Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Musings - 23rd April, 2012

It's another week folks. Things have been going pretty badly lately, but gaming helps to heal the wounds, and yes there was quite a lot of it this week. Let's muse!


Alan Wake (PC)

This is actually an omission from last week. Yes sometimes a game I've played slips my mind. It happens more often than it should, but I'm making amends. I've been waiting years to play this game, but didn't have a 360 when it eventually was released. I still held faith that sooner or later it would get ported to the PC and that's exactly what happened.

So was the wait worth it? Well the answer is a resounding "I don't really know". I've only played the first episode to date and have a mixed reaction. The graphics and atmosphere are absolutely amazing. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, the section where you're alone in the forest at night felt very true to life (minus the creepy shadow monsters of course). The story is also intriguing, but more in a listing of horror tropes rather than general interest in what's going on. Lastly the controls and camera absolutely frustrated me to no end. Walking in a straight line seems to be one of those things that requires some acrobatics to execute. I think perhaps it's the odd third person angle the camera takes while behind you (with it being quite close behind you to boot). I get that it's to increase the horror factor by not being able to see behind you, but at least so far, i don't think it works. Maybe it's something you get used to over time, but I'm sceptical at the moment.

Of course my less than stellar reaction to this game could be due to just coming off playing Deadly Premonition; another Twin Peaks-esque horror game set in the Pacific Northwest. It also could be waiting too long and hyping the experience up in my mind (like what happened with Skyward Sword last year). I'll report back if play continues.


Bastion (PC)

This one's been hyped a lot too, and it's one of the final entries off my 'games i must play from last year' list. Aside from the gorgeous colour, the cool shifting landscape, and the novelty of the narrator, i wasn't feeling the love, and i think that's because gameplay wise, it's pretty much just a simple hack and slash dungeon crawler. I fully admit that my negative attitude regarding titles this week could be my state of mind, and in Bastion's case, i will be giving it another chance, but i don't really have too much else to say on this. It didn't leave any sort of impact to tell the truth, either positive or negative. I guess that puts it in Dave's gaming limbo (hmm, that's another game i need to play one of these days).


Batman: Arkham City (PS3)

The final game off last year's list. I thoroughly enjoyed Arkham Asylum (it's the game i bought my PS3 with), so was looking forward to Arkham City giving me the same enjoyable play experience. I'll say this for it, it certainly feels like the same game, just on a larger scale, and i have good and bad things to say about that.

Let's start positively. There's a lot to do in the city. From Riddler trophies to side quests and AR training missions, if the main quest isn't scratching your gaming itch, you can explore. Some of the side quests so far I've found quite interesting, as they flesh out other villains and more of the plot. Oh and i do have to say the first cut-scene interaction between Batman and the Joker is marvellous, and scenes like that are part of what makes me want to keep playing. Finally (especially once you get the grapple boost), flying around the city is just fun. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore and if you feel like a fight using the always enjoyable combat system, there are plenty of thugs on the street waiting to be pummelled.

But that lack of focus that comes with such a large area to explore is kind of off-putting. Sure you can follow the main quest line, but it feels like there's always something fighting for your attention, and most people know that abundance of choice can sometimes be as bad or worse than no choice at all. Seeing how the Riddler trophies work in this game does depress me. In Arkham Asylum i kept playing after completing the game, to finish everything to do with the Riddler. From what I've seen in my short playtime, doing the same in Arkham City seems unfeasible both from a time and sanity perspective. Due to this I'm ignoring all but the most obvious Riddler collectibles and that lessens my enjoyment of the game somewhat.


X-men Destiny (360)

After finishing Deadly Premonition, Kenneth and I were wondering if we could find another game to enjoy playing together once in a blue moon. We were thinking about Nier as we've both heard good things, but seeing how long it took to complete Deadly Premonition, perhaps a Jrpg wasn't the best idea. Kenneth had the answer. He's a big fan of Silicon Knights and loved Too Human (i guess someone had to... zing). Why not play the X-men game they released last year. The game that had no press behind its release, so much so that game journalists were actually shocked to find it was out on store shelves. As Alberto Del Rio would say, it was our...... destiny!

