DANGER - Actual footage recovered from the wreckage of Wrenchfarm playing Mechwarrior Online:
This video is perfect on so many levels, it might be my favourite thing ever. From the ticker tape data readout to the DMX breakdown, those crazy Germans somehow managed to capture the core experience of MWO years before it was even released. The part where the entire squad fucks off and abandons the one guy is particularly familiar.
Other than crying tears of laughter from Cardboard Robutts, I've got a bunch of stuff on my plate today, so I'll try to make it quick!
Yesterday was my 2nd year anniversary with my lovely girlfriend! We had an amazing time out, tried a new restaurant, made an impulse desert later in the night, got flop-necked on wine and exchanged gifts. It was great. My sweetheart really went all out with a lovely sentimental gift; real feels were experienced.
Here is hoping for many more great years together! BTW, if you like spoopy things, check out her horror themed Tumblr, it features quite the mix of the charming and horrifying.
I finished up Batman: Arkham Origins today, capping off the last Enigma doo-dad and stuffing all the escaped prisoners back into Blackgate Prison. Batman can finally get to that Christmas Eve dinner Alfred WILL NOT SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT.
Seriously dude, I'm out here fighting mobsters, maniacs, and actual fucking Ninjas. Can you give it a rest about the dinner?
I have very mixed feeling about Origins and I'm struggling to express them. It was a good game, great even. For all the talk about Splash Damage playing sloppy seconds to Rocksteady, and the absence of the classic voice actors, they did a damn fine job. When the game is at it's best, it's a seamless beautiful ballet of constant movement, progression, and combat. These games have always been great at giving you so many things to do at once, but keeping them all organized and compartmentalized so they never get overwhelming, and Origins is no different. Arkham might be the only series where I enjoy tracking down all the side mission stuff these days.
But there are just SO MANY little snags that seem to exist only to knock you out of that groove.
The grapnel is more finicky than ever. Gotham is lousy with ledges, buildings, and roofs Batman just refuses to hook on to for no reason. Entire puzzles only work because a ledge, just like a hundred others you've effortlessly grappled up to, will be arbitrarily un-hookable. One particular neighbourhood is entirely surrounded by a large storm wall that, for reasons unknowable, is un-scallable, forcing you to muck around on the ground looking for the tiny entrance way between zones, constantly fighting off what must be suicidal thugs.
Speaking of enemies, get used to seeing them. While City had the justifiable conceit of being a prison town to explain the wealth of baddies, Origins can only muster up a feeble "it's cold so there are only criminals going outside tonight" excuse for the total absence of civilians and near endless mobs of nameless criminals. I get WHY they did that (save processing power for gameplay, make sure players can find a fight when they want it, ect) but I think they went way overboard. By the end of the game you'll be seeing groups of 7-10 guys on every corner. And don't even get me started about the number of rooftop snipers just waiting to perforate your bat-crotch. That's some bullshit, the rooftops should belong to the Batman in all but the most fortified areas.
Really, I heard about this issue before I got the game and didn't think it would bother me. I LOVE the combat in the Arkham games, and if you don't mind me bragging, I got pretty damn good at it. I did the whole New Game Plus mode where they turn off the counter indicators in City, I worked through almost all the combat challenges, ect, so the idea of fighting a bunch of huge groups sounded great to me. But the fighting just feels "off" in Origins. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly serviceable. If all you want to do is survive fights and take out badguys quickly, that shouldn't be a problem after a little practice. You're still Batman after all.
The problems surface anytime you want to get a little bit fancy. For example, I had a hell of a time capping off the final Dark Knight challenge that involves taking on a random large group while incurring no damage, scoring a 50 hit + combo off them, and working in 15 or more variations. That's a tall order to be sure, but for a guy like me who ate everything the previous two games threw at him, you'd think it wouldn't take that long right? Nope. Everything is just too finicky and inconsistent. Enemies speed up at random times, or give all the tells that they are about to strike only to fade back, batarangs and glue grenades will randomly fly off in the wrong direction, or batman will just refuse to jump to the next enemy, swinging his fist in the air and hitting nothing. Most of the finishing animations take too long and leave you in a vulnerable state, and sometimes enemies will plain shoot through friends to get to you.
