Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Top 10 Video Games

            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 31 and the topic is “Top 10 Video Games”.
            This and yesterday’s entry were not a part of the original 30-day challenge, I added them to replace categories that I decided to excise for being lame.  Some of these games I have talked about before in this series, and some I have talked about before that, so I will link to those when apropos.  Cause I have written more than 25,000 words on freaking video games this month and I am pretty tired so I am not going to bust my ass on a rehashing of what I have already done.
SO LET US BEGIN!

I sincerely doubt this game is in many top 10's.
10) Fable
I have already talked about this one.  But to give a quick rundown of that: a game that emphasizes humor and a whimsical tone with basic gameplay and basic fantasy story.

           
This is probably on more lists.
9) Resident Evil 4
            Haven’t talked about this one yet.  This is the only good “Resident Evil” game.  It drops most of the BS science fiction to instead focus on a Lovecraft type horror, with giant monsters, twisted monstrosities, cults, zombies caused by parasites rather than a virus, and a plot to insert mind control parasites into the white house.  It is often playing things with a tongue firmly in its cheek, goofy elements, and random puzzles.  While most RE games take themselves too seriously RE4 lets you throw eggs at people.
As for mechanics it has the best quick time events I have seen in a game, though it is also probably responsible for that mechanic being added to every other action title that came out around that time.  The controls do not allow you to move while aiming, instead requiring you to be still while lining up shots in an over the shoulder camera model that works shockingly well.  There are also siege-defense, which allows you to push furniture in from of doors, or shove ladders away from windows, a small but really cool way to interact with the environment that adds to the survival horror element.
Lastly, the game is all about escort quests, as you attempt to save a damsel (the president’s daughter, Ashley) from the monsters, and it is the gold standard in this type of gameplay; Ashley anticipates your movements and gets out of the way, she takes cover behind you, she ducks when she doesn’t have time to get behind you, she can be sent thru some windows to unlock doors or throw switches while you keep the cultists off her, and in one of the cutest aspects of the story she gives a “yeah” mini fist pump when you kill a bad guy.
Resident Evil 4 is a fun and adventurous game that has a good sense of humor and solid gameplay.  I love it. 
           
This is definitely on top 10 lists.  Everybody loves this thing.  I kind of feel mainstream by picking it.
8) Portal
            I have talked about this one too.  And mentioned it positively a couple times.  To some up, it is a tightly designed puzzle game with one of the best mechanics, best bad guy, and best senses of humor in all of gaming.

           
I imagine people's negative reception to the ending of 3 might make this game unfairly neglected during award season.
7) Mass Effect 2
            I have talked about the characters of the Mass Effect series, but this is my favorite entry in the series specifically because of how good those characters are.  While I do find the action gameplay fun what I am really here for is the space politics and the space drama.  I like seeing the bigger issues of the galaxy explored thru the microcosm of diverse crew members you interact with.  It is funny, sad, and awesome in numerous measures.  One of the truly great games of its time and one of my personal favorites.

           
I am so out of juice these captions are giving me trouble.
6) Super Smash Bros Brawl
            I talked about how Nintendo is my favorite developer and this is a good example of why.  The only fighting game I like because it is so easy to play, and much like the rest of Nintendo, it is about having fun not really about giving everyone a competitive system to waste one’s life mastering.  (Note: I think E-Sports are stupid, they are as inane as any game and give you none of the exercise of sports and none of the creative or educational benefits of non-competitive games like Dungeons and Dragons).
            “Smash Bros” just takes bright characters and goofy environments and tells you to have fun with them.  The meta-narrative is that of all the characters all being toys and acting out the play battles of the “Master Hand”.  This even ties back to my discussion of “Alan Wake” yesterday, that I like the idea of characters taking on a life of their own and fighting to break free of their creators as the characters in this game square off against the Master Hand at the game’s ultimate conflict.
            I am sure if I had a WiiU that would be the iteration of the series that I like the most, but I don’t, so it’s not.