The game has potential but it's definitely a case of not enough development time. There's checkpoint issues, the graphics are.... yeah, the controls are serviceable, but until you reach level two, and the ability to upgrade your attacks and powers, combat is pretty blah. Soon after though we found an "I win" combo, and that made things amusing, because the game does throw a lot of enemies at you. Sure they're all the same three stock types, but some of the fights we had before calling it quits for the night reminded us of Dynasty Warriors. Our "I win' combo for those interested was the forcefield which stuns and hurts enemies who are in it while recharging your health. We'd pop that puppy and then spam the light attack of energy fireballs till everything died (their deaths recharging both our health and mana).

What finally made us call it quits for this session was a boss named John Sublime. He injects himself with mutant DNA and then there's a multi part fight. To tell the truth, i blame Kenneth and his horrible playing for failing this segment (oh yeah, i went there!). Anyway, dying on the third form brought us back to the first, and was a good indicator to stop playing for the evening.

Seeing that this is only a five hour game or so, we should finish it off within one or two more play sessions. If you ask me, it can't come soon enough. Sure playing an average to bad game with a good friend has its novelty but that time could be spent playing good games too. For those wondering, Deadly Premonition was an outlier. It jumps from good game to bad game and all the spots in-between, so it's a tough act to follow for any game, let alone a rushed X-men title.


Terraria (PC)

Speaking of playing games with friends, my buddy Cam set up a Terraria server. Our mutual friend Shannon and I joined. They had played the game before (actually it was Shannon who gifted me a copy), but i have never tried it. All i knew is it was like 2D Minecraft.

So after a couple days playing (it being on a server, the world is accessible at all times) I'm starting to get a feel for the game. It seems to me to require a lot of dedication to get something out of it. The feeling of exploration and crafting is pretty alluring however. Our mine is crazy deep. Like past the bowels of the Earth deep... and we haven't even scratched the surface apparently. Also we have a ladder to a sky highway. The sense of vertical scale is quite impressive.

I need to find some copper or iron to craft some better tools and weapons. Other than that, I've just been exploring while Cam and Shannon do all the work (or blow up our houses as Shannon likes to do at times). I have a destructive streak in me too, but for me it's mining holes into lakes to flood our mine tunnel, extinguishing all the torches. Apart from that I've found the game kind of overwhelming. We'll see if that passes or if it can hold my interest.

Oh and because it's required in these games, i made a penis out of stone. On the sign on top of it, i named it "Rock Hard". Wit!


Borderlands - Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot (PC)

The reason we were playing Terraria is i was repairing my copy of Borderlands by downloading some files. I purchased all the DLC separately and for a while now have been unable to access Zombie Island or Mad Moxxi due to the game trying to open up a validation program behind itself, that doesn't work anyway if you access it. Testing the integrity of the game cache caused some files to re-download but sadly this did not solve the problem. Running to Google i found one solution was to run a program deep in the Borderlands directory where i could enter my CD key. The program wouldn't open but funnily enough, running it in compatibility mode with Windows XP Service Pack 3 opened it, and then it registered my Zombie Island DLC key. Even more strangely, this allowed me access to Mad Moxxi as well.

So even though i wanted to play Zombie Island, Cam and Shannon didn't want to, so we played Moxxi's. The idea is fun enough, but i found it kind of unsatisfying. It's an arena where you fight waves upon waves of enemies, culminating in a boss. There are special modifiers for each round (low gravity is amazing!), and even though you get loot after each boss wave (we didn't work that out till the second arena), you get no experience, and i think that alone made the whole thing kind of pointless (well also that it was kind of the same thing over and over again, most of the fights being really easy with my level 42 Siren).

So yes, not really a fan of Mad Moxxi but still, even unsatisfying games can be fun socially... as the last three games discussed have had that theme in common.


Final Thoughts

Oof. After all that, i dunno if i have the energy for much of a final thoughts section this week. I might just use this for a little bit of self promotion. I've started writing over at IGM Retro, and my d├ębut piece is on revisiting a game from my childhood, Gobliins 2. Check the link and tell me what you think!

http://retro.indiegamemag.com/memories-of-gaming-past-revisiting-gobliins-2/

Till next week, happy gaming all!

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