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Last year's Alamo City Comic-Con was my very first convention experience. It was loud, exciting, life-affirming, all around nerdy as fuck and awesome. I wasn't preparred for the fun that I would have and I wanted that fun to continue whenever possible. The kind of fun that would fuel my day better than any breakfast. Possibly unless that breakfast was exclusively bacon. A lot of bacon.
When it was announced some time ago, the idea of a PAX South had me even more ecstatic than the weeks leading up to Comic-Con. More than any other facet of geek culture, I likes my video games. They bring me into fantastical fictional worlds effortlessly, like no other medium. I love getting lost in a good RPG or shooter, or sinking my teeth into the mechanics of the latest indie craze. I've also never really had the opportunity to get the inside scoop on upcoming releases, always wondering what it would be like to be on the other side for just one day.
There was a sizable barrier to break through, though. The fact that this was no Comic-Con. I needed to put myself in the right head space to get what I wanted to get out of PAX South. With no autograph signings worth mentioning, not nearly as much cosplay, no panels worth actively seeking out and no interest in the competitive scene, it would come down to whether or not I could find enjoyment in something far more modest than what those attendee statistics and gigantic convention halls would imply: Game demos and chatting with the people behind them.
Most of my first couple hours were spent whoring myself out at the vendors and snapping up whatever cosplayers I could find. Suffice to say, it took me long enough to snap out of the funk I was in and just play some fucking video games. But, when I did, that's when the happenin' began to be happenin'.
As someone who, recently, has been mostly dealing with his backlog and hasn't had much motivation to keep up with the slew of new indie... news, PAX South was a godsend. I now have at least several additional upcoming indies on my radar and I may even purchase JumpJet Rex later today! That was a fun one. It was hard resisting the urge to mention to Mike Gaboury that it heeeeavily resembled Flappy Bird, until he said it himself.
I like that. He's knows exactly what he's doing and isn't trying hide it at all.
I even came across a "Social Justice Warriors" game that predated GamerGate by a whole several months! You could tell the developer was legit. Sadly, my Social Justice Warrior mage pins I was planning on sending much of the Dtoid staff got lost somehow.
I believe Fortified was the first game I came across that enticed me to chat with the developers enough for what went down to be considered a conversation. I don't know what it's like for every developer, to be told that "Your game is a lot like [x] with a little bit of [x]!" rather than saying it's very special in it's own way, but these guys, much like Gaboury, had no trouble admitting that they were essentially making Orcs Must Die with 50's Americana.
The intentionally simplistic enemy designs reminded me a lot of Earth Defense Force. A chasy, claw arms, a bulb at the top, tall legs... you want a giant robot? There's your giant robot. Nothing fancy, and I love it.
"No relation to Epic's upcoming Fortnite?", I asked them. "No. But, we are using Unreal 4!". Nice. Here's hoping for a PS4 release (currently slated for PC and Xbone), where I do a lot of my indie nonsense these days.
As far as quanity and quality went, Devolver had both in spades. More than any other booth, hands down. Titan Souls looked sweet, Enter the Gungeon played tremendously well, Hotline Miami 2 seemed like more of the same that many loved (I, personally, wasn't a fan), and The Talos Principle still looks amazingly interesting.
If Broforce ever gets Vasquez, know that it was totally all me. But, I had my longest chat with one of the people behind The Talos Principle. It was goddamned intimate. We talked at length about his involvement with Serious Sam, why I should look into The Talos Principle, etc., but all that was as much me as it was him.
He, himself, though, honest-to-goodness, insisted I wait for a Steam sale to purchase it. He implored that it wasn't that amazing that they could both tackle a cheesy action-shooter and an intelligent, methodical puzzler and do them justice. "We're just passionate about making games, man. Nothing special.". Bullhonky. Read between the lines a bit, man! He was the most modest person I had come across in a long long time. Regardless of how he truly felt on the inside, the man deserves to flaunt a bit.
It was also interesting to hear that a lot of the mechanics in The Talos Principle were initially apart of Serious Sam 4 "to give you something else to do". My brows perked as I told him "Well, that doesn't sound very Serious Sam." as politely as I could have. He agreed, so he and (assumedly) others pushed for a whole separate experience with these parts. That was when The Talos Principle was born!
Oh yeah. And Serious Sam 4 is fucking happening, people.
There was one game, though, that impressed me beyond any sort of objective basis. It was incredibly rough, but it had potential and a tremendous amount of charm. The developers were also a very humble and adorable bunch. The above picture, for me, pretty much embodies "indie gaming".
Periodyc Studios' T Is For Guilty is a title I hope you all keep your eye on.
