Shifty is an avid gamer who discovered that there was a negative correlation in his salary and his video game time, and consequently doesn't play as many games as he used to play in his college and high school days. He has become so disturbed by the rumored trends of next generation consoles that he has officially "checked out" of console gaming after the ps3/360/wii generation. He now seeks to tackle 20 years worth of backlogged games in an effort to save money, time, and his own sanity.
While finishing up Xenoblade Chronicles, something was bothering me. I loved my time with the game, finding the battle system and streamlined design to really subtract out the deal breakers found in modern JRPGs. No, my beef with the game resided with the story, though I couldn't quite figure out why I felt that way. It wasn't the formulaic plot, nor the admittedly two dimensional characters. Heck, it wasn't even the fetch side quests.
It really didn't hit me until I upgraded to the Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2 and decided to start a new playthrough. In the prologue alone, I opened up a new quest line to do later in the story, spared the life of a traitor through reasoning, and then escaped from a dungeon a completely different way. I never realized any of this was even possible until now, I had just assumed that the way things went in my first playthrough was the only way things could have happened. I knew The Witcher 2 was heralded for being nonlinear, however I thought it was regulated to the major narrative split in the middle of the game, not throughout the entirety of the game.
We, as gamers, love nonlinear games because of the newfound sense of player agency into the world and characters. We become more invested in the plot of nonlinear games because we felt that it is a personalized story just for us, that we helped shape this world, and made tough decisions involving major plot points along the way. Looking back at games like Xenoblade Chronicles, I wonder what would have happened had I been able to choose how I wanted Xenoblade's plot to progress. What if I had been able to choose a romantic interest, been able to decide which races, which cities, survived from Mechon attacks, due to my decisions and/or negligence in game.
The counter argument is that the effort to make a game to suit everybody's decisions and play styles ends up creating a game with no soul. Look at the Elder Scrolls games, no one can deny the nonlinearity of being dropped into the huge world and told you can do whatever you want. However, in its efforts to be too open, it also forgoes a cohesiveness to the plotline and the rest of the world. Nonplayable characters have no interest that you may be on a quest to save all of Skyrim from disaster, they just want you to deliver a letter to their friend on the other side of the continent, or recover a necklace that was dropped in the middle of a lake. Though you can refuse these requests, all too often your character is either soft spoken or completely mute, keeping you from identifying with the character you'll be playing as for the next 70 hours.
In the end, linearity in games is ultimately up to what kind of experience the developers are trying to achieve, and what kind of experience the player will have. Though if you ask me, The Witcher 2 got it right by creating a lore heavy world full of morally ambiguous decisions that affect major portions of the story, while still retaining a closely knit narrative and a main character with his own voice and agenda. Take note, developers.
Game: Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
Play time: 36 Hours
Believe the hype, this game is as good as everyone says it is. I'm going to save the lengthy post about this game for the final word, but all you need to know is that this is a game that fixes a lot that was wrong with JRPG's as a whole. If you have fond memories of playing SNES and PSX RPG classics, and found more recent entries into the genre to be tedious and uninspired, then this game is for you.
Picking this game back up after not playing it for a couple month proved no problem at all. The game is always there to let you know where you need to go next and why it's important, without beating you over the head with that information. Combat is fun and fluid, and exploration is a blast by constantly rewarding you via experience points, money, and gear. The plot is largely driven by voiced cutscenes, and the voice acting and direction are great and will keep you engaged throughout this LONG game.
Judging by estimates from what I've read online, I'm approximately 50% through the game, and I have probably only completed 70 of the games 480 (yes, you read that right) sidequests. I hope to have it beaten and a final word review up by the end of the month. But all you need to know is that if you like JRPG's, buy this game. If you don't have a Wii, buy one used for this game, it's worth it.
