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About
I like to play games (a lot) and communicating about them. I also roam the internet in search for interesting news, not only game related. Last but not least, I love drinking good scotch and bourbon whiskies with friends or alone, if no one's available.

Besides that I like to eat, drink, do a wee bit of sports and having fun with my cats in between. Oh and sometimes I study psychology, if I don't work for my living. One day, I might end up an economic psychologist, manipulating people just to make a dime. Scary stuff.

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Being a person that lives a secluded life in a bog full of backlogs for various platforms, I started playing the Last of Us just about some days ago. Yesterday, way past nappy time, at 3 AM, I finished playing the game, still being far from done with pondering the story and how characters develop. I am going to describe what the conclusion of the plot made me feel like and how this game manages to make you behave like a murderer, while not emotionally disconnecting from the guy you are acting as. Of course, the are absolutely MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, so don't read further if you want to experience the full effect of the story.





(Sorry for blurry pic, couldn't get it to work with custom size. Can't say I love this editor *kiss*) By the way, this is also an urgent invitation for discussion. I am still quite invested emotionally and aware that many of my dear readers will have finished playing the game a long time ago, and made up their own mind. Please don't treat this like a wall of text, it's supposed to be an initial statement, urging you to revisit what you felt back then and sync with me onto common grounds where we can talk about shit that went down. I'll try to keep it short, but if TL TR, please feel free to just comment on what the game's ending made you feel like!


Stating the obvious, The Last of Us (TLOU from this point) draws you in from the very start. You witness the outbreak of the infection, the loss Joel has to suffer, and based on that, get catpulted into the meat of the plot 20 years later, in the shoes of a man who has had to deal with loss, fear, lacking resources, military oppression and violence. This person doesn't have much in common with I daresay The Most of Us, yet the devs manage to let us catch a glimpse of what it might mean, and how it might feel, to be a emotionally detached smuggler who steals, scavenges and kills for a living.





Combat is brutal, not only in a (thank god not stilized) gory way, but in a way which makes you fight with gritted teeth through every combat section. You flee from hordes of mutants, wondering how you survived without breathing for 60 seconds after you draw your first breath when finding yourself in a room you finally consider safe. You smash skulls of hunters begging for their lifes, killing them as the unarmed, miserable human beings they are, solely based on the anticipation of them backstabbing you, should they be spared and given a chance. There are shortcomings like providing solid excuses for every man you kill and not letting the player control Joel when he tortures members of David's (the cannibal) band, which make it easy for you to identify with the guy, which happens in virtually any video game, sadly.

The more fierce is the contrast when you get no excuse for what it is you have to do in the final portion of TLOU. There it is where it gets really interesting. From what we know listening to Marlene's recordings, Ellie was ready to die (even though she would not have been given a choice) for the prospect of a cure being extracted from her maimed body. So Joel, and the player for that matter, act solely out of own interest. We have attached to Ellie, who now is the only thing that keeps us going, who means the (game) world to us, and now get confronted with the fact that her life is going to end, in hopes of saving mankind, which for all we know consists of ruthless hunters and scared, spineless inhabitants of the last remaining quarantine zones whom we don't give a shit about.





It's not only that I myself wanted to "save" Ellie, also Joel is portrayed as a believable, consistent character by forcing the decision to save Ellie onto him. He begins to kill the people he sought the entire game, with the goal in mind to get Ellie into the hands of scientists who are capable to extract a cure out of her. But the goal has changed, because Joel has changed, and we as gamers get to experience the change. He opens up his shell which he needed to maintain in order to never let another loss happen. In the end, despite all his efforts to not care about her, Ellie becomes his second daughter, the third opportunity in his life to experience love and warmth - or unbearable pain, should anything happen to her. All of humanity becomes meaningless when someone dear to us is in danger, and this is a unique feeling we get treated to thanks to TLOU.

