It's Labor Day and I'm not the type grill and have a party. Being deficient both with a grill and socially, its just not in the card for me no matter what day it is. So I much rather be lazy, sit down and play a videogame, or, better yet this year, write about them.
With the new generation of videogames cresting over the horizon, I'm thinking pretty deeply about selling off a sizable chunk of my game collection to help in funding the endeavor. But what about the blog? What about all these games I can review just for the sake of reviewing something
So, from the deepest darkest depths of my memory, a dank, scary place, thats too dangerous to go alone, I'm going to do just that: Review some games (that I haven't played in forever...) in hopefully quick, easy to digest, blurbs. This also lets me showcase my newly minted (literally made up on the spot while writing this), Bea-rating system, which I'll detail in depth when I have more of a clue of what it all means.
Come, watch me fall flat on my face!
Final Fantasy XIII
One of the reasons I bought my 360, because why spend more money on a better experience, right? (I kid.. Sort of..) Any way, this isn't a console review.
Not saying everyone has to join a bandwagon on either side, but after a lifetime having objectively rolled through the punches of every change made to every Final Fantasy, Its pretty easy to feel like XIII
was the worst overall experience I've ever had with the series to date, including XIV
(We should just coin it XIV:BR).
Everything from the janky story, the 20 hour tutorial, the combat system that still baffles me to this day, the non-open world, the open world, the grating characters.. Just everything.. Still makes me cringe to this day.
I hear XIII-2
was a better game, but I'm afraid.. Very afraid.. I also hear Lightning Returns
is going to be a departure from this, but I'm skeptical, with that being the opposing bookend to this game in the "Lighting Trilogy." I'm trying hard to keep an open mind, so we'll see where time takes us.
1 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:
(series till Revelations):
For the sake of saving a lot of everyones time I'm lumping together the entire series that I've played to date.
I've just finished Brotherhood
last week (with Revelations
waiting for me after I finish something else) and man, this series doesn't feel like its going anywhere. And not in that good, "it shouldn't
go anywhere," sort of way. Three games in and it feels stagnant to me already.
There is a marked improvement between the first and second game in every way (Gameplay, environments, story, graphics, the general concepts) but between the second and Brotherhood
things seem to fall down a hill, with Brotherhood having odd ranges of difficulty that shouldn't spike out of no where, environments being a little too cluttered and just a weaker, almost gimped, overall story. I found myself having to go through far too much trial and error to get from point A to B in Brotherhood
The only thing keeping me tied to the series is that I'm now invested in whats happening to Desmond, even though I'm not really all that
fond of him (and even though there needs to be MORE happening to Desmond -I guess I'll see) and the historical settings that the games are built on, but only because I'm a history nut. If you don't care about history, you're going to lose interest, I think.
3 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:
Batman: Arkham Series
(overall, not yet counting -may never be counting- Origins):
Batman is, I really have decided recently after a life long love of comic books, at the top of my favorite characters list, if not my most favorite (Spider-Man's going to find me and punch me dead). If anything, he's simply my favorite DC Universe character, with Green Arrow possibly trailing in at a close second.
The biggest draw to The Bat is that there really is, truly, a Bat for all seasons. He's a detective, a fighter, a philosopher, a (curmudgeon) teacher and, always, a guardian. Depending on who has him in their hands he can be any or all of these things, and it never feels like it strays from being Batman.
In the Arkham
games Batman is a cross section of detective, tech-guy and fighter, which all work perfectly for a videogame. Particularly in the the fighting aspects, which (disclosure) I both suck at and love, all at the same time. The free-flow combat system that Rocksteady came up with is both easy to pick up, but is a big bite in the ass to master. You never have
to be great at it, unless of course your like me and have an aneurysm over missing achievements.
I did find a weird shift in the way the gameplay felt between the first and the second, but I can't quite put my finger on what it was. It wasn't the addition of more area to work with, or more gadgets, It might have just been the flow of combat, but I remember feeling like the first one might have been a tiny bit better, but really both are amazing examples of game making.
The stories are pretty basic Batman stories, but if you really look at it with the eye of a reader, you can see where the pages turn, and where the end-of-issue cliffhangers sit. And that makes it kind of exciting for fans to see played out on screen for the first time (cause the movies don't do it, or do it rarely), but could also peak the interest of a non-fan to the point where they may want to put down the controller and up a book. Thats an amazing thing to have unfold before you, between game and book, when its usually happens the other way around.
