Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kashmir?


Speaking of Kashmir, let's talk about two announcements. Both Harmonix and Activision have hinted at the return of their respective music games. My initial reaction was of course blind hysteria and to begin stuffing money under the mattress. Then I remembered that it was Activision who broke the genre in the first place with yearly Guitar Hero releases, the last of which sold fewer than 100,000 copies. Has it been long enough since the great plastic instrument crash for the market to support another one?

I have no idea but there is no doubt that Activision will eventually cock it up and that Harmonix will have the better product. And that, at the inevitable bitter end, someone will sue Activision, which will amuse me. Also, there will be no Led Zeppelin content because Jimmy Page is still alive and he hates money.

So what are we going to get? 'Sources' have said that the new Guitar Hero will have a more realistic look. No one cares because that doesn't matter. Here is the real question: is there space left for either Harmonix or Activision to change how the game itself plays, to innovate in any way? Activision ran out of ideas after adding more toms to the drum set while Harmonix went the extra mile by adding keyboards and a much more realistic (and much more difficult) guitar option. I still have that guitar, it is sitting in its box next to my speakers where it will remain until the end of days.

If there is not much left to do, interface wise, and the visual interface is at best of secondary importance, what does matter? Simple: being able to import previously purchased downloaded songs, even for a minimal upgrade fee. There are two reasons that I still own an Xbox 360: Street Fighter (which will be soon remedied by the PS4 release) and my extensive collection of Rock Band songs. Being able to move that to the new game would make it an immediate purchase for a huge number of people even if it meant dropping $250 on a whole new set of instruments.

The odds of this happening are incredibly small. Harmonix lost songs between games and some DLC has since been pulled from the marketplace. Plus forcing the game to be compatible with all of the old tracks further limits its ability to change anything. They would all need to be re-done, meaning that they would need to be paid for again, and that is not a slippery slope that I want to start down on.

Perhaps a subscription based system like Xbox Music where a reasonable monthly fee grants you access to all the music but it all goes away the minute you stop paying? Depending on the price that could actually save me money and then I wouldn't be tied to a platform. Rock Band becomes the platform. It need not be beholden to an individual console or generation, it just is.

I shouldn't be excited. I shouldn't have hope. And I don't for Guitar Hero. But Rock Band? It will be a herculean task.


But not impossible.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Movie Bob?

I was not familiar with Movie Bob but...


I am now a fan.

'There is nothing more annoying than someone who only thinks that they are jaded.'

That's two people who either or were asked to leave or left The Escapist that I discovered only after they struck on their own. Maybe, just maybe, if Yahtzee left I would start paying attention to him again.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A different kind of salty

Far Cry 4 is Far Cry 3 again. This should not be a surprise coming from the people who push out at least one new Assassin's Creed game every year regardless of the title's completeness. Unlike Unity Far Cry 4 does not flee from what made the last game great. It embraces it, makes it bigger and shinier. So yes, it is, for better or worse, more of the same. At least it isn't several steps back for the series.

I would have more to say if I had more than three hours in the game. My one complaint, that the animals are damage sponges, was resolved when I unlocked the compound bow, though that still does not explain how a glorified deer can shrug off a well aimed shot from a sniper rifle or why I am constantly getting my ass kicked by honey badgers and eagles. I'd sooner face a dozen men then either of those.

There is a constant unexpected distraction to Far Cry 4: Trivial Pursuit Live. Don't laugh. 1 vs 100 was appointment gaming time for me during its limited run and I was sad to see it go. This has the same feel but with better questions and quicker games and I can plan whenever I want to, which right now is all the time. The way the game works has been watered down quite a bit to keep the game from lasting for hours for the trivia has certainly not. It can be brutal.

On the first night I won two out of three games I played. Intellectual domination. Last night I lost two in a row and was actually a little salty about it. It was clear that I was playing against a team of people on the other side as their Kinect was picking up a lot of shouting. What really got me was 'Just Google it!'

That's almost cheating.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

No! There is no justice!

From Kotaku:

Studio behind Phantom Dust reboot shuts down.

If this is true, so help me, I might actually use my PS4 for multi-platform titles...


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gah, the feels!

