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Aspiring writer and 2010 Penn State Triwizard Champion. Sometimes I make funny lists.
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I’m 70 hours into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and the game has firmly sunk its hooks, claws, fangs, and Seltas horns into me. After failing to make it past the steep learning curve in the series’ previous entry – calling it quits the first time I went head-to-head with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s unwieldy underwater controls – the franchise’s addictive loop of slaying progressively more challenging monsters and crafting progressively more kickass armor and weapons has finally clicked into place.

And yet, I can’t help but feel a little guilty over how much I’ve fallen for Monster Hunter. Up until now, the only monster-based game that’s held a place in my heart has been Pokémon. I’ve spent 16 years conquering leagues and filling up my Pokédex in every region from Kanto to Kalos. Hundreds of hours have been dedicated to my singular pursuit of becoming the very best. Before they just gave everything out over the Internet, I once drove 45 minutes to the nearest Toys R’ Us to download an Arceus, because that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make for Pokémon God.

But Monster Hunter is well on its way to passing Pokémon Y as my most-played 3DS game, and I’m beginning to come to a terrible realization:

I like being a Monster Hunter way more than being a Pokémon trainer.

Now, there are a few things to parse in such a serious statement. First, comparing Monster Hunter to Pokémon is an absolute apples-to-oranges situation. One is an action-oriented, tough-as-nails title that has more in common with Dark Souls-style boss gauntlets than traditional RPGs. The other is a classic turn-based affair geared more toward children than the adults who take it way too seriously. But both stem from the same basic setup of striking out and forging your own path to domination over a menagerie of exotic creatures, and both are founded on addictive mechanics meant to consume a considerable portion of your life, so I think the comparison is fair.

There’s also the possibility that this is the kind of fleeting obsession with some shiny new thing that threatens every long-term commitment at one point or another. Thus far, my time with Monster Hunter has been a few sleepless nights spent tackling Tetsucabras for their sweet, sweet armor parts. Meanwhile, my time with the Pokémon franchise is a stone foundation upon which a house of good memories is built. From the monochrome halcyon days of Pokémon Blue to my countless attempts to beat all the Frontier Brains in Emerald and Platinum to the pure joy I felt the first time I saw a Magikarp flopping around in full 3D in Y. You just don’t leave the level 100 Milotic you’ve transferred over four different generations of games for some flash-in-the-pan affair.

But the more I think about it, the more I find myself preferring Monster Hunter‘s set of charms over Pokémon’s staid traditions. For years, I’ve adhered to the belief that the only proper way to engage in battles with exotic and dangerous creatures is through strict, league-regulated turn-based combat. Sure, you can save the world by fighting a time-rending space dragon here and there, but success in Pokémon is primarily measured by going through the motions of beating up on 12 chumps too stupid to realize they’re allowed to use different types of Pokémon, and then facing the one guy/girl/Lady Gaga-wannabe who has figured out they can field more than one type on their team.

The challenges in Monster Hunter are far less rigorously structured. Like the fearsome beasts you’re constantly rodeo riding, success in Monster Hunter is a wild and unruly thing. The game may never stray far from its slay-loot-craft format, but every new encounter is a terrifying and dangerous experience, throwing you against a blubber-bloated ice shark tearing through a frozen tundra one moment, to a desert ship battle with a city-sized sand lizard the next, to fights with dragon after dragon after dragon. So many dragons. The first time I brought down the Shagaru Magala – out of potions and clinging to the last scrap of my health, felling the golden menace by bringing my sword crashing down upon its head as bursts of concentrated Frenzy exploded around me – was more dynamic and exciting than anything I’ve ever achieved in my years as a Pokémon trainer.

Which brings me to the key differentiator between the two series – the difficulty. As already mentioned, Pokémon games are primarily meant for kids, so they’re not designed with any real challenge in mind. But the cutesy exterior hides such a rich and complex battle system that it’s a massive waste for each iteration to spend 40 hours hand holding players through a laughably easy campaign before presenting them with anything that will even remotely test their mettle. When it came time to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Alpha Sapphire, there was no sense of accomplishment, because I had breezed through the whole game with a single overpowered shiny Metagross. Sure, I can take extra steps to make Pokémon harder, but I shouldn’t have to find ways to turn the game into an unbearable grind just to wring some challenge out of it.

Monster Hunter, on the other hand, is naturally rewarding. The single player component is a trial-by-fire series of fights designed to knock you on your ass, so that it’s intensely satisfying every time you’ve snatched victory from the jaws of a lightning-charged wyvern. Gameplay is composed of the tried-and-true tenants of pattern recognition and reflex tests, mechanics that have made blister-fingered warriors out of gamers since the days of Mega Man and Punch-Out!! Throw in variables like harsh weather conditions, frenzied monsters, and constantly shifting terrain, and you have a title that’s constantly keeping you on your toes.

Even though it’s far less action-oriented, Pokémon has all the necessary ingredients to be just as thrilling. Anyone who’s thrown down against an equally matched human opponent knows Pokémon resembles a multilayered game of elemental chess at its very best, but the series continues to squander its assets on overly simplistic gym battles and one-sided fights against the world’s most inept criminal organizations.

While Monster Hunter’s core experience is primarily what has me throwing down my Pokédex, some of its more perfunctory aspects have also won me over. A hunter’s victory swag is about a billion times better than a trainer’s. Crafting intricate armor and weapons out of the skin of your enemies is barbaric, sure, but it’s also a way more awesome indicator of your triumphs than Pokémon’s underwhelming badge system. Lashing immensely powerful creatures to your will and using them to climb the ladder of a professional fighting league isn’t worth it when all you have to show for your efforts are the same things boy scouts get when they learn how to tie a fisherman’s knot.