I've got to find a way out of here...
5) Spec Ops: The Line
Already talked about this one.  It is a dark exploration of the impulses that make people want to be a hero and the destruction such a self-serving drive has on the world.

Said the Joker to the Theif.
4) Age of Empires III

            Already talked about this one.  It is a Real Time Strategy game set in the colonial era of history.  It has lots of different units and a fun system for gathering and managing resources.

           
Breath that glorious desert air.
3) Fallout: New Vegas
            I beat this thing into the ground with my praise and the amount of time I have spent discussing it.  A mailman is left for dead, and now he is back and out for revenge in the post-apocalyptic desert of Vegas.

           
My brain is tired.  Maybe I wouldn't be cut out for it.
2) Psychonauts
            I already talked about this thing with a glowing review of how I wish I could live in this world.

This is from the opening cinematic of the game, but I have my doubts as to whether this would be the best place to settle down.  The river has advantages, but the mountains might make it too difficult to get enough workable tiles.
1) Civilization V
            This is my favorite game.  At time of writing I have 4100+ hours logged on this game via Steam.  This game introduced me to Steam and I have spent many a long night up playing it.  I love it, and I still to this day suck at it because I have no interest in ever playing it against anyone else.  “Civ” is what I do so as to busy my hands and mind while watching Netflix, Channel Awesome, or whatever else might be on the internet.
I have innumerable complaints and compliments for this thing (I still have no idea how the religion mechanic works), but I don’t want to list them all.  It would be pointless to as that 4100+ hours count would just underline how I have not let anything stop me from playing.  I have learned a lot about historical figures and great wonders of the world because of this game, and I look forward to “Civilization VI” later this year.

            What are your top 10?  What do you think of “get gud”?  How much time have you spent on your favorite game?

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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 30, 2016

Top 20 Video Games: 20 to 11

            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 30 and the topic is “Top 20 Video Games: Twenty to Eleven”.
            I initially only gave out 8 honorable mentions in addition to my top 10, because I couldn’t find 2 more games that I liked enough that I could just make a top 20 rather than a top 10.  Isn’t that a bitch?
            Well, that mostly had to do with my unwillingness to just laud the various entries in one series or from one company.  Some top lists on the internet contain 3 games in a series in three different slots.  Just lump those together, there is no reason to eat up 3 entries on what amounts to one set of games.  You are not providing greater context on your tastes and interests by emphasizing those titles so much.  Eventually I realized that I should reach much further back in my memory to games that I liked a lot as a child to grab some more… Then I started to have too many entries and started cutting things because I don’t think nostalgia is a reason to love something beyond whether I still like it now.
            I am also a bit lazy in that I tried to talk about most of these over the course of the month so that I could just link to them and save myself from having to write too much here.  And I have talked about a lot of these in the WAY BACK of “before I started writing this 30-day challenge”.  So hooray for me for making all of this slightly easier to get thru.
 
And just like yesterday I am posting to the music.
20) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
My family was not wealthy and we waited several years before getting a new game system for the kids to play with, and by the time I got a Sega Genesis the game that was packaged with it was “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”.  I still consider it to be an adequate platformer from the era and I played the hell out of it.  I generally like Sonic as a character (I grew up on two wildly different yet completely acceptable takes on the guy) and still have a sort of soft spot for the whole thing.
A lot of Sonic’s themes are nature vs technology and perhaps it is because I grew up in the era of “Captain Planet” and other such environmentally conscious kids’ entertainment that I consider Sonic to have a little more meat to it (on a foundational level) than the straight forward goofy adventures of “Super Mario Bros”.  I would also point to those factors as to why the franchise has endured even though the game series has become a laughing stock, the cartoons are garbage, and the fandom is an overflowing asylum of creepy weirdos.