I am embarrassingly behind on my consumption of non-game media. In my defense very little on television interests me, I do not have cable, and movies that are worth the money and hassle to see in the theater are few and far between. There is an unwritten list of movies that I think I should see but the real list, the one over to the right, is rarely short enough accommodate it.

Last night I found myself on day three of having nothing new to play and not wanting to buy a new game out of boredom. I had finished up Little Big Planet 3, even toyed with the creative mode for a few minutes before getting bored, which is more than I can say for the first game. inFamous Last Light was next on the list. It was very, very good but it only took two nights of work. I even had a dalliance with The Swapper, which was at the very least amusing until I realized that I was playing the game with the YouTube walk through open on a second screen.

Killer Instinct made a quick resurgence, taking up most of Saturday night. I moved up a few multiplayer ranks because no one plays Thunder anymore and his super cheap tick command throw loops worked again. Until they didn't and I was fucked. Again. I didn't want to play that any more last night.

Out of desperation I trolled through the Xbox Video new releases and found Guardians of the Galaxy. I am not really a Marvel guy. I saw The Avengers and it was okay but I have not seen any of the Iron Man, Captain American or Thor movies. Those all seem so interconnected that coming in late requires around ten hours of movie catch up time. Guardians was different. It was a movie that I could watch in isolation.

I was fully prepared for a 'meh' evening. I knew all of the characters, all the funny parts, most of the plot. I knew about 'we are Groot' because The Internet.

Thirty minutes in I pulled up from my slouched position on the love seat. I leaved forward and did not lean back until it was done. And my heart grew three sizes.


It was, on occasion, visually busy to the point that it was difficult to see what is going on. The same can be said for most modern science fiction as they have not learned the Jurassic Park lesson of not doing things just because they can. It also moved from location to location with such abandon that it threatened to leave the audience behind.

But tt was the moments between the giant battles that the movie got me. When things weren't blowing up, when it was just the five losers trying to not kill each other, that was when I believed. Example: Dave Bautista is not a traditional actor. He is a wrestler (and a mediocre one, at that). But his Drax was perfect. At the end....


...thpoilerth....

...after the bad guy is destroyed with the power of heart (serious Captain Planet reference) and they are literally picking up the pieces of Groot he comforts Rocket. Rocket, a character that does not exist on the set, is weeping over his friend and Drax, played by a man whose job it is to be the beef, pets him. My head is tearing apart how it was done and how much of the scene was computer generated and my heart said 'hey fuck you, this is awesome.'

Guardians of the Galaxy did that over and over. I will make an attempt to see the inevitable sequel in the theater. High praise indeed.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Softer with age

Many, many years ago I wrote reviews for a little site called SavingProgress. No one read it; it was essentially the reviewers writing for one another and critiquing each others work. That changed when I gave the original Little Big Planet an incredibly poor review, calling it 'Sony's Field of Bad Dreams' and wondering 'where the game is in this toy box of boring toys.' It was brutal click bait that at least one person took issue with. It brought in one of the only comments I ever received on a review in which I was called me an 'X-bot' for daring to speak poorly of a Sony exclusive.

I was being trolled. This meant that I had arrived. Not long after the site fell apart taking all of my reviews with it. Even the internet seems to not remember them, anymore, and I certainly don't have copies of them.

Those were good days. In the spirit of nostalgia I have started Little Big Planet 3, fully expecting to hate it for the same reason I will never play Minecraft: I don't come to a game expecting to do all of the work for it. I come to be entertained, not put together levels for myself because the developers were too creatively bankrupt to do so.

...time passes...

Damnit, age has softened me, Little Big Planet 3 is not terrible at all. The platforming is still floaty and imprecise but the level design is interesting. Tiny bits of creative mode are used to the adventure but are entirely optional. There is even a touch of a story here, cliched but sweet. Instead of a sandbox with a game attached to it this is a game with a sandbox available on the side. It makes a huge difference.

I know that I am coming off of an bit of an 'episode' at the hands of Lords of the Fallen so perhaps it is the calmness of the narration or lack of death penalty or soothing pace that I am enjoying. Or maybe I have matured a bit in the ensuing years and no longer need to tear apart games for the fun of it.

...nah, tearing apart games will never get old. Little Big Planet 3 just doesn't deserve it.

Update.

Oh shit, I found it. I uploaded a bunch of reviews to GiantBomb in 2009.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This is what get for trying something new

Did I say something nice about Lords of the Fallen?