And then there are the games’ varying philosophies when it comes to fan service. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s scheduled buttload of free DLC promises exclusive outfits, quests, nostalgic shout-outs to past titles, and the opportunity for players to hunt while dressed as Nintendo favorites like Link or Samus Aran. Comparatively, Pokémon can’t be bothered to recreate Emerald’s Battle Frontier in the Ruby and Sapphire remakes, leaving out Generation III’s greatest addition to the series in favor of copy and pasting X and Y’s Battle Maison and including a few infuriatingly coy “Coming soon!” signs.

Perhaps most shockingly, I’ve even found Monster Hunter’s approach to multiplayer to be more engrossing. Pokémon sells itself on how it connects you with other players, but the game’s social features have always struck me as purely mercenary. You can either fight your fellow trainers or trade with them. That’s not unifying so much as it’s using others to satisfy your own nefarious agenda. Look no further than the Wonder Trade system to witness the full extent of human selfishness. The ability to randomly swap Pokémon has resulted in a sea of unwanted Zigzagoons and Zubats abandoned in the slim hope that they’ll be exchanged for something better.

Monster Hunter’s emphasis on teaming players up against a common enemy is a far more enriching take on multiplayer. Instead of figuring out how to best take advantage of your hunter compatriots, you’re all united by the common goal of taking down some big, bad mamma jamma together. While combining that level of cooperation with a system that lets you easily join up with a bunch of strangers is usually a recipe for disaster, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has been some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing with people online. There’s very little room for the usual anonymous asshattery, and I’ve found the legion of players going by One Piece or Naruto-based handles to be nothing but friendly. Slaying stuff is so much better when you have someone to fist pump with afterward.

Of course, Monster Hunter isn’t without its own set of faults. The game demands time and commitment at its most basic level, whereas digging into Pokémon’s more advanced world of EV training and IV breeding is entirely optional. Its camera woes are slightly mitigated by the ability to lock onto bigger enemies, but the targeting system can still present as much of a struggle as the fight themselves. And no amount of helpful tutorials can keep the action from sometimes descending down a rabbit hole of incomprehensible menus.

But ultimately, if for some incomprehensible reason I was forced to choose only one monster-centric series to spend the rest of my life with, I think my loyalty may firmly lie with Monster Hunter. It seems like sacrilege to think it, but it might finally be time for me to hang up my hat in favor of a helmet fashioned out of a dragon’s skull. Monster Hunter's unforgiving allure has shown me a beautiful new way to pulverize fantastical virtual critters, and by the time the next generation of Pokémon inevitably rolls around, I might still be too busy harvesting parts for cat outfits to care.

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The internet recently lost its collective shit over a potential live-action Netflix adaptation of The Legend of Zelda. Of course, the internet also recently lost its collective shit over Katy Perry’s goofy dancing sharks, so the bar for things that excite us isn’t set particularly high. But still, if the very thought of a Zelda television series - one that’s being described as just a dumber version of an already existing show - is enough to get the hype train rolling, then I’ve got five way better pitches for potential adaptations that ought to earn me a prime cut of that sweet, sweet Netflix debt.

Because as everyone knows, videogames are so much better when they’re acted out by real people.

Half-Life

The kneejerk pitch for a Half-Life television show would be an action-oriented sci-fi conspiracy thriller, like 24 meets Battlestar Galactica. But if there’s one thing the world needs more of, it's workplace comedies, and Half-Life 2’s dystopian Citadel is a prime setting for all manner of Combine office drone shenanigans.

The show could focus on a department run by an overbearing, desperate-to-be-liked regional Combine manager, who tells inappropriate jokes and wants to crush the human resistance in the name of the Combine empire. Then there’s the nerdy office toady, who grates on everyone’s nerves and wants to crush the human resistance in the name of the Combine empire. And of course, you need a pair of thirtysomething destined-to-be soul mates, who find respite from their dead-end jobs in each other, all while wanting to crush the human resistance in the name of the Combine empire.

Like the original The Office, the show is designed to only run for two seasons, and maybe a few bonus episodes.

Metroid

In the Metroid games, Samus Aran is a badass intergalactic bounty hunter who weilds her plasma weapons with silent stoicism. But years of pigeonholing women into demeaning secondary roles in our fiction has taught us that a female protagonist needs to be saddled with a kid, a man to marry, or some combination thereof, which is why the only way a Metroid television series will work is if it’s basically The Mysteries of Laura in space. In a live-action Metroid adaptation, Samus Aran is your everyday single mom struggling to balance her kids, her love life, and her singular pursuit to eradicate the Space Pirate threat from the galaxy.

The pilot episode will feature Samus trying to escape an exploding Space Pirate frigate so she can make it to her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in time. She may lose all her power-ups in the ensuing blast, but she’ll learn a lot about what it means to be a family.

Grand Theft Auto

The actual content of a Grand Theft Auto series does not matter in the slightest. Grand Theft Auto games are just pastiches of gangster movie tropes, like the collected works of Martin Scorsese run through a blender, and the inexplicable continued renewal of Ray Donovan has proven that it’s possible to spin that method of storytelling into a successful television model.

Just hire a bunch of character actors willing to slum it for a few years, fill in a crime movie Mad Lib, and slap the Grand Theft Auto name on the final product. To make it even easier, I’ve got the entire plot outlined below. Fill in the blanks, throw a few million dollars at it, and you’ve got yourself a successor to The Sopranos:

An ex-(criminal occupation) has to return to his hometown of (shitty American city) after his (noun) is killed by rivals in the (ethnicity) mafia. He’s inevitably pulled back into a life of crime when his (family member), now running the (adjective) gang he left behind, asks him to kill a (adjective) (noun) in return for helping him on his quest for revenge. Can our (adjective) hero resist the temptation of his old ways, or will he succumb to the same greed, violence, and (powerful emotion) that have claimed his family?

