Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Visual ether

For the second night in a row El Shaddai has managed to put me to sleep while playing. The first night it was assisted by a fine pint of stout, but last night it managed to knock out in spite of it being broken up by a half hour of Third Strike. Yes, the combat is a bit bland and the linear environments don't do much to keep me invested, but the sights and sounds are what make it the most difficult to stay awake. It's all so relaxing, like sitting on a beach with the waves slowly crashing, a warm but not too warm breeze, a large bottle of something to keep you company, and no people around to ruin the mood. Perhaps I am immune to the crazy that has been painstakingly infused into every frame, as I don't think being a sleep aid was on the the list of bullet points used to pitch El Shaddai to a publisher, but being visually eccentric is just not enough to keep me interested.

For a polar opposite example, compare El Shaddai to Bayonetta. I didn't fall all over Bayontetta; I hated the character but the enjoyed the game. It was visually strange almost to the point of El Shaddai but was exciting. Big things were happening all of the time. Last night I spent several minutes watching Enoch walk up stairs while cryptic single line quotes from heavenly beings tried to make things as confusing as possible. There is nothing wrong with making an 'artsy' game but you can't forget about the 'game' part of it. Video games have a more difficult time diverging from the main stream because they need to be entertaining on all levels to be successful. A movie with great acting but terrible cinematography is still watchable. Likewise one with terrible actors but incredible visuals can work (I have yet to see Avatar...). In a game most of the individual parts need to be working most of the time to hold the players interest.

El Shaddai's visuals are always excellent, if a bit on the relaxing side. They do give you some seriously fucked up dreams after they put you to sleep, so for all I know it was the whole point. It pains me to say that there isn't much worth playing here. Rhythm based single button combos against three different enemy types just do not cut it in the post Devil May Cry world. Though El Shaddai does throw in an incredibly out of place motor cycle level...



When it finally tries to go big it just doesn't work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's been dosed

It is difficult to describe El Shaddai. On the surface it is a stripped down Devil May Cry or Bayonetta clone. This is not a surprise as some of the same people are responsible for it. Stare at the game for more than a few seconds and it becomes apparent that the combat is just not the point of the game, so it being a little anemic is understandable. El Shaddai is there to trip your balls, and it does so on a level that I have not seen since Killer 7. It is completely bizarre in both look and execution. The very first thing that happens is a boss battle that you cannot win. After dying you are told to mash buttons to resurrect yourself; doing so takes you right back to the home screen. Hitting start a second time bypasses the fight you could not win, but you are left wondering if this was a bug or if the game is just fucking with you.

It's the second option. And it never stops.

As much as I would like to give the game a pass on all other issues because it is fun to look at, I cannot. The combat is simple to a fault, but only when using one of the three available weapons. The other two just don't work, and getting caught with one of them led to death on more than one occasion. I am trying to follow the plot, which is a bizarre greatest hits complication of various religious texts, but most of it is given out in stilted one way cell phone conversations between God and the Devil (who are getting along fabulously, by the way). There are fallen angels, monsters, giant marshmallow looking things called nephilim that practice cannibalism out of boredom...


That's an in game shot. I am not making this up.

It's weird, but is it good? I have no idea. After a solid three hours last night I still have no idea what to think about it. It is helping cleanse the mental guilt left over from how I finished InFamous 2, which can only be a good thing.
   

Sunday, August 28, 2011

But I don't want to sleep in that bed!

First, a bit of proof, and an explanation for my lax posting schedule this past week.


Yes, that is my ass up there on a rock wall. That is also about three feet from where I got stuck on three separate attempts. I had a mental break that I could not get past which became much clearly later in the day. We moved on to a much easier but longer climb that started out almost like stairs but went completely vertical for the last twenty or so feet. I could get to the bottom of the vertical section just fine, but as soon as the good foot holds turned to tiny divots in the face of the rock I could not move on. I just did not trust my feet to hold and lost my nerve. Only when I was on the ground in a bar did the experienced person with me explain that this specific area for climbing is one of the most difficult in the country because of how smooth the rocks were. He may have been telling the truth, or he may have been trying to make me feel better. Either way, it worked.

 And now back to my natural habitat.