The main protagonist, he's got "classic, lovable" down to a 't'. In fact, that's exactly what he is! How can you not love a character that is literally a capitol 'T'? He's like Rayman by way of Mavis Beacon.
There isn't much to go on as far as gameplay. As I said, the game is very very rough. It really takes playing what is there to "get it". Once you begin making this feller move and punch through the air like Guacamelee's Juan along to the cheeky jazz soundtrack, you fall in love. Or, at least, ideally. I certainly did. It's character design speaks to me in a way I can't describe.
I am very very glad to own this lovely poster:
The demo I played didn't even have a proper "end". You simply couldn't go any further. That's how rough it was. But, I can't deny I was taken by it.
Make a Sticky Note to stalk Kickstarter for whenever their's goes up. To be frank, I can't imagine it getting too far with the build it has and some cute concept art, but I hope to be proven wrong. I mean, I really wanna be proven wrong! These guys need to evolve the game to a point that even halfway capitalizes on it's potential.
It was booths like this and Devolver's that gave me a newfound appreciation for the indie scene. I wanna give them all a big hug.
Between Alamo City Comic-Con and PAX South, I have become a con junkie. I never saw myself as that sort of person, but now I can't imagine my life without 'em. They accentuate my love of being a total nerd to levels indescribable and I get to meet all sorts of interesting people, both eccentric fans and developers.
Like I said with my last con blog, if you haven't already and if you want to go even just a teensy bit, you owe it to yourself to. It will give you lots of good feelings.
The Gearbox Rockin' Fun Zone!
Also, to prove that I can look considerably less stupid than I do in that selfie, here's a test shot I did a few days ago of a James Sunderland cosplay I almost completed in time for the con, but noooot quite:
Still needed patches and an appropriately-colored jacket, but it's basically there!
In the very near future, the Supreme Court and it's band of old people deciding what the young people want will officially decide whether same-sex marriage is permitted by the constitution (or, rather, whether the constitution allows states to ban same-sex marriage or not). We know it is, but the people running the system apparently don't. At least not definitively. Freedom, what's up with thaaaaat?
No matter their stance, in the end... I think video games have the right idea. While they, like just about anything some people don't like, may continue to be somewhat of a social stigma in America, we can learn a thing or two from them when it comes to complicated issues such as this.
No matter Nintendo/Tecmo Koei's intention, Postman Link is a statement. It's the manifestation of the freedom that we, as loving and understanding people, all long for.
It's like "Hey. I'm Link. These are my legs, these are my arms, this is my crotch, this is my butt. Whether you're into that or not, I hope you're comfortable with it.". I can't think of a time when we have seen Link as exposed as this without the helping hand of fanart. All the while the Great Fairies, Veran, Cia... they have no shame. Why should Link? Because he's a man? It's just as arbitrary to say a couple shouldn't get married because their genitals don't align a certain way.
Postman Link slaps a firm foot down in the face of inequality and tells it to take a good hard sniff. Ya smell that? Can you almost taste it? Yeah. That's freedom, baby. That's dirt, sweat, blood, and pure, unadulterated equality, you facists.
I want you to look into those perfectly-tonned abs and tell me it's alright. I want you to stare a hole into that buldge and scream "Equality!". Doesn't that feel good? Doesn't that g-...
*ahem* Um, uhhh...
Equality sure does work up a sweat, doesn't it? Eheh.
A- anyway. How about we, uh, take a quick lunch and meet back here to further discuss the merit of equality and video games as teaching tools.
From most of my time here, I have led a persona that's typically pretty relaxed. I've said some stupid things, some heated and aggressiive things, but I've dropped most of that by now. I've gotten really really good at knowing when I'm about to say something wrong on the Internet, to then block it and shove it off to the mill to work for pennies like it had never crossed my mind.
I exchange pleasantries, get into casual discussion, and leave most threads on a good note. These days, whatever doesn't bring out the best in me I try to stay away from and if you're not a nice boy to me, it won't take long for me to lose patience and remain silent as opposed to me continuing the conversation with more toxic spillage.
Most recently, I've begun taking steps to broaden my appeal for the Destructoid userbase. You've seen my sexy Midna postings, yes? No? And I talk about Jonathan Holmes more than any other user here. I've also, like everyone else, cooked this lovely GOTY blogpiece up. Fresh off of this new year and ready for your eyes and head-brain. If you thought I'd miss a chance to say stuff about video games whilst assigning them arbitrary titles, I clearly haven't been asserting myself into your life enough.
Here I cum.
