Paul talks about the classic silent protagonist and what he’d like to change. Continue reading
With the holiday season here and Thanksgiving happening this week, I thought it would be fun to talk about what I’m thankful for in the gaming world.
Alright first though, I know this is a gaming culture site but I need to say I am so thankful for my parents, my brother and my friends. I would not be where I am today without their love and support and it means the world to me to have them in my corner.
Ok, sappy stuff out of the way! Well what am I thankful for? I think the easiest thing is the new generation of consoles. But it isn’t exactly for the reasons you think. While yes I am happy for the launch of the Xbox One and PS4 but allow me to explain that my primary platform is my PC. Yes I am proud member of the PC Master Race and the best part of the new console generation is that developers will no longer be making games for seven-year-old hardware!
While this does mean I am going to have drop some cash to finally upgrade my system, I am glad to see the likes of Battlefield 4 which my several year old system has trouble with on the higher settings. I know graphics aren’t everything, but it is so great to see just how far things have come and how far these new systems will push visual affects.
Next I am going to have to continue with my PC ways and be thankful for the amazing digital sales of places like Amazon, Gamers Gate and of course, Steam. While these sales are usually just a way to fill up my game library with more games than I will ever play, there are truly some great gems that can be found through sales. This past summer I picked up through Steam sales the indie games Dust: An Elysian Tail and Strike Suit: Zero.
Both games are quite awesome and I only happened to just stumble across them and was I able to pick them up right away thanks to sales. It can also be nice to revisit old titles. A long, long time ago I played the game Star Wars: Republic Commando on the original Xbox and I loved it. When I saw the game on sale on Steam for under ten dollars I thought “what the hell” and bought it again for my computer and enjoyed replaying every minute of it. I was also able to send a friend a copy of BioWare’s amazing Jade Empire as she had never played it before.
And finally, this past March saw the end of one of the most amazing sci fi trilogies in recent memories. Yes I am talking about BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy. The third game of the series was released in March 2012 but its final DLC, Citadel was released in March 2013 and it marked the final adventure for Commander Shepard and her squad. The Mass Effect trilogy may have ended with no small amount of controversy and while I was one of those who was left feeling discontent, I cannot deny my love for the series and its hero Shepard.
BioWare created one of the most amazing game worlds I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing and the cast of the series is my favorite of any game anywhere, anytime. Things may have not turned out the way I wanted but I am so glad Bioware created this amazing place that captured my attention like no other game, like no other work of fiction ever has.
Ah, we still have another week of next gen excitement to finish up. As this week belongs to the Xbox One I figured I talk about some of my favorite games from the first two generations of Xbox.
Well the first Xbox is pretty easy. I completely missed the launch window of the first Xbox and was perfectly content with my Nintendo GameCube that year but it was, hmm, maybe a year or so later some friends of mine at school were talking about this awesome game they were playing on their Xbox.
As you can probably guess, that game was Halo. I think I was aware that the game existed, but until that point I did not know too much about it. After listening to them gush about it for weeks on end, I was convinced of what to spend my birthday money on. I went to store and picked up the special Halo Edition Xbox.
I remember feeling in awe as I started up the game for the first time. I can see hear the music on the main menu and remember that sense of wonder I felt. The game was simply incredible and blew away my expectations. It was an incredible story and the universe of Halo was one I have followed ever since.
I eagerly anticipated the release of Halo 2 a few years later and once again fell in love the story and world the games created. I of course followed the series onto the Xbox 360 and it truly felt good to “finish the fight” in Halo 3. Though after the third game I kind of let the series go and only picked up the spin-off titles once they were heavily discounted used titles yet when Halo 4 was released I was reminded of the very first game.
I actually think I enjoyed more because of its personal focus on John and Cortana.
Halo defined the original Xbox for me but it was up another game series to define the 360. Halo defined the original Xbox for me but it was up another game series to define the 360It actually took me a while to decide on just what game really made the 360 what it was. I had thought about saying it was Mass Effect but I never played that on the 360.
I also wanted an exclusive so that ruled out some other titles. So once I put a little thought into it, the series became obvious; Gears of War.
Now I know, Gears of War isn’t all that heavy on story is more about incredibly-over-the-top-gratuitous violence and action, but underneath all the blood and body parts I found the games to have a surprising amount of heart.
