So I have heard tales from faraway lands that people really like to recap what they have been playing on the cblogs, so I wanted to join in on this tradition, perhaps temporarily, and recount the games that I have been playing these days, and the games that I may continue to play:
I have actually never played a Tomb Raider game before, so this was going to be an interesting experience. Long story short: I really enjoy it, when it isn’t showing multiple flaws. I actually sold my soul to the Devil to play this game, in that Origin was the first to hit my price point with a sale on this game (20 dollars), so I purchased it there. And that day, the magnetic poles flipped, cats married dogs, and Jesus came back from Jamaica, because Origin gave me a key to be explicitly activated on Steam. Huh. Best of both worlds, I suppose?
Lets get the bad out of the way first, shall we? The first thing I don’t like is that everyone really, deeply, truly hates Lara. This includes the developers, apparently, because there are several scenes in the game where she gets killed in the most gruesome fashions. Now, I like violence in my game, I giggled like a schoolgirl using the Lancer in Gears, but this violence is just...gross. Its good proof positive that I haven’t been totally desensitized, but I really thought some of it was over the top. An example, you say? While trying to escape a crumbling cavern, if you fail a QTE, a boulder crushes her leg. Then another one crushes the rest of her, focus on her face, with a really unhealthy crack and blood coming down. Just show the rock fall guys. Don’t go the extra mile of showing it break her head. And would you look at that acronym up there? It’s everyones old friend, QTEs! Yaaay. Most of the time these are implemented alright, as the same buttons do the same thing in the same context, but they use an Elite Beat Agent scoring system where you have to hit the button when one shrinking circle overlaps the other one, and my gamer instincts of mash, baby, mash killed me more than a handful of times. Finally, the game took a page from a game I would have never thought anyone would revisit: Battletoads. Remember how much gamers loved that games? Remember the Turbo Tunnels? They’re back, get used to it. At several points in the game, there is a convoluted reason for you to not have control over your character, and you can only dodge left or right, and at the edge of the screen is a mcguffin that kills you, as mentioned above, in the most brutal way possible. These sections are incredibly frustrating as you are stuck using a narrow camera angle, sluggish controls, and the objects that will kill you are oftentimes barely noticeable. So you wind up repeating large chunks of the same stage over and over again only to see the same brutal death animation. No bueno guys. Finally, one of the characters (Sam) has one of the worst voice actors I have had the displeasure of hearing lately.
So the good stuff: This game is as pretty as Lara. Here is my sexist/misogynistic/male babbling about the game - I think it is interesting to look at Lara as a moving target for the female population. She has an early Megan Fox thing going for her in this game (before she went all botoxy and gross...ech), and I think they are trying to make her what is sexy now, as opposed to the huge chested sex machine Lara of the 90’s. Finally, and this is something that I never would have thought I would be typing out, I really like the TressFX hair physics. Sure, it costs me a solid 20 fps, but the effect is actually non sarcastically totally worth it. While it isn’t perfect, it does help out my enjoyment of the game, so I kept it on for the entirety of the play through. Next, I know the term ‘set piece’ is seen as a bad thing when it comes to Call of Duty, but this game does a wonderful job with the set pieces. There is a part where you have to climb a radio tower, and the background, the scale, and the actual climb feels incredible. It really evokes the best parts of Enslaved in this way. The combat is pretty solid, even if you don’t realize for ¾ of the game that every gun can zoom (I thought it was bow only). Speaking of the bow, they really stretched how powerful a bow should be, but I found it quite enjoyable to use. Overall, yes, this game is everything you would expect from AAA development: a decent plot, a likable main character, solid gameplay that never strives to be unique or challenges, but always manages to be at least entertaining, and beautiful hair.
This game finally hit under 15 dollars, so I picked it up. There really isn’t much you can say on the game that hasn’t already been said. It is the videogame equivalent of Apples to Apples: something really funny happens, you laugh at it for five minutes, then when you go to retell the story you can’t remember the combination of things that made you laugh so hard, so you just recommend people play it instead. Yeah. So instead of going in depth, I wanted to share a story I have with the DS version of Scribblenauts. I had a female friend who didn’t typically play videogames over, and thought she might appreciate the game. I explained the controls, the dictionary, all that, and handed the game over. Her first mission: Get a starite down from a tree. How would you go about it? Summon an axe? Conjure up a lumberjack? Create a jetpack? She wrote “pickle”. Huh. She then picked up the pickle, threw it at the star, and picked it up. It really is refreshing to see non linear gameplay come so far.