Yeah, fuck that game. Fuck it and games of its ilk that hide potentially good experiences behind ludicrous difficulty. Fuck it for wasting my time.

There is no reason for every encounter to be a nail biting, life or death battle. For fucks sake, let the player breath once in a while. Let there be some success in the early part of the game before turning up the heat. I want to play this game and I can't. It has decided that it is more important to kick my ass via boss fights that highlight holes in how the game controls than it is to allow me to learn its rules.

Don't have much content? Make what is there hard to pad the play time. Don't know how to make a boss interesting? Make of all of his hits lethal.

Fuck this whole genre. I am done with it. These aren't even games, they are self abuse. Why anyone would subject themselves to constant dis-empowerment at the hands of someone else's creation is beyond me. This isn't about being good or bad and a game, it is about the few people who have the patience to do something that other don't making excuses for bad design.

The only skill required here is to resist the desire to turn the damn thing off. Fuck it, I won.

Be gentle

Lords of the Fallen is not a game that I would normally play. It falls within the Dark Souls spectrum of difficulty and punishment and I played Demons' Souls for about an hour before throwing in the towel. Lord of the Fallen is different in the one way and it has managed to snag my attention: it's easier.

Easier is not a dirty word. The prevalence of uber-difficult, unforgiving games that supposedly appeal to the 'hard core' have almost made me feel guilty for enjoying simple games like the Lego titles or for playing racing titles on the lowest realism setting. Difficulty has become a bullet point on the back of the box right along side resolution had frame rate. It doesn't have to be and Lords of the Fallen proves it. Punishing does not need to equal maddening.

For example, dying in Lords of the Fallen does two things: resets your experience multiplier and robs you of earned experience points. Experience points can be recovered as long as the player gets back to the spot of their demise in a timely matter. Sound familiar? The difference is that getting back to where you died usually isn't a problem. On top of that the save points are not rare, allow the player to bank experience, fill their health and top off their potion supply. They make the game playable without making the combat any easier. The extra challenge is there for the taking if the player wants it: the more you kill without saving the higher the experience multiplier and the more you have to lose. As for me, I save every damn chance I get.

This has the same effect as lowering the execution barrier in a fighting game. It allows people who would normally be turned off to at least play long enough to see if they are interested in getting better. Street Fighter 4 has all sorts of input leniency over Street Fighter 2 and 3. This will get a player started but to get really good the obnoxious difficulty of one frame links is still there. Lords of the Fallen holds my interest by letting me play the game, something Demons' Souls did not. I am sure that Dark Souls is an excellent game but I was honestly scared to try it. Lords of the Fallen still kills me, it still wastes my time, but recovering from said death is quite possible.

Not the direction I was hoping for

Ugh. Watch this.



The last Deception was already silly. This looks like a Warner Brothers cartoon and is not what I want. Changing some of the setting to modern times is not a bad idea but having traps that shoot volleyballs and slam dunking people is just stupid.

I'll still play it but I'd be happier if it were darker. Hmm... First person Deception in the same vein as Amnesia. That's something that I would help Kickstart.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In spite of myself

I am not trying to be contrary for the simple sake of being contrary. I like good games, I like bad games, but I do not like all games and I specifically do not enjoy rogue-likes. Rogue Legacy got a pass because at its heart it was a platformer. Player skill at least had a chance of over ruling a bad random character. I started it, got past initial frustration, and made it through to the end once before moving on.

In rogue-like terms what I did was 'play the tutorial.'

Darkest Dungeon was purchased because I will throw money at any attempt to even tangentially use Lovecraft and because Chance's enthusiasm is incredibly contagious. When the man loves a game he loves that game. He describes in endearing terms things that I despise, like perma-death and the random number generator being a cruel and vengeful god capable of wiping out a part of four on a whim. Three hours later I was not frustrated. I had not sent scores of heroes to their untimely deaths. But I wasn't engaged, either.

I was bored.

I was bored because the very crux of how the game works prevents me from caring about what happens. Heroes arrive via caravan and are sent, four at a time, into a randomly generated dungeon on one of several generic quests. They are literally disposable. Knowing this I was hesitant to upgrade them in any way. It was a waste of resources to buy skills for a character that is just going to die. At the same time I didn't want to lose them, either, as time and experience had been invested in their survival. I spent more money on wine, women, song and religion keeping them sane than on anything else.

