I can't think of anything I really want to talk about today, so how about a listicle?
-4 Bad games I have sort of hated, but kept playing anyway-
- MWO -
Might as well start with the big dog.
I'm not sure if Mechwarrior Online really deserves to be on this list. It has more than it's share of problems, but it still has a lot of potential. Until we get to final release, we have to remember that it's in beta. A beta that has lasted more than a year now. That they support with a store where they take criminal amounts of cash money for basic customization and other grimy F2P business practices. A beta that is entering into a second round of "founder packages" with a tentative release date a child of four could tell you they're not going to hit.
Yeah, on second though, it's going on this list.
MWO is my abusive codependent relationship. Chalk a block with terrible design choices, long-standing bugs, horrendous balance issues, and a massive gulf between the promised "vision" and what it actually is – MWO is a hard game to love. But if I'm going to be honest, I do love it.
Clearly, I keep coming back again and again. Sure, after a particularly bad patch or a painful series of crashed matches, I'll kick the habit – for a bit. I'll stamp my feet and shout and threaten to uninstall it. I'll take a month or two off and ignore it. But sooner or later, MWO creeps back into my life. "Hey Wrench, this latest patch buffed short range missiles, and the new mech this month is the Victor-9B with the AC20 in the arm, just like you like. Yeahhh, tha's right..."
Past all the problems and issues, I genuinely love the way this game (theoretically) plays. After years and years of twitch shooters filled with sudden deaths and super fast gameplay, the deliberate plodding and massively durable mechs of MWO has been super refreshing. It's fun to duke it out with other pilots, trying to defend vulnerable parts while you surgically dissect each others weapon systems and exposed internals. Nothing else scratches quite the same itch.
I'll be glad when Titanfall is released and I can finally talk about a stompy robot game other people care about.
- Evil Zone -
Evil Zone crash landed into my life at precisely the right moment to cause maximum destruction. The height of my weeaboo teenage nadir, during a summer when I had no gainful employment, had exhausted every possible last thing I could have out of my PS1 library, and discovered the game being sold for $5 dollars in a local Blockbuster bargain bin. The perfect storm of desperation and idle hands, localized and focused in a sad and lonely basement den. I wasted day after day, week after week, of that summer, mashing through the game's repetitive dull paces.
I have never played a game quite like Evil Zone. Shamelessly unpolished, arrogantly pandering, and proudly creatively bankrupt. Evil Zone was a "fighting game" played with a single attack button (take that for simplifying the genre Dive Kick!) and a few waggles here and there of the directional pad. The cast of purposefully stereotypical anime characters and blatant licence knockoffs would wildly cast beams of light, gauntlets of fire, and (most entertainingly) crows, at each other until someone's health bar was depleted and they stopped moving. It was as if the cheap gaudy merchandise of a dollar store's toy-department suddenly became sentient and hostile. Undeniably one of the worst games ever to be pressed to disk.
The thing that makes Evil Zone stand out in my mind though isn't how terrible it was, but how proud the designers seemed to be of it. For a game featuring ersatz-Bubble Gum Crisis and Power Ranger characters, the nonsensical storyline of the game was HUGE. It took multiple plays through multiple modes with every single character to unlock the "complete" story. There were reams of dialogue told over static images or the occasional ten-second clip of animation to be found. And just when you thought there was nothing left to mine, there was a voice actor and designer gag-reel to be unlocked. A in-character discussion of the game and storyline that was over 30 minutes long!
Evil Zone ruined a summer of my life. But I can't help but suspect that it stole something more dear from the creative team who seemed to fervently believe they somehow captured lighting in a bottle.
- Gungriffon Blaze -
An early indicator of a long-running destructive pattern in my gamine life, Gungriffon Blaze was a poorly constructed stompy robot game full of neat ideas and terrible execution for the PS2. For a dark chapter of my life, I "played" it like you could say Ozzy Osborn "occasionally sampled" cocaine.
