Friday, August 26, 2016

Best Video Game Story

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 26 and the topic is “Best Video Game Story”.
I have kind of already talked about this game in this series, and I reviewed all four parts of its DLC months ago (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) so what I have to say might be a little redundant, but whatever, this whole series of blogs is incredibly derivative.  I am just giving my unsolicited opinion on media because I need something to write about to keep the word producing juice in my brain flowing and this is easier than being original.  But, I digress.  My favorite video game story comes from “Fallout: New Vegas”. 
Yeah, I am talking about this again.  I like the setting.
Let’s start with some flaws.
When I first played this game it was bugged up the butt.  “Vegas” was constantly crashing, freezing, and even without those technical hiccups I could see the edges where Obsidian ran out of time and money to finish the freaking thing as the fast travel options were limited and there seemed to be areas the game just didn’t bother to create at all, for instance: is it too much to ask to be able to fast travel to each section of the Strip?  Or to important locations within Freeside?  Why is there only one area in which you interact with Caesar’s Legion when there is so much of the map on the other side of the river?
There were also lots of missing character/story options: No romance options even though there is a straight and gay companion option for such things whether your character is a man or a woman?  Why can’t I give the army of robots to the NCR to help them win a war for democratic ideals?  Why does my scientist pal’s loyalty mission only work when I am siding with the NCR, because his stated preference for game ending involves an independent Vegas?  Why are there only 3 casinos when actual Las Vegas has many to choose from?  Why is it there are only three tribes (Khans, Brotherhood, and Boomers) outside of the Strip that are noteworthy?  Why aren’t there more quest chains with the Followers of the Apocalypse as their goals most align with my real life beliefs in regards to how and why technology can improve people’s lives?
Regardless of these short comings the underlying premise is damn near perfect for me.  Two armies, one following the trappings of America (distorted by the irradiated mists of time), the other following Ancient Rome (distorted thru the irradiated mists of time).  Between these gather storms is a city built on luck, chance, and showmanship, led by a man obsessed with the past and a glittering view of the future cast in the image of that glorified past.  Which side do you want to choose?  Do you want to side with the democratic New California Republic whose sin is pushing out into the wild frontier and disturbing monsters in their wake?  Do you side with Mr. House, dictator of New Vegas, who is playing every side against each other in a complicated game to insure his city is run his way?  Or do you want the world to return to a state of sustainable primitivism with Caesar’s Legion, a misogynistic slave army bent not only on conquest of Vegas, but to create a Pax Romana in a world without the dangers of atomic technology that led to the fall of human civilization hundreds of years prior?  Or is there a forth option?
 
