Monday, February 27, 2012

Where Have All The RPGs Gone?

I thought 2012 would be the year of me whipping my RPG pile into shape. So far, it's taken on a more action-oriented nature.

I finished off Max Payne before going out of town, with a minimum of pain in the ass factor. That is a game very heavy on the quicksave and quickload functions, though. Overall, my impression is that it's very much a case style over substance. The substance is good; it's just that Max Payne only really has one mechanic: the bullet-time shoot-dodge. Cap guys before they can cap you by either slowing down time to get the jump on them, or painstakingly memorizing each goon's placement and trigger point. That's the game, in a nutshell. It's all gussied up with a hammy hard-boiled motif, which is fun, but nothing to write home about. It's pulp gaming, which is probably what Rockstar and Remedy were going for here, so I guess it's a success. I raise an eyebrow at anyone treating it like an unassailable classic, however.

Dota 2 has been a consistent evening favorite. I like to play a match before bed if I'm not too tired; that's the time I'm most likely to be able to game out uninterrupted, these days. The multiplayer hour, I hereby coin it. All other gaming needs to be pause-friendly.

That I have yet to mention it here is an accurate reflection of how deep I've gotten into it--I've restarted KOTOR on the PC. Several years ago I tried playing the Xbox version emulated on a 360, and that was a real mess, so I gave up after maybe 5 to 10 hours. I was on the Jedi academy planet, as I recall. Well, on my second go 'round, I've made it as far as checking out the first cantina in the first major area on the first planet--maybe 90 solid minutes of play time. This will be a back burner game for a while to come.

Guild Wars keeps hovering just above my forget-about-it line, but I keep dipping into it here and there. It's a good game to mindlessly click through while I kill time listening to a podcast. I finally left behind Ascalon, both pre- and post-searing, so the scenery is improving. I still haven't run into any interesting plotlines or much cool gear, though. I'm not sure why I keep playing; it's some melange of wanting to cap out and earn GW2 stuff (a game I'm not even sure I'll play), wanting to see more of the game, and the fact that my podcast co-host Esteban is still playing.

I booted up Half-Life 2 for a short while yesterday, and had a nice time with it before having to go take care of something else. Man, Valve's Source engine games just feel so good and smooth. So much better than just about any other games out there. It's not just the framerate, either. There's something else about that engine. Or maybe it's the rock-solid game design. Whatever it is, Half-Life 2 has got it, just like all the others. I'm still not very far in, but I think I'm about to get to the hovercraft.

So I guess that all brings me to my focus game for the time being, if I could be said to have one. That is Batman: Arkham Asylum. I began the game some months ago on PS3, but only just began it. I'm now playing the PC version, and I'm quite a bit further into it, this time. You have no doubt heard it before, but this is a fantastic video game. It feels awesome to control Batman, the graphics are amazing, the pacing is great, the environments are nicely varied, the world is decently open to explore in a Metroid-like fashion, and there are a good amount of equipment and skills you gather and upgrade as you progress. The production values are high, and the game is a lot of fun; this turned out about a thousand times better than your average licensed super hero game. I'm very late to the party on this one, but those are my impressions after 4 or 5 hours. I'm currently past the Bane fight, and in Arkham manor looking for some documents. I'm not a big fan of the comics or anything, but there are a ton of little bits of fan service in the game for those who are. The PC port is even pretty well done! Bravo, Rocksteady, for that. I hear Arkham City is a more iffy prospect, however.  

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