But it's not all peachy. In stark contrast to the rest of the game where we kill out of self-defence (well, except for the part with the arms dealer), in the hospital we start killing for purely selfish reasons. We know that Ellie wants to sacrifice herself, and we know that she is the closest shot mankind gets to be rid of the infection. We, impersonating Joel, initiate a small-scale genocide for the sake of preventing loss we don't want to experience again, out of love for someone who would condemn the very thing we are doing right now. We even kill Marlene, who has no less feelings for Ellie but a stronger sense of responsibility towards mankind, stronger than Joel could have ever developed it, given his history.

We escape with Ellie, praying that she will not ask sensible questions about what happened at the hospital, but who are we kidding. Of course she asks, and understandably, Joel lies. He lies because he knows Ellie could not stand his presence any second longer than necessary, would she be faced with the fact that Joel forsake the very reason both of them endured so much pain, faced paralyzing horrors and killed so many people, however cruel they were.





And this is what makes the ending so excellent, in my honest opinion. It's a fitting ending for the world it takes place in, as fitting as it is unpleasant, and unpleasant it is to a very high degree. It's like we as Joel erected an utopian world which is just waiting to collapse the very instant the truth comes to light - not even considering every day's danger of getting ripped to pieces by infected or raped and killed by bandits of any sort. We experience how Joel clings onto the very last straw which provides meaning to his life on an earth plagued with famine and disease, populated by humans bereft of any morals or ethics, because you can eat neither of those. In the end, he tries to survive as hard as the hunters and without remorse for those in his path of destrcution - because once we start to care about something, morals become nasty little spikes, threatening our cause.

So, the obvious question is, was Joel's decision justifyable? Would we have done the same thing? Well, I for one probably would have tried (and failed, because not every body is a Joel with capital "J"). Joel and Marlene beautifully portrait two opposing answers to every day social dilemmas. We often have to choose between loved ones we care about and a bunch of other people. Those are situations with no possible "good" option to solve them. We either prefer the bond we share with a loved one or the responsibility we have towards a much more meaningful number of people. What we regard as more important is up to every one of us, and only as wrong as there are people not sharing our opinion.





I myself would act like Joel, but there is no argument on earth which could objectively justify that decision.

So now, I would like to get alot of opinions and personal experiences from you guys. Anything TLOU related is welcome, for my part I am interested in any opinions, not only regarding story but also gameplay, design (I love it) and any other aspect of the game I obviously didn't mention in a story focused impression.

Thanks for reading :)

PS: The final pic is a fanart piece originating from deviantart, created by JinKang - just giving credit where it's due.
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I'm a little bit upset by comments submitted in this here thread, featuring the upcoming video game "Continue?". People have criticized the comparison to "Gone Home", another out-of-the-box indie game, seemingly aggravating certain folks because there's not much diversity when it comes to gameplay - already dismissing the new game because for them, Gone Home was not worthy of the title "video game".

While I don't care at all about "Continue?", I do care about "Gone Home", and even more about tolerating other people and what they deem worthy of loving, doing, playing.

Before you bring that up, I know that the opinion that certain games are not games is as legitimate as more tolerant points of view. You know, as long as it is left open to discussion and not spelled out in a disrespectful way.

I do, however see potential harm in limiting what a game is allowed to be, whereas I am having difficulties identifying any potential harm that comes from having an open mind, especially when it comes to a harmless topic like video games (ignoring the fact that video games breed hostile youth, shooting innocent people *cough*).

The thing that troubles me is of a very general nature. Opinions we verbalize in front of a large croud (and the internet is a gigantic cloud of people, among others) directly influence mindsets of very many people, which usually is a good thing. Thanks to that phenomenon, we have learned which plants are safe to eat vs. poisonous, or more recently, which kinds of crimes are committed around the world, begging a response and consequences.

What that also means is that by voicing limits we force upon media in order to define what's a video game and what isn't, we preliminary limit the variety of possible games being made in the future, which, we hopefully agree, is a bad thing! We already have a handful of genres dominating the AAA scene, while nobody dares to invest big money in, just to name examples, isometrical RPGs or turn based strategy games, with very few, recent exceptions in the latter category, like XCom (and thank Jim Sterling for that).