Yes, there is a 4th option.
Let’s move on to why I like it.
This may surprise you all but I am highly educated in two areas, American Politics and Urban and Regional Planning.  I have great interest in the management of people and resources to best utilize them for the future.  The idea of two militaries clashing over control of water and power while small local bands of people with their own needs and priorities caught in the middle is just perfect for me.  Identifying stakeholders in a situation, identifying various needs/wants and filling them as efficiently as possible to cultivate goodwill and a sense of connective tissue between communities to create a greater whole (in this case to settle a war) that is right up my philosophical alley.
When I played this game the lack of detail given about your character, the Courier (a mailman who was shot and left for dead only to rise up to being a power player in the war for Vegas) appealed to me.  Rather than in “Fallout 3” in which you are given friends, a home, a father who loves and cares about you, and you are stuck inheriting dad’s insane quest to build a really big water filter, in “New Vegas” you set out on your own quest for your own reasons, be it just for revenge or to solve the mystery of why you were “killed”.  I am effectively playing myself in a post apocalypse that speaks directly to what I want to do in the real world.
Like I listed before, the thing suffers from technical issues all over the place, but that really only makes me wish they would do a remastering of the game for this console generation.  Put in the environments you didn’t have time to finish, put in the romantic quests you didn’t have time to put in, put in more weapons and clean up the very basic modifications system, and add in a weather cycle and clean up the graphics.  As lame as I thought a lot of the DLC was I still played it all thru to the end, and I would not have balked at having more.
You know what else is kind of strange about this game?  The more I find out about “Fallout” and “Fallout 2”, games I have yet to play, the more I think that “New Vegas” was the “real” #3 in this series.  It expands upon the themes of the original games better, it feels like a natural extension of those events, and when elements from those games show up (like Supermutants, the Enclave, and the Brotherhood of Steel) they don’t feel out of place.
There is no logical reason why some things that showed up in #3 should be in Washington DC, because all of them originated on the West Coast of the US and were either destroyed or never moved out of there.  What I am saying is “New Vegas” makes more sense within the logic of the franchise and that feeling permeates down into the writing on the small scale interactions with the characters.  The whole thing feels more real.  I feel that this game is definitely worth playing, though if you have been playing 4 this one will feel a little stiff, though a lot less stiff than 3 does. 
It is still, often bugged up the butt.
Now to talk about SPOILERS when I look at each of the endings.
How you chose to resolve the story is also up to you, though I felt that one option always won out in my mind over the others and that is the Wildcard option, rather than looking back at the idealized past of Mr. House I instead chose to move Vegas forward toward a less certain and more chaotic future that still looks pretty bright.  (I should note that I mostly chose that option because the solution to the issue I REALLY wanted was not presented, in which I give the NCR the army of robots and have Vegas and the surrounding territories enter the NCR as new citizens under the protection of that army, my character then runs for and becomes President of the NCR down the line, but that wasn’t allowed anywhere but in my imagination).
As for the other paths in the game, I have no desire to play thru the game in Caesar’s Legion, it is the purest “evil” story path the game offers and when I see on message boards people trying to say, “the Legion is a surprisingly grey option, they aren’t pure evil” I just have to shake my head as I remember how many people were crucified for no reason… OR the REALLY BAD and IN YOUR FACE issue that EVERY WOMAN is a slave by default in their society and subject to BEING RAPED at the whim of any Legion soldier.
Mr. House isn’t bad, he is the Lawful Neutral option of providing order but in a reactionary way, the idea that he wants Vegas to be independent is fine, but to dress it up like it was before the war and to have him as the brain in a massive army of killer robots is concerning.
 
I get by with a little help from my friends.
I will continue with SPOILERS as I point out each of the companions and why I like them.
Arcade Gannon is my previously mentioned scientist friend whose loyalty mission I never managed to trigger, which kind of made me lose my shit a little at the game.  Which is a shame, because I read about it and it sounds great and gets him some cool power armor to wear which is a big step up from the lab coat he normally goes around in.  He’s voiced by Zach Levi, you know, Chuck from “Chuck”.  He was the human companion I used the least (4th overall).
Craig Boone is a tragic badass with a useful ability and having him around was awesome.  I love his backstory.  I love his motivations.  I love his grim voice provided Jason Marsden who has been in so much stuff in my life it is kind of weird.  Seriously, I think I have ascribed Marsden’s voice to characters in my literal dreams.  Boone was the character I used the second most.
Lily Bowen is a giant monster who can turn invisible and used to be a sweet old lady before being transformed into this god awful thing.  Her story is sad.  She is a tragic figure that represents ramifications from the original “Fallout” game.  She is voiced be David Pizzuto, who is not a recognizable name even though his voice seems to be in a hundred things.  I barely used Lily as a companion she was 5th on my list.
Raul Tejada is a ghoul mechanic I rescued from a crazy monster who wanted him to fix its robot.  I barely used his character because I found him constantly referring to me as “Boss” weirdly off putting and he is 6th overall.  He is voiced by Danny Trejo, one of those guys who is cool to a level that is kind of strange, he is basically the old badass in any movie that Samuel L Jackson didn’t have time to appear in.
"Who you are comes from the choices you make when life gets tough."
Whiskey Rose Cassidy is broke, drunk, and has a chip on her shoulder because her family legacy, a shipping company, has been reduced to corpses and ash.  She is the companion I spent the most time with even though her ability is almost completely useless.  I don’t know why, maybe because she is kind of a jerk; maybe it is because I seem to have a thing for red heads; maybe it is because like my character, she is also a mailman that the world has conspired to destroy.  She is voiced by Rachel Roswell who is known for… This, and only this.
Veronica Santangelo is a member of the Brotherhood of Steel and one of their harshest critics, which almost gets her and me murdered by them at one point.  She is my third favorite companion because she combines the right blend of cute and sarcastic and I generally agree with her about the Brotherhood’s failings.  She is voiced by Felicia Day, one of those rare people that could be described as perfect as she seems to have no flaws and works in and around numerous things I enjoy.
Or it is an extension of my thing for redheads.
 I can’t think of anything else to say.  Hopefully this bloated word balloon was not a complete waste of time.  I put off writing this entry till the last minute, I even moved it back a couple times in the marching order because I knew I would end up writing so much.  Yeah…  What is your favorite game story?  You do not have to write so much to express your feelings, but if you do I promise to read it.  Does the game have Batman in it?  Is it “Never Winter Nights”?  Is it “Tetris”?  If it is “Tetris” I think you might have a mental disorder because “Tetris” has no story and any you ascribed to it is probably just your own madness talking.
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Favorite Classic Game