On Friday night I managed to get just enough time in to finish InFamous 2. I had been playing as electric Palpatine since the very beginning because of the not so subtle push I got from finishing the first game that way. Cole never really ended up being truly evil. Sure, he would kill cops whenever possible, massacre protesters and had a strange urge to fry street performers on site, but he stayed loyal to his friends and kept the major goal of killing The Beast in mind. It what not until a series of twists in the last few hours that I became uncomfortable with my choices, and by then it was far to late to change what Cold has become.

Spoiler ahoy!

The first plot twist was the The Beast was actually a character in the first game (John, those I didn't remember who he was until they told me) that Cole killed. He put himself back together an atom at a time and them rampaged down the east coast destroying everything in his past. John arrives in New Orleans, er, New Marais and is promptly hit with a tactical nuclear missile. Never one to let little things bother him, John shrugs this off and appears to Cole human form to reveal his true mission. The plague that was killing people int he first game was going to spreading and had no cure. The only people who would survive were conduits and John had the ability to awaken them, killing anyone around who wasn't a conduit in the process. After an explosive demonstration Cole is left alone to figure out what the hell to do next.

Plot twist number two comes right before the final good/evil choice. Cole is finally able to power up the 'ray sphere inhibitor,' an item that he was told will stop The Beast and possibly cure the plague. Cole tries to use it, but as soon as power is applied it becomes clear that the device will kill all the conduits, not just John.

So the choice is this: use the RFI, which will kill Cole, the two other conduit chicks that he has been working with, and every other conduit everywhere but possibly eradicate the plague that will kill all the normal human or team up with The Beast to awaken conduits, save your own life and give the rest of humanity the middle finger. To make this even more difficult the Nix (the evil one) and Kuo (the good one) switch sides at the last minute. 

I didn't want to do it, because it was actually a pretty horrible choice, but I stayed the evil course. The last few areas had Cole floating over The Beasts shoulder and killing everyone who got in the way. There were a few fights with Nix, who you had to kill, but the real gut punch was Zeke showing up with a big ass hand gun and a crushed look in his face. Zeke stuck by Cole no matter what he did (aside from the whole betraying him in the first game thing, but they got over that), but siding with the person who was going to bring about the end of the human species as a whole was a bit much. Zeke shoots Cole, which doesn't do much to slow him down, and then the game forces you to kill him. Press R1 to murder your best friend. 

This was too much. I was not happy with what I had done. I was not happy with Cole becoming The Beast after John couldn't take the killing anymore. But this is just a game, right? I had a save right before the final choice, so I backed up time and tried to do the right thing. Only I couldn't: I had maxed out how evil Cole was. It was too late to change what I had turned Cole into. I suppose I could have wandered back out into an empty and dying world and help old ladies across the street until the morality meter swung the other way, but the point was clear. This is the bed you made, now you get to sleep in it.

Well done, Sucker Punch, you have made a bitter old man actually regret his actions in a game.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Look, I am doing new things!

For a pathetic creature of habit such as myself, it has been an exciting two days.

A friend that I talk to every few months called me out of the blue to ask me to go rock climbing. Outside. On actual, vertical rocks. We're talking goddamn cliffs. Being gullible I said yes, and he then countered with wanting to go out this week to practice before risking life and limb on a thin rope and hard rubber shoes. So we did just that on Tuesday night. He brought the equipment and the experience, I brought a 145 pound frame with skinny arms and an over abundance of self confidence (arrogance, in other words). Surprise, surprise, it was a great time. We started out 'boulderng' in six foot walls with no belay ropes. It was good practice for finding your footing and moving sideways without burning out your arms. Plus if you fell the ground was padded enough that only your ego was bruised.

Just when I started to get tired it was time to move on to actual walls to climb. The first thing I did was look up, which was a mistake, because these things were roughly thirty feet to the tip. They were different colored runs for different skill levels. Being an arrogant ass I attempted one a few steps up from the easiest and failed at the same point several times. There was a mental block that I could not get past, or maybe it was just a giant block I could not figure out how to get over, either way, it was not happening. Back on the ground we moved down to an actually beginners track and I tried again, this time mapping out hand and foot placements on the ground before throwing myself at the wall. It worked, and after a few tense moments and slips I found myself touching the ceiling. After a bit of congratulations it was time to get down, only I didn't know how. This last, most important step was left out of my instruction.

Since I am not typing this from either that precarious perch or from the friendly confines of a hospital it is clear that I made it down. The real test comes on Saturday when it is time to test my freshly minted (and rather dull) skills against actual rocks.