I am certain that opinions we voice have very hidden, but still existing effects on people not even present or included in the discussion. By dismissing a couple of video games or game concepts because they are not gamey enough for you, you not only behave intolerant towards people who love to play these games, you also add to the amount of restrictions and creative blockades already in place when it comes to video game design.

We are blessed to witness the expansion of boundaries thanks to indipendent developers who are not or only to a small amount dependent on stake holders and publishers. Kickstarter and other ways to directly fund games allow for the development of niche titles which have been lost for nearly two decades, like Star Citizen and Project Eternity.

Should we not notice the potential of new and old, nearly forgotten game designs now more than ever, instead of growing complacent and stopping the process in it's tracks? There is no reason to loathe games and genres you don't like, especially if you're a core gamer, there's plenty of existing titles, as well as titles in the coming. By allowing a small portion of developers to produce new, alien games, your ability to buy and play the games you want is not threatened in any way.

So please. Can we all play beside each other peacefully, and when we feel brave enough, look at what our neighbors are playing, but not to reject what we see, but to try and understand what makes that thing being played so special to them?







domanz
12:58 PM on 12.30.2013

Since my comment in this thread has recieved some attention, I decided to make a more complete Preview of this game. I have experienced the game only halfway on my first playthrough in progress, so I cannot provide you with a complete review but rather impressions and comments I recieved from another player who has completed the game several times.


(Changing font size did not work with my browser configuration, so bold text for headers will have to do, unfortunately. And sorry for blurry screens, since fitting ones I found on the net were trademarked, I had to make my own, with an old camera)






So basically...

For those who don't know, Bravely Default is pretty much your standard Final Fantasy from the early days, with different characters, classes, equipment, spells and an overworld.
If that was all the game had to offer, I would have stopped playing a long time ago. Luckily, there's more to it, a lot actually.

Assuming that people interested in this game already are familiar with J-RPGs, I'm going to focus on the very welcome additions this game offers to a functional, but dusty formula. I'll not lose a word on the story except telling you right here that it is engaging, so as not to spoil anything and help keep this preview short.

To get it out of the way, here are the basics you probably already know: Bravely Default is, at it's core, Final Fantasy 1. After the opening you get introduced to the four characters which you will control for the rest of the game. Each have their own stats and can be outfitted (which will not change their appearance) with gear. They travel around the overworld to enter cities and dungeons, oftimes using an airship which can also travel by sea. Neat! There are random encounters and tough boss battles which test your preparations, and stats determine in which sequence characters and enemies act, how much damage they take etc.

Let's move on to the things which make that game great.





Appearance

That one has already been mentioned and made appearent in aforementioned thread: Bravely Default looks awesome. Art design is wonderful, staying true to older final fantasy titles and boasting some very beautiful vistas like an impressive clockwork city and delicate gardens. Elemental attacks have quite detailed effects attached to them, and costumes look great, reflecting the class of the respective wearer very well. Which brings me to...





Jobs

Jobs. That's a big one. Let me explain.
Throughout the game, you will meet optional and nonoptional bosses, which after defeat, bestow upon you (unwillingly, those poor sods) an asterisk, which holds the wisdom required to use their job (equals class). As an example, after defeating the time mage boss, every one of your characters can change their job to time mage, right here, right now, as long as you are outside of a fight. Jobs influence your stats (typical example, mages have weak armor, duh), as well as your appearance. The character equipping an bosses job will look just like the ex capo, but with a prettier face. So go clip them.

Jobs allow you to use active and passive abilities but you can't use all of them.
For one, you have to level up your jobs in order to recieve an new active or passive ability for every job level. Secondly, you can only equip two jobs at a time. The main job will level up if your party defeats enemies, while you can use active and passive abilities from the secondary job you have equipped. E.g., you can have White Mage as main job, leveling it up by defeating enemies which grants you job points (in addition to XP which level up character level, in turn improving stats), while at the same time using abilities from the Black Mage Job. Passive abilities are limited to one at the beginning of the game, but you will get more slots by progressing the story.