Best Game I Bought A Second Time (In the Same Year) - Diablo III
Diablo III was terrible at launch. It hit the masses like a flying boulder encapsulating a creature of unbelievable power. With that power, it could do good or bad. Save the poor and fuck the rich or hand out fliers for your local Taiwanese restaurant. The boulder crashed, the creature lept out with a valient roar, and it was... very anti-climatic. Servers were down most the time, accounts were hacked as usual, people did NOT like the Auction House, the list goes on.
I never experienced this first-hand as someone who, at the time, only was aware that Diablo was a thing at all. I felt your pain, though, Diablo fans. I would hate to have been looking forward to a game like that for years and years and years to finally have poop shoved into my face and to be looked down upon for not lapping up said poop.
But, with the metaphorical dust having settled and some significant patches later, more and more of us can start to really appreciate Diablo III. Personally, with the release of Reaper of Souls, Diablo III became an awesome awesome game and with the complete PS4 release I've accumulated dozens of hours in just "Find loot, kill shits, find loot, kill shits, etc.". It's a brilliantly-presented game with a painstaking amount of polish put into it to boot. The game's core is very fun with lots of great feedback and tantalizing loot, and Reaper of Souls is the campaign's most satisfying chapter (it actually ends with a boss fight worth calling a final boss).
I enjoyed it on PC, and the PS4 version made me a lover. Kees meh.
Best Game I Most Almost Bought At All - Dragon Age: Inquisition
I'm glad that you've played Dragon Age: Inquisition. I'm sad that I haven't. How does that make you feel? You should feel something, you selfish trout. You... jerk. You hog the shower in the morning, you steal my Snackwell's, you SCRATCH MY CAR, and now you play Dragon Age: Inquistion while I cannot. You little shit!
But, no. I'm.. sorry. That was uncalled for. Must stay happy and sexy. Keep enjoying your incredible fantasy adventures with Iron Bull and the Other Bunch while I do something else.
Best Unintentional Use of Willem Dafoe - Tomodachi Life
Beyond: Two Souls did more than just make David Cage look even worse, it did absolutely no justice to star of such films as The Spider-Man and Boondocked Saints, Willem Dafoe. Often both the focus and butt of many Podtoid jokes, his goblin face, husk-like form and larger than life persona have graced you and me with some cool things. I liked it when he said "AH! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOURSELF SPIDERMAN! FINGER YOUR LITTLE ASSHOLE WHILE I WATCH!".
Along comes Tomodachi Life to salvage this wasted potential.
No one other game can claim to feature a rap battle with not only all your best of friends or original creations you wish you had named something else because "Constance Erection" just isn't funny after seeing it about 50 times, but Willem bloody Dafoe. Or literally anyone else you can imagine.
I gave him a little prison apartment where he spends most his time trying to be everyone's friend or sitting in the corner playing with his Wii U. Sometimes I'll catch him confirming the locations of the corpses his buried at the beach or skateboarding alone in the middle of the night. I expected weird and creepy from Dafoe, but nothing like this. I'm a little afraid of humoring him with food, drink and presents. But, I also probably wanna stay on his good side.
Nonetheless, if you're looking for a good game to use to exploit the likeliness of Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe, Tomodachi Life is your pick. Unless you have a better idea?
Someone Was Honestly Paid To Write This Shit? - Destiny
"An evil so terrible that it despises other evil."
Jesus fucking Christ.
Best 'Waifu/Husbando' Fuel - Hyrule Warriors
Sorry, Persona Q. You have my heart, but not quite as much my dick.
Between Link, Midna, Ruto, Fi, Ghirahim, Impa, the new Lana... just about the entire cast is beautiful people with the potential for beautiful things. Most notably, we now have a new game that Midna is featured in, which means we probably have a whole lot of new Midna fans (welcome!). Both naturally create an influx of new sexy Midna art.
The things I could show you. Ohhh. The things.
Stay kawaii, my friends.
Best Way To Spend A Backlog - Shadows of the Damned
A good handful of 2014's most popular releases were in definite need of more penetration, but don't let that keep you flaccid. Shadows of the Damned has all the right stuffing to stimulate your fun sector after all of this past year's disappointments. It also contains a lot of not so very sublte sexual innuendos.
Shadows of the Damned is basically Resident Evil 4 not giving a fuck and I thoroughly love it. It's got it's core over-the-shoulder, third-person shooting gameplay and spooky attire, but the rest of it is like a mad lib of design. It's main character is a sarcastic Latino with a companion who's a floating skull with a British accent and the power to transform into your weaponry, it's checkpoint indicator is a flying eyeball getting startled by your pressence and then pooping out a poo that is lit up like a flare, you're occasionally escorted by an angler fish which triggers background music of some weird man doing some scat, there's a part where you walk on your girlfriend's butt, it's gates are locked by baby heads that you have to feed specific sorts of food, anything can happen in this game.