Step two in my week of being out of the box was Street Fighter 3. I played Third Strike all of two or three times in the arcade and then again a few times when it was released as part of a Capcom compilation on the oXbox. Much like rock climbing, this shit is hard, unforgiving, difficult to find good instruction in, and any given attempt can end quite quickly if the proper precautions are not taken. Third strike won't kill you if you have the harness on wrong, but Ken of Chun Li will make incredibly short work of you health if you let them hit confirm a crouching medium kick into supers that I swear hit on the very first frame. It was very difficult to find a character that I felt comfortable with. Having a default street fighting position of down back I had to try Q, and he was large and difficult. Ryu felt like Ryu, only all rush down and no zoning. I have the most fun (but not the most success) with Hugo, mostly because seeing him throw himself ass first into people is now my favorite thing in the whole world.

The game will be played from time to time, but it is years and years too late to actually play the game 'seriously.' At the end of the night I left the friendly confines on player matches with people I knew and jumped into ranked. Matches were difficult to find, and when I did find them I was dominated by Kens who all knew how to parry and used the exact same combos. Screw that. If I wanted that kind of abuse I would play AE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs

First of all, hooray 500 posts.

My desktop has been suffering from periodic and unexplained lock ups for a few weeks. I started with the easy (and free) fixes, trying to at least narrow down the problem. When the thing locked up while watching a video on You Tube and the sound kept right on going it became pretty clear that the issue was with my slightly aged video card. A driver update later the problem was still there, so last night I opened up the case after the thing managed to lock up on the screen saver, of all places. I was greeted by a plume of super heated air coming from, you guessed it, the video card. The fan appeared to be running, but it clearly was not doing its job. It was hot. Speed Fan had it at over 160F. It's a miracle it was working at all.

I wish I were capable of purchasing a cheap card just to get by, but even though I'm not playing anything on it now there is always the outside chance that I might. Plus, at some point in time Guild Wars 2 is going to come out and I will sequester myself from the world from an as yet undetermined amount of time. It's been so long that I have no idea what is good and what is not so I asked the PA forums for help. They have pointed me towards Radeom HD 6870, which clocks in at $189.99 (with a $30 rebate!), along with a free copy of the new Deus Ex. I am tempted, but can I really justify it when the box is used primarily for indy Steam titles and Zuma?

Of course I can. Why? Because maybe, just maybe, it will run Cryostatis, a game I bought over a year ago and have yet to actually install.

Not that I ever have time for the third gaming console that actually matters. After InFamous 2 is El Shaddai, and after that is Shadow of the Damned, plus Street Fighter 3: Third Strikes comes out tomorrow.

Speaking of Street Fighter, a few of the changes for Super Street Fighter IV: AE apology edition have been reveled. Shoddy translation aside, it looks like a point black fierce or EX Blanka ball will knock down. In the corner it will allow juggles.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Quality whiplash

The difference is quality between Knight's Contract and InFamous 2 is staggering. It there was such a thing as quality whiplash I would be suffering from it, though suffering is hardly the correct term for it. It is better to say that I am wallowing in InFamous 2, rolling around in all that it has to offer, getting positively filthy with its wonderful juices.

Now I'm hungry and I want to electrocute mans.

From the very beginning InFamous 2 is executed more cleanly that nine out of ten other third person action games. I have a bad habit of deleting all of my old saves. It hearkens back to the days of memory cards and CD based media where would I delete my save right after finishing a game just to force myself to trade it in towards the next one. Hard drives and game rentals have alleviated this need, but the habit remains. InFamous 2 would like very much to start you off in somewhat the same direction you finished the first game in, but instead of looking for an old save it looks at the trophies earned. Genius. It does, however, guarantee that everyone initial play through is going to be in the same alignment as the first the game. Again, this doesn't bother me, the evil powers are much more fun to use. Mass heal? Fuck that. Jumping off the tallest place I can find and crushing protesters to bits is where it's at.


The only complaints that I have heard have been about the story being a little anemic. I disagree that this is actually a problem. The story that it has is just enough to keep things moving and provide some sort of motivation, though being an electric powered monster with a pale skin, protruding veins and a bad attitude is more than enough for me. About the only thing here that I don't agree with is the inclusion of user created levels in the main game. It smacks of Little Big Planet, but the difference here is that I can avoid them entirely and am no worse off for it. They are an actual bonus, not a cheap way to get the player base to make your game for you.

