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?

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.

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