It's unabashedly a video game. It may be stupid, but boy do I wish there were more games like it.
Game Most Resembling Freddie Mercury - Watch_Dogs
It's seriously uncanny.
This Wound's Not Salty Enough - Destiny
For all the elements Bungie outright stole from the iconic Halo franchise, they should have gone that extra mile and included Master Chief into the official canon. Perhaps as an NPC? Place him in the right end corner of the Last City hub with a Pelican ship docked besides. He could give you more stupid Bounties to collect for some reason.
"Why did you come here?", he will say. "I can't believe all this time and money you've wasted with this game.", he will say next. From then on, he will repeat "Just stop. Please." until he has exchausted all possible unique Bounties. His silent, motionless corpse remains once said Bounties begin to rotate.
This is how the world ends.
Best Game That Just Barely Missed Getting My Attention In 2014 - Rabbids Go Home
You wouldn't know it by hearing it's title, but Rabbids Go Home is secretly a brilliant game. It may've came out in 2009 and I'm not even playing it in 2014, but... shutup! I like the game and I really wanna give it a shoutout.
Yes. It's a Raving Rabbids game. We hold much contempt for those stupid little Rabbids. Much like Skylanders is to Spyro the Dragon, the games may be actually pretty alright, but there's just something simulataneously very nasty about the whole thing. But, this particular Rabbids game is seriously something. It has become the biggest video game surprise for me in a long long time.
Imagine Katamari Damacy (already interested, eh?) with a shopping cart, platforming challenges and slapstick humor. Also like Katamari Damacy, it has an excellent soundtrack. Well, it's original soundtrack is likely pretty polarizing (it's a mess of polka and Rabbid "lyrics"), but it's licensed stuff is surprisingly classy for a game you'd think would be primarily played by younger audiences. There's nothing quite like twirling my Rabbids in circles in an elevator, BWAHing to the rhythm of Boney M's rendition of Rivers of Babylon. Or shoving along a cow 3 times the size of my shopping cart on top of a downtown skyscraper, collecting safety cones and hamburgers, to then have "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ANNNNNNNND... MRS.. MRS JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONES!" slowly fade in from the background.
The game oozes personality, from it's animations, soundtrack, the sway of the items in your cart, the dialogue, etc. You'd be hard-pressed finding a more entertaining collect-a-thon than this and it stays from getting too repetitive by tasking you to widdle through some obstacles (which get surprisingly challenging as you approach on the final third of the campaign) every so often, varying up level design, a bunch of little things that keep the simple act of picking up stuff so addicting and not tremendously dull.
If you can, track down the Wii version (it has some extra flair/content) and give up your money to it!
Uhhh... Best Frozen Pizza - Digiorno's Pizzeria! Primo Pepperoni
I think it's time for supper.
So long, my pets.
Laid back in my chair a few degrees from falling backward, sunglasses, a stupid grin on my face, I sip my virgin daiquiri, I pop on one of my older consoles, and I laugh. Laugh at all the fools playing their new-fangled disappointments while I play my old favorites and put a sizable dent in my backlog. Why wallow in the present when you can escape to that rose-tinted past?
Well, 2014 wasn't that bad. The Wii U officially became a must-have console, I went to my first Comic-Con, Capcom seems to be finally taking some commendable strides in being not so stupid and bad, Isolation wasn't another Colonial Marines (far from it), Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is like the perfect game, and Jonathan Holmes is still with us.
Generally, though, I had my brain turned off for most of 2014 as far as gaming went. I'm finally starting to feel older... more tired (no weight gain or bald spots just yet). Priorities began to change and I really wanted to give some attention to the ones that I missed, bless their little hearts. The ones that had been sitting on my shelf (both physical and digital) for far too long.
And in-between those, I played Alan Wake for the 3rd freaking time. Uncharted 2 for the 3rd freaking time, Super Mario Galaxy for the.... God, how many times has it been?
I did play a considerable amount of new games, of course. Infamous: Second Son, Destiny, Alien: Isolation, Tomodachi Life, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Mario Kart 8, and so on. But, many of my most memorable moments of this past year have been thanks to coming across some nice surprises within my backlog and finding new love in past gems.
For example: Remember Nier? I'm sure some here will definitely remember that one. But, it never did catch on at a level that you'd think it would... in an ideal world where we appreciate concept, execution and gameplay/narrative over marketing, graphics, or established brands.
