Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A swing and two misses

I seem to be putting of starting Far Cry Primal.

Alienation was an excellent game for the first nineteen levels. There was a smooth difficulty curve after I got over the jump from level nine to ten, one that the grind of level ten resolved itself. The enemies were tougher and there were more of them so they dropped better loot. That in conjunction with logically placed checkpoints made what could have been a very frustrating section quite hard but fair. There was no cheating it, no getting around it, in fact dying reset all of the monsters, but nothing was lost with each failure.

Level twenty is a dynamically created three part mission with no checkpoints, no supply boxes for health and three boss battles. The player is at the mercy of enemy drops for health and the drops feel much more stingy than the rest of the game, though I have no way to prove that. The level generation can create almost impossible sections and break rules that were in place for everything that came before. For example, there are mortar cannons that can fire at you from off screen. This is not really a problem as the impact zone is shown is just enough time to dodge it.

On the mother ship, level twenty, they can fire through doors. You can't fire through doors. Can you see how this is a problem?

I may never finish the game. It feels like it wants me to go back and replay all of the previous levels or, worse yet, play with random people. Fuck both of those things. The closest I have come was killing two of the bosses and then being overrun by enemies hidden behind a closed door. The rest of the game is still good but this endgame is all I am going to remember.


Remember when I called Layers of Fear a scary walking simulation? I meant it is a good way for that game. It remained engaging and unnerving even though the player was doing little more than walking from room to room in a fun house tripping scary traps. The Park tries to do the same thing but is neither engaging nor at all frightening. The best thing is can muster up is a PT style loop that may have raised the hairs on the back of my neck once. A baby cooking in an oven while people dangel from the ceiling will do that.

The Park tasks the player with guiding the protagonist (whose name I have forgotten already) with finding her lost sun in an amusement park. As soon as she clears the entrance escalator the park switches from open and clean to closed and dilapidated. It steals the best scenery from Stalker, which itself stole it from Pripyat.

Nuclear melt downs are scary. Stalker was scary. This game is not.
The is not exploration nor is there any searching for the lost boy. The protagonist simply wanders from attraction to attraction, riding each one for the sole reason of triggering a spooky cutscene. Why does she get on a ferris wheel that is missing at least one gondola? No reason at all, other than to make time for uncomfortable exposition.

By the second half if the game, in the horror house (of course) it becomes clear that the protagonist is not really in the park. What we are seeing are stages of her relapse into depression and drug use. This is where the PT loop comes in. For around fifteen minutes the player loops through a few hallways of her house as it gets worse and worse. Notes scattered around the environment chronicle her reacting to things in less and less sane ways, culminating in a letter from her therapist declaring her 'fucking crazy' and that 'she should take as many drugs as possible.'

It's not very effective. PT did the loop better and Layers of Fear did the non-interactive haunted house better. The Park is trying to say, well, something, but I am not quite sure what. Of course being a single parent is hard and dealing with mental illness when you are dirt poor is next to impossible, but I did not need a game to teach me this. The subplot of the park itself being constructed as a way to collect and focus negative emotion was much more interesting.

Seriously, tell me about how the roller coaster was just a little more scary than fun and how the bumper cars were just a little too fast. Tell me about the Ivo Shandor type who built the whole thing to try to make himself immortal and the Five Nights and Freddys refugee who killed several annoying teenagers with an ice pick.

These things may very well have been in the protagonist's head but they would have made a better game than what this was.

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