you'll see where this is going), which has a high affinity rating against the undead and dragons. Up until this point, it's cut down nearly everything but that golem with ease, so after adding a new part or two, I decide to leave it alone. If it's not broke, and all that.
I then try fusing together some of the weapons I've found along the way. The game's save points usually have a storage chest nearby, keeping all of the items you aren't using handy. All of the items stored are accessible at any other storage chest, a nice touch. The game's weapon construction seems a bit dense at first, but honestly, it's not so bad. You've got options to disassemble weapons and armor, assemble entirely new equipment from parts, rename things, attachment of gems, and for me, the neatest option is to combine weapons.
I assembled a couple of weapons from various parts and disassembled weapons. They produce merely okay results, with low attack scores and bland affinities. Not exactly what I'm looking for, so I jumped into weapon combining - and oh holy crap, was I in crafting heaven. As dense as the system is, it's really neat. Not all weapon combinations are going to result in better weapons - in fact, quite the opposite, usually. Most of my weapon combinations usually end up with weak, no-good weapons. But through a lot of saving and loading of my game (the workshops have save points handily available), I manage to come up with some devastating looking weapons, including a battleaxe called "Sorrow," a spear called "Thorn," and a crossbow called "Dude."
Their affinities aren't great, admittedly. With the exception of Memory, which has dragon and undead affinities in the mid-twenties, the weapons have affinities in the 5-10 range. Not to worry, though, because there are plenty of targets out there for me to build up affinities.
The OG Blue Blazer
I've been playing the hell out of Sonic Generations this week. I haven't played a Sonic game since Sonic and Tails, and I went into this one worried that it was going to be a waste of time. Holy hell, was I wrong. It's a melding of the old 2D Sonic titles with the more recent 3D outings. You play as both "old" Sonic (the 2D sections) and "new" Sonic (3D - duh). Each level is comprised of two acts, with the easier one being the 2D and the harder one being 3D. Although the levels remain thematically the same, the 3D Sonic levels tend to ramp everything up a few notches, making everything just a touch more insane.
The game was quite obviously designed by a committee somewhere, but it seems to me as though quite a few people on that committee actually gave a damn about the game. The story is laughably bad, a mere means to an end to get the gamer through a bunch of classic Sonic stages such as Green Emerald Zone. It also allows for Sonic to revisit seemingly every character in the series, good or bad. But once you get past the clinical trappings of that story and the inclusion of absolutely everything, you can focus in on the superb gameplay and fanciful level design. When you've bought and assigned the two Sonics the right skill sets (braking on a dime is an absolute must, as is the added speed), 2D Sonic feels incredibly right. He's blazing fast, there are no overly complicated mechanics, and the controls feel ultra responsive and spot-on. 3D Sonic has some issues, including some generic, imprecise 3D platforming, but the sense of speed and excitement you get out of most of the gameplay offsets those moments of awkwardness.
The level design deserves heaps of praise. I was never once bored with any of the levels, as the designers constantly threw something incredibly cool at Sonic. One minute, you're racing through high-rise office buildings. The next you're coasting down some hilly city, being chased all the way by a maniac in a semi-truck. The whole thing speeds along at a thunderous clip, too, only slowed by my ineptness at the 3D platforming bits. I imagine speed-runners will absolutely love this game.
The Best of the Rest
-When I say I've "started" Kingdoms of Amalur, what I mean to say is that I'm six hours into it and still have barely scratched the surface. This really is a fantastic game, filled to the brim with tons of stuff to do and see. I've accomplished very little of the actual quests, instead focusing my efforts on exploration and scavenging. This is the game I thought Fable III would be, and I'm excited to cover it more in-depth next week.
-Justified ended its third season this week. Although not quite on the level of the stunning second season, this was still a great bunch of episodes and I cannot wait for the next season. The highlight, as always, is the dichotomy of Boyd Crowder and Raylen Givens, the show's antagonist and protagonist, respectively. The show's secondary characters are all pretty damn fantastic, with my favorite being the slimy Wynn Duffy.
And that's it for this week! Whew. I suspect I'll conclude my look at Vagrant Story next week, whether I've finished or not. I don't want to ruin the plot for those interested in playing it (beyond what I've already ruined, that is), and believe me, I'm thoroughly convinced it is a game that needs to be played. I have already picked out the next game to be featured in the retrospective, but you'll have to wait two weeks to find out what it is. Until then, keep the salsa on the chips, baby!