Bubsy

If the success of Birdman and BoJack Horseman has shown us anything, it’s that people love meta comeback stories about washed-up actors. In the videogame world, you don’t get more washed up than Bubsy, the feline with a ‘tude that exemplified everything that was wrong with marketing in the ‘90s.

Bubsy was a platformer star in the mold of Mario and Sonic, but whereas those two characters had charm and mass appeal, Bubsy had the sociopathic narcissism of a serial killer. The cat’s short-lived career was ended by a foray into 3D that’s considered one of the worst games ever, which is exactly why Bubsy would be the perfect subject for a dark dramedy about an out-of-work videogame character clawing to get back into the limelight.

We open on a heroin-addled Bubsy watching the failed pilot for his Saturday morning cartoon show for the umpteenth time. We give him a season-long arc about redeeming himself with a fictional reboot of his franchise for current gen consoles, and use it to explore how he’s spent the past 20 years disappointing his children, his ex-wife, and his armadillo sidekick. We turn his catchphrase of “What could possibly go wrong?” into the thematic crux of the series, a question to which Bubsy’s entire miserable life has been the answer.

We make “Human Being” by Cat Power the theme song, then sit back and watch people waste time arguing about whether it belongs in the category for Best Comedy or Best Drama at the Emmys.

The Walking Dead

While this would technically be an adaptation of a comic book series, the Telltale adventure games based on Robert Kirkman’s popular graphic novels have proven that you can use the horror trappings of a zombie apocalypse to tell powerful, character-driven stories in any medium. Whether based on the actual plot of the comics, or Clementine’s story in the Telltale games, or something wholly original, I believe a Walking Dead television series is one that would strike a chord with a lot of people.

Of course, you’d have to be careful about a show like that, and make sure not to cram it full of two-dimensional archetypes, with only one or two characters in the entire ensemble worth caring about. And you’d have to make sure long stretches of each season weren’t spent on time-filling stupidity, like wasting too many episodes on a farm or prison that are inevitably overrun by zombies and abandoned. You wouldn’t want to have laughably inept villains who swerve from sympathetic to cartoonishly evil depending on the whims of the plot. You’d need a leading man who could do a convincing American accent that didn’t sound like a hillbilly gargling hot gravel. And for the love of God, no matter what you do, make sure you don’t have Chris Hardwick host an inane post-episode talk show dedicated to discussing what people just watched.

Because if a Walking Dead series broken any of those cardinal rules, there’s no way it would be one of the most popular television shows of all time, would there?

So what do you think, sirs? Do any of these deserve some of that President Kevin Spacey money? Let me know if you have anything better, but you all know you'd watch the shit out of that Bubsy show.

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If 2014 taught us anything, it’s that Tay Swift’s still got it. If 2014 taught us anything else, it’s that we should never be excited for videogames. The year’s most hyped releases were met with varying degrees of disappointment, apathy, and outright scorn. Some of the fault lies in overzealous studios, who bandied about the word “revolutionary” to describe their giant robot shooters and NSA-inspired conspiracy thrillers, which is a practice we really need to put a moratorium on. “Revolutionary” is word that should be reserved for massive social upheaval. If your game didn’t directly lead to the beheading of at least one tyrannical world leader, then it’s not revolutionary.

Though as much as we’d like to blame public relation carnival barkers and buzzword-laced press packets, the people most at fault are us, the gamers, who year in and year out fall for developers’ sweet lies like the sad suckers we are. We’re not exactly a group known for learning from our mistakes. Whenever met with any kind of let down, we simply dig our heels in deeper and tell ourselves it’ll be better next time, only to fall all that much harder when the next highly anticipated title arrives underwhelming or outright broken. It’s the reason companies still manage to swindle people into buying new consoles at launch, even though everyone knows buying a console at launch is like putting a $400 down payment on having fun in two years.

But this year will be different. After the shit show of broken dreams that was 2014, I’ve shed all lingering traces of hope and have prepared myself for the inevitable disappointment of any game that looks even remotely promising. 2015 is, after all, the year of disappointment. We were promised hover boards and flying cars, and the most we have are phones small enough to carry around in our pockets that are capable of accessing the internet’s infinite wealth of human knowledge at a moment’s notice. Sure, that’s still impressive, but it’s not a fucking hoverboard.

So with that in mind, here are my most anticipated gaming disappointments of 2015.

Persona 5

From a pure gameplay standpoint, Persona 5 will be as good as any other title in the series. Like the Pokémon franchise it shares a few passing similarities with, the Persona games have a formula that’s hard to screw up. You get to play the world’s most inexplicably popular transfer student, who has the uncanny ability to make friends without saying a single word and summon a bevy of erotically-shaped creatures to help you battle against the forces of evil. That blend of social simulation and monster fighting is the kind of stuff that JRPG dreams are made of.

What concerns me about Persona 5 is the huge potential for a disappointing cast. As a series that relies so heavily on forging relationships, Persona games live and die by their characters, and it seems nigh impossible to surpass or even meet the standard set by Persona 4. That game’s Scooby gang of meddling teen detectives is one of my all-time favorite casts, from the ass-kicking Chie to the sexually confused Kanji to the un-bear-able Teddie, and I’m simply not ready to let them go. 

Sure, they’ve had seven years in the spotlight, getting to star in their own anime, fighting game, dungeon crawler, live stage show, fighting game sequel, and that upcoming one where you just straight-up watch them dance. But it’s still not enough! What about a Persona 4 cereal? A Persona 4 series of episodic Telltale adventure games? A Marvel-esque cinematic universe? You can hire Scarlett Johansen to play Rise. It’ll be great! There are just so many more convoluted spinoffs to explore!