To be honest, Nier may have not actually held my interest for the long haul, but I got pretty far and it was easily the most interesting game I had ever played. Combining Zelda with action/RPG combat, 2D/3D/isometric camera perspectives, bullet hell, random stat-altering weapon/magic attachment drops in the form of various syllables, and so much more. For a few days, I was really really digging it.
It even has fishing, like all the best video games do.
In the end, the story was sort of tiring. I forgot the specifics, but I know I wasn't a fan of that blue-haired chick that was so ham-fistedly "edgy". You wouldn't believe the filth that comes out from between those lucious lips. Does she kiss her mother with that mouth (why am I getting so excited)? The game also had a surprising amount of brown for a Japanese title not called Dynasty Warriors.
But, I will always look back on it fondly. At some point, I know I will play it again and hope that I can see it through. There's a stark difference between a game I grow tired of like Nier and a game I grow tired of like, oh.. Destiny. I probably don't wanna ever play Destiny again, even with it's excellent gunplay and solid campaign, but despite Nier's unconventional design and flaws that actively got in the way of my enjoyment (I at least finished Destiny) I will play it again in a heartbeat when the mood strikes me.
Destiny, I got burnt out on. I just sort of left Nier on a sour note.
We leave innocent ambition to video game blockbuster. As well as replaying Uncharted 2, which I still find to be thoroughly amazing, I made an effort to finish up the original after all these years.
I remembered dropping it after coming across a section of the game I, at the time, found to be brokenly difficult (it really wasn't). But, no matter my frustration, in the early days of the PS3, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune astounded me all the same. The characterization and cutscenes made me, for the first time, feel like I was playing through a buttery popcorn adventure film. "Whoa! This is like the realest shit ever." *popcorn* *gets controller very greasy*. This was also a time when I thought that was something awesome for a video game to aspire to feel like. Boy, did that get old quickly.
It was something I could show my mom and say "Look! Look at this! ARRRRRRRRRT!". And I did do that. With those exact words and exclamations.
Now, call me crazy, but upon finishing it, flaws and all, I sort of liked Drake's Fortune the most.
It's not a bombastic, globe-trotting thrillride, but that's what's so nice about it. It's just Drake and company stuck on a mysterious island with the promise of an ancient treasure and a couple of bad guys in the middle of it all. This one setting is given so much time to shine and you get a lot out of it besides a bunch of trees and rocks with vines and moss. It's almost like the island was it's own character.
Caves, ruins, 16th century and WW2-era structures, there's a submarine for a bit, it's great! The platforming and exploration are a total joy as there's such a captivating atmosphere to the original Uncharted's setting. The solid action throughout is sort of a means to an end, I just love the adventure aspect of Drake's Fortune. It's also got one of my favorite video game tunes of all time. Epic horns blasting and sharp strings swooning, it's like chugging fine wine whilst surfing the open sea on an angel wearing rocket boots.
Heck, I wanna play it again right now.
Even with Rebirth and Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, the game that I probably spent the most time playing was Persona 3: FES. My playtime easily clocking in at 50+ hours, it felt like I had merely finished just the first half, coming off the Summer vacation bit.
I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again because I like to arrogantly flaunt my opinions as a mask for my lack of self-assurance: Persona 3 and 4 are absolutely brilliant blends of life sim and JRPG. Not only are the stories told through the game's "Social Links" worthwhile and varied in tone, but completing them matters a great deal to your effectiveness in Persona Fusion (basically forced Pokemon evolution). If you want damn good Personas, you're gonna need to do a hefty amount of fusion.
While the dungeon-crawling aspect may not be all that interesting, it's tremondously solid and rewards thoughtful tactics with great audio/visual feedback (do I even need to mention the amazing soundtrack). Knocking down a slew of baddies with consecutive weakness exploits never gets old and having specific characters prioritize specific actions during tough boss fights made me truly feel like I was the leader my classmates made me out to be.
Having each element of the game, right down to your school studies and otherwise casual gettogethers with classmates (among others), entertain on some level and matter made for one engrossing experience that I had to put down only because 50+ hours of any game, no matter how good, with no end in sight, would make you feel a bit spent.
For about a week, Persona 3: FES was my second life. I won't be forgetting it in a hurry. Or maybe I will because I have a terribly short attention span.
2014 made me realize that staying current wasn't such a priority for me any longer. Rather than using most of the year to catch up on recent releases, I used that time to do what felt most natural to me.
