Monthly Archives: January 2012
Some games need real commitment, be it because of the sheer size of the game or the amount of time you have to spend playing to hone your skills and further your progress. For example I have clocked up just under 100 hours on Skyrim and have yet to delve into the main quest, I have nearly 500 hours combined on Left 4 Dead 1&2 and Valve still persist in releasing more material to suck up my precious life. I remember Square boasting about how many game hours were in Final fantasy VII when it was released 15 years ago, these days that number seems small compared to how much time some games can take up.
“To begin with, FF7 is longer than every console RPG to date. The game takes place across 3 CDs. It took Next Generation Online, no stranger to RPGs, a total of 49 hours to complete the game…” Source: IGN
In some respects the sheer scale of games, particularly modern games, is good. But unless you are a jobless gamer with no commitments it is inevitable that you will start building up a backlog of games that you want to play but may not ever get the chance to, even more so if you are fond of classic games and still want to allocate time to them, and here in lies the purpose of this article.
I have put together a list of games that I want to complete but are rapidly disappearing from view as more and more titles leap relentlessly into our RSI afflicted arms. I have had to prioritise here as I would happily play all my games to completion but this would require an infinite amount of energy and time, similar to achieving light-speed only a lot less likely. I have stuck to games that I actually own and will comment on my progress so far (if any) and the probablity of completion ever being achieved.
One of my first recollections of playing a true adventure game. At the time it seemed amazing to me that you could travel around and explore a realistic environment and were only restricted by the items you could find to help you access other areas, I would see glimpses of places I would be able to get to but had no idea how to do so and that thrilled me no end.
Status: It took me long enough to work out exactly how to use fire to coordinate the monkey men so I could pass the spider room so not too far in.
Probability of completion: High, I can’t ever let this one drop, too much dewy-eyed nostalgia is involved.
Beneath a Steel Sky
I didn’t discover this DOS/Amiga treat until quite late via ScummVM, which is a shame because it is a fantastic game and you cannot call yourself a point and click adventure fan if you haven’t played this. I do not call myself a point and click adventure fan but i would love to reintroduce myself to its dystopian robo-guff.
Status: Played for quite a few hours but I couldn’t jump back in now as it’s been too long, I would have to restart to avoid perplexion.
Probability of completion: Fairly high, it could end up being my favourite point and click adventure.
I first saw the Master System version of this for sale in WHSmiths in Poulton-le-Fylde while visiting my Nan many aeons ago. I remember begging my dad for the £39.99 it cost after I was seduced by it’s ‘Battery Back-up Memory’ which indicated that it was a proper RPG unlike that pretender ‘Wonder Boy III‘ that I had been playing. Despite pleas and assurances that I would sell my worldly toys to pay him back he refused and I had to wait several years before I was financially reckless enough to buy it with my own money.
I had a demo of this on the ST and loved it so much that I just played that over and over again as I couldn’t afford the full game. I now have it for the Amiga but my PSU is buggered so still can’t indulge in it and to top things off it seems I copied over the ST demo when I was running low on floppy disks. Christ knows what I would have been saving on them, possibly some of my optical illusion art I thought was so wondrous at the time. I don’t think the game is that highly thought of but I would still like to give it a chance.
Status: One level, many many times, via demo.
Probability of completion: It’s possible, once I fix my Amiga problems, but not likely.
Another game that I discovered on the ST but now have on the Amiga though I never actually got to play this the first time around, it is just something I had seen through some ST magazine and was intrigued by the isometric view and apparent genetically engineered death-balls.
Status: I looked at the first couple of screens once via emulator but would prefer to play it using the original system.
Probability of completion: For some reason I am almost content in just having found the game but it may well become my new best thing if I ever get to try it properly.
Ys: The Vanished Omens
This may well have been my first ‘proper’ RPG and would have contributed to my need to procure Ultima IV. I liked the game and even enjoyed the bit of farming I had to do to increase my level, right up until I got stuck. I can’t remember the details but I think it was something to do with a mirror.
I did Phantasy Star all wrong, I played IV first, then moved in reverse order until reaching the Master System debut. Not that it matters, the first four Phantasy Star games remain one of my favorite RPG series and frankly I would love to see a new single player game. I have only completed IV and possibly II or III, I’m not really sure, but I would certainly like to give all of them a go again, in order this time.