Look at these pricks with their flawless character design.
19) Tales of Symphonia
I already talked at length to this game’s merits, not only having a good story with good characters, but the art and gameplay that mark it as being a cut above.

Getting real lazy, reusing images from past blogs.
18) Batman: Arkham Franchise
I have already talked about this one and I again point to how its flowing combat system, stealth elements, and the iconic characters of the Batman mythos make this one of the most well regarded franchises in video game history.

I guess I should have done a screen grab of my version of the protagonist.
Well, just picture Harley Quinn but with giant gag-boobs and dressed in wrestling gear.  Voiced by Lust.
17) Saints Row the Third
I haven’t talked about this one yet and I imagine some people will point to the final complete game in the series “Saints Row IV” (a game I enjoy) as the best of the lot but I disagree.  “IV” had the burden of tying up the series and paid homage to all the previous entries with callbacks to characters, voice actors, game mechanics, and events… all jokes and references that went right over my head because I only played 3 and 4.
“The Third” does not have the issues of putting the series to bed, so it can instead focus on introducing new characters and locations that are treated as new places (and thus I, the player don’t feel like I am late to the party).  The tone is pure madness as I fight a legion of luchadores with grenade launchers, genetically engineered giants, weebo hackers, and an invasion of space age soldiers meant to take the city back from me.  The action is fun, the music is fun, and the dialogue is all fun.  The game sets a tone of silly and strange and keeps the pace at a steady escalation right to the end.  I love it.

          
This game is all about the tunes.
            16) Zelda Ocarina of Time

            Already talked about what is probably the definitive fantasy game of the last 20 years.

 
Waaargh.  Waaargh never changes.
Wait... Wrong franchise.
15) Dawn of War: Complete

I mentioned this game in my “Disappointing Sequels” entry and I think that blog covered most of my feelings but I would also like to again point out that the mythology of the Warhammer 40K universe is just delightful in all the oddest ways.  Violent to the point of self-parody, grim to the point of farce, and so earnest in its stupidity that I can’t help but like it.

This game is so old that it still has cool classic style fantasy art in its promotional images.  Boris Vellejo style.
14) Diablo II
I tried playing “Diablo III” a little and honestly it was one of my most anticipated games for a LONG time before it came out… and I could have (and should have) written about it in my “Disappointing Sequels” entry.  (Funny thing, I was anticipating the game for so long, the blog I wrote about my anticipation is on the site I used before blogger and I can't even provide a link, because I can't find it.)
For the time it came out “Diablo II” scratched an itch I did not know I had and I still think back on it fondly.  Much like Dawn of War the earnestness of its stupid plot about gory devils, skeletons, and goblins is just too sincere to hate.  It is a dumb little RPG beat’m up which has (literally) caused a mouse of mine to stop clicking from overuse.
I would point to “Torchlight II” as another title in this genre that I loved and I actually managed to play “Torchlight II” all the way to the end.
 
I am betting some people are telling me I got out while the getting was good.  But here is the thing, the only reason I quit forever is this: I got mad at them for charging me.
At some point they set up auto renewal and kept charging me even though I did not log in for a 6 month stretch and when I realized they had changed me 90 dollars for ZERO time spent logged in I left forever.
13) World of Warcraft
The appearance of two games by the same company back to back will be a onetime thing, though I am sure there are people out there who could make a personal best games list that would have lots of Blizzard titles filling slots.  Korean players certainly.
I got into “WoW” in undergrad and played regularly (30+ hours a week) for few months, then I would take a break and go back to a patch, play for a few months, take a break, and repeated that cycle for years.  I played thru “Burning Crusade” and felt no special attachment to any iteration of the game, I actually liked the game more each time I came back because of how much more accessible it had become (I do not have time to find the region the particular breed of slimes I am hunting is in).
I do think that “WoW” has had an influence that people might be aware of but do not fully appreciate.  That right now, in the cultural zeitgeist there are 4 fantasy properties that define the genre to people, “Harry Potter”, “Game of Thrones”, “Lord of the Rings”, and “World of Warcraft” each of them being more and more fantastical or distant from the real world than the last and these things have done a lot to bring the masses to the genre.  Even though I have not played “WoW” in 8 years, the fact that it is still going and that I have met people who met their spouse thru the game shows how wide and deep its impact is and how much longevity it has.
Call me crazy but any fantasy world that has room for Dwarfs dog fighting in biplanes is just making fantasy a more interesting place.