When I eyeball LEGO Batman or Shadows of the Damned on my shelf and think to myself "Hmm. That might be fun.", I don't want to then counteract with an obligatory "Well, I still haven't played Titanfall or Far Cry 4. That's what all the coolest dudes are talking about right now.". It's a mindset I likely began to find unappealing a long time ago that I only kept up with out of habit.
As of right now, I'm free to enjoy anything I want whenever I can find time to play it. Do I wanna replay The Last Of Us for the second time in less than a few months? Why the fuck not? What about spending the whole day playing Canabalt? So what?! Will I play Kung Fu Panda out of sick curiosity? Yes! Do I now sort of wanna buy the sequel? Boy howdy, YES!
[insert Jack Black phoning in radical buzzwords like "totally", "rightousness" and "awesome" here]
I bought the original Borderlands, day-1. Loved it. Verbally assaulted anyone who felt differently.
Now that you know I'm an inherently more credible gamer than you are, you are going to read my impressions of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Because you want my approval. To have just a tiny bit of my glorious and impeccable presence rub off on your pityful, scrubcore style.
But, really. I'm (probably) a nice guy who likes to think he knows a thing or two about Borderlands. Listen up, please?
A bulletproof plan!
Upon starting up The Pre-Sequel, it was cool to be reminded of these two playable female characters and (for all intents and purposes) two playable male characters, respectively, available from the start for the first time in Borderlands history. This way, nobody is angry. You want tits? You got twice the amount now. You want a dudebro military strongman? You got him, and he has an awesome beard.
You want a Claptrap?
Well, uh, sorry. You got him too.
Of course, as somebody who's been leaning more and more towards female characters whenever given the option, I picked the cowgirl with a serious fetish for pain. Not even kidding, she has a questionable as heck moral compass.
"I haven't felt this good since Mom died!". Whoa.
Not to contiuously totally 1-up Darren, buuuuuut I've taken my own screenshots as well.
After quickly realizing that my character was kind of a psycho, I began warming back up to the Borderlands formula of hilarity, shootin' and lootin' (not always necessarily in that order).
The beginning sections were considerably more exciting than the beginning sections of either Borderlands 1 or 2. Even the writers were totally on to that thought process. "All we did was arrive in town on a bus.", states Borderlands 1 player character Mordecai. It wasn't a terrible way to get me back into the franchise since temporarily leaving my many many... maaany hours of Borderlands 2 behind a year or so ago.
I was havin' some good ol' fun times, for sure.
Above is a shot of the room housing one of the game's first boss fights. Not to waste any momentum from promptly crash-landing on Pandora's moon after such a bombastic intro, you're treated to one of the more creative bosses Borderands has given us. Flying and hopping around, above and below the many levels of this stage while simultaneously focusing your attention on "Deadlift" was pretty exciting and a nice break from the somewhat typical "strafe and shoot the bullet sponge".
By that point, I was also graced with one of the game's new weapon variants (also seen above): LAZORZZZZZZ!!!11!!1 They're pretty damn awesome. Throughout my 23 or so levels, I've almost always had one in my inventory for the right situations. Not quite as overpowered as I thought they'd be, but they're typically slightly more useful compared to other weapon variants of adjacent value.
For example, a "blaster" (also see: that shit you see in them Star Warses) laser (or any laser, for that matter) seems to always have some sort of elemental effect. It's pretty easy to find a mainstay blaster laser as opposed to even a half-worthwhile assault rifle.
The hub world of The Pre-Sequel, Concordia. Infinitely more awesome than BL2's Sanctuary.
With all that great stuff said, shortly after the first hour, feelings of "same old shit" started to settle in. I would even say it started to feel like a second-hand Borderands 2. This wasn't exactly what New Vegas was to Fallout 3.
The humor may've been dialed back a tiiiiiiiiiiiiny bit (people aren't wrong that it's a little more in-tune with BL1), but it's still pretty much BL2's "lol we're so random and wacky". Which I actually like. However, much of the dialogue here was feeling like cutting room floor material. Not terrible or unfunny, just... heh. Inoffensive. Though, of course, some may enjoy that if they found BL2 a little too much for their tastes.
The mission design wasn't any more inspiring. It's what you'd expect. Spoken dialogue contextualizing the situation (in this case, Handsome Jack often complains about progress being haulted once again), go here and do a variation of collect and/or shoot, character butts in with something quirky, continue mission, character butts in with something quirky, end mission, good jorb. Inoffensive.