...

I suppose I did promise (two days ago) to air out one last complaint regarding Knight's Contract. In retrospect, though, complaining about story decisions in a game so rife with game play issues is just piling on.

Not that I am above that.

From the very beginning of the game Heinrich's reason for going along with with (who he killed to begin with and cursed him with immortality) was that he wanted to die. His immortality is again and again referred to as a bad thing. He even attempts to get out of his contract and betray the good witch just for the chance of cashing it all in. The good guys triumph, or course. Flash forward to modern times and Gretchen is sitting at a modern day restaurant looking at a flaming ball of evil floating in the sky (that only she can see). Up walks Heinrich, this time in a suit that is at least two sizes too small, still alive.

So the whole 'main character is immortal and wants to die' thing, the heart of the whole story. That thing? Yeah, never mind, that was bullshit to.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Someone out there likes me

Have you ever gone through a domain name change? How about an email server change? Maybe both at the same time? I am only tangentially involved and it is still hell. The guys doing most of the actually work so fried at this point they are leaving scorch marks on the floor as they numbly scuffle to and from the refrigerator, quickly depleting the supply of Mt. Dew. The few things that I am of in charge of work, which means I get to have a nice quiet evening with Infamous 2.

...

The final few boss fights of Knight's Contract actually improved. The fights become more fair and interesting, requiring strategy instead of blind luck. What got worse were the quick time events that finished them off: instead of giving some health back you just started the fight over, and at least one took over five minutes to complete. On one occasion I had my laptop sitting open next to me with the appropriate button presses highlighted and I still screwed it up. I didn't throw anything, but only I was to fatigued by the repetition to bother.

By the end of the game I was slumped sideways on my couch, playing with all the enthusiasm of a person preparing for a colonoscopy. After about three or four tries against the last section of the last boss I was desperate for it to be over. I will admit the the fight itself again wasn't bad: the final witch was too powerful for normal attacks and too mobile for most magic attacks. You had to pin her down with a weaker spell and they nail her with a damaging one before she could escape. This was not a very big window. Not content with simply being difficult, the game adds on a time limit in the form of a giant meteor hurtling towards you.


Not quite, but you get the idea.

There's one more wrinkle: when you finally land an attack the damage it does varies greatly. The first time I used one it did several bars worth, the next time it barely scratched her. At this point there is only one explanation: I (the player) and being directly and intentionally fucked with. I of course didn't like this, but I had to finish the game. I had put up with it for this long, there was no way I was quitting now.

On the last try of the evening something wonderful happened. Something happened that proved that there are indeed benevolent beings that look over nerds in dark basements. It was nothing short of a gaming miracle:  I threw out a random attack that killed the final boss in one hit. This in not an exaggeration. I was both elated and disgusted, but at least it is over now.

I will complain about the stupid ending tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monsters from the id

Knight's Contract is slowly draining the life from me. I fell asleep on my new love seat (yes, I no longer sit on the cold basement floor when I game, my ass is much happier) not because I was tired. No, I fell asleep because I the idea of spending another hour grinding through an area that exists for the soul purpose of padding play time was too much and my subconscious revolted.

'You have been left in charge for too long,' it said as it wrenched control of my body from my waking mind, 'time for you to take a little nap.'

When I woke up Knight's Contract had been packed up and shipped off and my Blanka was now up to a B+ rating.

Or not.

I will finish the game, but I truly dread what what kind of bull shit will be thrown at me by the last guy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's not chocolate and peanut butter

There was another boss battle in Knight's Contract last night with almost all of the same problems as the last one. In fact, add attacks that can hit you through stone walls to the list of awfulness. It has gotten to the point where I am going to look up all the quick time events ahead of time to make sure that only have to beat each one once.

But I don't want to talk about that today. I want to talk about this:



Keep in mind that I am still a little gun shy from both MvC3 and Mortal Kombat being failed investments of both time and money, but the more I see of this game the less I am excited for it. The inclusion of simple supers and combos that rely on quick tagging screams MvC, but the focus on juggling looks a bit more like Tekken Tag. It is neither Street Fighter or Tekken, which I suppose is the point, but the weird in between area just does not sit well with me. There is no way for me to tell how the game feels from a four minute video, but I am definitely feeling more cautious then gung ho about the game. That and watching Ken and Ryu play ping ping using Kazuya's body and fireballs looked absolutely retarded.