This isometric number is the best Batman game ever and considers Arkham City to be a sniveling little bitch. It doesn’t care for canon and brazenly fills the labyrinthine Batcave with patrolling wearbeasts, death-floors and roaming shark heads. My dad had it on some kind of IBM PC and I spent many hours sobbing in frustration at its intense difficulty. I have a speccy and CPC464 copy of it so I could give that a go or maybe the remake as it is done by the same guy who did the fantastically faithful Head over Heels one.
Status: Not very far at all.
Probability of completion: Extremely likely because fuck you, Rocksteady.
Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure
I saw a review for this game in a CG&G Complete Guide to Sega and wanted it real bad, unfortunately you could only get it through import and besides at the time I only had an Atari 2600 and they don’t take kindly to having Megadrive carts shoved in them. My need increased a few years later when I fell in love with the Master System predecessor Psycho Fox. Magical hat was given a facelift and a Western release as Decap Attack but it just didn’t feel right to me so I kept hunting until I got hold of a copy of the Japanese incarnation.
Status: Have just played a level.
Probability of completion: Moderate-High, I will most likely give it a good going over but whether it can stand up to that cute little fox and his unnaturally protruding arm remains to be seen.
Final Fantasy III
After playing Final Fantasy VII and VIII I knew I had to hunt for the previous games, this was made easier once I had a PC and was online and at some point I gave Final fantasy III (actually the US port of Final fantasy VI) a short go through an emulator. When the intro reached the point of Vicks, Wedge and an unknown bint walking over the land in their Magitek Armour accompanied by tingle-inducing music I knew I had to stop and wait until I got a proper copy before playing it.
This was an excellent graphic adventure that I owned on the NES, the prequel to the famous ‘Day of the Tenticle’ and one of the few point and click games that didn’t end up frustrating me into a coma.
Status: Absolutely no idea.
Probability of completion: I might but I think Beneath a Steel Sky will get priority if I have to choose a game of that ilk, if for nothing else than the ability to use a mouse.
Secret of Mana
I can’t recall if I actually completed this or not, I may have but it’s more likely that I played most of it then restarted so I could take advantage of the cooperative mutiplayer aspect. After a few false starts in this respect due to lack of commitment or interest from my fellow game players it sadly drifted into the past.
Super Mario RPG
I first heard of Super Mario RPG in Game Zone Magazine and laughed my sceptical arse off, oh those crazy Japanese I thought whilst considering that it may even be demeted Game Zone trickery. A few years later I ate my words and thoughts after buying a copy and realising that it was actually pretty good. Granted people will be put off by the cutesy of it but it cannot be denied that the game contains all you need for a decent RPG.
The Adventures of Alundra
A top down adventure, similar to the Legend of Zelda on the SNES, and a very good one at that. I’m not even sure how I came across the game, I didn’t involve myself in Playstation publications as they were all shit and I didn’t have or know of the internet at the time, no doubt it was a drunken second hand purchase.
The Paper Mario games are supposed to be excellent, this one was a fucker to get hold of unless I wanted to pay £60+ on Ebay (I got it for less than half that, most likely due to lack of photo). I refuse to play it until i complete Super Mario RPG.
Metroid Prime, MP: Echos, MP: Corruption & MP Hunters
Super Metroid on the SNES is a rare perfect game, I literally can’t think of any faults other than the fact that the box is ridiculously big. I was dubious about it changing to a FPS style game but Metroid Prime is indeed a great game. Shame I never bothered to kill the final boss as I am now so out of practice with using a controller for a FPS that I will probably fail miserably. Because I haven’t officially completed it I haven’t touched Echos or Corruption and have only had a brief go on Hunters, enough to get my ball.
Status: Metroid Prime = Fully completed up to the final boss-beast, Echoes & Corruption = Not yet touched, Metroid Prime: Hunters = Played about an hour and a bit of multiplayer.
Probability of completion: I’m sure I’ll slaughter the end boss of Metroid Prime at some point, I kind of want to skip Echos so I can go straight to Corruption but I can’t bring myself to do that just yet. I doubt Hunters will ever get a proper look in.