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 25 and the topic is “Favorite Classic Game”.
            This is probably not going to surprise anyone.  This game is still considered the underlying superstructure for story and gameplay in its series (and to a lesser extent the world of 3-Dimensional gaming) because it did everything it needed to do so well (FOR THE TIME).
Pretty... Though not representative of the game's angular art style (THAT WAS AWESOME AT THE TIME).
“Zelda: Ocarina of Time” allowed for better conception of puzzles in a 3 dimensional space than any previous Zelda title (yes there were multiple floors before, but this allowed for multiple levels in a single room).  It had big boss monsters that looked and felt big.  It had numerous enemies with visual personality that made them memorable.  The use of color and music to convey tone and information about characters and environments is simple in the best sense of the word, you could show a child any member of the good guys and they would know that they are good guys, and you could show them the bad guys and they would know that they are the bad guys.  It is creepy when it needs to be creepy, not to mention weird, silly, and dramatic at all the right times.
I should point out the one thing that is unquestionably timeless and of great artistic merit: The Score.  The music in “Ocarina” is fantastic (and linked to in the first image).  If I had not so quickly decided on “Halo 2” earlier this month (and had already decided to do “Zelda” for this entry) I would have put the score to this game as my favorite video game music.
The “Zelda” franchise is perhaps the most well-known fantasy series in gaming, and one of the few game series that people who do not play games can point to as recognizable.  I just watched a play thru of the whole game less than 2 months ago by the Game Grumps (mostly it is EgoRaptor sucking at playing and then blaming the game, it is a little strange) and I liked watching it again and seeing how much of it is etched into my mind from having played and replayed the game while combing thru an issue of Nintendo Power for help on the first half of the game and buying a strategy guide so that I wouldn’t miss out or get stuck on any part when the Nintendo Power’s guide ran out.
(I know it sounds strange to say this, but I was taking some advanced math classes for my age and did not have time to learn the hard way how to power thru “Ocarina” without a guide to go to when I got stuck, pay to win has always existed in some form or another; now I would just use the internet).
The Sequel is when things really cut loose.
I do not think I am ruffling any feathers to say that this game is a classic.  I do wish that its continuity had hung around.  Its sequel, “Zelda: Majora’s Mask” is better than “Ocarina” by providing great artwork and reworking of the existing characters and assets while expanding and diversifying the gameplay.  The variety and inventiveness is so cool that you feel like you are getting new experiences in each iteration even while reliving the same three days over and over, “Cause and Effect” style… I could have gone for the “Groundhog’s Day” reference, but I instead went for the Star Trek reference, because “Star Trek” ends in a collision and explosion like “Majora’s Mask” does.  I will point out that this game pretty much required a day 1 purchase of a strategy guide, as the sheer number of stories and hidden things to collect was maddening.
I wish that “Twilight Princess” had found a way to continue the story further in the way “Mask” did.  “Twilight” instead chose to make a redo and I found that to be weak.  Lame even.  I had already seen the story in which Link is a fresh faced adventurer saving the world from Ganon for the first time, and I had seen it again with “Windwaker” (which also should have just been a sequel, but I like to cut it some slack because I like its art style… and no one else at the time cut that game any slack for not being a sequel).
Seriously, look at this thing.  It is god damn gorgeous.
Zelda is a fun series and “Ocarina of Time” is arguably the last time it did anything exceptionally new with how the game was designed on a fundamental level.  “Majora’s Mask” was the last time they did anything original with the story (though I do not know a lot about the Gameboy games so maybe that is flatly untrue).  Since then my passion for the series really only expresses itself thru nostalgia via “Super Smash Bros”. 
And nostalgia is what this thing does best.
             What is your favorite classic game?  What game exists recently that is destined for classic status in years to come?  I am guessing “Minecraft” even though I get motion sickness playing it and thus can’t partake.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Disappointing Game Sequel

