Sunday, January 29, 2012

Monday Musings - 30th Jan, 2012

An early musings this week as i am heading up to Brisbane to a friend's place to watch the Royal Rumble. Should be a lot of fun. This last week was also a lot of fun in gaming. Let's get to it!

El Shaddai (PS3)

Last time i played this i felt like i right at the end of the game, and it turns out my instincts were right. I had a boss fight, a short level and then the final boss fights. Having had time to reflect upon the game i have a couple thoughts. The first is a reiteration of a previous musing where i recommended the title to everyone, and that still stands. The presentation is enough to give this a try, but the way the game plays with narrative is rather interesting. There's an element of breaking the 4th wall barrier and a lot of supposition (or at least the back story has to be unlocked via a way i never found out how to do), but for a story based on a disregarded religious text, there's enough intrigue and high level drama to keep the player interested.

My other point is one i think i have brought up before as well (oh nos! Treading old ground!), but the game has a nice way of giving you a sense of growing in power over the length of your play. Near the start you are put into battle against the watchers you have been sent to Earth to defeat. Most of the game if you fall down a hole or die in battle, you can come back to life instantly. In these fights however, if you're defeated, the game continues, and the watcher snidely taunts you. If you win, they curse you. Over the game the power of your hits or their health must have been tweaked as they become easier and easier to defeat. I suppose the argument could be made that the player gets better at the game over time so is able to dodge their attacks and defeat them... but the battle mechanics don't have that much of a learning curve and you'll be using the same strategies from the first couple hours all the way through the rest of the game.

As i work my way through all the games i wanted to play last year, i'll be re-evaluating my best of year list. El Shaddai would have been a runner up but Deus Ex still holds the top spot.

Gray Matter (PC)

So the day i complete El Shaddai, Gray Matter arrives in the mail. Fortuitous timing there. After installing the game off the DVD (how quaint), i load up the first point and click adventure game i've played in a while and after a week of playing (i'm at the start of chapter 6), there's a lot to talk about.

First i want to talk about some of the little touches Gray Matter includes that make the whole experience a little less frustrating when thinking about the conventions of this genre. For instance, pressing the spacebar will bring up hotspots, so you'll never have to pixel hunt for an item. Everything you can interact with is spelled out for you if you wish it. Not only that but each chapter has progress bars so you can see how far along you are with all the goals of that particular chapter. On the map screen the locations are colour coded. Gold signifies that the area contains something needed to complete the chapter. Silver indicates bonus points, and the name turns grey when there is nothing left for you to do there. Finally if an object or character needs an item used on them, the cursor over them will have a hand with a little x on it, so if you are stuck you won't be walking around trying every inventory item on every object.

The presentation is a bit of a mixed bag. The backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous are indeed the visual highlight. The music as well is phenomenal and i will see about getting a copy of the soundtrack when i'm done with the game. The cut-scenes use a sort of moving comic book format that seems a little unprofessional considering the visual polish of everything else. The voice acting is superb though.

I haven't really discussed the story and as that's the heart of an adventure title i don't really intend to. I'll say that a young travelling magician named Sam finds herself in Oxford one night at the home of the reclusive neurobiologist David Styles. What follows is a tale of science and magic as you control both characters. The main cast is introduced slowly over the game as you learn more about their past and motivations, and there's a supporting cast of characters that are equally as memorable.

Heh, this kind of turned into a bit of a review, but i am enjoying playing through a Jane Jensen adventure again. She has a wonderful talent for creating endearing characters and her stories always have an intriguing element of the supernatural in them.

Deadly Premonition (360)

It's been about two months since Kenneth and I last played this wacky game and boy did this session not disappoint. Those that follow me on twitter (@Dave_the_Turnip) will have seen my tweets during our playthrough as that has become a tradition of playing the game now.

We finally came to a big boss battle in the clock tower. The chapter beforehand we learned some rather disturbing things about one of the town's characters and then we find ourselves playing as Emily (complete with the Emily rap remix). The fight ended with one of the more gruesome death scenes the game has shown so far (and there have been a couple of disturbing ones). We saved after the fight but i'm itching for the next game session cause the end of the game seems to be right around the corner.

One thing about playing as Emily... her gun packs some punch. We were worried when the game turned to combat mode as we were used to York and his shotgun of awesomeness. Emily only has her revolver. What a revolver though. It was more powerful than the bloody shotgun! Girl's packing some heat! We almost didn't want to switch back to York.

Heh, here's one for ya. Who's York's favourite Peanuts character? Peppermint Patty! Ha! I kill me.

League of Legends (PC)

One thing i'm starting to do in LoL is make a mental note of champions i do really well with in games, so when the time comes that i want to buy a champion to learn how to use better (i'm almost at the number of points needed to buy one at full price), i have a decent selection to choose from.

Oh i had my first run in with the dark side of the community yesterday. We lost a game because instead of focusing on fighting our opponents, members of my team were calling each other childish names in the chat. It all started when one of them got really cranky for someone 'stealing their kill'. I've seen this a few times while playing and have had the winging laid on me more than once. Ok, i can understand that possibly the money and exp is important to players (although not as much in Dominion from what i can see)... but we're all on the same team. We have a goal to fight towards. If i attack an enemy champion you're attacking it's to help you out so we can move on. Maybe there's a naivety to my thought not having played the game too long but this kind of complaint just sounds like ego being thrown around. I would be happy to hear other thoughts on the subject.

Final Thoughts

In discussing El Shaddai over the weeks and this week in Deadly Premonition, i mention how i get this feeling when the ending of a game is 'around the corner'. I believe i had similar things to say with Persona 4 and Deus Ex. I mean i don't think it's hard to recognize. Usually a game will have this definitive build up to the final encounter that's pretty easy to spot (although i have been tricked many times by what i think is the lead up to the final encounter being the lead up to the lead up). RPGs tend to have this lead up lead up a lot because their tales are stretched out over many hours of gameplay. Still, a stretched out lead up to an ending is a lot different than a false ending.

I really haven't come across too many games that have false endings, but there is one title that stands out for having at least two. That game is Tron 2.0. While i think it's a great FPS/RPG hybrid that acts like a true sequel to the film story wise, man was its pacing all over the place. If memory serves me correctly the first false ending was around the half way point. You'd just completed a series of tasks having gone onto the internet. There's then this area where i believe you had to either disarm something or escape this room. There was a timer and a lot of annoying jumping puzzles. It had all the feel of a final encounter, but afterwards? Nope. New goal, game extends... for hours. Then maybe 5 - 10 hours later there's this section where you have to get on a train. Again, it has that feel of "this is it! Time to travel to the final showdown!" Nope.

In the end i do have a favourable memory of that game, but fragments like those negatively colour my memory and make it so i'll probably never return for a replay... but i think that's a topic for another time. Do any of you have any examples of games with false finishes or a lead up that wasn't exactly a lead up? Let me know in the comments!

Till next week, happy gaming all!

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