28 Nov

BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den

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It’s a Little Sister and a Lancer Big Daddy, if you can see them in the darkness of Rapture.

While considering whether or not to buy the DLC for BioShock Infinite, I realized that I’d never played Minerva’s Den even though I own it. It just slipped my mind somehow. So it duly went straight to the top of my priority queue.

  • Wow, Rapture sure is dark compared to Columbia. Lots of creepy environmental effects too, like water splattering on your faceplate and clunks and thumps in the background. I think I would love to play a story-heavy adventure game set in Columbia but I sure prefer playing a survival horror combat-oriented game in Rapture. And aren’t the vibes and mechanics that can be traced all the way back to System Shock really about survival horror anyway.

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20 Nov

Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Shazam Captain Marvel kneeing power armor Lex Luthor in the groin.

Yes, here I am again playing a fighting even though my finger dexterity and reflexes are crap. But I was never going to be able to resist a fighting game featuring DC’s best known characters. I only realized after starting up this game for the first time that it was made by NetherRealm Studios, who also made the Mortal Kombat reboot games. This made me a bit concerned since I had played the Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition not too long ago and didn’t want gameplay that is too similar. Fortunately my fears were unfounded as it plays very differently (hey look, no dedicated block button!)

  • Since this Ultimate Edition of the game includes all of the DLC characters, that’s 30 characters in all. That’s way more than enough. The only omission I regret is Firestorm, especially since Killer Frost is in here. There are skins of other versions of the included characters too for added variety. For example there is both a Dick Grayson and a Damian Wayne version of Nightwing and a Hal Jordan and a John Steward version of Green Lantern, complete with different voice acting. The good and evil versions of Superman even have different intro and outro cutscenes, which is very cool.

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15 Nov

Bioshock Infinite

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Easily one of the most breathtaking opening scenes in any game.

Finally played and finished Bioshock Infinite! I guess there’s not much point in writing a lot about this so long after release since so much has been written about this game already. But it’s my blog so whatever. I was always going to play this, given how much I liked both Bioshock and Bioshock 2. I’m even one of those crazy people who liked the sequel more than its original. I heard a lot of mixed things about Bioshock Infinite, which is one reason why I put it off for so long. Now that I’ve finished it, I’ll start things off by saying that I like it a lot, but I also like it less than both of the first two games.

There’s no denying that the newer game is graphically fantastic. That very first sight of Columbia in all of its glory is a genuine jaw-dropping moment. The brighter palette and arguably more anime art style sets a markedly and refreshingly different tone from Rapture. I really like how the game habitually allows you to just stroll around and take in the sights of a Columbia at its bustling best, which makes for a great contrast to being present only to witness Rapture’s downfall. I love the little snippets of overheard conversation as you wander around (a pity these tail off significantly in the latter parts of the game) and the great touches like the barbershop quartet. It conveys a great sense of how this is a city filled with people, all living their own lives.

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5 Nov

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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A game so beautiful I have to sit down on every bench to look at the scenery.

I confess that as much as I’ve liked the puzzle games that I’ve bought, I usually think twice before I buy one. This is because they tend to have significant learning curves and they’re so dissimilar one from another that it’s hard to predict whether or not you’ll like it. For this reason I held off buying Brothers when it came out on Steam even though I thought it looked beautiful and I liked the premise. I was wrong on this count. Brothers is a game that is easy to pick up and learn. More importantly, it is an absolutely fantastic experience.

  • The game unusually warns you in advance that it requires a controller and it’s right to do so. It’s this game’s main point of originality I think, in that you need to control both brothers at the same time, using a stick each for movement and a button each for interaction with each other, other people and the environment. I think it would be pretty much impossible to do this rub-your-tummy-pat-your-head trick on a keyboard. I did well enough on a gamepad but I confess that I sometimes still felt confused.

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1 Nov

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

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Looks okay. Can it really be that bad?