So here it is. 30 games I currently own and have not beaten. Since most of these are RPG's, the real trouble comes in picking up where I left off. Putting 20 hours in Xenogears and then picking it up after 10 years is pretty frustrating because there is no "Hey, you totally haven't played this in a while" feature, that might tell me where I need to go and why. Some of these I would be better off just completely starting a new game, rather than decipher my progress with a walkthrough. I haven't figured out a system of picking which games will be played and in what order, and maybe that's for the best.
Since Xenoblade "officially" released in the US today, it might be a good idea to pick that back up. I imported the UK version late last year after all hope over operation Rainfall had been lost. I also have played this one much more recently and much closer to completion than the others on this list, so it naturally is the logical choice to wean myself onto my backlog.
Every Sunday I will post either a Now Playing or Final Word Article on the game that was played. So look forward to a Now Playing for Xenoblade Chronicles this Sunday night!
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection (PSP)
Half-Minute Hero (PSP)
Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)
God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)
Final Fantasy Dissidia Duodecim (PSP)
Yggdra Union (PSP)
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
The Last Story (Wii)
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Mass Effect 3 (PS3)
3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)
God of War 3 (PS3)
LA Noire (PS3)
Eternal Sonata (PS3)
Bioshock 2 (PS3)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)
Albert Odyssey (Saturn)
Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
Vagrant Story (PS1)
Wild Arms (PS1)
The Witcher (PC)
The Witcher 2 (PC)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)
Dragon Age: Origins (PC)
Just Cause 2 (PC)
Far Cry 2 (PC)
First post to the new blog. I'm planning on tackling my entire ps3/pc/saturn/wii backlog, at least every game I want to play to completion. I'm hoping that writing about my experiences on this blog will keep me motivated enough to stay on task as I move towards erradicating my intimidating backlog. How did I get in this mess, you ask? To answer that question, we must make a tireless journey in the way-back machine through the ebb and flow to a time when things made just a little bit more sense to everyone.
After graduating high school, I become less focused on games and more focused on... well, college stuff. For once, video games took the backseat to classes, work, the fraternity, and the other social endevors that ruled these years. After I graduated college, things got even more hectic. Four years, three jobs, two promotions, and one fiancee later, I find myself with even less time, but what is still a crippling addiction to video games. I still prowl on major gaming websites daily hunting for whatever scrap of hearsay or uninformed speculation that I deem newsworthy, hoping for a glimpse of the next great gaming experience. I find myself getting so amped up for the next "game changer," running out and purchasing it from my practically next-door Gamestop day-one, only to play it for a few hours before becoming distracted by the next AAA game set to release the next week. Unsurprisingly, this all amounts to a giant backlog. One that, estimating my gaming free time remain constant, will take me THREE YEARS to finish.
I have a problem. I admit it. That's the first step, right?
I started noticing it with Mass Effect 3. I had played and beaten Mass Effect 1 and 2 when they had released, and loved them. I had been patiently waiting for ME3 for years and years with a foaming mouth and bated breath. THIS WAS IT. The final conclusion to something that had consumed me for the last 5 years. Once again, day one, I bought it, brought it home, and played it for 5 or 6 hours the first week.
A week passed. Work got stressful. Next thing I know, I'm once again prowling IGN, checking new releases. Hey, Tales of Graces f comes out next week. Should be pretty sweet.
...wait. What about Mass Effect 3? Shouldn't I be playing that? Why am I disinterested now, after being excited for it for the last few years?
Another week passed, Deus Ex went on Steam sale. Always wanted to play Deus Ex. I bought it. Steam playtime as of right now reads six hours.
I have a problem.
The only logical solution is to not buy another game, sit down, and play these fantastic games to completion. And that's what I intend to do. I plan on making a list of my backlog, and start playing these games again, publishing "Now Playing" and "Final Word" articles during playthrough. Hopefully someone will find these articles useful, perhaps informing them on whether or not to buy these games or maybe inspire others to tackle their own backlog in a similar fashion.
Tomorrow I will post a list of my backlog, before I leave for work. Saturday, the real test begins. Wish me luck.