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 24 and the topic is “Disappointing Game Sequel”.
            I ended up writing about two disappointing games.  I feel I went above and beyond.
One of the bigger surprises for games I really liked was “Army of Two”.  This was during a time in which my brother and I had enough overlapping free time to co-op games and this made co-op the whole point (we also did “Halo 3” and “Resident Evil 5” and holy shit did RE5 suck, one of the lamest games I have ever played).  The game feature some almost standard mechanics for its time like flanking to hit the weak points on an armored enemy, boosting each other to take advantage of gun emplacements, and using money earned from mercenary work to upgrade weapons and armor to do more damage and look more insane because token RPG elements were really big in 2008 (holy shit that 8 years ago); but the strength of the game came from its emphasis on team work beyond just flanking and boosting someone up a wall, since this team work emphasis occurred constantly the game committed completely to its co-op focus which many games just can’t or won’t do.
The team work of “Army” could be summed up with two mechanics, the first one was when one member of the duo could draw more and more aggression from the enemy units until he became an invincible bullet magnet for a short time and when that happened the other team member would become effectively invisible to the enemy allowing them to run around picking off baddies.  The second mechanic had to do with waves of enemies coming from all sides so the two characters would enter a “back to back” mode in which things slowed down and a shooting gallery phase took place as the players swept to target characters in all directions.  “Army” had smooth controls, a bit of a sense of humor about itself, and had a sort of Michael Bay explosions-are-awesome mindset that kept it from losing energy.  Its sequel sucked.
The change in the voice cast was also unwelcome.  And you couldn't help but notice.
“Army of Two: The 40th Day” was basically unplayable.  My brother and I actually anticipated the game going on sale and planned a weekend to play it.  30 minutes of being unable to see what was going on because the lighting effects had decided to be grimmer and darkly serious rather than bright and silly; unable to move because the controls had somehow become stiffer; and a change in tone that made all the dialogue darker and edgier like the shit lighting but much like the lighting the dialogue was NOT FUN.  We tried to play for a bit, but then quit in frustration.  Once you die several times in the opening level you just don’t hold out hope for the rest of the game.
It is hard to explain the tonal shift.  As if the movie “Bad Boys” had decided to try and be “Sicario” when the time for the sequel rolled around, but with no upgrade in the talent behind the camera.  It is bad because it plays against the established conventions of the first series entry and because it is executed poorly.  (Side note, I didn’t like “Bad Boys II” but for entirely different reasons).
Really, “Army of Two” is a nothing series.  I imagine I am the only person who has thought about it at all in years.  There are other games I could have put here that are of greater note because they tie into larger Franchises.
Ahem.
I could also look to the “Dawn of War” real time strategy series.  I loved the first entry, and found that its expansions added a lot to it by introducing new armies with mechanics that allowed them to play differently from one another in addition to their wide variety of art styles which has made the “Warhammer 40K” license such an enduring geek touchstone.  The sequel to “Dawn of War” sucked.
I do not like the Tyranid in an RTS format and they are the key symptom of what did not work for me about this game.  The Tyranid are a race of giant space bugs that sweep in and devour the biomass of planets, they have bone hard as titanium and can puke acid or fire bone spears that can rip apart tanks, they are also legion WITH SO MANY UNITS.  There are too many units to keep track of with my simple little brain.
Zerg Rush!
Beyond the game having too much to keep track of the speed of the game was adjusted from “casual” to “Korean” and I just do not have the focus to deal with dozens of hot keys.  I do not want a game to be this frantic.  I want to chill out.  The series has roots in a Turn Based system, meaning a human brain can manage dozens and dozens of moves because there is time to contemplate them.
None of that is that important.  I have played the first “Dawn of War” hundreds of hours, and even if #2 awful the first one holds up for me and I still play it from time to time.  That is kind of the lesson to this blog, that disappointment is very temporary, there are lots and lots of game out in the world and even if a sequel ultimately lets you down you can play something else.