The early settings were very open, but also rather barren, often requiring some trekking before finding a "GET YOU ONE!" station. Even the more dense/restrictive environments weren't super impressive. Borderlands 2 may've been much about ice environments for the first few hours, but those were certainly more visually exciting than dull blue rock, grey pipes and black skies. At the same time, again, they aren't terrible. Occasionally, I would pause to appreciate the landscape. The Hyperion 'H' often looked nice contrasted with the red glow of the moon's lava or the various shades of the lower part of the background.
And, thankfully, exploration is still rewarded with hidden collectables and chests littered everywhere.
I feel a little like a broken record, here. Inoffensive.
Slowly, though, the game starts to show spikes of improvement. You start to happen across some genuinely funny characters like Red Belly and Peapot (related), the missions become more hectic, the settings get more far more interesting (especially once you land back on the 'H' base), and, finally, you (or, at least, "I") start to appreciate the plethora of small adjustments to the experience.
Moonstones (not to be confused with what evolves a Clefairy to a Clefable) are a new form of currency alongside the usual bucks, used to unlock special chests littered about the place, to upgrade your backpack/ammo space(es), to purchase one of Moxxi's temporary stat buff cocktails (those could get interesting in True Vault Hunter Mode), and possibly some other thing(s) I've yet to discover as I'm nowhere near done.
As you're often up against the vaccuum of space (not really a problem for Claptrap players, though), your character now has an "OZ Kit". Not only do they give you something to casually be aware of as well as your combat proficiency and remaining ammo, but they give you two new tricks: Jump-boosts and butt slams. Used together with your other abilities during combat, they can yield all kinds of exciting and decidely vertical results.
Even further, the OZ Kits also come with their own special stats. Elemental butt slams, buffs for when your airbourne or whether you're in a vaccuum or an atmosphere, temporary buffs following a butt slam, all kinds of things. They don't feel like a second shield or class mod, they're very much their own thing, encouraging unconventional offensive tactics as opposed to just providing permenant buffs or simple situational buffs like increased melee damage while your "Maylay" shields are depleted.
I'm also pretty fond of the new hoverbike vehicle and I'm probably very close to unlocking the use of The Grinder, which is a machine that you dump useless weapon drops into in favor of something potentially useful! It's like pouring bucks into the slot machine, only the bucks are now dangerous clumps of metal.
Things like the cocktails and The Grinder assure some extra fun in True Vault Hunter Mode, as well as the supposed added dialogue bits.
Um. I swear I didn't steal this from Darren's review. Don't you dare think of me like that.
At the point that I'm at (approximately level 23), I'm really digging the extra bit of insight into Handsome Jack. How he became the douchenozzle that he is in Borderlands 2. Like Destructoid's review mentions, he's hardly ever exactly sympathetic, but his transformation is very sensible and a joy to witness. It's not in-your-face or subtle, more somewhere in the middle.
As one of my favorite video game villains (second or third to Ratchet & Clank's Dr. Nefarious), it's great to continue seeing him done justice. If you were a fan of his writing in Borderlands 2, you wouldn't know that the Pre-Sequel wasn't even primarily written by Anthony Burch (for better or for worse).
The story, as a whole, so far, has offered a couple nice little surprises as somebody who was expecting the bare minimum for a prequel job. Let's just say, some elements are nostalgic (being a story that barely takes place after the original Borderlands) while others are almost entirely new.
As far as the new classes are concerned, I'm not gonna pretend to be a expert in that respect. I've only ever played the Soldier in both Borderlands 1 and 2. I don't know how specifically different The Pre-Sequel's classes are, but, from my time with Nisha the Lawbringer, the particular build I have of her revolves around "Order" stacks that you achieve as you kill or get hit. They mostly provide bonus melee/gun damage and potential heals, but sometimes they encourage you to withhold causing damage to specific enemies until your stack is high enough (known as "Wanted" stacks), which is somewhat interesting.
Appropriately, considering her cowgirl aesthetic, her special skill is an auto-lock that drastically increases her fire rate, reload speed and damage. Firing off a good revolver while it's active can be a power trip. She's a pretty fun gal, mechanically.
Claptrap, though, looks like a blast. Those obsessed with co-op play will, no doubt, be into him.
As a gigantic Borderlands fan, it's hard... nay, impossible to not find a good lot of enjoyment in The Pre-Sequel. Unless you're that sick of the formula, at worst, this is something you're going to want to pick up at some point.
As for me, I'm officially really into it. Not a huge surprise, I suppose. I'm really looking forward to subsequent playthroughs as I go through every little bit of content the game has. Heck, I know I'll probably try another playthrough of either Borderlands 1 or 2 when this is all over.
For now, so long fellow space cowgirls.