Basically, I'm bracing myself for Persona 5 to be Persona: The New Class, with a bunch of pale imitations that only make me miss the originals all the more.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Everyone is salivating over the idea of an open world Zelda, because “open world” is the bacon of videogames. It’s the ingredient you slap onto every dish imaginable to try and make the meal sound more delicious than it really is.

The thought of a 3D Zelda that captures the roaming, exploration-heavy spirit of series golden child A Link to the Past is certainly enticing, but I have my doubts about the execution. People are expecting Dark Souls Light, with a richly detailed and thoughtfully laid out Hyrule that players have to figure out for themselves. But what we’re most likely going to get is a game that’s 25% dungeons, and 75% traversing picturesque but ultimately meaningless scenery to get to those dungeons.

The actual footage Nintendo released to hype the game hasn’t dissuaded me of these fears. The four minutes the company uses to showcase one of the titles they’re hoping gets the Wii U out of the basement focuses on the fact that it takes five minutes of aimlessly wandering on horseback through vast fields and forests just to get from one point of interest on the map to another, and that you can pick apples. Fucking apple picking. We griped that Skyrim and GTA V gave us massive worlds with not a lot to do in them, and one of Zelda Wii U’s major selling points is that you can pretend to do the kind of weekend activities that yuppie couples do when they’re miserable and bored in their relationship.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U will have all the scope and none of the charm of a genuinely good open world game.

No Man’s Sky

“Infinite” is rarely used in a positive context. When you think of anything in terms of being infinite, it usually only serves to remind you how soul-crushingly insignificant you are, or how meaningless everything is, or how alone we all are, adrift in this endless sea of forever.

Which is why the near limitless breadth of the upcoming planetary exploration game No Man’s Sky fills me with nothing but dread. Whatever mathematical wizardry the developers devised to make the game possible is an unquestionable technical achievement, but stranding players in a world they’ll never see the end of is a cruel joke. I got stressed out collecting all 100 Jiggies in Banjo-Kazooie, and now you want me to discover more than 18 quintillion planets?

Of course, the point of the game isn’t to see everything. The point of No Man’s Sky is to... well, nobody is really sure what the point is yet. Early reports indicate the ultimate goal is to reach the center of the universe by gathering and selling resources, because even in worlds beyond our wildest imaginations we can’t keep things from boiling down to making dat money. But that doesn’t sound like much of an impetus. Nor do such thrilling side activities as studying intergalactic flora and fauna. I don’t need to spend precious time looking at pretend plants. At that point I could just go outside and experience actual nature.

Again, my concern is the focus on size and not content. As the most hyped game of 2015, No Man’s Sky seems destined to fall well short of our lofty expectations. I’m mentally preparing myself for it to be nothing more than a very big fish tank – pretty to look at, but lacking anything to keep you invested in its universe.

Final Fantasy XV

A Final Fantasy game in the guise of a road trip movie actually sounds pretty awesome. All Final Fantasy games are essentially road trip movies anyway, only this one drops all pretentions of airships and chocobos and lets you cruise around the world map in some rich kid’s souped-up sports car.

There will still be airships and chocobos, of course, because this is still a Final Fantasy game, but why would you want to hoof it on some glorified ostrich when you’ve got such a sweet set of wheels?

But count me among those who think the Final Fantasy series is beyond saving. The franchise lost something in the transition from its turn-based roots, and I’m not sure Kingdom Hearts-style gameplay is the answer to its battle system woes. I’ve always disliked the insistence on turning your party members into AI-controlled puppets operating purely on the fight itinerary you’ve planned for them. Because you’re not actually playing as them, the only connection you have to your party in recent Final Fantasy games comes from how much you enjoy their personalities, which is a tall order because the personalities of modern Final Fantasy characters are uniformly terrible.

Final Fantasy XV’s core of brooding J-pop rejects doesn’t look to buck the trend of ripping characters wholesale from the Official Guidebook to Irritating Anime Archetypes. Maybe I’ll be wrong and the plot will commit to its road trip narrative influences and be about four young men’s coming-of-age journey to maturity and emotional growth, but more likely than not there will just be the stoic one, the naïve one, the bad boy, and the one who wants to be an airship pilot. There’s always one who wants to be an airship pilot. It’s the Final Fantasy equivalent of wanting to grow up to be a cowboy.

The whole thing is going to be 300 hours long and I’m going to spend way too much time getting all their ultimate weapons and I’m going to hate every single goddamn second of it.

The Last Guardian

Because 2015 will be another year in which we don’t hear anything about The Last Guardian, and thus another year in which a little part of me dies from not having a big, goofy bird-dog to throw barrels at.

Now, what's everyone else's 2015 title sure to cement the realization that all hope is a lie and everything always ends in disappointment? Feel free to sound off in the comments! Or not. What's the point?

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I’m not sure how I feel about Overwatch, Blizzard’s recently announced take on squad-based shooters. On the one hand, Blizzard knows how to craft a compelling IP, and if the playfully corny, Pixar-esque cinematic trailer is any indication, then the company’s spin on Team Fortress will at the very least have plenty of personality. And considering this is their first franchise in seventeen years, it’s exciting to see them tackle a project that isn’t Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, or some kind of combination thereof.

On the other hand, I’m a hot mess when it comes to tactical shooters. As a gamer raised on consoles, teamwork is a foreign experience for me. The explicit lack of a deathmatch mode means the most I can hope to ever get out of Overwatch is fifteen minutes of miserable failure, all while being yelled at by more experienced strangers for sucking at something I never played before.