Kingdoms of Amalur will forever be remembered as being the only game to have been released by 38 Studios before it imploded in what is surely one of the most famous bankruptcies in the history of gaming. There are celebrity owners and creators involved, scandalously dumb decisions by the government of a U.S. state, lawsuits and recriminations everywhere. It’s destined to be one for the annals. I bought it because it was cheap, it is supposedly to be ridiculously long and most people thought it is an okay if far from great. Plus, I was really dying to know what would be the result of R.A. Salvatore writing and Todd McFarlane art direction. Now 67 hours later, I share my thoughts with you.

  • They weren’t kidding when they said that this is a long game. I finished at 67 hours only because I started ignoring sidequests and even faction quests. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy the DLCs for this. Length itself isn’t necessarily a problem of course. I have 265 hours in Skyrim and loved every bit of it. The difference is that the content in KoA is so damned tedious and generic. I actively dreaded seeing exclamation marks over the heads of NPCs. Please, please, no more quests I prayed. It pained the RPG completionist in me to skip so many faction quests but I would never have been able to remain sane otherwise.

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28 Sep

Democracy 3

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The main screen which summarizes how everything influences everything else.

Not having played any of its predecessors, I found Democracy 3 to be fairly interesting, more like a toy than a game. The premise here is that you’re the government of a country. It’s up to you to set the policies that guide your country towards what you envision would be best for it. At the same time, you need to remain popular enough to win elections and avoid being hated so much that you get assassinated.

  • The game bills itself as being the most sophisticated simulation of its kind. It’s true that it kind of boggles your mind at first when you take in how everything influences everything else. Alcohol consumption for example affects health, crime and productivity and is itself affected by unemployment, laws and taxes on alcohol, policing levels and GDP. But GDP of course is affected by productivity and so forth. But look closer and the shallowness of the simulation becomes evident in many areas. The population being simulated doesn’t seem to actually change over time, but the proportions of the different groups that collectively make up that population does. So increasing immigration doesn’t actually increase population. Instead, it converts natives into immigrants! It’s very weird and is a serious immersion breaker for me.

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17 Sep

Max Payne 3

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The shoot dodge, that which makes this game Max Payne and no other!

I have fond memories of the first two Max Payne games and even fonder ones of the Matrix mod for the first one, which I believe is one of the earliest mods I’d ever played. I even enjoyed the cheesy, overwritten purple prose. I was disappointed when I learned much later that the writers apparently meant for the story and dialogue to be played straight. Still when Max Payne 3 was released in 2012, nearly 10 years after the last game, I was hesitant. The games were great back in the day, but the thoroughly conventional game mechanics and limited scope seemed dated now. It’s a corridor shooter, after all, and surely we’ve long moved past those games? Also, I was unsure if I wanted to see the continuation of Max Payne’s personal story. It was always bound to be more angsty stuff. Do we really need that?

But I gave in when it went on sale and thinking these games tend to be rather short experiences, bought it thinking that, good or bad, at least it wouldn’t take up too much of my time. Overall, I’d say that despite a weak start, it managed to exceed my expectations.

  • This game loves its cutscenes way too much. I have to admit that they are pretty good cutscenes, but what really gets me is that most of them are not skippable. Some are, and they show you that option in the bottom right corner when you can do so, but a lot of time it’ll just say that the game is still loading. You can’t even quit out of the game when this happens. Also, chapters segue into each other seamlessly and since there tends to be lengthy cutscenes connecting chapters, it’s extra annoying when you just want to play through one chapter and stop right there.

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8 Sep

#GamerGate

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I know I barely update this blog these days since I stopped playing boardgames and it takes me a long time to play a videogame to completion and write about it. I also refrain from posting about anything but my impressions of the videogames I play here, skipping over things like news and goings on in gaming. For the curious, I spend much more time updating my other blog these days. But this #gamergate debacle has grown so huge that I cannot, as a gamer, ignore it in good conscience. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a good summary.

My own reaction to all this is adequately captured by Greg Costikyan’s rant here. The only thing I would disagree with in that post is the implication that women need to be specifically protected by men. Everyone, whether men or women, should condemn this sort of abuse and harassment, whether it is directed against men or women. But I absolutely share his fury at the people behind #gamergate and am all for inclusivity and diversity.

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