Not a very evocative title.
 12) Alan Wake
This will be a surprise to people reading this series, because I only mentioned this title once, and even then only in passing among other titles.  But, I have actually kicked around writing a blog about this for a while and for whatever reason it just would not crystalize, here is my best attempt at making my feelings readable.
To contextualize I am a big fan of the work of Grant Morrison, a writer who very much likes to write on the idea of creations coming to life and talking to their creators.  The idea that ideas and characters can take on a life of their own and have an effect on the world is a tantalizing concept to me as an amateur writer.  I am also a fan of HP Lovecraft and the idea that there are dark and hidden monstrosities in the world that seek to destroy us or drive us into a state of mass insanity.  Coupling these two ideas of a creeping darkness bringing to life the nightmares of a writer whose inner demons we do not want getting out, all of that is a very big and cool idea.
The plot is Alan trying to save his wife from the abominable terror, it took her into some world of darkness while Alan and her were going on a respite (really it was a trip to a detoxing resort) to help him get his creative spark back.  The game’s basic mechanic is having to weaken your opponents’ protective shadows via the use of light before attacking them with lethal force, that is a good metaphor, shining a light on the problem to reveal the greater crux of a personal issue and excising it.
The game also has lots of little fun things, like short segments of a “Twilight Zone” type show that Alan wrote for, one of the few instances in which I enjoyed a “Cut Scene” (the TV cut scenes in the mini-sequel “American Nightmare” totally failed in that regard).  There are also a good number of fun supporting characters with good dialogue and roles in the story, nobody has a bad thing to say about Barry, Alan’s agent, who comes to rescue him and actively helps in fighting the shadowy terror.
I would point to “Alan Wake” in much the same way people point to “Stranger Things”.  That it borrows a great deal from other stories in the genre (Alan takes a lot of Stephen King, Lovecraft, and “Twin Peaks”) but uses those elements to make their own thing with them.  A good apple pie does not have to be “original” so long as it is delicious.  “Alan Wake” is a delicious pie.

You can also thank this game for the lazy fucked up trend of every cover being some guy walking toward the camera away from explosions.  Maybe that was to indicate he was letting his health regenerate.
11) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
I have already talked about this game in the context of it surprising me and how it surprised me.  It is the shooter that launched the contemporary setting for the genre because it has a very real feeling story in addition to its solid game play.  It crosses certain lines, but does so in a way that feels earned and impacts the player.

            What do you think of my list?  Do you have a list you would like to link to?  Do so in the comments.  Would you like to make a guess at my top 10?  Considering you are probably reading these months after I published it, you could just click on the link to tomorrow and read it (please do) but why don’t you make a guess first?  I offer no prize for a correct guess.

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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 29, 2016