That one addition makes the gameplay very engaging, because you can combine jobs so passive abilities are in harmony with your active ones and within the entire team. Job levels are independent to character levels and between each other, so you are not at a disadvantage when learning a new job late in the game, leveling wise. Developing a job from level 1 to level 2 always takes 30 job points, no matter when, no matter if it is the first job you learn or the 21st. The game invites you to experiment and witness the fruits of your labors, very much so when you pwn a boss, be it because you learned awesome new abilities or because you just combined them in a more fitting fashion, the latter one probably being the thing when playing in



New game+

After beating the game, you can start it all over in new game+ modes, which allows you to hunt jobs you could not get before or steal powerful items from bosses. I can't tell you much more, but since there are so many people playing their 6th or 8th playthrough, it seems to be engaging and worth your time :)





The Wii Ledge

You get to rebuild an entire village on a separate screen, by removing blockades and rubble, and by leveling up buildings which grant you gear, special moves, ingredients and items. Any action will take some time, between one and 99 hours. You start out with 4 (?) villagers, and for every villager you add to a task, building time gets cut in half (there are diminishing returns though after the 3rd villager added this way, else it would be very easy to race to overpowered rewards)
You can increase the number of villagers, one of many features including...


Online functionality

Once every 24 hours, you can connect to the internet and invite up to 4 players around the world, which add village population and grant you one move of any of their characters they chose, which you can use as an action in any battle. There's also some stuff you can do with friends connected to you directly, but I can't report on that, sorry.
Connected to the village, invited players will send nemeses to your village (those black flying imbeciles with tiny wings on the upper screenshot). Think of them as viruses which grant XP and job points (no money, darn it) upon defeat. They are very tough and will make you forget any intentions to never switch difficulty to easy.


In closing...

Last but not least, do consider that this type of game usually doesn't draw me in enough for me to get one hour in, with very few examples like Last Remnant, which I nearly completed. But these points I mentioned keep in engaging and entertaining, and you will notice that most of them will stay relevant even after the first playthrough, so you get a good bang for your bucket. Buck. I don't know if you can pay in buckets though.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have even more reason now to look forward to that game, even though you just read a very rough review. As a responsible whisky taster I am most certain that looking forward to something is as tasty as actually trying it, so - slŕinte mhath (spoken: sluhnge wah), and enjoy.
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domanz
10:20 AM on 04.29.2013

Much has ben said already about Dark Souls, and I am aware. But that won't stop me from officially announcing my love for Dark Souls, and explaing why I am so absorbed in this game that I'd rather spend my time writing about it instead of just playing the damn game.

On a serious note though, this blog is only for fellow DkS-lovers who like to indulge in anything related and for people who have never heard of that game or don't bother learning more about it. For anyone who is saturated, please don't let me make you hate me and spend your time doing something else than reading on :)

So instead of writing this like I would a beginners review, I'm going to focus on the development of the relation between myself and the game (we have been together for short of a year now).





I first heard about Dark Souls from a friend, after spotting news of it here and there, without caring much about it, since it didn't ring a bell and was a PS3 exclusive. He told me how awesome that game was and how much I, a wannabe 24/7 player (alas real life won't see that happening) and RPG lover, would enjoy it. It kills you alot, he said, and still, you will want to keep on going. From that moment onward I sinned, because I coveted the game of my neighbor - luckily, I'm not catholic anymore.

Can you imagine how thrilled I was when word reached me about a petition, begging From Software to port the title to PC? I signed immediatly and hoped that our masochistic wishes would not fade away unheard by the developers. Of course, we all know how it ended. From Software took pity with PC gamers, obviously of the opinion that a lack of Dark Souls is more cruel than the amount of potential for frustration inherent to the game. It was ported (badly), released, and I died.