But my opinion of the game itself isn’t what matters right now. What matters is getting in there and being the first to establish a hierarchy for Overwatch’s cast of international Super Friends. Because this is the Internet, baby, and there’s nothing we can’t distill down to a few basic components to be ranked in a superficial and meaningless list, and that includes videogames that haven’t even released yet. Hell, especially videogames that haven’t even released yet.

So, using nothing but kneejerk reactions and roughly twenty minutes of actual gameplay footage, I present to you...

Overwatch Characters Ranked from Worst to Best

12. Widowmaker

Allow me, if you will, to imagine the creative process that produced Widowmaker:

Director: [Smoking a cigar] Alright, you bums. We need a gimmick for our sniper character. What d’you got?

Designer #1: Well, I was thinking maybe some kind of cyborg cowboy that –

Director: Next!

Designer #2: What about, like, a steampunk –

Director: Next!

Designer #3: What if we do a sort of alien hitman who –

Director: No, no, no! What do I pay you people for? We need something that’ll sell! We need something that’ll really grab people by the balls! We need... we need...

Designer #4: ... what if we turned sideboob into a character? 

[An awed silence falls over the room. The director’s face lights up like a man who has seen the face of God. His eyes fill with joyous tears.]

Director: You magnificent son of a bitch.

[Fin.]

11. Reaper

I’m not sure how a character like Reaper gets made in the year 2014. He looks like he escaped straight out of the pages of a middle schooler’s notebook circa 1996. He wears a trench coat with a hood. His face is hidden behind a skull mask. He’s always talking about death. He fucking bleeds shadows.

Countless character concepts were no doubt rejected during the game’s development, so I want to know how Skeletor’s manic depressive cousin managed to crawl out of the discard pile.

Admittedly, the duel shotguns are cool, but I don’t want to give them too much credit because they’re probably powered by darkness, or the terrible poems he wrote when his girlfriend left him, or the tears of everyone who’s ever watched the opening montage of Up.

10. Mercy

We’re only on the third entry, but I think we’ve already established that Overwatch’s combatants aren’t the subtlest bunch. But even so, a healer character named Mercy? Who has angel wings and a halo? I’m sorry, but I’ve watched YouTube fail compilations with more nuance than that. Literally, videos of skateboarders falling face first into handrails that have contained more breadth and artistic complexity than ol’ Touched by an Angel over here.

Religious and cultural imagery are incorporated into a few of the other fighters, so obviously Judeo-Christianity has to get its shot in, but the end result is inevitably the most boring, white bread member of the roster.

9. Pharah

Pharah is the blue one.

8. Reinhardt

Reinhardt is the token heavy. He’s Overwatch’s Zangief, its Potemkin, its... Heavy. His job is to be a big, slow, and powerful package all wrapped up in an Easten European accent.

While I’m docking the power armored Kraut originality points for fitting a very typical mold, I do appreciate the selection of a rocket-powered hammer as his weapon of choice. I can get behind any guy who models his fighting style after King Dedede.

Plus, the lion crest on his arm sort of makes him look like a ‘roided up Voltron, so he has that going for him.

7. Bastion

Bastion’s a good middle-of-the-pack character not only because the sensitive battlebot represents the tenuous crossroad between humanity and technology, but also the crossroad between a concept I sort of love and sort of hate.

On the plus side, everybody likes a robot with feelings. Wall-E, Johnny Five, R2-D2 and C3PO – there’s nothing audiences eat up more than a heartless machine that thinks it’s people.

But they imbued Bastion with a personality in the laziest way imaginable. It’s like they spent five minutes brainstorming ways for players to connect with the one class that’s just a walking gun, settled on “Eh, he likes nature or some shit,” and called it a day.

If game designers are going to go the sympathetic droid route, they’re going to have to try harder than “doesn’t immediately crush a small bird in its steel death grip,” because a glorified trash compactor already taught the world how to love again.

6. Tracer

Tracer is the cheeky one, which you can tell because her personality boils down to “has an English accent and a pixie cut.” And while the game’s trailer saddled her with an insufferable catchphrase, I’m willing to withstand a thousand shrill cries of “The cavalry’s ‘ere!” because Tracer looks so much fun to actually play.

She’s Overwatch’s Scout, focusing on speed and offense. While the Scout favors the savage thrill of bonking people with a baseball bat, Tracer prefers that most exquisitely humiliating of first-person shooter weapons: the sticky grenade. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting stuck by a sticky grenade. It’s like getting food on your face at a fancy dinner party, only your face explodes as soon as someone points it out to you.

Being able to blink in, slap someone with a pulse bomb, and blink out is a rich, multilayered sort of pleasure that no number of irritating catchphrases can ruin.

5. Hanzo

The Hunger Games franchise has made bows and arrows cool again, so naturally there’s a member of Overwatch’s coterie of gun-toting mercenaries that’s repping the archaic – yet currently in vogue – instrument of death. Though, Hanzo is the stoic, semi-shirtless badass of the bunch, so maybe he’s just above something as dishonorable as using bullets.

He’s essentially the guy bringing a knife to a gunfight, which is usually frowned upon, but I’ve never bought into the philosophy that the opponent with the primitive stabbing tool is the one at a disadvantage. The one with the knife or bow and arrow or spear is the one you want to run the hell away from, because that dude straight up does not give a fuck. He knows he’s going to murder his enemies no matter what they use against him. And as you can see from his gameplay video, the wall-scampering assassin is a Legolas-level death-dealing machine.

And honestly, what kind of list would this be if the ability to shoot dragons didn’t at least break you into the top five?