Perhaps easy, consistent supers and the magic series combos from MvC were added to let other things be more complicated, like team building and maximizing tiny opening for insane damage. Touch of death combos were a big part of why I stopped playing MvC3, first of all because I could no do them and secondly even if I could I do not think that wailing on a lifeless body for fifteen seconds makes for exciting fisticuffs. Street Fighter, regardless of version, is rarely this one sided, action wise. Playing defensively is a viable option (for some characters) and playing cautiously is usually rewarded. Yes, this makes the game slower, but it also allows for more mind games versus seeing one opening and doing a billion damage from it.

All bitching aside, I will undoubtedly still buy it. I bought MK, and this has to be better than that.

(Still not going to buy UMvC3, though)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A catalog of atrocities

It is now time to document the atrocities of the worst boss fight I have ever been subjected to. This includes final bosses of SNK fighters (I'm looking at you, Geese Howard).

 Knight's Contract had not been a difficult game up to this point. Correction: the only difficulties were caused by the map not telling you where to go and a lot of the hallways looking the same, but killing things had not been too much of a chore. Previous bosses had been challenging, but none had actually killed me before I figured out what I needed to do. Then along comes a giant flaming witch that fires rockets out of her costume. She actually looks pretty cool and long as you can get past her being three times as tall as you are. It all goes to shit very quickly.


  1. The battle takes place on a suspended platform with no edges. When the witch is on the platform she takes up quite a bit of the available space. She also has an attack that creates an 'X' of burning areas that corner you, followed by a spear attack that will knock either you or Rachel (the good witch) right off the side, ending the fight.
  2. The flaming sections created have their own problem: if Rachel happens to step on one she cannot get off of it, instead sitting there burning to death until the flaming area goes away. If you happen to call her towards you she will walk right into the fire, killing herself.
  3. After a few attacks the fire witch will jump off of the platform and fire area affect rockets at you. The rockets are enough to either kill you in one hit or knock you off of the platform, and their blast radius is large enough that missiles that hit off screen can still hit you.
  4. Last but not least, the fight ends with a quick time event. This would not be all that bad, but if you fail (and I did) the game give the fire witch over half her health back and you have to fight her again. If she kills you? Back to the beginning of the fight.
This awful combination required 33 retries to get past. And the worst part? I am going to tell you exactly how to fix every one of these, and not one solution requires giving Rachel any sort of virtual survival instinct (because good AI is clearly past these guys).


  1. Put edges on the damn platform so you can't be knocked off of it. The enemy here is the giant evil witch, not gravity. You should never have to fight gravity, because gravity always wins.
  2. Allow Rachel to move if she is on fire. Stop, drop and roll, bitch.
  3. Zoom the camera back as the missiles are fired so you can actually see where there are going to hit.
  4. Don't force me to re-fight he boss if I fail the QTE. Better yet, just don't include them.


Look at that, four easy solutions that somehow made it passed people whose job it is to make games. Sometimes I wish play testing wasn't a pointless, underpaying, torturous job because I would be damn good at it.

Assuming that the developers actually listen to play testers. Which they don't.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I can see clearly now

I am actually just a little worried about Knight's Contract. It has received universally negative reviews, which is nothing new for games that I play, but featured prominently in most of them is my oldest and most tenacious foe: a camera that does its best to obscure whatever it is you are trying to do. I can handle a lot of terribleness; bad graphics, atrocious voice acting, repetitive level design, UI's that intentionally obfuscate even the simplest of tasks. I can look right past ideas that have been whole sale stolen from better games, even if that better game happens to be the last game that I played. I can wrestle with un-intuitively laid out and un-remappable controls as years of playing have made each individual finger able act with a mind of its own when required (until arthritis sets in, at which point I may just chop them off).

But a bad camera? The camera is literally the players portal into whatever world the developers, artists and programmers have created. If it is shit than it doesn't matter if the game itself is the greatest thing since Jimmy John's sub delivery because you can't see what the hell is going in. Imagine watching a movie where every scene has a character whose face is partially cropped off the edge of the frame. It would never make it out into the theater because no one would put up with it, yet games continue to be released that get this wrong. I know that it is isn't easy, but it is also so important that I have to think that it is taught on one of the first days of 'I want to make games school.' (Right after 'how to live on Doritos for months at a time,' 'controlling acne on the cheap,' and 'how to make rent after Activision buys the start up you work for and fires everyone)

I kid, there is no cheap way to control acne.

