Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Musings 13th June 2011

What i'm learning is that my gaming habits are always in a state of flux. Take this week for instance. Let's muse!

Final Fantasy XIII

Well i gave the final boss another shot. Things didn't work out too well. I went on youtube and watched a playthrough of the final boss and the end cutscene. The game is over, i can move on! Funnily enough, i remember the final boss of FFXII being a pushover compared to this boss... but i did buy a couple items that i could put on my party members that would nullify his strong attacks. That helped a lot!

Another World

I've been reading a lot of the reviews over at Action Button dot net recently, and in their manifesto of great games, they argue that the greatest videogame is Another World. This is a game i am not altogether unfamiliar with. I've played it through the years on consoles and PC, but i'd never played it seriously (or with an attempt to complete it). Since last year i had purchased the 15th year anniversary edition on GoG, i decided to give the game another shot.

Another World certainly does a lot of things very well. The game controls consist of one button and the directional keys. There is no UI and cutscenes are minimal after the intro. Basically it's all about survival. Especially considering that everything can kill you. Half the time you try things that you know will kill you just to see the death animation (the game is reminiscent of Sierra adventure games in that way). The game is not especially difficult however, it just requires some thinking and a lot of trial and error.

Currently i am... hmm, i would have to say the 4th level or so. The distinction between levels 1,2, and 3 are quite easy to make, but after that it gets a little iffy. There are caves, and water, and i can travel underneath the caves where teeth and suckers kill me... or i can try and flood the caves so i don't slip on above platforms and drown. This leads to soldiers who so far have killed me. The game is usually quite generous with the checkpoint system (at least this version is), so dying isn't too much of a hassle. I shall persevere!

Wing Commander: Privateer

Another GoG purchase, and one i have been waiting for their site to make available pretty much since the service opened. Privateer is one of my favourite games ever. Ever since it was released in 1993, i have aquired copies through various means (including a few legitimate purchases) every time i get the hankering to return to this world of merchants, pirates, and space combat.

You start out with a rusty spaceship in the Troy sector. From there, the galaxy is your oyster. Acquire missions to make cash. Use cash to upgrade your spaceship, or even buy better ships, join guilds, explore, trade on the black market. It's all open to you. Yes there are story missions and i find the tale quite intriguing, but i've never ever started the story until i had a decked out Centurion flying around, decimating anyone who gets in my way.

It's strange to think that essentially through most of my playthroughs, i've spent hours grinding cash like this was an MMO or something. Hell, in 1997 when i got a cd-rom copy for my birthday, i spent an entire evening shipping cargo back and forth between the mining bases and agricultural planet in the first sector, gathering enough cash to purchase a centurion right then and there (god i'll never do that again).

I'm also very grateful that the GoG copy comes with the manual and reference card. Space sim games like the Wing Commander series and Tie Fighter (another favourite of mine in this genre) always had a load of keyboard commands to give you control over every aspect of your craft. Luckily most of these make sense (A for autopilot), but it is good to have the card handy as a refresher.

I only had a brief play of the game last week. I want to try and find more time for it soon, but gah, so much to play. So much to play!

Battlefield Bad Company 2

I haven't played too much more of this, but i did play another level. There was a section where i had to drive a jeep away in the snow while being pursued. That was pretty awesome. Now i have to protect a satellite that just crashed to earth. Oh, and i carry a sniper rifle around with me. I always love sniping in these games. Yeah i know, not great commentary here, but aside from this being an enjoyable action game that i'm not playing much of, i don't know what else to comment on. I've said before the shooting has the right feel to it, like FEAR did. I stand by that statement.

Civilization 5

Once again this dominated my playtime this week. Aside from starting another multiplayer game with Cam, i've started many single player campaigns. The one i played on Sunday (which i shall continue) is most interesting. I picked random civ and map type. I got thrown Egypt on Continents. I was in a pretty nice starting location so i decided to try for a cultural victory (the easiest way to do this is to only build one city to maximise your culture output).

I share this continent with China, Persia, and France. China seems to be pursuing culture as well (one city, no expansion). Persia is a slow expander but France is obviously a warmonger. It wasn't long before Napoleon built a city at my doorstep and declared war on me (while being at war with China and Persia at the same time). I beat back his forces and took over the town of his closest to me, and i believe i shall have to ramp up war production and take him out (a little tough when you have one city and haven't been focusing on military tech). The thing i find odd is that China and Persia aren't really sending units to attack Napoleon and Napoleon himself seems fixated on me. I don't know if it's because i'm the only human player or if it's because i've been fighting back with a vengeance. We'll see how this one plays out.

Metal Gear Solid 4

Seeing how i now had a spot to fill in my PS3 playing, i figured it was time to get to the final chapter of Solid Snake. Now i'm a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, but for some reason or another have put off playing this game (maybe it's cause i still remember how amazing MGS3 was and secretly wondered if this game could live up to it). Well i've played 2 nights worth of the game and i can say it already does one thing fantastically. Near the end of both playing sessions, i kept saying to myself, "Ok, i'll just play the next section"... and before i knew it, it was 2am.

I'm nearing the end of Act 2. I've fought laughing octopus, and saved right after Raiden makes his on screen debut (so awesome). The controls is this game are the best they've been in the series. Aiming a gun is as easy as holding down the L1 button. Since R1 is fire, you no longer have to perform finger gymnastics if you've aimed your gun and have decided not to pop off a shot. CQC is easy to perform and has some variation to it (there are a few things you can do once you've grabbed someone), and the octocamo suit takes the camouflage mechanic from MGS3 and streamlines it. Also while they've definitely put more of an action slant to the game (with all the guns and Drebin's shop), for the majority of the game, i've used CQC and my trusty tranq gun. Why kill people if you don't have to (exceptions are the Frogs in Act 1, and the mounted gun section of Act 2).

Plot wise i'm still a little lost as to what's going on, but seeing how Act 2 partially explained Act 1, i have a feeling the deeper i go, the more will be revealed (especially since i've heard this game performs some tricky maneuvers to tie up every plot point of the series). Each MGS has been pure joy to play, from the great gameplay to the over the top narratives. It's my form of videogame candy.

How about that Laughing Octopus fight eh?

Final Thoughts

Well i guess i should talk about E3 huh? The truth is that this year i didn't feel the passion for the gaming expo i have in the past. Especially when i was recording the Console War Vets, E3 was a glorious time full of first looks and big announcements. It still is, but i find myself not really caring as much.

That being said, i think the big interesting news for me this year was the WiiU (couldn't they have called it something else?). I look at what it offers and i'm thinking exactly like i did when the Wii came out. "Wow, think of all the potential! This is going to be fantastic!". Sadly, the only ones to utilize the potential of the Wii were Nintendo with 1 or 2 releases a year, and a handful of third party developers. I'm thinking that most likely the same will occur this time around.

Still, it's an interesting device. For me, the biggest potential i see is to revolutionize local multiplayer gaming. We've already seen Mii Chase which is a version of Pacman Vs (which will obviously be tons of fun), but yeah, what i'm seeing is split screen gaming without the splitscreen.

Now the criticism already is that apparently this thing is graphical superior to a 360 or PS3, but only just, which means when Microsoft and Sony release their new consoles, the WiiU will be left in the dust again. Sadly this is an issue for many gamers. I'm one of those gameplay over graphics types. Oh don't get me wrong, i'm blown away by spectacular visuals (i can still remember how impressed i was seeing Gears of War on an HDtv for the first time), but as long as there's some unique, fun game experiences to be had, i'll be on board.

Well, till next week, happy gaming all!

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