Though I suppose before I get to that I should mention that the games do absolutely nail the combat. While it was not the first game to use an active cover system, for better or worse Gears of War made the cover-based third person shooter what it is today.
I personally really enjoy that type of game play and even now, seven years after the first game, few do it better than Gears. The action really is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing and re-playing the games so much because it is simply fun to play.
And underneath all the crazy testosterone I actually found a whole game universe I’ve come to care about. While it was initially just the combat and action that drew me into the series, by the time Gears of War 3 came out, I was genuinely interested in finding out how the saga would conclude.
I wanted to see Marcus and Dom reach the end of their stories and you know what I am glad I did.
Perhaps there is something to be said that when I think of the Xbox I think of two shooters. However, both Halo and Gears of War are games that are honestly fun to play and universes that deep enough to draw you in. And since it will probably be a while before I will enjoy all the new and exciting games on the Xbox One, I think I’ll spend some time with my old favorites in the meanwhile.
I always enjoy the build up to new console launches. The promise of new hardware, new technologies and new games is always so exciting to see. However, just with the last few launches, I won’t be getting a console on day one. At the moment I a bit undecided between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and quite frankly, I think I’d rather save money for some upgrades to my PC.
This does not mean that I’m not keeping my eye on the next gen. Indeed I am watch the PS4 very closely. Its funny though, for the past three console generations I was always extremely late to adopt Sony’s console.
I don’t even quite remember what year it was, but during the lifetime of the original PlayStation my main console was the venerable Nintendo 64. I truly loved that console but eventually, I did pick up a PlayStation. Though to be honest, I can’t remember why. I would only get a console if there were games I wanted to play on it but couldn’t else where. It might have been to play the Resident Evil series as I do remember watching someone play the game at a display in a store. But it must have made an impression as I certainly do not regret buying the system.
During the next generation I still maintained my Nintendo loyalty with the GameCube. That was a system I spent thousands of hours with and had an incredible number of games for. But even with all the great games on PS2, I was still slow adapt. I even purchased the original Xbox first simple to play Halo. But then I remember talking with my friends at school about about a certain, rather infamous game. I was thrilled listening to tales of his exploits in Grand Theft Auto III and for that game alone, I went out and bought my PS2.
Even now I am pleased with my decision to do so. My PS2 brought my wonderful franchises like Ratchet and Clank, Kingdom Hearts and Killzone. My PS2 brought my wonderful franchises like Ratchet and Clank, Kingdom Hearts and Killzone. While the number of games I had for PS2 always lagged behind my GameCube and Xbox, I certainly enjoyed the system and loved having one.
Then came the launch of the current (though nearly over) generation and I went the console I was more familiar with, the Xbox. And at this point in time I was going off to school and was starting to discover the joys of PC gaming so once again PlayStation was left behind. In fact it wasn’t until last winter that I finally went out and picked up a PS3. I had been interested in one for quite a while as the console had many exclusives that appealed to me.
Better late than never, I finally had a PS3 and was able to experience the amazing offerings of the system like Uncharted, Killzone and more recently The Last of Us. I am quite glad I finally brought Sony back into my gaming world and am a little sorry I missed them for so long.
And so hear we are at the precipice of the next generation of consoles. While I will be waiting a few months to pick up a new console, right now it looks like I may just buck my trend and pick up the PS4 first. There are few exclusives on either side that really appeal to me so the PS4′s superior hardware might be enough to tip the scale in its favor. Also it looks like Sony’s new controller addresses all the issues I had with their old one. All of that makes the PS4 and Killzone: Shadowfall look very appealing.
So maybe its time for me to throw in with Sony early instead of waiting like normal. New generation, new start right?
It just about two weeks, the next generation of consoles will be hitting the market. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are poised to usher in a new era of HD gaming and entertainment. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at this current generation and remember some of the wonderful games it brought us.
I still remember way back in January 2006, coming up to my room after swim practice and sitting there on my floor was a brand new Xbox 360, a slightly late holiday/early high school graduation gift from my parents. I still remember way back in January 2006, coming up to my room after swim practice and sitting there on my floor was a brand new Xbox 360.Oh how excited I was. The next day I ran out and bought myself Call of Duty 2.