I'm not counting Origins
into this series yet, and may not at all. It really depends greatly on what the change in studios does to the game. It may only be an Arkham game in name only, and if it is, then we'll leave it separate. Only what October brings will tell.
5 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:
Another disclosure (your learning a lot today): I'm a metal head. In fact, while I write those words I'm singing along to Nevermore's Dreaming Neon Black (Great song, check it out. It has a very
sad backstory to it). So that said, Brutal Legend really spoke to me as a fan.
Brutal Legend drips solid Metal from every pore, which is why I could see how some people shied away from the game all together. But as a pure lover of music, a person can see how much love for a subsection of sound that was crammed into this game. The things Double Fine pulled from the genre and all of its stereotypes (I even venture to say the worst of those stereotypes), is just a joy to see given life.
The voice acting is top notch, everyone really hit their mark, from the goofy Jack Black and the always marvelous Tim Curry, to the surprising Lita Ford, of The Runaways. The guy who really stole the show though was Rob Halford, front man of Judas Priest, who played 2 characters, General Lionwhyte, one of the games main villains, and The Baron, an ally, who played both roles so differently, you'd think he was doing this sort of thing for decades now.
The gameplay for this one takes 2 forms: 3rd person action and a sort-of real time strategy. The 3rd person action works very well and is befitting of the game, bashing things with your "axe," but the strategy aspects of the game easily threw me off, both mentally and from the tone of the game. They were fun enough, but they were confused and didn't seem to fit.
The multiplayer, which is one of the first and few times I've tried multiplayer on the consoles, is based entirely around the strategy-like play system, and sadly really wasn't all that much more fun to play with other people, then it was to go at it alone versus the A.I.. Just simple co-op gameplay would have really elevated this game.
2 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:
Borderlands is a game that called to my artistic side, which is something I'm imagining not many reviewers have said about game, or series. And I don't mean painting the wastes with the blood of thousands of bandits, either. There is just something about the stylized, almost comic book, nature of the art that grabbed me and put me in a seat.
The game does a wonderful job at world building however. From start to finish you'll feel like you've been to this world before. Each area seems to have its own story, but the areas aren't closed off from the rest of the world, so theres a flow that makes a "one world, one conflict" feel that really helps everything along from start to finish.
The combat is your usual FPS fare, but the game adds in a ton of gun combinations that brings a loot pinata, Diablo,
feel to the game. The game makes you want to go into a place and grind away on bad guys, just to see what will drop. This, however, does tend to get quite boring over time, and if you spend too much time doing it, like I did, you'll end up out-leveling most of the game, and flying through the rest. I was at least 5 levels ahead of everything from a certain point on, and I think that ruined my experience with the rest of the game.
One of the other downsides to the game is the DLC, which you don't have
to buy, but if your getting the GOTY Edition, your going to get any way -and are probably going for in the first place. The DLCs are a great value when you consider how much content they add to the game, but they end up being more of a chore then anything else. They're so super focused on what each DLC brings, even though you can go back and forth between the DLC areas and the main game, its easy to feel where the game starts showing the fault lines if you try.
Even though I took the DLCs as standalone experiences, I found that they were just janky. Considering the DLC can take just about the same amount of time as, if not longer then, the main game to finish, its hard not to feel overwhelmed by the DLC to the point where it smudges the entire experience. Some of the DLCs, like Mad Moxxi's Underdome riot, an arena "Horde Mode", just drag on and on no matter how you go about it. Then theres The Secret Armory of General Knoxxx, that has a fun storyline to it, but is so badly layed out that getting around is tedious when you just want to connected some of the story's dots quicker. The DLCs are a great value when you consider how much content they add to the game, but they end up being more of a chore then anything else.
I've been wanting to get Borderlands 2 and catch up on that for a while, and now that they've confirmed a collected, GOTY, edition, just recently, I guess I'll go ahead and do that soon. But the thing is, even a year after finishing the first one later then everyone else, I'm still really very burned out on the idea of more Pandora. I am willing to admit that if I played this game in its hay-day, with friends, the overall experience probably would have been heightened a bit and would have taken the edge off of the boredom I ultimately felt by the end of my run. Problem is I know a few friends who did play during that time and have said they had a hard time wanting to play it ever again, even saying they'd hold off on Borderlands 2 for the same reasons.
3 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:
Well, with these five heaping helping sized courses from our overstuffed pic-a-nic basket (trust me, that was just the tip of the iceberg lettice), I'm going to get going before Bea rises from the grave and decides to snack on my liver.