Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bad As I Want To Be

Last week I finished up my romp through Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and I thoroughly enjoyed the game, as I mentioned on the latest Call Of Podcast. It's the type of game where you can see all of the seams, the load times in the menus are inexcusable, and it's probably a bit short for some, but it's cool all the same.  It has its one trick, and it does it well.  Even the QTE's, which I normally despise, were ok because they were so forgiving, and just required one button press, rather than the "test of strength" variety in some games.  I even played one of the bonus campaign levels (I have the special edition), the Jedi Temple, and enjoyed the cool fight at the end of that one.  One gripe I have though, is with the dark side (non-canon) ending.  It was just nowhere near as cool as it should have been, to set up Starkiller's further dark side missions post-game (the other two bonus campaign levels, Hoth and Tatooine).  I wonder if the sequel will be any good.

The biggest story for this blog update is that I finally started inFamous, which has been sitting on my shelf for probably a year, now.  I've gone from platforming and shooting lightning in Galaxy and SW:TFU to doing both at the same time in this game.  I mentioned being kind of "meh" about it on the podcast, and after putting in a few more hours, I'm starting to like it a little more.  I'm being as comically evil as I can possibly be.  I push people around with my force electric powers just for fun, and if I'm given the choice to help some people or do something rude and selfish, I'll go the latter rout, with total disregard and contempt for the citizens of Genericity (that's not it's real name, but it'll do).  In a way, I'm projecting my own jaded, seen-it-all gamer disdain into Cole, who is a perfect conduit for it, since he's kind of a cock, himself.  I want to see if willing him to be as evil as possible will actually make him into a bad guy, or if he'll wuss out and have a change of heart at the end.  More games need to let you be the bad guy, and actually be a bad guy.  Like, reprehensible.

The game does an odd thing where it sends you into the sewers to get through these very straight-forward platformy sections, only they're super duper easy; because Cole tends to suction onto whatever surface is nearby, it feels like a three-year-old could blow through those sections.  I would actually appreciate a little more of a challenge there, something more akin to the jumping puzzles in a Prince of Persia game.  I do like Cole's Spider-Man act out in the open city, though.  It makes getting to the rooftops a lot easier and pretty effortless.  I also like his power line grind ability.  That's just fun.  The electric scatter grenades and the gound pound thing are cool, as well.  Now that I think about it, Cole's powers have a lot in common with Starkiller's.

Apart from those two main things, I made just a little progress in The Witcher, moving into Chapter II.  This is going to be a pretty long game. It's very good so far, though.  I played a little more Bad Company 2 with Esteban after recording the podcast this weekend.  I think it's still my favorite multiplayer shooter.  I also went back to Super Mario Galaxy and got my star count up to 78 before shelving that game for a while to return to Monster Hunter Tri on on the Wii.  I got in one good hunt online, taking down a Qurupeco with one other player, and getting my Hunter Rank to level 6.  There's a lot left to do in that game, yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Road Map Reboot

Here's a revised and simpler version of the Road Map to Success.  All those tacky Excel shapes and colors were just too cumbersome.  Bolded are the games I'm currently playing, and italicized are the games I'm currently "playing."

There are also several games on my pile of shame that I've all but written off, pretty much all XBLA/PSN/VC/retro things that I am happy (or forced) to keep in my collection, but don't really intend to play anymore, at least not anytime soon.

My back log is insane, despite the token policy I've been using this year.  I'm pretty comfortable with my spending habits on gaming these days, though.  I do still buy a lot, but it's almost all at crazy value prices, which is good.  I need to find a way to catch my experience up to my appetite, and that goes for not only gaming, but for books and film/TV, as well.  Or, I just need to find some way to retire early.  Hmmmm...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back to Zero

Pulling myself up from the quicksand of the backlog minus world, today I saw the credits roll on Super Mario Galaxy, the first.  I wouldn't say I've completed the game though, by any means.  There are still probably 10 or more levels I haven't even seen yet.  You only need about 65 stars to have found and beaten Bowser and saved, Peach, though.  I currently have 66 out of 120 or 121, whatever the maximum total is.  I doubt I'll get them all, but I would like to at least see all of the levels, which are the best part of the game, hands down.

This weekend I also plowed through several more levels of The Force Unleashed, and I'm enjoying it.  I put it on Easy and I'm just tearing through the legions of guys in my way on my mission to help Darth Vader overthrow Emperor Palpatine.  It's good for that, and the story is also pretty good, for Star Wars.

I'm wrapping up all the loose ends in the first chapter of The Witcher, as well.  There's a hellhound boss called The Beast that gives a lot of players trouble, from what I've read of the game online.  I killed that and also made a choice to stick up for the witch Abigail, who was being persecuted by the corrupt and hypocritical villagers of Vizima.  That part was pretty awesome, with Geralt pulling out a speech much like Clint Eastwood's from the end of Unforgiven.  I love this guy.  Player agency in The Witcher is done nicely, and a little different from something like Mass Effect, though they have a lot in common.  Geralt, unlike Shepard, is his own person, and you just make the decisions for him.  He has his own past and his own attitude, whereas with Shepard, you determine those things yourself.  It's easier to get into the character's swagger when it's at that slight remove.