Games I will be Playing

            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 29 and the topic is “A Game I Will Be Playing”.
            I do not have a single game earmarked for this topic, so I picked something more nebulous, My Steam Library.  Way back on day 4 I said that the PC was my favorite system to play on, and that was because of Steam, and right now I have a shit ton of games all loaded and ready to play just as soon as I get past that initial push of actually turning them on.
            Let’s look at 5 games I have played for less than an hour, but I still want to play more of them, I just haven’t for whatever reason.
You can almost hear the moody low key score in your head.
Even if you have never played this game you can picture what it sounds like.
            1) “Deadlight”
            While I am sure of the narrative developing it is a solid platforming game.  I imagine that if this game had not been about zombies, which I am kind of sick of at this point.
Let me talk about zombies for a second.  The thing about fads in pop culture when they relate to science fiction and horror elements, be it vampires, werewolves, angels, or aliens; these things tend to show up, they get 4-5 movies or shows, then there is a brief period of backlash when people start to analyze the nuances of why they would and would not work, and finally the fad passes out of the system to get revisited a decade later with a fresh twist.
At this point zombies have not only been deconstructed, they survived the backlash and just kept on walking around, getting even more shows and video game tie ins.  We are going to end up hitting the revisiting/revitalizing stage of the cycle without them having ever dropped out of popular consciousness.  That is weird. 

This game also sounds exactly how you would picture it to.
            2) “Invisible Inc”
            I like turn based strategy, and a stealth game that utilizes a system akin to “X-Com” but for thievery sounds great.  I had actually hoped for a game with fewer narrative elements so I could just play it while doing something else, but with the story kicking in between every mission and sometimes during I can’t split my attention entirely, hence why I have not managed to play thru the thing.  I guess I will have to make time to go thru the thing rather than it just being something I keep busy with.

This is a longer game and has a more diverse sound.
            3) “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning”
            This game has a style, both in gameplay and art, that reminds me a lot of “Fable” and I think that if I just give it a shot it will draw me in, but I’ve played it less than 2 hours.

This actually sounds nothing like I would picture.
            4) “Mark of the Ninja”
            This is a stealth platformer that is fun, but for whatever reason I found myself annoyed by being graded for my performance by the game while at the same time being unsure what it is I needed to do in order to improve my performance.  I think I will have to give it another chance and just ignore the repeated instances of me sucking.

This one sounds like the 90's cartoon adaptation of itself.
            5) “Shadowrun Returns”
            This turn based gameplay added to a cyberpunk setting, but with magic… This seems to have everything I look for in a story based game.  I liked the first half hour, but much like my non-starter romantic relationships in my life, I was afraid to commit.
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Now let’s look at games that are downloaded, and ready to roll, but I haven’t actually played them, instead just looking at them for a few minutes before playing “Age of Empires III” or “Civilization V” again.  These were initially in reverse alphabetical order, because I thought that would provide a strange sense of symmetry to the list (as the previous list is in alphabetical order), but then I realized that if I put them in Alphabetical order I would have started the previous list with zombies and ended this one with zombies, and that seemed even more symmetrical.  I am a bit of a mad person.
I think this has music that is suitably a mix of grim and epic.
1) “Darksiders II”
I played the first one, and while I found it to be over the top it was still fun… Until I hit a boss I couldn’t beat.  I turned the difficulty down, played it several times, and then quit in a huff (This attitude is also why I have not played a lot of “Dark Souls”).  That experience with “Darksiders” left me a little uninterested in trying the sequel, but I got it as part of a game bundle when THQ went out of business and have been willing to give the series another shot but just haven’t yet done so.

Creepy and weird.
            2) “Dishonored”
            This is probably the most well regarded game on this list.  I have no idea why I did not dive into this the day I got it.  I have wanted to, but just haven’t.  I think I might have some deep seeded fear of starting something I will probably enjoy.

Bit of a color change with this title as compare to the previous entries.
            3) “How to Survive”
            Fucking Zombies again.  At least this one has a unique view of the gameplay, and seems to emphasize making weapons to fight the zombies in different ways.

Sexy chick in a cyberpunk dystopia.  Tell me I'm Dreaming.
            4) “Remember Me”
            A science fiction dystopia about manipulating memories and kung fu.  Am I in the Matrix?  No?  Okay.  But that’s what the game is about.

Windmills?  If I had played this it might make sense.
5) “Valkyria Chronicles”
This is a turn based strategy game set in an anime version of World War II, but they don’t call it that.  Cause, Japan.  Which is fine by me.  I have heard tons of good things but much like everything else I just haven’t done it.