Something to do with a dog who could paint or was made of paint or something. I had a quick go at it but I think this was at a time when I was picking up lots of cheap games while the PS2 was on its way out but not ever actually getting a chance to play the bastards. Maybe I’ll just get the Wii version to spur me on, just like all my other Wii games that haven’t.
Oddworld: Strangers Wrath
I remember when Abes Oddysey first came out and there was talk of this being part of a pentology of games set in the same world. Abes oddysey was great and Exodus was even better, it took me a while to hunt down Munches Oddysey and Strangers Wrath, the former seemed good but didn’t really interest me due to my anti-3D plateformer views but I really enjoyed Strangers Wrath. Alas the X-Box I bought it for was actually my sons so rarely got to play it and then the dog ate the controllers hampering this even further. It has now been released on Steam, I just hope the graphics don’t look too dire on my crisp, sexy monitor.
Elf was a fun little piece of platforming pie that I had on the ST, at first it seemed a bit of something and nothing and I certainly wasn’t keen on the constant barrage of spawning enemies, but once I had got the hang of it and progressed through a couple of levels it started to all make sense and was actually a deeply smashing game.
Status: Level 3 (that’s a complete guess but it feels… right).
Probability of completion: Fairly high, I often consider it I just think I may be shit as my skill tree has been reset to work on PC FPS games instead.
Another ST one, I picked up a copy when my mar was a brief member of one of those monthly game clubs (where you would be sent a game by force if you didn’t order one) but the disk stopped working. I never got a replacement and to this day I still own the redundant copy in the hope that it will be fixed by solar flares or something.
Already a classic game apparently but I some how missed playing it. I played the demo, presumably from some PC rag, and I always intended to purchase it but didn’t do so until it was on Steam and displayed the magic words ‘75% off’.
Jet Force Gemini
Ahhh this game started off brilliant and just got better the more I played it, it had the advantage that you could rescue or head-shot teddybears which looked a lot like ewoks. I must have got quite far but something distracted me, maybe Perfect Dark. I would love to play it again but it will take some time and I’m not sure how much I will tolerate joypad controls for fine sniper aiming.
So that’s that, the main games in my collection that I just can’t let go of and will possibly haunt me until I am released by the glorious freedom of death. This is just the start of a continually expanding list, there are already plenty of current and recent games that are rapidly heading in the same direction such as: Red Steel 2, Mafia 2, Chronicals of Riddick, Metro 2033, No More Heroes, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat, Dragon Age: Origins…
My recent spate of un-working has demonstrated that it is a lot less likely than I ever realised that I will be able to give the many games I own the attention they deserve. The constantly increasing amount available and the dedication often required means there will always be a personal chasm of unplayed and unfinished games and it is something that we, as gamers, have to come to terms with.
I finally decided to bite the bullet and send some Steel Coma tracks onto the WWW, I have posted them on Soundcloud for your listening joy. Until I can afford to reignite the actual website(s) I think I will just have to take advantage of such places. I will also put some Drinking Quasars stuff up as soon as my workstation gets back from the clinic, and once they have formed actual tracks rather than billions upon billions of scattered remnants.
As most people in this world will not be aware of this Steel Coma Quasars stuff, allow me to shed some light…
Steel Coma Tube is the joint music project of myself and one other although it has to be said that most of our work is actually done separately to prevent cataclysmic style events occurring. It is an experimental electro-industrial project with the emphasis on the experimental as this allows us to change styles and formulas suddenly, inexplicably and without prior notice. It was formed so we could make music that we wanted to listen to but couldn’t find and also due to the promise of fortune and glory. We have probably lost more work than we care to think about and only a handful of tracks have ever made it to what can be described as a finished state. Even then most of these songs would best be described as ‘demos’ as they are still un-mastered and brimming with areas begging to be tidied.
Drinking Quasars is a personal project of mine that primarily focuses on the theme of astonomy, astrophysics and quantum physics. It is an electric-ambient type of thing but not in that dull single pad and perpetually echoing noises kind of way. I see it as an accompaniment to lying in the garden looking at the night sky, on opium.