You would think that a guy who spends most of his time curled up on the bottom of the gaming barrel wouldn't have many standards left, but even I have my pet peeves. So Knight's Contract has been officially put on notice before I have even installed it.

...

Had a wonder hate mail exchange in Street Fighter last night. It was late and I was playing poorly (so nothing new yet) and I ran into a Ryu taunted a lot and did random things. He beat me fair and square with something that I did not know you could do: cancel Ryu's taunt into a DP (though in retrospect it should have been obvious). So he sends me a message:

'sukker'

Now, I can't pick on his playing because he beat me. There are no cheap tactics, only things that you don't know the appropriate counter for. So I decided to pick on his spelling.

'I can take your taunts, but poor spelling? GTFO.'

'suk a dik, bitch'

'I think I know what you are saying, but could you try it again with a dictionary? Assuming you can read well enough to use one.'

Much to my disappointment, he stopped replying. Probably past his bed time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Doo, D'oh, Depp!

I have spent most of the afternoon trying to teach myself Crystal Reports XI. All I have to work with is a rather complicated report written by someone who very clearly knew what he or she was doing for a very specific database and my task is to take this report that works for one database and make it work for another. It took me half a day and I now know exactly what I don't know, which is actually a pretty big step, but I also have no idea how to learn and fix what I know that I don't know. At the very least the report is just a series of SQL select statements running in the background, which I understand, but I can't find the damn things to edit them.

Now I need to drink and drink heavily, something that I currently do not have the necessary liquids to do.

...

Lego games are uniquely dependent on the personalities of the characters they are lampooning. This works very well for games with multiple larger than life characters like Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones. Pirates, though, only has a few notable characters; the rest are generic pirates or soldiers (or undersea mer-men). A great deal of care was taken to make Jack look, act and sound like Jack, and it shows, but what defining characteristics does Will Turner have? Or Gibbs? Even Barbosa, as awesome as he is, is little more than a swarthier that average pirate. Blackbeard was even more disappointing. In the movies they served as foils for the main character (which is why you could get rid of almost all of them for the fourth and it was no worse for the wear) but in the game whenever Jack isn't on the screen you are left wondering who these people are and why you are controlling them.

Once again, I am reading far to much into a Lego game, but forcing me to nit pick on such a deep (or Depp) level really should be taken as a compliment. It is as fun to watch as it is to play, probably works quite well in co-op, has an incredible amount of bonuses and other bits of junk to find, and has left behind the unfortunate additions of the last game. It also looks really good, and not just for a Lego game. Finally Telltale has realized they have a little more technical headroom than they used to and done something with it. The game isn't going to win any awards, but it is not offensive to behold.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It all fits together

Someone spent a great deal of time making sure that Lego Jack Sparrow had the same ridiculous run that real life Jack Sparrow does. This poor individual now has nightmares about Johnny Depp mincing about in a pirate costume; every time he closes his eyes all he can see the man flailing about in an impossible manner. His loss is my gain, because the animation is goddamn hilarious. After hours of the same Lego action I have been through at least a half dozen times I was still not tired of it. Jumping on a barrel and crushing fools to death certainly helped. These games are infectious; Lego Star Wars 3 took it one step too far, reaching into genres that it had no reason to intrude upon. This is certainly a welcome reversal, and even at this early stage I am comfortable calling this my favorite since Lego Batman.

Also, as strange as it sounds to compliment the voice acting in a game with no actual spoken dialogue, the person they got to mimic Jacks screams and grunts has it down perfectly. For all I know Depp actually did it, seeing as his soul officially belongs to Disney now. He has an island to pay for, you know.

...

Mortal Kombat has been officially unloaded and I am a better man for it. While there is nothing wrong with the game in concept, actually playing it with other people proved to be much to much work. It did indeed have the same look and feel of the MK games of my youth, and it boasts one of the better single player sections of a fighting game (the latter Virtua Fighters still take the cake), but when it came time to return from my self imposed fighting game hiatus I did not long for a game featuring a block button and stilted animations, and I certainly had no interest in spending more money to add more characters when I was only passable with one. It did last longer that Marvel vs Capcom 3 did, and it did not bring about the same depths of anger and self loathing, but I only have the stamina to be bad at one fighting game at a time.