Anything I write in this caption will be more words than what I wrote under the description.
6) “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux”
This is about a guy walking around.  That is all I have managed to gather about this thing.

Even the music on this thing is better than the show.
            7) “The Walking Dead: Season Two”
            I talked about the first one being a masterpiece of storytelling (except for chapter 3) and I have put off actually playing this thing for freaking ever.  I no idea why.  Two of my buddies played it in tandem and invited me to watch it but I foolishly blew them off expecting to have played it on my own time.
            This is kind of where that lethargy toward zombies was really kicking in.  I had been giving the TV show a shot at this point (what a piece of shit) and this could just wait.

            I think it is pretty clear that I have allowed way too many god damn games pile up in my Steam library and have not done enough to actually take advantage of owning them the way I took advantage of how easy they were to purchase.  This is the problem I think with some online shopping that lots of people fall into, when you have instant access to something you want on an impulse and those impulses are stimulated frequently by sales, special offers, or just more content being released it feeds that squirrel part of the brain that just collects and hordes hunts until your squirrel hard drive looks like an overstuffed red bar.

            What games have you been looking forward to playing but haven’t had the time or the drive to actually hit “start”?  Or are there any games you only played for an hour before setting down?  Not because they were bad, just because you had other shit to do and it could wait.  And they continue to wait.  Please comment.

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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.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Most Underrated 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 28 and the topic is “An Underrated Game”.
            This game is one of my personal favorites, and is my favorite game of its genre, the Real Time Strategy Game.  I estimate that I have played it more than 1,000 hours since I purchased an actual physical copy from an actual physical store years ago (it was around the same time I bought “Exo-Squad” on DVD and I would watch my cartoon on one monitor while playing this on the other, since that time I bought a copy of the game on Steam, and use Netflix to watch cartoons because technology marches on).
            I would like to point out this game is well regarded with 90% of its Steam reviews being marked as positive and an 81 on meta-critic.  This game I speak so highly of is the final entry in a now dead and buried franchise.  It is “Age of Empires III”.
While you can zoom the camera, this is not the most accurate artwork for depicting this game.
            In the game you take on the role of a colonial leader who must manage villagers to gather resources, erect shelter and economic buildings, and then raise an army of diverse soldiers, mercenaries, and native allies to drive off rival colonial powers.  Different civilizations have different strengths and weaknesses, the Dutch produce and consume the most gold via their banks and mercenaries, the English have the best houses and bombs, the Spanish have the best medieval units like knights and spearmen, and the Ottomans have the least expensive villager production and ultimately the biggest and most powerful cannons in the game.  Those who make more progress in the new world thru building structures and establishing trade routes will be able to request greater support from the mother country, such as small orders of soldiers or better economic tools.  By utilizing these items, you must snowball your resources to crush your opponents.
            Each game takes about 40-50 minutes (sometimes longer, probably less if you are skilled at strategy games, I am not, I suck and split my attention between this and something on Netflix because I don’t really care about being good I just do this to relieve stress).
            “Age of Empires III” came out right after the well-received change of pace in the series, “Age of Mythology” which took the series back to its roots in the ancient/classical settings of antiquity, but introduced the monsters of myth and legend, like medusa, giants of various elemental flavors, and sphinxes.  It was colorful and had an epic campaign that told a spin off story of original characters and some lesser known players from “The Iliad”.  It had taken the series in a cool new direction and opened things up to being a little more unusual.
This game (much like "III") also seemed to be short on expansions.  It's not like Asia doesn't have gods and monsters.
            Prior to that “Age of Empires II” is considered a classic with dozens of civilizations (almost all of which play exactly the same) clashing for supremacy in (what was for the time) an epic game, I remember playing it back in middle school for hours and hours at a time.
            Here is the thing, I think that “Age of Empires III” is over shadowed by its big brothers, and the fact that no future games will ever come in the series might be causing it some unfair derision by those who got the game back when it first came out and it now doesn’t seem to have inspired any nostalgia except for my own, it is almost 11 years old now but I see no memes or posts about it anywhere.
I don’t think people give this game enough credit, and I do not think enough of its positive features (like unit variety and the speed at which units can be trained) were taken and put into the remastering of “II” (the remastering of “II” is a shit show, the thing does nothing to mix up its old rules and as such feels unplayable by modern standards, I had hoped when I bought it to see some tune ups to the AI and the rules… No such luck, and I still see its HD release as an exploitative cash grab).
This game had its charms, but I do not feel like it holds up.  It is almost 17 years old.
            What is weird though… “III” isn’t really overlooked.  It has a slightly better review score than “II” (though only 29% the number of people reviewed it) and has both more reviews and better reviews than “Mythology”.  Its meta-critic score trounces both of theirs (81 to their 68 and 66, though on Wikipedia, reviews of time were less kind), so I guess “III” is more positively regarded overall.  It just doesn’t feel like it to me as I look around the internet.  This is the only “article” I can see on the topic, though there are some message boards and a reddit thread.
            Regardless, I think that this title is a good RTS, so good in fact that I am still disappointed that the series ended.  At the very least I feel that “III” could have used 1 more expansion.  It has 8 European civilizations, the first expansion introduced 3 American Indian civilizations (that expansion is kind of shit), and the second expansion introduced 3 Asian civilizations, which means that the game left out Africa (the last great colonial scramble) from any play, even though the Zulu and Ethiopia would have made sense.  They could have even done a 4th expansion, including Oceana civilizations like Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.  But that is just wishful thinking, I have gotten used to the burdening to the point of being bloated mod culture on “Civilization V” and wanting more content for a thing I have liked for a solid decade doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
I know there are handheld entries in the series.  No, those don't count.