Both these beasts have the basis for full albums, some times even the artwork and the tracklistings are there, we just need to complete the music. Maybe one day we will or maybe not, maybe some other people will enjoy what we have done, maybe not, it’s not really the point. We have a lovely time doing what we do and we certainly enjoy listening to our sordid creations. If at the very least it keeps us occupied and distanced from the horrors of the world then our work is done.
Find our faces here (maybe):
What the hell is wrong with Adam Jensens chin? Either it’s some kind of augmentation that he uses to pierce the film cover on microwave meals or he is actually the Robot Devil from Futurama.
Aside from the addition of finely honed mandibles how does Deus Ex: Human Revolution fair? It certainly needs to have broad shoulders, the original Deus Ex was and is a great game, even if the graphics do compare to an early beta of Minecraft, and it still holds its own 11 years later. Deus Ex has a large community of rabid fans and before Human Revolution was released they were poised, ready to tear out the hearts of anyone who may attempt to sully the legacy a second time. Personally I enjoyed Invisible War but there was no doubt it was dumbed down and could never compare to its predecessor so, like many others, I was very much looking forward Human Revolution and lived in hope that I would soon be presented with a game that milked the juices of modern gaming machines while recapturing the feeling of depth and choice that the original Deus Ex had.
When I loaded it up for the first time I experienced genuine excitement as the title screen appeared, I’m fairly sure there was some kind of psychological trigger incorporated into the music that gave me chills and made me think “Yes, this is going to be FUCKING AMAZING”. As I delved into the game I was pleasantly satisfied with the overall style, it just felt right and also it didn’t look anywhere near as black and gold as the trailers would have you believe. The graphics are indeed excellent and you get a real sense of the size of the cities and buildings, the pinnacle being the Tai Yong medical facility with its impressive view over Hengsha and beautiful ethereal music which perfectly compliments the scene, upon arrival I had one of those joyous game moments where I kept needing to stop and look out across the landscape, just to take it all in.
Once you get over how pretty it looks you get to the actual game-play and start finding new and interesting ways to incapacitate or eliminate people. The weapons are nice and beefy as well as enjoyable to use and fighting is suitably tense, specifically because it wont take many shots before you drop like a sack of cats. If need be you can use a Takedown, the new addition to the Deus Ex world, which looks suitably brutal and makes you feel more than a bit hardcore. Within all this you have the main quest with the inevitable twists and turns, side quests dotted around to distract yourself with as well as a fuck-ton of computers, e-books and datapads to read which will give you benefits such as XP as well as expanding on the over background of the world. There is also a plentiful supply of easter eggs to find, which include some quite obscure and unexpected references.
Sounds perfect yes? Human Revolution has done it, it has finally given us a worthy sequel to the original.
Well no, not quite.
Before long you will notice signs that Human Revolution may have bitten off more than it can chew. First of all is the use of stealth in the game, an essential part of Deus Ex and therefore it needs to be well implemented. Using stealth is enjoyable but at the same time it doesn’t ever feel quite right, for one there are quite obvious stealth ‘routes’ through an area, at times there may just as well be a sign saying ‘stealth path’. Having a couple of different routes, one designed for stealth and the other geared towards combat rather than allowing the player to choose where to go and how to approach it seems to belittle the players ability to think and decide for themself. Another related issue is the cover mechanic, if you just duck behind a wall you are much more likely to be seen than if you use the cover button which doesn’t really make sense unless you have an augmentation that reduces you to 2 dimensions so you just look like an interesting piece of wall-art.
This brings me on to one of my major gripes about the game; It is clearly designed to favour a stealth playthrough. Not only is direct combat hard, especially at first, but you will get considerably more XP for stealth related actions. This doesn’t sit right with me when the game is supposedly about freedom of choice. It should be a different experience depending on how you play, but you shouldn’t be penalised. It dramatically changes the difficulty too, the game is quite easy if you play how the developers obviously want you to but somewhat more difficult if you want to break out the big guns. Your takedowns also cause a lot of unbalance as they are essentially guaranteed instant kill moves and, thanks to your recharging energy cells, can be used infinitely if you have the patience to run off, hide and wait for it to recharge before using it again. Conversely there are some mandatory boss fights which can be quite jarring as these are full on close quarter fire fights and, depending on how you have distributed your augmentations, can be quite hard work, unsurprisingly your takedowns are useless here.
