Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Musings - 12th Dec, 2011

Last week was nice because of the rain. Now it's heating up again and reminding me how much i hate summer. Ah well, let us muse.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

So you know how a month or two ago i decided to try and make time to game every day and thus get through all the games i want to play quicker? Well that kind of hit a roadblock this week. I decided to check out season 1 of Sons of Anarchy and instead of playing Zelda, i was watching an addictive television drama about a bikie gang. It's not to say gaming did not get done however. I played every night of the weekend and have completed the Earth Temple.

Last week i lamented about how stupid LoZ games make me feel. Some games make you feel smart when you complete a puzzle, but for me, Zelda games always make me feel like an idiot when i figure out what i have to do. I think it's a testament to the level design of Skyward Sword however that even though i was in that state during the Earth Temple (and there were quite a few areas that stumped me and had me considering a walkthrough), i persevered and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment when the dungeon was completed. And disgust at my lack of intelligence wasn't the only emotion either. I also marvelled at the cleverness of the puzzle itself once it dawned on me what i had to do. Many sources have said this game has some of the best level design in the series (especially later on), and if this is what we start off with, i cannot wait to check it out.

Negativity now. You know what irks me more than anything else about this game so far? Link's lips. They're hideous. Everytime there's a close up of his face in a cut-scene i recoil. He looks like a fish.

I saved the game at the entrance to Lanayru Desert. From travelling through the mines, and experiencing the frozen time areas, i can sense that this whole sequence of gameplay is going to be special.

Earn to Die (Indie)

I got caught in this game's trap. It's quick and easy, and you're always progressing. Play a little longer Dave, just to upgrade this car and grab the next one. You're almost to the finish line Dave. Who cares if the game stopped being fun. You've spent this long playing, why not finish it?

I did finish it, and felt empty. This is an example of fine tuning the numbers so that your progression mechanics mask the lack of actual gameplay. It may sound like i'm angry. I'm actually not. These guys have got that balance down. It's quite inspiring in a way.

This kinda stuff is why i quit WoW though.

Final Thoughts

Nothing kills a videogame like hype. Let's take Skyward Sword for example. Not only was this the only game i paid full retail release price for this year but as it was being shipped to me i got really excited about the new Zelda title. I felt like playing previous entries in the series and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

The result? I feel a little let down. Don't get me wrong, the game is great... but it's not nearly as awesome as i had worked it up to be in my mind. The drive to play it isn't fully there mainly due to this chasm between expectation and reality.

I had thought myself free of the hype train. Years ago partially due to being around gamers and game news while completing my degree and recording The Console War Vets, i started holding back on having to play the newest latest release. Part of this was due to money, but i started to see that this cycle that most gamers find themselves in with new games is pretty self defeating. The game press does such a good job at building up interest in future releases that one can't help but be swept away in how great a game looks, and how interesting it might be to play.

And that's why hype will always negatively impact a gaming experience in some way. Our imaginations are more powerful than anything that can be created from a couple videos and news pieces, our minds race about all the possibilities an upcoming game might provide. The story, the mechanics, the epic scale and setpieces, how can a game actually live up?

Well it has been argued that there are some games that do either live up to or exceed the hype surrounding them. I'm sceptical on this as flicking back through my memory, i can't think of any personal examples. Many of the games i have fallen in love with i knew very little about going in... or i had waited until the buzz died down (mainly for money reasons. Some game drastically drop in price if you wait two months after release).

I think in some cases, hype can be positive if it's long term post release hype. For example, Red Dead Redemption was a game i had ignored in 2010. Come to the end of the year and people were still talking favourably about it. This got me interested to check it out. I haven't still... but it's on the radar once i get through everything else i wish to play.

At the start of the year i told myself i would only purchase one game at full price, and i waited till the Q4 launch window to discover what that would be. It was actually between Skyward Sword and Arkham City when it came down to it, but i went with Zelda. I'll pick Arkham City up later. I think this release purchase put more pressure on the game as well. I paid full price for this! It better deliver!

It does... just not in the way i was hoping. It's not a perfect game. No game is, but hype tricks us into believing this, and that can be a real problem.


Till next time, happy gaming all!

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