I picked up my copy of Infinite earlier today and have been playing it pretty much since. It's fantastic. Bioshock created a flooded cavern of love in my heart and I have to admit that I was a little worried the sequel wouldn't measure up. Great news, I was wrong!
Elizabeth is great. Hands-down the best AI partner I've ever seen in a game. If every AI tag-along could be as unobtrusive, handy, and touching I don't think I'd complain about an escort mission ever again. The number of things they got right with her is simply staggering. From the important story elements of being a character you care about and actually enjoy spending about 80% of your time with, to the neat game-mechanic stuff of her tossing you weapons or tonics when you run dry, to the little tiny details. There has never been a time I've noticed yet of Elizabeth blocking my path, or getting stuck on a rock, or pulling some creepy ass Watson teleporting shit.
- Seriously dude, you're creeping me out.
It's an amazing technical and artistic accomplishment, and you can feel it reverberate through the entire game. One thing I think Elizabeth allowed them to do was make the game MUCH harder. I'm playing through on the default difficulty and the enemies have not hesitated to mess me up. While the original Bioshock hesitated to send more than three goon at you at a time, that's the norm with Infinite, often times more. Mix in some nasty heavy dudes or one of those jerk-ass motor launching guys, add the much more expansive and complicated terrain that doesn't just funnel guys down a corridor at you but lets them intelligently move and take cover, and things get out of control fast. Despite that, I haven't died too often, a result that is largely due to Elizabeth pulling my ass out of the fire with a last-second med-pack or reload, time and time again. It's a pretty neat trick – the action gets crazy hairy, but you have a reliable helping hand to make sure you don't die too often.
To me, the slickest part of this new Bioshock adventure might be Levine's ability to resist the temptation to try for another "would you kindly" moment. Rather than betting the narrative on one big crazy plot twist that makes you reevaluate the entire concept of the game, Infinite starts weird and builds from there. From the opening quote to the frequent reappearance of a pair of character who clearly have no business showing up everywhere they do, down to the uncertain nature of Elizabeth's powers, it is very clear that not everything is as it seems from the get-go.
I think it was a very smart piece of writing. You just couldn't shock people again like the original Bioshock, it's expected now. People would be looking for it. Any big single twist would have been inseparably compared to Bioshock and probably unable to live up to the hype. Instead, Infinite has a very groovy story steeped in weirdness that lets its mysteries and twists unfold one at a time at their own pace.
It feels like it's been a decade since we've seen the rise of the crowdfunded game. I'm always surprised when I remind myself that crowdfunding has been a thing long before the first crowdfunded video game, but nowadays a crowdfunded game seems like a dime a dozen.
Of course such a phrase is an incredible disservice to some of the great games that have come out thanks to websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Games like FTL, Shovel Knight, and even Undertale are around thanks to crowdfunding; thanks to people gathering around and literally putting their money where their mouth is, a game they want gets funded and inevitably the greater landscape of gaming benefits from it. Most of the time the landscape gets to benefit from it anyways.
Don't worry though, this month's bloggers wanted prompt isn't an exploratory thesis on the effects of crowdfunding on video game development. We just want you to talk about your favorite games, as long as they were crowdfunded. This topic can be simultaneously broad and narrow, because you can talk about whatever game you want, however you want, as long as it was crowdfunded.
For me, FTL is the original crowdfunded game, and it was great. It was somehow minimalist and incredibly detailed at the same time, and it was all done because a man wanted to do it, but needed the money, and thousands of other people wanted to see where his idea would go. Shovel Knight to me feels like this natural evolution of the classic 8-bit gaming of yore without also throwing myself back to a time when gaming was honestly comparatively archaic. And everyone's talked to death about Undertale, so we all know where I'd go with that.
To participate in this month's bloggers wanted, just start a blog! Oh, and title it "Crowdfunded: [your blog title here]." I bet this month is going to be pretty diverse, since it's basically writing about your favorite crowdfunded game. So I hope to hear about some good games revisited or amazing games no one has heard about.
Remember: Persona 5 was not crowdfunded, but excuse me as I plow through it.
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