Ahhhh, holidays. They are a time for catching up with the family, spending time with my wife, going outside and enjoying the beautiful Summer weather (it's Summer here in New Zealand, you crazy northern hemisphere weirdos), but more importantly they are a time to catch up on some gaming!
Unfortunately I am now back at work as of a couple of days ago, but before this I had three weeks off. Yes, three straight weeks of no-work bliss. You bet your delicious ass I spent a lot of this time playing games. I spread my love around pretty wide, but there were a few games in particular that I focused on. HERE THEY ARE!
Far Cry 3
My love for the Far Cry series is full of ups and downs. I played the hell out of the original Far Cry on the PC back when it first came out. The sense of freedom that it gave you was something that I simply hadn't experienced up to that point in an FPS. I still vividly remember the first time that I jumped on a hang glider and sniped an enemy in the head off in the distance while I was flying through the air. The game got insanely frustrating and difficult in the later stages, but despite this it still stands as one of my favourite first person shooters.
I was pretty excited about Far Cry 2 before it came out. I ended up buying it on Steam not long after it was released. I didn't really enjoy it, to my disappointment. I just checked Steam now and it says I put 14 hours into it, so I suppose I got my moneys worth even though I didn't get anywhere near finishing the game. My main problems were the infernal respawning checkpoint enemies, the annoying malaria game mechanic, and the African setting. Don't get me wrong, Africa is great, but after the lush, colourful jungle of the original I just found the brown (brown) brown jungle of the sequel to be a bit drab. I have tried to go back to the game now and then but I just can't get into it.
Moving on the the third game. After watching early trailers I was hopeful that it would be a return to form for the series. The beautiful tropical island jungle setting was back, for one thing. I was lucky enough to have my brother buy the game for me on Steam for Christmas, and I've already put 24 hours into the game. I'm not even half way through the game yet, either. I keep getting distracted by the side quests and just exploring the island and doing crazy shit. I fucking love this game. It's simply FUN! There are so many sights to see and activities to do. Not to mention that it looks absolutely gorgeous on the PC. It's everything I hoped for, really.
Saints Row: The Third
My introduction to the Saints Row series was with Saints Row 2. I bought the game for cheap on the Xbox, but I only played a few hours of it. The game was a bit too rough around the edges technically for my tastes, although I could definitely see the appeal of the game. It basically seemed like Grand Theft Auto without any hint of the seriousness that GTA sometimes delves in to. Saints Row is definitely a lot more tongue in cheek.
I got SRIII as part of the THQ (pour one out) Humble Bundle. I've put about 6 hours into it so far, and I'm really enjoying it. The whole storyline and setting is absurd, which totally works. The opening of the game is far superior to the second installment. Skydiving out of a crashing plane and fighting off goons while avoiding debris/the aforementioned crashing plane was a hell of a lot of fun. I don't see this being the type of game that I'll play for hours on end, but I'll definitely dip into it now and then for some lighthearted stupidity.
I've had my eye on this one since it was first released in 2011. In fact, I originally had my eye on Demons Souls back in the day but never quite took the step of buying it. I'll be honest, I was never sure if the difficulty would be a positive or a negative for me. I enjoy a challenge, but as I've gotten older and my gaming habits have changed (i.e. other responsibilities and less time to play) I've found that I enjoy shorter, more condensed gaming experiences that I can wrap up in a few weekends worth of gameplay. Everything I'd heard about the sequel, Dark Souls, made it sound like the original game turned up to 11, including the difficulty.
I decided to buy the game on a whim when I saw it for very cheap, $15NZ (around $11US). I couldn't really pass it up. After playing it, I wish I hadn't waited so long to buy it! I really, really like this game. Sure, there are times when I feel like I may as well be punching myself in the face repeatedly rather than playing the game, but after turning it off and taking a break to cool down I always go back to it and tend to progress past whatever sticking point I was experiencing.
Something I'm really enjoying about the game is the sense of exploring the unknown. Every time I enter a new area I raise my shield and slowly creep forward and start to feel out my surroundings. Often I'm killed immediately, but the game really is quite generous with its bonfires (which act as checkpoints) so you never have to travel too
far to get back to where you were. Of course, you could easily die on the way to recover your corpse if you drop your guard for even a second. The game is punishing, frustrating, infuriating, but I fucking love it! It's already climbing up my list of favourite games of the last few years.
It is now the weekend after a blessedly short week back at work, so I'm looking forward to playing a bunch more of these games over the next couple of days.