Speaking of bad, playing random and getting Viper is just not fair for a charge character player. Viper is the antithesis of down back. The best I could pull off was a super jump burning kick, and all that did was heat up the air above the person I was supposed to hit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Even in block land


I will enjoy beating Lego Orlando Bloom to death almost as much as I enjoyed murdering Lego Jar Jar over and over. Reviews of this Lego game put it below the last Star Wars entry because it was missing the obnoxious base building/RTS segments that I hated. Good new for me.

Also, I never thought I would find a Lego Haters image. It turns out that the internet is pretty big and there are quite a few crazy ass people out there.

Monday, August 8, 2011

But if you look on the inside...

As unoffensive and safe the action in Dungeon Siege 3 was, it did manage something that very few games even attempt. Action games have, as of late, taken to one upping one another with their levels of senseless and wanton violence. This is not just in the actual parts you play, but in player driven story developments as well. Your choices range from kill the guy now with your gun or kill him now with your sword or maybe let him go and kill him later. Not since, well, KotoR 2, have I seen a game where honest to goodness mercy is encouraged.

While it would have been nice to have moral choices implemented through game play, simply having the option to show mercy and compassion to enemies is almost unheard of. Dungeon Siege 3's story is surprisingly dense, full of betrayal and lies, genocide and political intrigue. At the core of it all is an archon whose father was murdered by the legion (and guess who the player is a decedent of). She is never portrayed as evil, but she definitely does evil things. She becomes consumed by an ancient power that she called on in a moment of weakness and never recovers. Along comes your character (I chose the gun wielding hottie) who has the option to change the legion for the better and not kill the bad guy when given a chance.

I played through this as fair but firm. If you crossed me I killed you from across the room with a well placed rifle shot. But if you have even one redeeming feature you get a second chance. Perhaps I am reading far to much into what really is an average action game that has been watered down for the console audience almost beyond being recognizable, but Dungeon Siege 3 has soul.

The Obsidian curse has struck again. They should have done the writing and let someone else make the game.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Black Isle, we miss you

Obsidian Entertainment does have a bit of a checkered history, putting out sequels to excellent (and sometimes not so excellent) games of dubious quality, usually through no fault of their own. They come from excellent stock, led by refugees of Black Isle, but they have have not had a modern break out hit, and am I worried that they may never get to. First up under the Obsidian name was Knights of the Old Republic 2, a game 'ruined' by a short development cycle and rampant interference from Lucas (or so the rumors go). Played it, actually enjoyed it more than the first KotoR, probably because I set out from the start with the idea of being the biggest bastard possible. I made it through the entire game with only one light side force point; who knew that being nice to your droids counted.

Neverwinter Nights 2, and to be more specific the first expansion, Mask of the Betrayer, is the best work Obsidian has done. In is an excellent RPG in the same vein as Baldurs Gate but without out all the baggage that 2nd edition D&D had with it. Don't get me wrong, if I am going to side down with a cadre of nerds and a bag of dice I prefer 2nd edition, but for a game all the streamlining of 3rd really made sense. Mask of the Betrayer had an incredible story, surpassing the main game by leaps and bounds. I cannot help but notice that this is the only game of their list developed exclusively for the PC. It was a different time, and there was enough money to be made from one market then. It seems unlikely that they will get this opportunity again, as only Blizzard has the clout and loyalty needed to pull off PC only development (though I will put serious money on some version Diablo 3 making it to a television near your).

The less said about Alpha Protocol, the better. And while Fallout: New Vegas was a very good game, Obsidian didn't break the mold that Bethesda left behind for them. It was the same game, just in a different place.

And now we come to Dungeon Siege 3, a game so stripped down for the console audience that you can see its bones right through its recycled chain mail armor. It's not bad, it's just simple. I know that the first Dungeon Siege by Gas Powered Games was in fact designed to be a simper alternative to Diablo, but with a grand total of nine powers, four characters and around ten passive buffs it feels like I am playing My First Action RPG. I can hit a button and it tells me exactly where I need to go for the next quest, complete with the flashing path the Fable did first. The game is nothing but appetizers, and I am getting pretty hungry for a god damned steak.

Some days I wonder why I left PC gaming. Then an orange package from GameFly arrives in the mail and I remember that you can't rent PC games and that my rig is about $500 from being relevant.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My fight money!