            What game do you think it underrated?  Is it something that came out years ago and never got the following it deserved?  Or is it something on early access that should be getting more purchases to get the project into full gear?  “Slime Rancher” looks alright, is that it?  Let me know in the comments.  Conversely, is there any franchise that is no longer around that you miss dearly and you want to talk about where it could have gone? 
Seriously now, promises of future installments were made.  Deliver.  I want them.
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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Overrated Video 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 27 and the topic is “Overrated Game”.
            When I got this I remembered two popular games that I played not too long ago.  Both games had things that attracted me and both immediately ran into issues that killed my interest.  Each had trappings, both of setting and gameplay that I figured would have made them sure fire hits to me… Not so much the case, these games were “Deus Ex: Human Revolutionand “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch”.
            “Deus Ex” is the story of a cyborg cop in a near future dystopia.  It is nothing like Robo-Cop.  I like this sort of Science Fiction and would point to “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” as one of my favorite animes ever and it shares NUMEROUS story elements with this game.  But, 30 minutes in and I was already seeing flaws in the logic of the game and I never came back from that.  I also wrote a blog on why I dislike it, and while I consider that bit of writing to be weaker on my part it is still my opinion.
Nothing like Robo-Cop.  A lot like the Matrix.
            “Ni No Kuni” is the story of a young boy journeying thru a fantasy world in hopes of finding the power to resurrect his recently deceased mother.  It has a great art style, a cute tone, and apparently has a bit of a sense of humor about itself down the line.  I have come to understand that “Ni No Kuni” is monstrously long and I ended up chaffing at some of it about 40 minutes in.  I already wrote a long blog detailing my initial time with the game, it is an older blog entry but it still reflects my opinion on the thing. 
It looks really nice.
           Really the ostensibly good things about these games make me want to give them another shake, but as of right now I consider them both overrated because they did not sweep me off my feet.