I was replaying this for two reasons: to see if I could get motivated to write up a Save State on it, and because I wanted to play a mindless shooter (the irony, it burns!). I discovered there are two things I hate about this game: Ludonarritive dissonance. Not that it actually does that, just the term itself. It is a fine term, but it is only ever used to talk about Spec Ops, and usually by someone who has no idea what either of the two words mean. Also, it is one of my pet peeves when someone uses a word in a sentence, then defines it in parentheses only to never use the word again. Basically it is saying “I’m so intelligent (that means smart, for all you idiots who don’t know”) followed by a self indulgent chuckle.
Thing number two about Spec Ops that I hate is that I just don’t get it. I don’t feel it. I have played through it twice, and the first time I was expecting this grand self realization that I never got. I have since watched videos online, read blogs, and really tried to wrap my head around what the game was about, and I feel like I get it, but whenever I play the game it just isn’t there for me. It reminds me of reading a book in high school english, then having to write an essay on it: I could explain exactly what the game is trying to make you feel, the themes, the moments where it makes you question your actions, but that is just me reciting it because I know that is what I should be feeling from it. I just don’t have the passion behind it, I guess. Still, if you haven’t played it, the game is crazy good, and you should play it.
Far Cry Blood Dragon
So this is a game. Sure is. Lets get a few things out of the way: One button makes you give the middle finger and if you mash it you alternate which hands do it, this game wins ‘best use of an outdated meme’ for 2013 with “Imma firin mah lazer”, has an enemy called a robo shark, and has a four barrelled shotgun and gives you a flamethrower. I love that this game is a thing. It is a game that focuses on fun front and center, and in this day and age, is nothing short of amazing.
Getting into the meat of it, this is basically a six to seven hour version of Far Cry 3 set in the 80’s. You spend five of those hours doing the regular Far Cry 3 things: liberating bases, killing wildlife, hunting animals, finding collectables, and basically faffing about. The story is almost disappointingly short, but I really have to say that the main story wasn’t the appeal in any of the Far Cry games to me. I just liked running around. It made me sad that Blood Dragon doesn’t have the depth of animal hunting that 3 did, but it was still pretty fun. I don’t want to get too far into spoiler territory, but the end of the game is absolutely how I like my end games to go: they aren’t a final exam, they are a masturbatory show of power. The last level gives you so many new toys and tools that throw you from “probably overpowered” to “figuratively invincible”, and it leaves this great taste. Instead of ordering a plate of expensive cheeses to test your palette, it gives you an ice cream sundae with unlimited toppings and offers to rub it all over you while you eat it.
Also, Ubisoft definitely had fun poking fun at themselves in the collectibles, which I thought was amusing (they make several references about how the collectables in Assassins Creed suck). They also have a serious hard on for overpowered end game weapons that work by using your life, which is...oddly specific. Overall, the game is really fun, but nothing exceptional. It is a solid step in the right direction for games, and deserves any praise it gets, but also needs a fair share of criticism. For 15 dollars though, you really can’t go wrong.
I wish I knew how to quit you, Dark Souls. I have slowed down to get the above games in my busy, busy schedule, but I started up a Vega (claw, for you international readers) character. As a challenge outside of just “use the claw weapon” I have decided to play the game hudless. This is actually pretty cool as there is a lot of detail that I never noticed before when my HUD was sitting on top of it. It also takes out the ‘choke’ factor from the bosses because I never know if I am really close to finishing them off or still have half the lifebar to go. Spoilers: Its half the lifebar. The claw sucks. I have been using strong magic weapon with the Oolacile catalyst to buff the damage against bosses, but I have made it to Simon and Garfunkel and just haven’t had the energy to get past them yet. Like the Dragon Bone Fist, the claw has a laughable range, so it can be hard to hit boss characters in their boss genitals. It also has a unique after roll attack in the form of you roll forward and do a lunge stab, which is really Vega like, but often times it is a liability instead of a hilarious luxury. Notably against Rogers and Hammerstein where you are frequently rolling to avoid their attacks. Maybe someday I will win against them, but for now a break to other games has been nice.
Finally, I put together a little video for you all to possibly enjoy, featuring all the games mentioned above: