Monday, January 14, 2013

Faceless heroes

The difficulty jump did eventually arrive in Torchlight II, but by the time it did I had stockpiled so many potions that it did not matter. The answer to every problem, regardless of its cause, was more potions. Almost dead? Potion. Just took 50% damage in one hit? Two potions. They were dropped with such frequency that I did not need to look for any other solution. Only when I had almost maxed out the passive skills that I was interested it did I even bother to go cruising through the extensive skills list, and what I found many my potion addiction quit embarrassing.

The name of the skill escapes me, but here is the effect: everyone with range of the caster gets (number)% bonus armor and (number) hit point back per second. The numbers were not trivial, starting out around 15% and 300 hit points. This effect lasts for three seconds, which does not seem like much, but the spell itself lasts much longer, so as long as I kept my character in the circle created by the spell I continuously received the benefits. On top of that the spell was cheap to cast and had a cool down time less than its duration. I literally walked from room to room on a path of circles that continually healed me and made me take less damage.

The final boss still killed me a few times. The solution was not more potions, though, it was more circles.

...

Operation 'catch up on all the game I missed last year' continues. It's time for Halo 4.

Master Chief is the blandest protagonist to ever grace a AAA franchise. Every other hero (or villain) has at least one defining property. Nathan Drake is humorous and self effacing. Lara Croft has big boobs and daddy issues. Marcus Fenix also has daddy issues on top of unrequited love. Hell, even Mario has a sweet mustache and a love triangle involving Peach and Bowser to deal with. What does Master Chief have? He has some expensive armor, and... nothing. He talks, which puts him one up on Gordon Freeman, but everything he says is in the same tone of voice and his sentences never make it past six or seven words.

Halo 4 makes an attempt to explain this. Master Chief is a Spartan in every sense of the word. He was stolen as a child and put through a sci-fi agoge. 'It is easier to indoctrinate and augment children,' says his creator when faced with ethical questions. He is literally a monster created by monsters. Yes, he is personally responsible for saving the human race, but Master Chief made one critical mistake: his success did not cost him his life.

In the five years since Master Chief's disappearance much has changed. Humanity has gone from desperate defense to aggressive offense. Instead of reacting to the covenant they are out looking for more forerunner planets in an effort to colonize and decommission them (decommission, sure).  They don't need a hero anymore and the reaction Master Chief receives from new Spartans after he is found alive and well shows it:

'I thought you would be taller.'

He is a relic; cautious, calculating, accustomed to failure. To the captain of the Infinity he is barely usefull. Just another soldier with a gun. To the soldiers themselves he is no longer the savior on the battlefield, just someone they heard about who may or may not have had something to do with the Halo 'incident.' Master Chief, much like Cortana, has lived long enough to see himself become obsolete. He never reacts, just goes about his business of killing aliens by the truck load, because that is all he knows how to do. He is still bland, but now it is a tragic bland. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.

The shooting? Oh yeah, that's pretty good, too.

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