Inevitably this game will be compared to the original, and that’s when some other problems emerge. For one there just doesn’t seem to be the same amount of choice, and when you do choose the consequences are limited. An example is a mission where I had to rescue some hostages. I duly did so by disarming the bomb in the room where they were trapped, then systematically executed each one of them. There was no response from them at all, no running off in blind fear, they happily sat there awaiting their fate and after I completed the mission no-one had any words to say to me about it, or the numerous Police I had murdered on my way out. Okay I could have lied and said they were all killed by the terrorists but surely there would have been an investigation? Did they not check the bullets that were lodged in all these bodies? Apparently not. Getting away with this kind of behaviour without any fallout seems somewhat absurd for an RPG, particularly in this age of gaming.
All in all it just seems a little lacking in some areas, there are less side quests, the play areas are less open and there are less things you can interact with, you can’t even directly hack security cameras to disable them. The story itself also reeks of familiarity, it’s almost as if they thought “This is Deus Ex, it HAS to be a conspiracy” Why does it? The story and world that has been created with the augmentations and politics are interesting enough, it doesn’t need this predictable slant.
Before I reveal the biggest disappointment for me be aware that this is a potential spoiler…
…I am not going to reveal anything significant regarding plot details but none the less you may want to ignore the following and skip to the final paragraph.
I remember when the reviews for Mass Effect 2 came out, I posted a short blog regarding the fact that people seemed to be reviewing the game well before they could have even scratched the surface of it. I wasn’t implying that a game had to be completed to the fullest possible extent before an opinion could be given, but some games really need to at least be seen through to the end before it can be reviewed. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games.
It is probably common knowledge that there are 4 different endings to Human Revolution, a reasonable person would assume that you achieve these endings depending on decisions you make during the game. Not in the case of Human Revolution, your final, ultimate ending, the climax to your long struggle, is purely based on a choice of which out of 4 buttons to push. That’s right it is as simple as being asked “Which ending sequence would you like?”. I actually think this is appalling and is the main reason the game loses some credit for me, granted the voice over for each ending will be slightly different depending on if you killed no-one, killed some or were a homicidal arse, but this is a minute aspect, the actual climax of the story is purely based on whatever you want the climax to be. To top it off, all you need to do is save just before this and reload to see each ending (subsequently gaining the achievement for doing so). Granted the previous two games were similar in that they left your final choice until the end of the game but it wasn’t just about being presented with a row of buttons and chosing one. There is actually no reason for you to try playing through in a different manner to see how things pan out as it will make very little difference.
This is what grated on me more than anything. While playing the game through on the first occasion, I was actually looking forward to tackling it in a different way, now I just can’t be bothered, I started but what’s the point really?
None the less the issues with the bosses, the vague illusion of choice and consequence and the lack of balance does not stop this being a great game and certainly better than most. It is fun to play and has some good characters (Adam and Francis’ relationship is particularly entertaining). Just on its own merit Human Revolution is a cut above the rest and in fact it’s still a worthy successor to the original due to the finely realised world and ongoing ethical struggle between augmentation and humanity. Just don’t expect it to be as deep or as advanced as it should be.
Over here you will a tasty new blog, a group effort from Adam, Stef and myself. The content will be geared towards games, films, TV and books, primarily sci-fi, fantasy and anything geekery really but who knows what else will creep in? We are also plugging our efforts through Facebook and Twitter, like and follow if you know what’s good for you. We have similar yet different interests, opinions and areas of ‘expertise’ so hopefully it will be a varied and enjoyable read, we would also love to hear the thoughts of others so please aim your pointers at the reply button.
I will keep posting game related goodness here but will also Ctrl C and Ctrl V over to Last Firing Synapse so you can read it twice under tow different themes. Lovely.
Let’s ignore the utter clusterfuck that was ordering “Star Wars: The Old Republic” from Tesco Entertainment in the first place. I’m going to give my first impressions of the game itself and do not wish my fuming bitterness from having received my early access code just five hours before the games official launch to have any bearing on my opinions of this brand new, sexy and highly anticipated MMORPG. Neither am I going to let my numerous unanswered calls and emails of complaint and dissatisfaction taint my feelings towards Biowares online opus.