            So, what is another game that I tried out, and was disappointed by even though it was a successful product from the perspective of the creators or the public at large?  Guess I am going to be talking about Pokemon again.  A franchise I kind of thought I wouldn’t have to talk about again, but here I am.
            “Pokemon Go” is the most overrated thing ever.  It is a middling bit of pop-software utilizing a popular (I would even say timeless) intellectual property to appeal to a much wider audience than it has any right to.  Let’s try and quickly talk about a few different things and I will link to some videos that I think better explain my issues and are from interesting online personalities.
I will give it this, The 3D models of the Pokemon are great, and belong in a good game.
The mechanics in the game are weak.  There is no player to player combat, combat is a twitchy unintuitive mess, and having to capture 10,000 pokemon to level up only the same type of pokemon via grinding the unwanted critters into candy is stupid.  Why are the micro-transactions for materials so obnoxious?  There are better ways to make games like this.
Beyond the fact that the game is just bad, the management and technical limitations of it are stupid, how many times has this thing crashed, froze up, or just failed to accommodate the audience?  The need to keep the game always running is a crime against phone batteries everywhere.  What was the thinking behind how time and walking distances were considered?  I have a pedometer on my phone, why does this thing need so much power?

            Now let’s go one step past those things.  Even if all the technical problems were fixed, and you ignore the junk gameplay, let’s talk about the philosophy of the Pokemon brand.  Pokemon is a game about capturing creatures and thru training and building a repore with those monsters a player can allow those creatures to grow to their full potential.
Pokemon has always been a game about cultivation, not only of quantity but of quality.  “Pokemon Go” is not that and I can think of no better way to illustrate this but by pointing to the very start of the game.  When you capture your first pokemon (assuming you can figure out how as the tutorial is garbage) your starter is laughably weak, and it is a rarer sort of pocket monster.
It doesn’t matter if you give your starting pick a nickname or build any sort of digital pet attachment to it “Nintendogs” style.  All sentiment is meaningless because if you ever manage to find another pokemon of the same species, that new one will almost certainly be stronger, and your original pokemon will not have advanced one bit.  What will happen is you will flush your starter pokemon down the toilet to be turned into candy, and you will replace it with the new one.
You cannot train any of your pets, there is no mini-game for that, there is no combat system for that, the only thing that gains levels is your avatar and that has never been an aspect of the series.  Being the very best like no one ever was in pokemon was always reflected thru your pokemon, not thru the number associated to your avatar.  So there is a tension that exists in “Pokemon Go”.

Your character now advances in level by collecting MORE pokemon, and your pokemon are better not because you worked with them, but because you were a higher level and thus able to catch them.  It is a lottery, the more you play the more games you are bound to “win” but think of how many times you lose, how many pidgeys and rattatas you have clogging up the works, those are the lemons your slot machine kicked back.  There is no value to the gameplay component of this “game” because you could replace the thing with a random number generating slot machine and have roughly the same effect.
Also, the fashion choices of all the human characters are shitty and stupid.

Your choices are meaningless.
Your sentiments unfulfilling.
Your victories are not your own.

(Also, this thing has “fad” written all of it.)

One final thing.  The teams.  I don’t get it.  Every team that has appeared in the games prior have been villains.  You could say that the teams represented a loss of individuality, that pokemon was in part an act of self-expression thru the infinite possible combinations and moves that could be learned by the pokemon you trained.  While a team is more about following orders and working toward a collective goal (or in “Pokemon Go” a mob goal).  Also, people are weird about it online.  Like the Harry Potter houses only more obnoxious.  I hate this crap stinking up my feed.
I don't get it.
Here is a 30-minute video from CR! about some of the game’s limitations and some suggested fixes.  And this is a 10-minute video from Jim Sterling about the positives and negatives of the game.  And here is a parody song by Il Neige for the game.

            Perhaps you disagree with me.  Perhaps you like “Pokemon Go”.  That is fine, plenty of people like slot machines.  But what game do you think I should have put down as being “overrated”?  Feel free to call me a tit in the comments below.

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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.