But I was prepared to die. Deep down, many of us want to die (in a game). It's what makes living worthwhile, what creates contrast. Just like light and shadow, two of the main motives in the story of the game, life and death are salt and pepper to the experience of Dark Souls. Would Jim Sterling not have changed my opinion that every game needs to kill you in order to be positively challenging, I would have said so now. What I'm thinking instead is of a more general nature. A game needs to make you feel what you can lose, in order to bestow a proper amount of value to what you can gain, or at the very least resist to lose.





In Dark Souls, there are so many hindrances, so many obstacles, traps and challenging situations, that I know very well what I have not lost should I remain unharmed in the end. Because for every time that happens, I got pushed off a narrow walkway, butchered, hammered into the ground or toasted several times before. Dark Souls is a great game in many ways, but to me, this is the essence which allows it to be the behemoth of awesome it is. The value that lies in every feeble or giant triumph, be it killing off a sniper with being intoxicated or finally beating Smough and Ornstein, even on the 6th playthrough.

Sure, the longer I play, the less likely it gets for me to fail at a challenge. While this being so provides a certain amount of pride and confidence, it does not get overwhelming. I still die occasionally if I am not careful, and sometimes I die several times in a row because I forgot how to treat Smough and Ornstein to a proper round-the-pillar in order to make sure Mr. Lion sinks his lightnings into a marble column instead of my spine.





Additionally, I discover more and more the joys of online interaction with other players. This is the ultimate challenge that will never become uninteresting, at least that is what I am most certain of right now. First of all, I am rather new to playing vs. human enemies, and second, including the delay inherent to online battles is a challenge in itself. Nothing like bowing to an enemy, coating your weapon with a lightning enchantment like a poser and summoning five homing crystal spheres, just for them to be avoided nimbly and getting ob-lit-er-at-ed in a matter of seconds. The bowing and coating took the double amount of time it took to finish me off. *sob* Stop it, before I shove "well, what is it?" up your arse.


That's it for today, folks! I have officially announced that Dark Souls be my game for now and forever, and I do not hesitate from sharing (not filesharing though) it with you, dirty me! Feedback about my writing, comments about the awesomeness of Dark Souls and humanity would be appreciated.

See you in Darkroot forest.


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This blog is a reply to Cliff Bleszinski, among others co-creator of Gears of War, who in his own blog on tumblr supported the video game industry being the revolting capitalist behemoth it nowadays is.

If you want to sync 100% with Cliffy B's thoughts, follow the link above to his blog. In a nutshell, he pointed out for us that the game industry is just an industry like any other, primarily focused on making money (orly). And it is fine this way, he continues, because we as customers have the power to change it by deciding where our money goes, and more importantly, where it does not.

This is a point that cannot be stressed enough, especially in times where day one DLCs, manipulative pre-order baits and effortless ports or re-releases embody a daily menace. Sadly, there are some corroded wheels to consider which jam that seemingly effective mechanism.

The most prominent being just the fact that the flow of money determines the direction the market faces. Because you know, the bad thing is, this world-changing rainbow of colorful cash is nowhere near games which risk being not the norm. It's nowhere near putting effort into a characteristic title which stands on its own in the ocean of mainstream titles, nowhere near satisfying single player experience, nowhere near titles which last you longer that 10 hours or offer some kind of replay value (and don't get me started on senseless collectibles, for f*cks sake!) and nowhere near specific genres but rather pointing towards melting genres into, for example, a role-shooting-beat-up-the-adventure or something.