I find it quite hard to not compare The Old Republic to its predecessor, Star Wars Galaxies, I’m not sure why, possibly because they are both online role-playing games set in the Star Wars universe. I enjoyed Galaxies, I know it had its critics and from what I can tell, after visiting briefly a couple of years after I had stopped playing, introducing the New Game Enhancements was a poor decision. However I have many fond memories of my time there, as well as many folders of screenshots, naturally when I am playing The Old Republic I often think back to how it compares to my time in Galaxies.
So anyway. here are my initial thoughts following 17 levels of game time.
A single player MMORPG
Bioware promised a lot with The Old Republic (TOR) and on paper it is a very ambitious title but can they really change the face of online role-playing games? So far, I’m not so sure.
The Old Republic is a solid game at the core and it is certainly refreshing to have a lot more depth to the quests rather than the usual drivel of “kill 10 raving sloths” or “deliver a crate of fish to the Mountie”. Don’t get me wrong, these tasks are still there but the above average writing gives the impression that there is a point to them. All in all the single player experience, so far at least, seems to be thorough and enjoyable. However in my eyes the implementation of the single player experience is where the potential problem lies.
So far playing TOR feels like you are playing a single player RPG that just happens to have other people in it, rather than being a true group experience. I thought Bioware had cracked it, had found a way of having the type of depth and choice that KOTOR did within a MMO world but this is not the case and in fact it can limit the online experience. You have group missions, repeatable ones seemingly designed to allow people to type LFG in the general chat channel but other than that it can be quite hard to team up with others for the full experience of a standard quest. Level and class restrictions mean that you have to be quite meticulous in the coordination of when to do quests otherwise you will just have people tagging along for the fights, unable to be involved in the story and conversations, standard for an MMORPG I know but it kind impacts on one of TORs unique selling points.
Shrunken worlds, expanded life
The worlds, so far, are well realised, they look the part but they just don’t seems as vast as I would hope. This may change as I visit more places but currently I am lacking a sense of scale, I was hoping to trek across great landscapes, occasionally fighting wild beasts then making camp to tend to our weary e-bodies. But everything in TOR is very contained and compact, it can still take a while to travel from one side of a map to the other but the sense of huge just isn’t there. It’s also far too populated, you can’t find a place where there isn’t another player, enemy or NPC, it’s just too damn busy. In Galaxies you would leave a bustling town or outpost knowing you would actually be heading into the wild, it really felt like an expedition and you certainly had to be prepared. No such risk in TOR thanks to the convenient taxi ranks and quick travel posts dotted around the place.
It’s great to have a companion, someone to run errands for you, someone to cuddle up to in the corner of a cantina. What is not great is the pair of you running past another incarnation of your companion, either the original NPC you met before they joined you or as one of their many clones that appear to have latched onto other players. Why couldn’t they make you able to design the look of your companion as you would your own character? It seems like a simple solution to prevent these people spawning hundreds of copies of themselves across the galaxy. And while we’re on the subject of character design…
It is common knowledge that the best part of any RPG is designing your own character, I am sure I am not alone in spending many gleeful hours carefully adjusting my cheekbone height and forehead depth. So why have Bioware given us such lackluster character creation for TOR? There is no fine tuning, it is literally just presets, and sometimes presets with little sense. Why is there a setting for an extremely fat Twi’lek but humans only range from skinny to burly? Do humans in this galaxy have some kind of innate biological ability that prevents obesity?
Choose your destiny
TOR is a difficult one to judge, there are plenty of other criticisms such as the restriction of some races to specific classes, why can’t I be a Twi’lek imperial agent? Or the fact that you have to choose an allegiance at the start of the game, whatever happened to making decisions as the game naturally evolves? But there are a lot of positives too such as the overall mechanics of the game, which are solid if not standard, and it certainly feels like Star Wars. The voice acting is generally superb and varied, in particular the imperial officers have the expected snide, yet well spoken British tone about them, although I’m not sure that the occasional Welsh accent I have come across really fits, but then I suppose Obi-Wan was Scottish in his younger years. It is good fun to play and the single player experience could be a possible match for KOTOR, I’m just still not sure the multiplayer aspect hasn’t suffered from this and when the time comes I’m still not convinced I’ll be willing to pay £8 a month to play an online single player game.