Sunday, May 22, 2011

Monday Musings - 23rd May 2011

I had quite a solid week in gaming. It's time to muse about it!

Final Fantasy XIII

I'm up to the final boss of the game. You fight Barthandelus again and then you fight Orphan in two forms. Orphan's first form is giving me some trouble. It has an attack that removes about 85% or so of everyone's full health, so if you're in the yellow at all when it hits, you're dead. At the start of the fight this is fine cause he only does it at the beginning of the fight, and then after each stagger ends... but once his health goes about half way down, he can do it anytime. Adding to the problem is an attack that has the same effect on one person. It turns the last half of the fight into a game of chance. What really made me unhappy was i had about beaten him when a random shot of this attack on Lightning ended everything (again, why does the battle end when the leader dies? Why can't the AI revive her like you can do to any other party member?).

I have read that the second form of Orphan is pretty much the same except now you have a doom timer on you. Fantastic. I might have to experiment with some of my accessories. I don't need to level up as i only have a couple hp, strength, and magic spheres to crack on everyone. With luck, the game should be completed by this time next week.


I checked out Kongregate again this week for another game to try. I might make a habit out of it. Faultline was the name, an interesting take on puzzle platforming is the game. The goal of each level is to reach the exit, but walls, spikes, and lasers impede your path. What you have to do is use your mouse to connect two points of the level together, and the space in between them folds in on itself, changing the layout of the level. Of course you also have to revert some of the folds, and there are switches and other additions that make things more difficult and interesting, but in the end this is a simple, interesting idea done well. It can be played here.

Battlefield Bad Company 2

I picked this up for $6 in the Steam EA sale. I have heard many good things about the multiplayer, so what have i been doing? Playing the single player campaign! I dunno, i just can't jump into multi without going through the main game, or at least starting it. I'm about 4 or 5 levels into the game and here are my impressions.

First off, the game is gorgeous. Really. In the Bolivia missions, when you're creeping around the jungle, and the light is shining through the gaps in the trees. That's amazing. Secondly, it may be due to the destructive environments, but the firefights in this game have a real fun and visceral feel to them. I haven't been this impressed with the overall feel of the shooting mechanics in an FPS since FEAR (that game just did something right in the way it handled the firefights).

I think also my expectations of the FPS genre are quite different from other genres. I'm not expecting a decent story or attachment to the characters (although the developers have tried to create attachment to your squad through banter). I treat it like a good 80s action movie. You're looking for one great action scene after another with entertaining filler to link them together. So far, the action elements of BC2 have been varied and quite entertaining. We shall see if they can keep this pace up.

Civilization 5

I've started two new games in Civ this week. The way i play is i start off, and keep playing till things start going pear shaped. Then i re-evaluate the hours i played and start again. Sadly i do this for a lot of games. It's this thought of, "Ok, this time things are going to start off right". I even do this for RPGs... when i'm hours into them (readers will remember i restarted Fallout 3 eight hours into it).

One great thing though is that each civilization you pick plays a little differently and because there are so many ways to complete the game, i'm feeling like i've learned a lot just from my restarts. For instance in my game last night as the Aztecs, i focused on military production... but then i picked a fight with Rome, who was at the time, more advanced than myself. Needless to say, i got decimated.

In my previous game i played as the Arabs. I focused on gold production and diplomacy. Unfortunately my undoing was in trying to appease a city state by going to war with another city state. Who knew one city could be so well defended? I wasted a lot of resources there, and in the end felt that i had made a grave error.

It reminds me of how i played in Civ4. Usually i just kept to myself, but still built up military defences. That way if any civs were mad at me, they were always deterred from attacking me. Oh they would threaten war all the time, but they would never go through with it. In Civ5, i've tried to explore, expand, and flex my might a little more, and so far, that hasn't worked out for me. In my next game, i might try my Civ4 strategy and see how that pans out. The only problem with that strategy is with no real conflict, and a bustling empire, things got kind of boring. Mind you i played most of my games on easy difficulty. In Civ5, i'm already playing on normal (in my 3 games, i've boosted the difficulty each time).

Barbarians can kiss my tuckus.

Final Thoughts

So last week i spent a good portion of my morning last Friday reading Tim Roger's review of Final Fantasy XIII (all 18,000 words of it apparently). I've been a longtime fan of Tim's writing. Sure he writes a lot on each topic (some might say too much), but it's usually entertaining and insightful. Like the majority of the game playing population, Tim thinks FFXIII is a bad game. He goes into a lot of detail on his reasons and i agree with him on pretty much everything. One might ask why i keep persisting in playing it then. Hell, i've asked myself that from time to time.

One answer is that there's this fault humans have in their psychology. There's probably a name for it, but it's the idea that "I've already put so much time and effort into this pursuit, to give up now would be admitting that i've wasted all that time and effort. I need to see this through." This can be a detrimental thought if applied to gambling addiction, a failed relationship, or playing an MMO, but i'm not so sure it applies to a videogame with a definitive end.

Another answer would be the history i have of enjoying bad games with redeeming qualities. For instance, my love of every Suda51 game i've played (yes, even Flower, Sun, and Rain.... and that game is terrible), and how much fun i've had playing Deadly Premonition. Still, i don't think FFXIII is bad on these levels. I just think it suffers from some unfortunate design choices (or as Tim points out in his review, a lack of a coherent design).

If the battle system had fully opened up much earlier (maybe 5 - 6 hours into the game), and there were no limiters on the Crystarium, a lot of issues would probably have been solved right there. I think the battle system is quite interesting, kind of combing the active time battle of some FF games with the job system of others. Perhaps if there were more jobs, or if the enemies required differing strategies that would have alleviated further problems (cause really, the way to beat each enemy is pretty much the same with a couple small variations).

Then there's the corridor issue. My stance on that is most JRPGs have always been this linear, it's just that there's been an illusion of exploration and more to do. Perhaps some of this is due to FFXIII having most of its side quests at the end of the game, so the main plot was all there was to do until the credits hit. Still, this illusion seems to have been important. As a counterpoint, let's look at FFXII. One criticism of that game with that it was too open (at least coming after FFX... which was about an linear as XIII). Truth be told, FFXII isn't really open. It does quite a good job of funneling you as a player along the main plotline until the end of the game. What it does do however is offer a lot of other things to do (mainly in form of the hunts), and a lot of screens aren't necessary to visit in the wilderness, but they either have treasure, or are good places to chain up monsters for cash and levelling. There's also the teleporting between areas of note, which doesn't become an option in FFXIII until chapter 11.

I kind of started this looking into possible reasons why i'm playing this game that i admit is broken. Then i've given some suggestions on how it could be fixed, then moving on to defend the game against other FF titles. I guess in the end i'm not too sure why i'm still playing the game, but i have made the decision to complete it, and i shall follow through on that (unless the final boss keeps pissing me off and i quit in a rage, and start playing Metal Gear Solid 4 instead).

Till next week, happy gaming all!

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