They were both meaningless and irreplaceable. This is the very point of the game: it is more management of resources than anything else. When is it worth curing a character's venereal disease (this actually happens) and when should they be dismissed and replaced with a new, level one hero. My disinterest was palpable. This is a shame because the combat is exceptional. Mistakes are punished, de-buffs very important along with position in the group and party composition is literally the difference between success and failure. I would put the combat up against the press battle system of Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, my two favorites, any day.

I want to play it but I can't because I can't deal with the management side of things. Take this combat, write a story and characters around it, and I will be happy. In other words, make it a different game and I will play it. The quality is there. I understand it and I understand what people see in it but am not interested in seeing any more of it for myself. Darkest Dungeon is still in early access. It certainly doesn't look or feel that way. In fact it feels remarkably complete. There is a chance that it will morph into something that I can play, but I doubt it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Score guarantees

I do not envy professional reviewers who were tasked with writing about Lego Batman 3, or any Lego game, for that matter. They are the very definition of review proof, in that the people that they are for don't read the reviews and the people who are buying them are doing so because they are safe to consume for all ages. Being paid to have an opinion and to give a game like this a number can't be much fun.

Far be it from me to say that the game is bad. It is certainly not. I am not playing the game ironically, I am playing it because I want to. It's just that the review process is as follows:

Lego Game?                                   Yes     No
Travelers Tales still involved?          Yes     No

Two Yes's equal 80% on the arbitrary quality scale. Move along.

This is also why I am not paid for my opinions. Yet.

Compared to its peers Lego Batman 3 feels more linear. The hub worlds are more cleverly disguised and there is no singular over world map like there was in Lego Marvel. I play these games for the sites and laughs and then walk away so the smaller world does not bother me. Obsessive middle school kids who must find every brick may find it a bit small for their taste. Fear not, there is plenty of downloadable content to pester the credit card wielders for.

Special mention must be made to the music. Someone is the production chain of command knew whose palm to grease because they were able to use this:


That's a damn fine theme. Once. Lego Batman 3 uses it all the damn time, cut into pieces, over and over. I never thought I could grow tired of Danny Elfman but I never want to hear it again and I know it will pop up at least a dozen more times. Tonight.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vacation time

Playing Lego Batman 3 is like taking a vacation. Assassins Creed: Unity really was work, especially the last quarter, even more so than slogging through the most recent Call of Duty. I didn't care about the characters, I didn't care about the exploration, I just longed for the sweet, sweet credits to roll so I could call it a day.

There is one lingering plot question that I can't let go. I will spoil it because the came out last year and everyone who actually cares has played it already. Around two thirds of the way through Arno is cast out of the Assassins for taking things into his own hands. It was clear that his motivation was one of vengeance and he had no loyalty to the creed (whatever that is). The assassins didn't kill him, or even rough him up, they just ushered him out of the secret front door.

After a two day bender Arno was back on his feet, an exiled assassin running around with an exiled templar. Why would either organization allow this? Arno was not hard to find, he was the guy running laps on rooftops in a hood. No one ever came to look for him and he kept right on with his quest for revenge.

Unless that was the plan all along and the assassins could then deny responsibility... I am not sure that I am willing to give the game that much credit.

Monday, February 2, 2015

And I'm done

I think that I am finally, finally coming to the end of Assassins Creed: Unity. I have stopped going out of my way to pick up anything, instead running from mission to mission in a sprint towards the ends, and it is still taking far too long. The current plan is to not even both with the free DLC that Ubisoft handed out as an apology for the game not working at launch. I normally do not turn my nose up at free anything but just have no interest in playing as Arno any longer.

There is one nit I forgot to pick on Friday regarding the combat: Arno has a very difficult time dealing with ranged attacks. Shay could grab an opponent as use them as a shield which looked bad ass and helped deal with crowds of enemies. All Arno can do is dodge roll and that only works if he isn't in the middle of any other animations. Bullets hurt. Rifle shots from two roof tops away routinely take off 50% health. But Chamberlain, be stealthy!

Yeah, fuck that, I am tired of the game, it does not deserve the time required for true stealthiness. I having officially OD'd on Assassins Creed.