Gungriffon Blaze was a bizarre relic of the PS2 era where you piloted a giant mech again and again through six possible missions (five discounting the training area), all of them directly accessible from the start of the game.
I'm sure there was some kind of storyline, but I really don't remember it. You're a robot pilot, choose your stompy bot, choose your load-out and weapons, go blow up a bunch of other robots. Simpler times.
The thing that really grabbed me was how it played, so idiosyncratic and odd. You didn't just hold forward or backward on the D-pad to move – why would it be that simple!? No, you manually set a gear and the robot would move in that direction and speed until you slipped it into another gear. Want to strafe? Better take a mech equipped with roller-balls on the feet. Want to fly? Enjoy the sudden jarring sensation of going from a stompy walking tank to a kite caught in a small typhoon. It was ridiculous.
Weapons had ideal ranges, fall-off, droop. The HUD was a smattering of unlabelled bars, numbers, and blips that you had to kind of just figure out on your own. A radar would have been far too simple. Why not have a "Mass Indicator" instead? A horizontal bar that jumps and dips when pointed in the direction of large moving objects creating seismic disturbances? It was obnoxious and terrible in all the ways I secretly love.
Distinctly Japanese, equipment, weapons, and new mechs were earned through a complicated system of item pick-ups. As you played, enemies would drop supply crates with various logos and colours on them that you could snag up. At the end of the mission, these crates would appear in a big list and you would have the option to select a limited handful of them to open. The more potentially valuable the crate, the fewer you got to open. Trying to unlock new gear was not only a constant struggle against the random number generator, but it somehow also felt like your own fault when you collected yet another duplicate or un-wanted piece, way to pick the wrong crate idiot. Maybe somebody at Valve was paying attention.
Did I mention that weapons you took into a mission where consumed afterwards? And said reloads were earned through that randomized item process? Welcome to my OCD hoarding nightmare! Collecting box after box of the good gear and NEVER EVER TOUCHING IT.
It also featured a unlockable collection of model kits and toys that would be displayed in a mock shelf set-up. From the second I saw it, it became a life goal to collect each and every fictional robot, helicopter, tank, and shipping truck there was to collected. Gods of the Holy RNG, be good to this poor lost soul.
Troublingly, I'd still play it today if I had my PS2 hooked up. Goddamn I loved that shitty shitty game.
- Ragnarok Online -
When someone utters the phrase "Korean threat," it always takes me a second to realize they're talking about Kim Jong and his nuclear tests, and not Ragnarok Online. I'm still not sure which is more pressing on my mind.
Ragnarok Online represents another summer ruined - extending out into the fall and winter at the peak and eventually coming back for a nostalgic round two. And this time the damage was even greater, I brought company.
Ragnarok Online was a Korean grind-fest RPG me and my brother got crazy into for some unknowable reason. Maybe it was the free-trials, maybe it was the super cute concept art or the delightful character and monster sprites. Maybe we just didn't have anything better to do with our lives at the time. The damage was done all the same, and my left-click finger has never fully recovered.
I loved being a merchant in RO. I loved sitting in an item shop waiting to by an item from the store at a 25% discount and sell it to another player for a %10 one, enjoying the 15% cut for myself (arguably, I probably could have made more zenny hunting monsters in the wild on my own, but it's the principal of the thing).
I have unreasonably fond memories of the month me and my brother spent grinding up our super-tanky "Vitality Knights" and riding around on strange bird creatures lancing suckers en mass. I remember later playing on a sketchy "private" (pirate) server that had the drop rates and XP graph turned up for about 4X faster progress, and the boss monster spawns spitting out a Hell-Demon or Haunted Throne every half-hour instead of every other day. It was glorious.
In the end, RO embodied almost every legitimate complaint about MMOs. It was a story-less grind-fest populated by weird-beards, assholes, and legions of bots. It demanded a horrifying amount of time to "accomplish" anything, had poorly defined end-goals, and a foreign publisher that tried every which way from Sunday to shake more money out of you, while still refusing to translate basic game mechanics.
But man, I had a REALLY cute hat for my Blacksmith.
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