            What video game sequel has left you cold?  I imagine “Skyward Sword” will be this to some people, I never played it… But you could argue it was not a sequel as it is a standalone Zelda game, and thus would not count.  Maybe one of the “Assassin’s Creed” games, I personally did not like the weird “Indians have magic powers” DLC for #3.  If you would like to share, please do in the comments.

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If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Game that Surprised Me

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 23 and the topic is “Guilty Pleasure Game”.
            What does that even mean?  That is stupid.  I don’t know who feels guilty about liking something but if they are maybe they should rethink their lives.  If they are doing something illegal and feeling guilty fine, listen to that feeling and move past doing the illegal thing, but a video game… That is just stupid.
Cloaking your interests and passions in a veil of irony so that you don’t have to feel the shame of other people knowing that you like things is stupid.  The idea of someone being ashamed of having personality that isn’t defined by group think is a concept that permeates too much of both online culture and real life culture.  Stop feeling you have to explain away what you enjoy to idiots who think that pretending to not like things makes them somehow superior.
Whatever.  The guy writing 30 prompts was probably getting low in the barrel at this point.  I have the benefit of only having to shave off the one’s I think are stupid and replacing them with things I like more.
            So fuck that prompt, and the stupid culture that made someone think it was a good idea.

            Today is day 26 and the topic is “Guilty Pleasure Game” “A Game that Surprised You”.
            This might also be a move of laziness on my part, because I have already talked about this game, the moment that surprised me, and have already heartily endorsed why it should be played.  “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” is a game that by no rights I should have enjoyed and yet it totally delivered, pulled me in, and made me feel like a big damn hero.  A feeling that would later be demonized and excised by “Spec Ops: The Line” so I owe my enjoyment of that game (previously discussed) to the foundation laid by “Call of Duty”.

            Umm… This is too short an entry even with me railing against “guilty pleasure” as a concept.  The whole point of me doing this 30-day challenge is to get me to write more and I have already been slacking.
So, what was another game that surprised me?
Ooh!  I know.  The only Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) I have ever given a shit about, “Tales of Symphonia”.  This game was introduced to me by two friends of mine that I studied abroad with in China and continued to hang out with in spite of me annoying them far more than I should have (because I was a loser in my early 20’s… Most of my 20’s… and now going into my 30’s).
This is actually a less cartoon version of the originals art.  I just thought it looked cool.
            “Tales of Symphonia” is a story game, basically an entire anime series played out in cut scenes both in and out of the game engine, sometimes text, sometimes video, and all the action is done by the player.  There were multiple endings which made it somewhat repayable different love interests and side missions allowed for a fun little twist on things.  While the narrative was a bit baffling at times “Tales” made up for it with a cool real time combat system that allows for multiplayer input with a variety of moves and visuals spread among an eclectic group of characters.
            The story is derivative when it isn’t baffling, but for whatever reason I liked it, especially the main character of Lloyd, a sword fighting adventurer who lives with his adopted father (who is a dwarf in the fantasy sense) and while skilled in his areas of expertise he is not a golden boy, he can be flaky, selfish, shallow, or just pissed.  Lloyd and the other characters are characters with layers, interests, histories, and their own goals. 
This is fan art.
I would like to point out some basic color theory at work here.  Lloyd's clothing utilizes red for passion and drive, but is stabilized by black which shows his mysterious past (his parents), and a shock of white emphasizing his naiveté and pure intentions setting out on the adventure.  All of the game’s characters make good use of color theory and I think that sets their character designs ahead of most other games (I would also point to Nintendo for other examples of great use of color in character design, and I have already talked about what else I like about them).
The narrative of “Tales” hit all the right notes for me and the combat system was fun enough that it kept me invested even when the story felt a little flat or silly.
            Wow, I spent more time complaining about this game than complimenting it.  Let me give it a few more positive words.  I liked the art style, it is cartoony and bright without being too detailed and chaotic (something I lay at the feat of the “Final Fantasy” franchise).  The setting has a good blend of classic rural fantasy with tiny villages and remote fortresses, but a big helping of Magi-tech, with towers that look like they come off the cover of a 1970’s science fiction novel (if you like classic sci-fi art, here is a tumblr you can follow).  The bad guys have a variety of interesting motivations, ranging from greed, to lust for power, bigotry, and grief that I found myself understanding.
"So, anyone else wondering about the old time European aesthetic... and the 7,000 meter tall towers full of robots?"
"Look, if Marvel's 'Thor' can have magic space vikings and still feels like it makes sense, we can believe this."  
More positive, as I mentioned before the story does have a few instances in which you can change things and have the characters behave how you think they should in certain key instances, rather than just acting out the script handed down by the creators.  The Story train is mostly on rails, but you can switch tracks at certain points to make things more interesting to you.  This minor narrative choice sets “Tales” apart from what I consider to be the biggest sin of JRPG’s: that there is no roleplaying, just playing a role (another thing I ascribe to “Final Fantasy” but that might be a misplaced strike, I have never played long enough into an FF game to see if there are opportunities to split the narrative down an unexpected path).
You could say that I have nostalgia for this game as I sought out a used copy and played it for 25 hours last year.  My interest did peter out, but I still saw all the things I recalled liking and messaged one of the friends who introduced me to “Tales” about how I had gotten it.  Apparently, it is out on Steam, and I think it is worth playing, but they have been catching shit for how the graphics were not optimized for PC, so if you intend to play it on there do look into getting some mods (there is an online fandom that is big on this) to clean up the graphics.