4. Symmetra

Symmetra earns her high ranking because she’s one of Overwatch’s few wholly original creations. While the others on this list fit typical roles or utilize ideas that have already been seen elsewhere, an Indian architect who bends reality and provides portal support can’t be so easily put into a box.

Honestly, I think Overwatch could have avoided a lot of the unfavorable Team Fortress 2 comparisons if more of its characters were like Symmetra. Understandably, a game like this needs its standard classes – its snipers, its heavies, its healers. But Team Fortress 2 already took those roles and turned them into living, breathing personalities. If you’re going to do a squad-based shooter now, then you have to do something different than what Valve did, and Symmetra proves that the capacity for repackaging typical characters into new and compelling creations was there, but not necessarily applied to everyone.

Still, if sideboobs and angsty shadow bros are the price we must pay for the faintest hint of progressiveness and innovation, then at least we got one ass-kicking lady scientist out of the deal.

3. Zenyatta

Zenyatta slightly edges out Symmetra as Overwatch’s most interesting fighter, mostly on the strength of his unique “killer Tibetan monk robot” hook. Sure, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that a self-aware machine that spouts pseudo-Buddhist nonsense would float around slaughtering people with spirit orbs, but maybe Zenyatta’s personal concept of transcendence just involves transcending a phantasmal sphere straight into someone’s skull. And Lord knows I’m in no position to begrudge anyone their beliefs.

But incongruent phisosophies aside, just look at him! He looks so cool! He floats around in an unflappable yoga pose – coasting along purely on what I assume are good vibes – and enlightens the masses by pelting them with balls at dangerously high velocities. If Jehova’s Witnesses adopted that sort of conversion method, I think they’d be a lot more effective at spreading the good news.

2. Torbjörn

If you’ve made it this far and haven’t already realized that this ranking is based upon the most suspect of criteria, then let me make that fact explicit for you: Torbjörn is the second-best Overwatch character because I love his name.

The whole Viking engineer angle certainly boosts his appeal, but really, it’s all about that name. I don’t even know if I’m pronouncing it correctly, but I don’t care, because the way I think I’m pronouncing it is awesome. Torbjörn! It’s like the name of the party animal character in a Scandinavian ‘80s frat movie. He’s the one who chugs the keg the fastest in the keg-chugging contest that saves the Alpha Delta Ragnarök house from expulsion. Torbjörn!

Engineer classes aren’t my thing, but I’ll play this guy just for the privilege of yelling his name every time I score a kill. Torbjörn!

1. Winston

A hyper intelligent primate who can talk isn’t exactly groundbreaking. If I recall correctly, there was already that entire planet full of them. But there’s no questioning the sheer majesty of a bespectacled gorilla in a battlesuit. He’s the perfect blend of sophistication and raw, primal brutality. With those glasses and a yuppie name like Winston, you know he’s as capable of discussing Chaucer over fine wine as he is of ripping out your throat if you make eye contact with him.

Also, it’s a scientifically proven fact that monkeys make everything better. See also: islands, time travel, hotels, and Metal Gear Solid.

Now feel free to offer your own rankings in the comments! So long as you understand that your opinions are inherently wrong, because I established my ranking first, and thereby my word is law.

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Oh, why, hello Dtoid! I didnít see you come in. I was just sitting here by my fireplace, enjoying a nice glass of cognac as I discuss the dayís politics with other men of great stature. By which I mean Iím lying in bed shirtless, watching old episodes of One Piece over a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Iím currently halfway through the Water 7 Arc, and shit is heating up. That Luffy will stop at nothing to save his nakama!

Anyway, I thought Iíd take some time out from such significant matters to discuss a subject of even greater significance Ė myself! Itís come to my attention that I may be somewhat of a mystery to you all. A man shrouded in secrets. An unknowable enigma of much fascination. Or maybe you donít really care who I am. Well, too bad. Youíre going to shut up and youíre going to sit here and Iím going to tell you 10 super interesting facts about myself and then weíre all going to find out how the Straw Hats can possibly defeat CP9.

1. UsurpMyProse is...



Undoubtedly, the question vexing you the most is ďWho is UsurpMyProse?Ē The subject must keep you awake at night, slowly eating away at the edges of your sanity, driving you to feverish and increasingly incoherent speculation. Is UsurpMyProse a man? A woman? Some kind of hyper intelligent animal who has been taught to communicate through blog posts about Pokťmon? An advanced AI program that has gained sentience and is now trying to understand this emotion you humans call ďvideogame journalismĒ?

Or is UsurpMyProse simply a feeling that exists inside us all? That quiet longing that comes to us in the dead of night, when we think of missed opportunities and words regrettably left unsaid?

Nope! Iím a 26-year-old white guy. I wear glasses and have red hair. I am a Gemini. As far as I can tell, I am an actual person and not just an intangible construct. Though, I do learn something new about myself every day, so who knows?

2. I listen to really sad music



Oh man, guess how much I like sad music! Did you say ďa lotĒ? Well youíre wrong, stupid. The answer is ďtoo much.Ē If thereís one thing that matches my all-encompassing adoration of videogames, then itís my love for bleak, howling-winds-across-my-barren-soul kind of tunes. †Stuff like The Mountain Goats, Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Heartless Bastards, etc.†

Thatís not to say I listen to sad music †exclusively, but if itís a song about a relationship hurtling headlong toward inevitable disaster, or the never-ending struggle that is our continued existence, then chances are that I have it on my Spotify playlist.