None of this is gamebreaking mind you. Like I say, until you start going for the crazy stuff you probably won't even notice. But it all gets annoying, it all takes you out of that Arkham groove.
Also, they make you wait too long to get the Disarm & Destroy move that lets you rip apart guns midair or shatter knives with the flat of your hand. THAT'S THE BEST MOVE YOU JERKS, GIVE IT TO US EARLY! GRR!
But on the other hand, the game can be stunning. Some of the visuals are just gorgeous for a engine this old trying to do so much. This game looks better than it has any right to be. The boss fights can go on a few minutes too long, but if you want a big spectacle and some interesting encounters, Origins has you covered. The story hooks are nice and tasty too if you're a fan of the Batman mythos.
And that's the thing, it's a great game, except when it's not. I don't want to throw Splash Damage under the bus and join the internet whine-fest that this wasn't a "real" Arkham game. But so many of my complaints come back to things just being a little off, or not quite right. It's hard not to feel like this was a filler title disguised as a full purchase.
The incredible amount of re-used areas and content doesn't help that perception. But that's a grumble for another time.
I'm super psyched for XCOM: Enemy Within! But, between a new video card, Anniversary fun, and the encroaching Christmas season, I know damn well I can't afford to be dropping $30 on another game; no matter how sexy it looks.
What to do, what to do...
Oh! That's right! Steam to the rescue!
Tonight I tried my hand at a little market action. I had a pile of crazy TF2 stuff from back when I used to play several hours a week. I'll always treasure the memory of those horrific, and utterly pointless, battles over useless piles of gravel. But there comes a time when you have to face facts, I haven't played that game in months, maybe over a year at this point.
Certainly not enough to justify keeping a huge inventory full of hats and other swag "jus' cause". So I put some of my fine haberdashery up on the Steam market, as well as a few Dota 2 bits I collected over the past months of occasional interest. Toss in a few duplicate Steam cards, some skins, some crappy little emotes, and wait.
By the end of the night, I managed to drum up $42 in basically free money! Perfect for picking up Enemy Within (and maybe Volgar: The Viking while I'm at it, I do have a coupon after all...).
XCOM was my surprise favourite game of the 2012. I never thought of myself as a strategy guy, but something about that game just pushed all the right buttons for me. Ever since the first details of Enemy Within started leaking out, I've been excited.
Genetic augmentation, mechanized limbs, new human enemies that dress like 1920's anarchists? Be still my heart.
Other game changing mechanics like the new meld item - an essential compound for acquiring the new upgrades, but one that deteriorates as the battle wages on, forcing a more aggressive approach – seem inspired. I got pretty comfortable setting up overlapping rings of overwatch with my heavy gunners and my God-awfully overpowered sniper. Having a bit more incentive to take some risks sounds fun – in that "-oh god I just made a terrible mistake and now the world is on fire and I don't know what to do and I just spilled my coffee-" kind of way.
Enemy Within is getting stellar reviews everywhere I look and I'm trembling in anticipation of getting back in the command chair. But I have to think my playthrough is going to be a little bit sweeter than most – nothing makes a purchase go down smoother than "Free".
No matter what the experience was or which game or genre left that strong first impression, such experiences have the potential to open our eyes to the rich history of a series or genre. With any luck, we might find even more to love or something better. A great first experience with RPGs could lead to an undying love affair.
Sometimes a first kiss can be so impactful that the game gets placed on a pedestal and enshrined as a gold standard, which has its own pros and cons. I mean, it is nice to have a basis for comparison, but some folks take it too far. There are people who loved Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Final Fantasy VII so much that nothing after them really got a fair shake.
So first impressions matter -- they can shape and inform our gaming habits. I grew up on arcades, Nintendo, handhelds, and eventually into RPGs, so much of what I play will be influenced by how I acquired my tastes. I probably like Overwatch a ton because it has a passion for RPG roles, but contextualizes them closer to older shooters focused on objectives more than gear builds and grinding out perks for better killstreaks.
So for this month's Bloggers Wanted, we'd like you head over to the community blogs write about your first kiss, the games that positively influenced you or maybe biased you a little too much for a time. What turned you on to a series or genre? Was it love at first sight? Did it set any expectations in stone or possibly lead you to something better?
Whatever the case might be, remember to use the title "First kiss" and place "Bloggers Wanted" in the tags!
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