            Do you disagree with me about the idea of a Guilty Pleasure?  If so, please give me some kind of example in the comments because I just do not understand it.  On the other end, maybe you want to talk about being surprised by a game, in which game do share an instance in which a game beat your expectations.  Or do what most people do and write nothing.

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If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Game Everyone Should Play

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 22 and the topic is “A Game Everyone Should Play”.
            This pick will probably seem pretty odd considering how much I liked “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare”, but considering how much I disliked its many sequels I feel that it makes plenty of sense.  I would also say that it represents a much more mature take on military activities in the context of gaming, borrowing from “Apocalypse Now” (a movie I did not care for) and playing with the finer aspects of gameplay and animation to deliver a message to the player.
            “Spec Ops: The Line” is a critical darling for all the reasons I mentioned and should be played by everyone who enjoy s games as a medium, and more specifically it should be played by people who love the Military-action game archetype as it exists today.  The bleakness of this title will stand in direct opposition to the throbbing stupidity of many others in the genre.  (I have written an unremarkable review about this game before).
There are also a lot of horror elements and dream sequences.
            I almost feel like I do not want to give too much away and instead just point to how it is often on sale on Steam and that I would heartily recommend putting it on your wish list so as to pick it up the next time it cycles into being super inexpensive.  I would then like to point to “Extra Credits” again who did a breakdown (part 1, part 2) of some of the visual and narrative elements in the game that lent it a great deal of symbolic weight.

            This is not by any means the only game anyone should play, and I would argue that much of why I think it should be played comes from how war and heroism are portrayed in our culture.  If someone were to play this without having played other games in the military shooter vein or having watched movies that are militaristic (or worse jingoistic) then it would lose punch.
There are many must play games out there that use games to illustrate points about life, teach history, or help to conceptualize difficult concepts.  When I see things about how using gaming to crowd source science problems has resulted in issues being solved at fantastic rates I have to concede there are games with substantive use to the world out there and applications for gameplay that can change the world.  With those deeper thoughts in mind it is almost myopic to point to any narrative game as something that has to be played.
I know that I was better at math because of a specific “Math Blaster” game that was easy to play and helped hammer in doing math, I know that I know more about world history for having played “Civilization”, and I know that “Sim City” gave my younger self a greater appreciation for the complexities of local government.  Maybe I should have pointed to these things as must play games as I know they will have a greater positive impact on those who play them intellectually.  I don’t know.
Some variation of this was played by me numerous times in elementary school, it made me better at math.
Do you have a game in mind when asked what must be played?  Do you know why you feel that way?  Was it an emotional response?  An intellectual one?  Or is it just you want to recommend something fun and I am over thinking this whole thing?  Post in the comments if you want me to know.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Game I have Played 5+ Times

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 21 and the topic is “Game I have Played 5+ Times”.
            I am going to focus on games with narrative elements, because I play games like “Civilization V” and “Age of Empires III” constantly and have played each hundreds of times, but 1-5 hours in each instance and each time was a different set up.  They are meant to be played over and over.  So let me point to one that I think has a negative place in people’s personal history of gaming that I liked a lot.