Trials HD was on sale this week on XBLA, so I picked that game up (along with Shadow Complex), and had a go with it for a while.  It's simple and fun; you control a motorbike stunt rider through tons of crazy physics puzzles, competing with friends over leaderboards for best times.  It's viewed from the side, like Excitebike of old, but there are no other riders on the course at the same time or anything like that.  It's purely time trials, which is probably where they got the title.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Going Negative

I was forced into the minus world today.  You see, I was sitting at zero game completion tokens, but Fallout 3 Game Of The Year edition went on sale for half price on Steam, and I've been waiting and waiting (and waiting) for this day to add it to my ever-expanding backlog.  Paradoxically, even though Steam got my $25 (plus $5 for the Morrowind GOTY edition, as I didn't own Bloodmoon and Tribunal expacs until now), it is I who am declaring victory.

There is a legend that someone once asked three famous leaders of feudal Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, what they would do if they were confronted with a bird who would not sing.   Oda Nobunaga (he of the ambition) replied that he would kill the bird.  Toyotomi replied that he would make the bird want to sing.  Tokugawa replied that he would wait, that when the time was right, the bird would sing of its own accord.  I went Tokugawa on this one, and Fallout 3 is my song.

What put me at this lack of game completion tokens though is the fact that just a couple of weeks ago Dragon Age and it's expansion were on sale on Impulse, and that just a couple of days ago I put up $15 of my own money to go with a gift card from work and purchased SW:TFU:USE, and a dictionary to help me break down acronyms.  I don't think I ever made a provision for going negative, but here you have it.  The good news is that I'm in the middle of at least 3 games right now that I am really excited about seeing through to the end, so that whenever the next big gotta-have-it thing rolls around, I should be back in the positive.  I'm not going to keep staying in the red unless it's something BIG, like a Dragon Age or Fallout 3 sale--something that doesn't come around a lot, and that I've been waiting for for a long time.  At the moment, there's nothing such that springs to mind.  Fallout 3 was no.1 with a bullet on my list for a long time.

A quick list of what I've been playing this week: Some more of The Witcher, where I'm still in chapter one, Super Mario Galaxy, where I'm up to about 30 stars collected, Doom on XBLA, just for shits (I found a secret level I'd never been to before), and a little Bad Company 2 multiplayer.  I also started SW:TFU last night, just going through the first level where you play as Darth Vader, which was pretty damned cool.  Man, original trilogy-era Star Wars is so much better than the prequel-era.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Nature Of A Man

I spoke about it on the podcast, but most of last week was devoted to finishing up Planescape: Torment.  I've had a few more days to process the ending and the game as a whole, and I have to say my top X games ever list needs a revision.  As games focused on telling a story go, it's probably the absolute best I've seen, though it's methodology is nothing like a Metal Gear Solid or Shadow of the Colossus, and comparisons to those are cumbersome, at best.  Planescape has one huge advantage going for it, and that's the player's imagination.  So much of the game's story is related through text that it is more comparable to a novel than your typical game or movie.  Vast swathes of backstory and character development set in fantastic locations across the planes (alternate worlds/dimensions) are related to the player through dialogue options, making the game as epic or mundane as the player imagines it to be.  And the ending is just perfect. 

As far as I know, it's a one-of-a-kind experience in gaming, and no one should miss it.  By now the game will run on any PC on the market, if you can find a copy.  I'm really hoping it eventually finds it's way onto Steam or  It's worth learning a little about ADnD rules to play, too, even if you're pretty clueless about it, like I am.

I went on a Monster Hunt one evening last week, but it was nothing, really.  I only had time to go and gather a few random materials for use in future hunts and crafting.  I'm going to have to find a place to fit in more Tri soon.

My June project, though, will be The Witcher.  It's always looked so cool, and coming off of Planescape, I still felt that I wanted to be doing some role-playing, so I set it to download over Steam a few days ago (I'd bought it a long time ago during a 50% off sale).  I've only played around an hour so far, but it's pretty cool, and not really what I was expecting.  It's very timing-based.  It also seems to have the player kind of rely on a triumvirate of battle options; there are your sword stances, your alchemical potions, and your "signs," which are basically magic spells.  I've really only seen the way sword stances work so far, but there are approriate stances based on what type of enemy you're fighting--bruiser, armored, heavy types, quick and agile types, and the numerous but weak type.  The strong stance, quick stance, and crowd stance, if you will. 

It's set in a very Eastern European dark fantasy setting, and so far Geralt, the main character, is a total badass.  This game also has one of the coolest intro movies ever.  Youtube it.