3. Iím a Philadelphia Flyers fan



Or as weíre referred to in the hockey community, ďhuman garbage.Ē But seriously, Philly fans arenít all that bad! Weíre simply passionate, which is a word usually reserved for insane artists and crimes in which spouses murder one another, but is equally applicable to the sort of people who spend their every waking moment hoping every individual member of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and fan base gets their faces punched in.†

Though can you blame us? I mean, you take one look at Claude Giroux and tell me the things you wouldnít do for that glorious ginger mane.†

4. My favorite game of all time is Disgaea: Hour of Darkness



There are games Iíve devoted more hours to than Disgaea. Iíve played more technically impressive games, games that have resonated more emotionally, even games that were more fun. But I canít think of a single game I love more unabashedly than the PS2 SRPG that consumed a considerable portion of my teenage years. Disgaea is an over-the-top time sink, the kind of niche title thatís impenetrable to those who arenít already on its wavelength, but is one-of-a-kind perfection for anyone charmed by its stylish 2D sprites, endless side quests and secrets, and overbearingly otaku sense of humor.

I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours plumbing the depths of Disgaeaís endless Item Worlds, but still barely managed to scratch the gameís surface. I was never able to level any of my characters to 9999, never obtained any of the Rank 40 items, and only managed to pass a few of the bonus stage proposals through the Dark Assembly. I accomplished way more in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, but nothing beats a first love, and only Persona 4 comes close to having a cast of RPG characters I adore more than Laharl, Etna, and Flonne.

5. Iíve talked to famous people!



I fancy myself something of a writer. Which is to say Iím an emotionally compromised man child with failed artistic aspirations and a deep loathing of my own writing abilities. But thatís not to say I havenít written professionally before! In fact, over the last year Iíve done a few interviews for the comedy news website Splitsider, in which I've had the opportunity to talk to Badger from Breaking Bad, the creator of Bob's Burgers, and the Editor of The Onion, all of whom were class acts and politely dealt with me rambling at them in a hyperventilating starstruck frenzy.

6. I really am Penn Stateís 2010 Triwizard Champion



In my blogís ďAbout MeĒ section, I mention that Iím the Penn State 2010 Triwizard Champion. I didnít make that up. That actually happened. †In college, I was a member of Penn Stateís Harry Potter club (yes, thatís a thing) and during our Yule Ball (yes, thatís a thing) I participated in the Triwizard Tournament as the elected representative for Ravenclaw (all things).†

The tournament was basically a bunch of dumb party games, but I won because in the final task I built the largest house of cards with the help of a jar of peanut butter. Like a real goddamn wizard.

7. My avatar comes from an episode of The Venture Bros., and my username comes from a Beastie Boys song



For those interested in such things (i.e. no one), my username comes from a line from my favorite Beastie Boysí song, dropped by the late, great MCA:

At the risk of sounding crass, I would like to mention

That I am well aware of your wack intentions

To usurp my prose, you so-and-so

It's my primary bone of contention

I think it might be the most poetic diss Iíve ever heard. And when it comes to a writing pseudonym, you canít get much better than a reference to hip hopís greatest wordsmiths.

My avatar, meanwhile, comes from the first season Venture Bros. episode ďCareers in Science,Ē in which Dr. Venture has to fix the space station his father built. In a gag that resonates with me on a far too personal level, the only way they know thereís something wrong with the station is an unhelpfully vague "Problem" light. As someone who exists in a near constant state of inexplicable anxiety, I find something striking about a warning light that only tells you thereís a problem, but doesnít bother to define it for you.

Unsurprisingly, Beastie Boys and The Venture Bros. make for two pretty apt Rosetta Stones for figuring me out.

8. My most played game on Steam is The Binding of Isaac



Iím not sure what spending 150 hours as a naked child outrunning my homicidal mother says about me, but Iíd rather not find out. I will say, however, that Binding of Isaac is hands down my favorite product of the recent roguelike boom. The gameís heavy Zelda influence and endless wealth of secrets and unlockables have turned runs through its messy Freudian levels into a nightly ritual.

With 85 secrets found, all I have left to do is beat The Chest on a few more characters, finish Sheol and Cathedral with ???, and somehow figure out a way to get those ďno damageĒ achievements on the Depths and Womb. I feel as if some of those will be impossible to accomplish, but there was a time when I thought I would never even make it past Mom. †Now look at me! Iíve nearly conquered everything the game has to offer... just in time for it all to become meaningless when The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth releases. Yay?

9. If I were a Sailor Moon character, Iíd be Tuxedo Mask



I took BuzzFeedís ďWhich Sailor Moon Character Are You?Ē quiz because I thought itíd be funny to include here and be all like, ďHaha Iím Sailor Venus what does that even mean you guys??Ē But now Iím upset because Iím fucking Tuxedo Mask. Really? Iím the punk who shows up after the Sailor Scouts have done all the hard work just so I can wave my dumb cape around and act important? I took a quiz to find out which magical space princess I am, and you give me the useless man of the bunch?

Actually, I guess thatís pretty accurate. You canít argue with a test that judges you by which Justin Timberlake you prefer.

10. I just bought a Wii U



After the smack down Sony delivered at last yearís E3, I was certain my next gen console of choice was going to be a PS4. I was ready to wash my hands of my Xbox 360 and return to Playstationís loving, expertly marketed embrace. But then something happened. Something nobody could have predicted. Something wonderful.

Luigiís death stare.

Now, Iím not saying a single stupid meme is responsible for me driving 45 minutes to the only GameStop in my area with the Mario Kart 8 Wii U Deluxe Bundle still in stock. Itís just that Mario Kart 8 looked so damn fun. As did Super Mario 3D World. And Super Smash Bros. Wii U. And all the classic Wii games I never played because I never owned a Wii.

SO MOVE BITCH, GET OUT DA WAY. †Or add SodaPopkinski to your Wii U friendís list! BUT MOSTLY GET OUT DA WAY.
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After finally finishing A Link Between Worlds, I believe thereís only one phrase that can adequately summarize my feelings toward the seventeenth entry in the storied Zelda franchise:

Goddamnit.