I normally stay clear of topics like this, especially within the games medium. It's no longer easy to be so motivated to take part in intelligent discussion when said discussions can so innocently devolve into hate-spitting or childish name-calling. That topics come up repeatedly as I'm less interested than usual doesn't help.
In the past several months, STFUAJPG has never meant so much to me. I have way too many goddamn video games to just shut the fuck up and play to be conversing with some random Internet guy/gal about the legitimacy of forced perspective or unabashed violence. But, that is exactly what I'm about to do. I've momentarily stopped my Aliens Vs. Predator (2010) playthrough for you people. It's really good so far, so you better be spankin' grateful!
And, no. I could spend at least half of this blog discussing the not-so-black/white differences between Hatred and something like Payday or GTA, to simply elongate the points I've already made. Instead, here's something entirely different: Why what's not okay is totally okay. In fact, why it can be very interesting.
Let's cut straight to the meat of the blog. The game that crossed my mind, which sparked interest in typing all this vomit out. A free little indie title by the name of "Edmund".
In Edmund, you are given no inkling as to the intentions of your character. You're not even told the subject of the game on it's website. You are simply under the impression that you are some guy, possibly named Edmund, waiting for a bus next to a set of pixels vaguely in the shape of a female human. It's at night, there's nobody else around, and there's just... something that unsettles you a teensy bit about the dialogue.
Given the topic of this blog and my referencing, you've may've already assumed that this game isn't a super happy one. You may've even already guessed what it reveals after a certain point, but just in case you're as naive as I would be in your shoes and are still on the edge of your seat, I'll go ahead and spill the beans:
In Edmund, you, through your own inputs yet unbeknownst, have just raped someone. In all it's pixely detail, you rape and murder a helpless civilian.
When it happened, to say the least, I was pretty startled. "Wow. They went there. Wow." I keep repeating to myself.
This may've not been the game's sole focus, that it was (probably) a story about someone with a split personality and the grief that followed for a brief moment. However, in those few seconds when all my mind could think "... I'm raping someone. I'm a rapist.", any chance of redemption or justification was moot. I was raping someone. Pixels or not, I was raping someone.
Then, when it was all over and I could calmly reminisce, there was no other word for it. Even ignoring it's story and focusing solely on that moment when I was a deplorable human being, all I could think was "... that was interesting.". I am not okay with rape. I am not okay with murder. I'm also not okay with a lot of things that are considerably less awful. But, being forced into the perspective of someone who would do that sort of thing was... interesting.
In GTAV, you, as Trevor, are made to violently torture somebody for info on a target. While it's not quite on the same level of awful as raping someone in Edmund, the detail they put into depicting said torture and the neverending pleads from the victim to stop made it almost too much to push myself through.
Trevor ends up somewhat redeeming himself shortly thereafter in a way that made it even more interesting than my overall time with Edmund, but, also like Edmund, in that moment of trife, all I could think was "I'm torturing someone and I can't stop it.". Fuck the reasoning, because, in that situation, the reasoning wouldn't matter. I wouldn't want to do it at all. I am participating and not merely an onlooker. As far as I'm concerned, me as Trevor and Trevor as himself cease to be the same entity when I'm put into situations like this.
The 4th wall is officially broken and I want to stop. It makes me think that I should be more disturbed that I do similar things in games that don't even require of me to do them.
This is exactly why it's interesting. Not the surprise or that the narrative morbidly justifies it, but simply the separation of player and character.
No matter how video games do them, that separation is captivating to me. The game feels good to play, it looks pretty alright, the mechanics are there, but whatever it is that keeps that line between game and reality or some sick truth unblurred is, even if it's just for one brief section, not present.
In the much-touted Spec Ops: The Line, there were many points where I said to myself "I really wanna just turn back and go home or something.". The game may've had excellent character development that made the separation more interesting than it would otherwise have been, but, to me, the simple realization that I had to push myself through a situation where I would want to call it quits and that I only was doing so here because it's just a video game was what stuck out to me.
Heck, even Pokemon has done this!
Whether it's with violence or something else, making you aware of your actions in something that says to play in order to experience it is one of the many things only video games can do. It is INTERESTING!
However, on the topic of context, why do we use context to justify actions like these but not the actions found in Hatred? Edmund has MPD, Trevor is schizorphrenic, and Not Important is sociopathic. Of course the actions of someone with schizorphrenia are likely going to be more complicated than the actions of someone who's simply a stone cold killer. Why is one okay, but the other not? To me, they're perplexing all the same.
Does Hatred seem infinitely more disturbing? You bet. But, I don't think the differences beyond are anywhere near as black and white as some are making it out to be.
All the while, it's also damned interesting.