            “Chicken Chaser?” came the jeers of the villagers.  “Does he chase chickens?”
            The “Fable” franchise lives in a shadow of infamy.  Prior to “No Man’s Sky” it was the most over hyped game ever made with the backing of genius/lunatic Peter Molyneux.  The original game was supposed to realize the dream of a truly “real” world in which you could plant a tree and watch it grow as time passed in the game.  I guess I must be the only person on earth who then and now knows how to spot impossible things and then ignore the hype and instead anticipate it for what it was, a pretty good action brawler with RPG elements.
I consider myself a fan of Peter Molyneux.  I feel that ambition and strange experimentation is important and he is one of the auteur game designers whose name people cite in both categories.
            I remember being in undergrad and having to ask to borrow the Video Game club’s Xbox so that I could play thru the game over a long weekend, and having been the treasurer and a member who had shown up to every meeting for 3 years they gave me the nod.  I played thru the story all good, all evil, and then just sort of shrugging and deciding things at random.  I maxed out each spell, all the strength and skill “trees” (there are no branching elements it is just a static numerical upgrade to your abilities) and still failed to collect all of the little hidden elements.
            What sold the game to me was mostly the art style and the sense of humor, this will be a common refrain from me (see my opinion on “Borderlands” for example).  I like things to be more animated and quirky rather than “realistic”, I like things to emphasize humor, rather than trying to make me feel bitter/sad.
I both love and hate the covers of this.  There are better ways to convey what a person COULD become in the game.
BUT, it is also warmly colored and conveys a sense of both wonder and dread for the future to come.
            The setting was a fairly derivative fantasy setting (though with the welcome change of not having non-human races, one of the only times I have seen having fewer features as a positive quality).  The story was also derivative, with a young boy saved from his burning village to be raised by an academy of heroes to become the champion of the land.  There were some other elements present, like the ability to be an obnoxious bastard, thin to the point of transparency roleplaying elements like the ability to marry and have children with an NPC (though all of them were gormless and had less personality than a Sim).
            Years later I got the expanded version for the PC and played thru it a couple times to see all the little story elements and endings.  It did not add much but I still enjoyed it.  Fable 2 unfortunately was not as funny, but upgraded all the gameplay and the art style, its biggest drawback was making the concepts of Strength, Skill, and Will into metaphysical ideals in the world like the freaking Force, which is stupid to the point of making me feel dumber for having thought about it.  Instead of doing that they could have just emphasized having to get a group of heroes together to save the world, a chosen one narrative is fine for the first game in a series, but when it happens again, especially with such a stupid way of justifying it thru an un-ironic canonizing of game mechanics as philosophical concepts… that is just lame.
Seriously, the movement, boss battles, character customization, environments, and effects were all SO MUCH BETTER.
For some reason the article I took this from comes from that delusional time in which every god damn thing was being looked at as a potential MMO, and I would just like to underline how stupid that is.
            “Fable 3” became even less funny and started a kind of elitist story idea that only royal bloodlines could do magic and that you are the child of the protagonist of 2 who is in a succession struggle with their rat bastard brother.  While there are fun things in it, the gameplay was broken, and the story had lost the shine.  The idea of becoming king and having to make decisions to help save the world from an administrative standpoint rather than just a boots on the ground hero is interesting, and I hear it was done a hundred times better in the “Assassin’s Creed” series and “Dragon Age Inquisition”, but in “Fable III” it is mostly just dumb binary choices that ignore complexity… and rational thought.
I do not want to be too down on this game.  I still liked it, and the story outline is better in many ways than two, but ultimately I think that it just lost the spark.
            I think most people would say 2 was the best overall, and I have to agree, but I had the most fun playing the original, so much so that I had hoped they would use the gameplay of “Fable II” and some opportunities for adding expansions to the gameplay to really up the title when it was re-released for its anniversary edition (they did not, and I don’t give a shit about graphical updates to bother replaying the game with slightly more bloom lighting on everything).
Much like the previously mention “Borderlands” this series has a style all its own, and if they could just find a way to inject some of that missing humor back into it I think it is due for some kind of comeback in the current console generation.
            They were going to release a new “Fable Legends” title sometime this year.  And I was highly anticipating this because of the distinctiveness of the play style, it was going to be an asymmetrical multi-player game in which a group of players with distinct characters have to run a gamut of monsters arranged by another player Dungeons and Dragons style, and its accessibility.  The game was canned and I am super disappointed.  While I am sure it would not have lived up to expectations (as that is a tradition of the series), I do feel it would have been a distinct enough gameplay style to set itself apart in the current field and maybe encourage more exploration of the concept.
I was supposed to talk about a game, and instead I end up talking about an entire franchise.
I can't decide if I am good or bad at this blogging thing.

