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maxszy

My backlog... just keeps growing...that's how its supposed to work right...right?

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2009 Stories in Games; Steps forward, and a step backward

Early this year I wrote a blog post about the story in a game. Primarily how they haven't hit the pace and focus that you see in other medium types. Also as I have stated over time in many threads, to me a story in a game is a number one factor of whether or not I am going to buy it IF it is a game that requires a decent story. Don't get me wrong, I play all the games the rest of us do with stories that are worth bullocks, but if its a game that could and does have a good story I am all over it and it wouldn't matter how the rest of the game was to me. 
 
That being said, I have decided to recap this year in my thoughts regarding the stories in our beloved entertainment medium. I believe there were some great strides, but also a particular set back. Now before I dive right in, I must say there a few games I have not played that may be worthwhile including in such a list but hey, we can't all play everything. Those three that fall into that category are: Infamous, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2. Also, I believe I have kept my story reviews completely spoiler free, so do not worry. I speak in a larger scope than specifics. So without further a due, I will start with the disappointment. 
 

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Modern Warfare 2
Before I rag on the story let me make it perfectly clear that the story works for this game. Its so action packed that the story while I believe absurd, works for pushing the game along. The problem and the reason that this is such a huge let down in game stories, is because they crafted the story for the original Modern Warfare so well. Now I know the whole "well sequels are rarely as strong as the original" in the medium of movies and while that is true I don't think it should be true for games. With Modern Warfare they built a plausible, "action movie type script" yet didn't go way overboard. The ending was you stopping nukes from going off in Russia. There's been plenty of movies, television shows and books with similar outcomes that this was acceptable, believably plausible and it was crafted into a first person shooter like no one had ever done before. With Modern Warfare 2 they went the opposite route and went for the impossibly plausible story regarding Russian ground troops invading the U.S. So instead of building upon a finely crafted story and making it more refined  they opted go in "guns blazing" and therefore failed, thus letting those of us down who truly enjoy a story in a game. Even the mission "No Russian" which was designed to be a "holy shit" mission, rough and have a huge impact on your conscience didn't have the type of an impact they were going for because you could tell not just the mission was being forced upon you but also their attempt at making it have such impact. Which to me, completely ruined it. Yes, what was being done in that mission was atrocious, disgusting, and flat out evil but if they were attempting to "move" you in that mission in such a way to make you really, really feel "it"...that they completely failed at. Modern Warfare (as a series) has turned into a blockbuster and maybe in the end that is all it comes down to and that's why it has such a problem, but if so, that's quite a shame. 
 
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Assassin's Creed 2
Going the opposite way of MW2, Assassin's Creed 2 improved every single way game play wise, and that most certainly includes the story. The first Assassin's Creed was a strange story that interrupted you every hour as you were warped back to modern day where the animus is that lets you go back through your families memories. While you were the totally kick ass assassin Altair, you really did not give a shit about him as a character. This is directly where Assassin's Creed 2 wins and pulls a full 180. By introducing Ezio from birth, and having a couple hours of game play starting the story as Ezio before he was an assassin, and just a normal "banker's" son who happened to be able to climb buildings really well, it makes one really care about the Ezio as a character. As a game story love, I as surprisingly very pleased by this addition. The overall story itself, has been perhaps nothing spectacular but it flows excellent with the game and the various missions you are thrown on. For stories in games, Assassin's Creed 2 takes a positive step in a good direction. Through the building of a connection to the character and the want for knowing what happens to him next all the while fitting into ebbs and flows of the action in the game, Assassin's Creed 2 has crafted a story in a game worthy of recognition in comparison to what is a sad low "norm" for story in the gaming medium.
 
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Dragon Age: Origins
Two things first. First I have not finished this game. I am *only* 28.5 hours in so.. I still have a ways but I feel I have done enough to comment on the writing in this game. Second, I freely admit I am a "bit" of a BioWare fan, and while I hope I do not come across as bias with my love toward the Doctors, I can't help it if it comes across a little. Those two things being said I am going to say something right away that I don't expect to say again for awhile: this is perhaps the best story telling in a game that this current generation has seen. They have not only crafted a truly epic story in scope, degree and magnitude they did so within a medium that doesn't see it. They have had much story success in the past there is no doubt, but this is truly excellent writing that tops their own list. The dialogue in this game is fabulous, believable as well as delivered very well which makes the story and writing that much more credible. They crafted characters that you can enjoy, like, want to know better (don't go dirty on me here!) and really appreciate. The stories and personalities of the characters are so good that you may like one over another purely based on your own personality. That is the case for me and I am sure I am not the only one in that regard. One nice little thing that completely stood out to me as outstanding is the random party chatter that occurs at any time you may be idle. It completely varies depending on which characters are actually in your party what will actually be said. I definitely don't want to spoil the joy of hearing these for the first time for anyone so I will just say they have made me laugh, smile and facepalm myself in a good way many time through the numerous hours I have spent. If Dragon Age has any downfall with its story, its not the actual crafting of the story itself, but rather that the epic fantasy role playing game is in comparison to other genres is rather niche. Therefore there perhaps are many people who actually do care and want a good story in a game that will never enjoy its brilliance. Which is too bad, but I understand as we all have different tastes. 
 
Games in 2009 have taken great steps in improving their stories and the structuring of stories within the game medium in compared to other years. While there was a setback, unfortunately it is probably an understandable one considering where the franchise is at. I look forward to what 2010 will bring as there are at least a couple already that have the potential to end up on a similar list next year. This is really not a bad time at all to be a gamer who truly cares about the story within our beloved entertainment platform.
 
If I have missed any, I am sorry and I know we all have different views on perhaps what this list should consist but if I haven't gotten to said game yet, I hope to do so at some point in the near future.
 
Thank you for reading and caring about stories in our game too!
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