I always knew there was going to be a collectors edition of Skyrim. Oblivion's ultimate packaging was excellent for it's time (I still have my royal septim), but the amount and quality of swag has been increasing lately as publishers struggle to find more ways to soak every last drop of income out of people who actually buy games instead of just renting them. And yes, I am aware that I am part of that problem. There are in game bonuses, out of game bonuses, and even entire parts of the game that used to be standard issue locked away unless you bought the game and input the magic code it came with. Expectations are high for Skyrim, and I will admit that the first thing I saw when I looked at details that were announced was the price tag.

$150.00! Are you kidding? That's more than twice what games normally abuse me for. There's no way. It's all stuff that I would never touch again anyway. I can't even spend my royal septim and I traded in the cloth map when I got rid of Oblivion years ago. I refuse...


God damnit. Art book, cloth map, making of DVD, pretty sweet looking dragon statue. All it's missing is some horse armor. I was going to trade in Mortal Kombat and sell by Rock Band pro-guitar anyway.

...

Played a little for Street Fighter during the day yesterday. Competition was about what your would expect for a Friday afternoon, but I will never tire of bad Akumas who don'r realize that up EX-ball goes through air fireballs and does a fair amount of damage.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I heard you like cornbread

The standard for modern action RPG's was set last generation by Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance. It was was promptly raised a few years later by Champions of Norrath (still by Snowblind, who I just learned are responsible for the oft delayed Lord of the Rings: War in the North, which also means that I need to pay attention to yet another game). Both of these games made excellent use of a very simple mechanic: killing mans to get better stuff to kill more mans. This is all Diablo and Diablo 2 are, and they are still patching the second game, so it certainly works. The action RPG, whether it be on a console or PC, is the equivalent of comfort food. It's your Mom's cornbread or chicken soup or home made cookies that you can simply taste just by thinking about and that keep you coming back home for reasons beyond doing your laundry.

Which brings us to Dungeon Siege 3. The first two were good enough games, hitting all the correct development bullet points for liner action games with just enough wandering thrown in to waste time leveling up for. I remember them being fun, but I also remember they always playing second fiddle to games like Titan Quest and Sacred because they didn't have much weapon variety or things were just a little too linear. Dungeon Siege 3 has the misfortune of coming out while Sacred 2 is still relatively recent and Diablo 3 hype is starting to increase, so is should not be a surprise that the game has been largely ignored at retail and met with a resounding 'meh' by critics. In truth there is nothing wrong with the game; it is just doing the same things that it always has, things that have been modernized or streamlines by other games. I was expecting much more from Obsidian. While they do indeed have a habit of putting out flawed gems, their games have always been interesting. Dungeon Siege 3 is not outstanding, nor is it terrible, it just is, and it is taking up time that should be going toward Bastion of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

...

I travel game compulsively and travel just enough that owning a second set of cords for the 360 is a must. Taking it on a plane is not a good idea, but it has certainly made a few long car trips with me to hotels that featured televisions that my parents might have owned. The only times I get a television worth a damn are when I don't actually bring the system along. It happened last year when I was stuck in a casino for an extra night and they upgraded me to a presidential suite, and it has happened again, this time in Louisville. The set up was brilliant: nice big flat screen with a full set of inputs mounted into the cabinet it was sitting on. No need to squeeze behind the set and risk breaking stuff, everything was right there for the taking. It was a rig worthy of after hours EVO money matches, and all I could do on it was watch heads up poker on ESPN.

Still, there is no way that I could get a 360 through security, and checking one is a terrible idea. I am already on my third console, buying a forth would be difficult to justify.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So I started playing Street Fighter again last night


Actually, it wasn't that bad, though I did run into the number one Akuma player. He know from the initial seconds of the match that I was no threat, playing with me for two rounds. By the time the match was almost over he was trying to link normals into raging demon (which I am not sure is even possible). In the few seconds that he was actually playing against me he pulled out a cross over fireball vortex that blew my goddamn mind. In retrospect I could probably have FADC'd out of it on wake up, but they would require me being able to FADC anything with accuracy. If (and I stress if) this becomes more than just a one night stand with an old, angry lover I am going to have to lay out short term, specific goals for myself. First and foremost is working focus attacks into my bag of tricks. Blanka's focus attack isn't great, but it isn't terrible and does have some uses. I just to remember that it is there instead of mashing EX electricity after a hard knock down because I don't know what else to do.

...

Sitting in O'Hare airport because by connecting flight to Louisville was cancelled. Traveling sucks.