That IS the problem. I don't know how to describe this mass of people without discriminating against someone or missing out on entities, but we usually call them casual gamers. They seem to have a surprisingly satisfying pay-check on the end of each month and they don't bloody care what to spend their money on. Most of these individuals appear to gadly pre-order titles they know nothing about and are obviously of the opinion DLCs featuring skins or an overpowered armor which ruins the game are genious ways to spend their cash. Oh, and they love mainstream titles. Don't feed them casual gamers, eh! (This might seem discriminating, but let me give you an example. Should bike manufacturers stop producing high quality bikes just because the majority of their customers buy average stuff? I hope your answer is "hell no")

But the industry feeds them, of course. For good reason, as Cliffy B pointed out. Concentrate your efforts into the direction the bulk of the money comes from, and get rich, which, if you remember, is, why get out of bed early in the morning in the first place. And they do know where to put their efforts into. Cliffy sure as hell is right when he states publishers hire market analysts who tell them exactly how their customers behave. They hire these people to be enlightened in which ways they can manipulate the crowd into spending $$$ on their product, these being teasers, trailers, (increasingly fake) demos, shoppedy shopped screenshots, pre-order bonuses, DLCs and their sometimes bigger brothers "expansions". And most importantly, create a game everybody can play, don't bother with genre titles, they are niche products, stay the HELL away from them or your family might get hurt.





It's the same problem the country I live in (Austria), or any democratic-ish country for that matter suffers from. Just recently our population got to vote whether to continue forcing adolescents/young adults to serve in the army for 6 months or do social work for 9 months - OR rather stop that bullshit and introduce a "Berufsheer" (meaning no more underpaid forced-into-duty soldiers and social workers) which without exception consists of well-paid soldiers. You know what happened? Against all reason, the tradition to force young people into underpaid service was allowed to continue. Voting behaviour was analysed, revealing that the majority of pro-voters were elder people. People who have barely any connection to young people, who know nothing about their ambitions or challenges and who will obviously never suffer from being forced to do underpaid work or to discontinue their education on the state's whim.

Do you see the similarity? Gamers who don't consider video games their main hobby decide how the industry supporting our main hobby develops, for crying out loud. That's because, sadly, these know-it-all (and they do know it all) analysts made developers and publishers aware of the fact that most money can be made tapping into undisclosed market, transforming non-gamers into gamers by focusing on making games more intuitive (aka dumbed down), easy to play (aka taking out the garbage becomes the most daring task of the day) and easy to get (aka availability). Games are shifting to mobile devices for just that reason, and while I think that everyboddy being able to game is a good thing, it ruins the market for hardcore gamers, who seek challenge, specific genre titles and devices, known as consoles, pretty please just for gaming.

Considering all that, it comes as no surprise that a large number of the best titles hardcore gamers get to experience nowadays are indies. Excellent ideas getting kickstarted, some developers search for new ways to get funding and fondling for their games and ideas. While it saddens me that AAA titles mutate into up-yours titles, it's great to see not-so-much-profit titles getting stronger and stronger, and especially, being acknowledged as serious stuff by more and more gamers. I had more gameplay fun with Chivalry than I had with Skyrim, and Amnesia (as some of you may have read) teaches most triple-ass horror titles how to cower in fear, just to name examples.





Now onto my closing words. I am sure I told nothing new to many of you. I wrote that blog equally to let off steam, to hone my writing skills, to make some people aware of what may be going on and to get into contact with you guys, so please let me think what your thoughts are on that topic. I myself am trying to remain optimistic, and upcoming titles like The Witcher 3 or existing titles like Dark Souls give me hope that my optimism towards the future of major titles is justified. That does not mean that I am going to swallow everything the game industry throws at me though, and I URGE you to do the same. For the limited power we have, let us use it. Put thought into what you buy, even if you have enough money to don't give a damn. You mold the future of video games with your wallet. If you find errors in this blog, you may give them to a wealthy person. Peace out.
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Dear community,

this should have been my first blog here on desctructoid. Unfortunately, I had difficulties using the editor with both firefox and IE.

So, with Andy Dixon's permission, I dare link you to my personal blog on blogger, where you can read my story about playing "Amnesia: A Dark Descent" - I hope you forgive the inconvenience. Have fun reading and please, leave feedback. If you like what you read, I would be glad if you followed me on blogger and hereby motivated me to write more entries.

Best wishes,
domanz