Seriously, Hyrule? Link had to save you again? Do you backwards country bumpkins know how many times that kid has had to pull your milk farms and labyrinthine dungeons back from the brink of obliteration? I just told you. Seventeen. Seventeen goddamn times that a ten year old has had to slay an all-powerful demon king so yíall can go on running your mask shops and gambling parlors and whatever the hell else you use to generate your worldís nonsensical economy.

Look, I know all this Ganon business isnít technically your fault. I know this is all the result of an ancient curse forcing Linkís descendants to fight the same battle between good and evil across all of eternity. All Iím saying is that you selfish dicks could try lending a hand once every few centuries. Maybe instead of wasting your Legendary Heroís time with Pictograph trading quests and baby Maiamai rescue missions you could, I donít know, invest in a goddamn national defense infrastructure.

But seeing as how you people wonít stop depositing your entire gross national income into random bushels of grass, maybe itís asking too much for you to implement a contingency plan thatís not reliant on a sword-wielding child. Still, during this latest round of giant eyeball stabbing and puzzle solving, I did think of a few helpful suggestions that might prevent your society from being completely paralyzed the next time some jabroni with a stupid haircut starts zapping people into paintings. First off...†



Stop sealing away evil

I think this right here is your biggest issue, Hyrule. Start nipping your issues in the bud, and stop tossing every threat to your existence off into the Sacred Realm, or Evil Realm, or whatever other realm you have laying around that day.

I mean, I understand the appeal. I lock away the negative stuff in my life all the time. Rough day at work? Concerns about my appearance? The slowly dawning acceptance that Iíll never achieve my dreams and die alone and irrelevant? I bury that stuff deep. But everything bad finds its way out eventually. One day you're just going about your business when -- bam! --†some big-nosed pig demon is running off with your princess for the umpteenth time, and Iím inexplicably crying because the nearest Redbox is all out of copies of Frozen.



Stop having so many goddamn dungeons

Can any of you explain why your landscape is littered with dungeons? Specifically dungeons packed full of bloodthirsty monsters, deadly traps, and powerful artifacts protected by basic logic puzzles? How do you expect to maintain any semblance of peace when 75% of your civilizationís structures are devoted to the singular purpose of housing pissed-off behemoths guarding all manner of magical MacGuffins?†

How about instead of just waiting for your generationís fairy whipping boy to come along to clear those death factories out, you turn a few of those decrepit temples into hospitals or public libraries or, I donít know, high-rise condominiums. All Iím saying is, maybe you get a Whole Foods up in your joint, and the only problem you guys have to start worrying about is having enough rupees at the end of the week to buy your favorite Lon Lon organic dairy products.



Stop imbuing so much shit with ancient magic

I cannot for the life of me fathom why you people are so obsessed with cramming every little jewel, instrument, mask, or knick-knack you can get your grimy hands on with highly-specific magic. Youíre an agrarian society that hasnít even managed to progress beyond a ruling monarchy in thousands of years across three different timelines. I wouldnít trust you people to harness the power of a toaster, let alone a flute that controls space and time. Itís bad enough when you have all that mystical crap buried away at the bottom of some dungeon, but now any psychopath can just rent a rod that shoots fire from some enterprising interloper that sets up shop right in peopleís houses.

And you want to know why sealing your troubles away never works? Because every time you do, you make a bunch of pearls or medallions or precious gems with the power to unlock them. Why? Bury that shit under fifty feet of concrete and call it a day. Nobody is going to have to get back into the Sacred Realm because they forgot their keys in there.



Stop being so goddamn weird

Iím not usually one to judge. Iím all about letting people do whatever makes them happy. All Iím saying is that youíre inviting a certain level of moral decay when you allow a man to dedicate an entire shop to collecting bees. While also allowing him to dress up like a bee. And letting him commission young boys to collect the bees for him. Do you see what Iím getting at here? I donít think you do, which is the problem.

Quite frankly, youíre all a bunch of freaks. You let creepy babies build retail empires and have boats that can talk and your Great Fairies all look like Ď80s mob wives. You people canít even get baseball right! Itís baseball! The most wholesome sport known to man and youíve somehow turned it into an excuse to deck innocent crabs. How do you expect to maintain any sort of order when you canít even grasp fundamental team athletics?



Stop entrusting everything to an adolescent boy

Youíve all grown way too accustomed to dumping your every responsibility off on a single child, and then having the gall to try and play it up as some kind of prophecy. Passing the buck to a poor young chump isn't some grand design -- you're all just lazy assholes. The only thing adolescent boys are good for are working as grocery store clerks and writing sexually frustrated posts on Reddit, not being the deciding factor in humanity's continued survival while taking care of all your mundane fetch quests.

You know what a normal society thinks when they see some kid walking around in tights and a goofy hat? They think, ďOh, that boyís parents must not care about him very much.Ē Not, ďThis motherfucker is going to take some time out from saving the universe to find the cuccos I just lost.Ē

I know this is a lot to consider, Hyrule. You're obviously steeped in your ways, however misguided they may be. All I'm asking is that you take some time to at least think about what I've said, providing you can go five seconds without being wiped out by a falling moon or cataclysmic flood.†

But I assure you, by enacting just a few of these simple changes you'll be well on your way to functioning like a normal society, where the only threats you'll have to worry about will be war, poverty, natural disasters, racism, civil unrest, materialism, disease, and the inexhaustible number of horrors man is capable of inflicting upon one another.†

You know, the kind of problems that can't be solved by a ten-year-old boy. Or anyone, for that matter.
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