Monday, September 23, 2013

Urban Exploration

In my last post I talked about playing a lot of DLC. I'm still doing that, really. I did finish up the Mass Effect 2 content with Arrival, a cataclysmic event for one star system that sets up the lead-in for Shepard's trial in the beginning of Mass Effect 3. I'm going to have to play that game sometime.

For further DLC adventures, and to scratch that GTA itch while V is released for the consoles but not yet for the PC, I decided it was time to check out The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, the two extra modules available for IV. I thought they were both pretty well done, and succeeded in introducing new protagonists and cadres of characters with interesting enough stories to tell that also interwine with and do a little bit to flesh out the story of Niko Bellic, the original GTA IV protagonist. I think one reason these two mini-GTA campaigns worked so well for me was their smaller scope. They don't bog you down in too many irrelevant missions before moving on with the key events of the story. Additionally, I was doing very little of the ancillary stuff in the games. I would move from story beat to story beat very quickly as compared to how I have played these games in the past. I think this approach just works better in the more self-serious world of GTA IV. Overall, I thought Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez's stories each made for solid smaller-scale entries in the GTA series. Having them both also set in Liberty City I'm sure was convenient for Rockstar, but it also worked well to show us the city from other angles, to give it a more well-realized feel. I would recommend playing these, probably prior to playing GTA V.

I've dug into a trio of 2D platform cave exploration type games recently; Cave Story+, Spelunky, and La Mulana. It was recurring discussion of Spelunky on a couple of podcasts I like that kicked it off. I already owned Cave Story+, and had heard good things, but had never played it. Checking that out, first, it seemed ok, but didn't really grab me. It seemed very talky, and I wasn't really into that at the time. I may try it again sometime in the future. Spelunky, though, did a pretty good job of grabbing me right off the bat. Where these other two games are broadly similar to a Metroidvania type game, Spelunky is a roguelike in the form of a 2D platformer and has very nice production values. Where Cave Story and La Mulana look and sound like 16-bit games, Spelunky looks and sounds like your memories of 16-bit games. It's a challenge, and a lot of fun. One of the coolest features of the Steam version of Spelunky is the daily challenge, where everyone who plays that day is given the same randomized world to play a single time, and a leaderboard rank to compare scores with other players around the world. Finally on this tip, I started playing some La Mulana. It turns out this is a pretty hardcore Metroidvania type, and may take up to 30 hours or so to finish. Having seen someone fight the final boss and finish the game, I doubt I'll ever have the patience to go through that, but I do plan to play some more of the game. I like what I've seen so far, and they've just announced a sequel, as well.

I should write about Dear Esther, but it would be hard to say much without spoiling either the game or the effect of playing the game, so I'll just say that if you already own it through some means, or are able to pick it up for a few bucks, and you have an open mind about "gaming" "experiences," you should play it. I thought it was great, and absolutely gorgeous. It only takes about maybe an hour or 90 minutes to walk through. Walk through--because you won't be doing anything but walking, be advised, but I thought it told a story well enough just the same.

Elsewhere, I've played a little bit of Skullgirls, which has a nice tutorial mode that teaches the complete novice fighter such as myself essential skills like blocking and such. I've also checked out The Basement Collection, a compilation of stuff by the creator(s) of Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. That was full of odd things. I checked that my Anmesia save file does still load, and tentatively queued up more Fallout: New Vegas DLC for sometime soon. I need to toss some more hours into 2013 releases, too.

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