            What game have you replayed?  I am betting “Chrono Trigger” might be someone’s choice.  And I am sure somebody has explored every nook of the Final Fantasy series’ various worlds.  Anyone want to share in the comments?

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If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Best Video Game Voice Acting

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 20 and the topic is “Best Video Game Voice Acting”.
            “South Park: The Stick of Truth”.  This game is a ton of fun.  And represents the single best transition of an intellectual property to a different medium, with the entire creative team of the show working on the story, dialogue, and art.  It is actually kind of hard to compete with in regards to voice talent because it is the voices of the characters, not just vocally, but intellectually.  This is “South Park”.
I am also looking forward to the sequel which is about Superheroes,
            I don’t really have anything else to say about it.  I guess I will post my Steam review of the game, such as it is.

Even though I have not played the game to completion it is still a fun and definite recommendation.
The combat is a little limited (with only one other companion to help you in battles, and positioning is not a substantive factor) and the gear you get is so flexible that you can be a bit overpowered at times by switching between numerous different augments to fit the situation.
The story is ULTRA true to the South Park universe, and I imagine that the game was meant to reintroduce fans of the series who have not played games before (via the easy gameplay) but also to welcome back people who used to watch the series but hadn't in a while (hence why some of the references are to jokes from the series that aren't even referenced in the show anymore, like Mr. Hanky).

            But how about I talk about a game that I love which has totally original characters with voices and characters captured by the voice actors: Pretty much everything ever produced by Bioware.  Even when I didn’t care about the game all that much “Dragon Age Origins” I loved the voice cast and the dialogue is delivered in a natural tone with great comedic timing.  “Mass Effect 2” is one of my favorite games ever because of Jennifer Hale, the most prolific voice actress in video games, and the surrounding talent which allows her to get shit done.
Her actress has played space heroines elsewhere too.
            I could point to a game with voice acting that totally doesn’t work, but I tend to not play those very much… Maybe “Shadows of Mordor” a game I love but I hate the main characters because they are boring assholes.  But that isn’t a reflection on their performances, just the writing.  I guess I don’t have anything for a bad example of voice acting, except for stuff everyone already knows about (that I never actually played) like the original “Resident Evil”.
            How about the single best casting choice?  Armin Shimerman, was the actor who portrayed Andrew Ryan in “Bioshock”.  The lunatic founder of a Libertarian city under the sea is voiced by the same actor who played Quark on Star Trek, the character who spoke of the philosophical benefits of capitalism and free trade on Deep Space 9, a city in the stars.  He so completely disappeared into the role I didn’t notice until I started researching this blog.
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? -Rule of Acquisition #70 
             I guess that is it for my rambling BS.  If you have a favorite voice performance, I am guessing “Batman: Arkham (Place)” will get a few mentions as they borrowed the most iconic animated performances for it, it is a good choice.  Maybe you think I am an idiot for picking “South Park”, also good, but if so please tell me why in the comments.
Though, there were numerous instances in which I just wanted this jerk off to shut up while I stealth his goons.
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If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.