I had played a little bit of the game at the kiosk in Best Buy, but it was just wonderful to be able to play the game at home. The crisp visuals, the explosive action and the feel of the new controller was exhilarting. Call of Duty 2 was my first game of the current gen and it was certainly a worthy start, but it was these next few titles that really make me go all misty-eyed.
Later that year I picked up the initial game in what would become one of defining series for the Xbox 360. The first Gears of War was one of those rare titles that can sell a console. I have several friends who picked up a 360 for Gears alone. Love it or hate it, Gears of War had a huge impact not just on the 360, but on this entire generation of gaming. Its tight shooting and exciting action set pieces set the bar for third person shooters for years to come. And while it did not invent it, Gears made the ability to “take cover” a mechanic now found in just about every third person action game out there.
After having played all four Gears games, I still don’t think I am bored of the series. While I don’t play them as much as I used too, the games’ style of action and shooting is one that never gets old and is always fun to hope back into be it for some horde mode, team deathmatch or another campaign playthrough.
The next series is another one of those magnificent games that can move a console on its own. Indeed it is the reason I bought a PlayStation 3. The Uncharted series is the franchise I have come to associate with the PS3. I remember seeing the commercials for the original game and how they joked that playing Uncharted was just like watching a summer-block-buster-action-adventure movie.
I kind of laughed at that but you know what, it wasn’t all that far off. The first game really did feel like a new age Indiana Jones. It had a wonderful blend of action, platforming and puzzles that made the game just a joy to play. Uncharted 2 took what made the first game great and turned it up to eleven. While none of the Uncharted games could ever be called bad, Among Thieves is the highlight of the series for me, even more than Drake’s Deception. I enjoyed its locales and characters even more and it just had that extra something that really drew me in.
As great as these two series are, when I think of the generation of gaming there is one trilogy that really stands out to me and is the series of this generation. BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy takes familiar concepts and character types and blends them together in a way that makes it new and exciting while still remaining relatable enough for you to stay comfortable. Mass Effect captured my attention in a way no other series really has.
First of all BioWare’s excellent story telling made the universe they created truly feel alive and real along with its wonderful cast of characters. But even more so, BioWare gave me the ability to craft my own character and shape the story. But even more so, BioWare gave me the ability to craft my own character and shape the story. There are many Shepards out there, but my Shepards are truly my own and no one else’s.
Playing through the game with the default Shepard was still a marvelous experience. Hell I loved it enough to immediately start a new play through, but on that second run when I created my own custom Shepard, it added a level of immersion and enjoyment I never thought possible. I cared about Shepard as much as I cared about the other characters because she was truly mine.
The end of the Mass Effect series brought a lot of extras with it, but for me it was so bittersweet to see the end of my Shepard’s story. BioWare did something truly special with Mass Effect and for me it is the defining series of this generation and has so many amazing memories attached to it.
I think that I will still come back and play Gears of War, Uncharted and Mass Effect again in the future. The games are too good and I have too many fond memories of them not to play them again. But at the same time I’ll always have these memories and am eagerly looking forward to the next generation.
Now that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been out for less than a day, I think its time to start looking forward to next year’s installment.
Alright, bad joke but I’m only half kidding. ACIV does look like one hell of a game and is definitely on my list of games to play, though I unfortunately do have to wait before I can pick up my own copy of it. But still, the game looks great and from all the reviews I have read, is going a long way to pick up the slack left from AC3. Perhaps what is most exciting is the entire game is running with what was to many the best part of AC3, the naval missions.
So while pirating, sailing and doing all-around buccaneer things is totally awesome it is not what I was hoping for when rumors of ACIV surfaced at the beginning of the year. And these hopes have not died at all seeing as how a new Assassin’s Creed seems to come out every with almost as much regularity as Call of Duty.
Where I want to go next is to take not a small 60 year leap back in time, but one of several centuries or possibly even a millenia. There are two specific eras I would love the Assassin’s Creed series to visit and both would have the games leave the Western world far behind and land in the East. There are two specific eras I would love the Assassin’s Creed series to visit and both would have the games leave the Western world far behind and land in the East.
Chiefly, I would love to visit Japan during the Sengoku jidai or Warring States Period which lasted from the 15th century to the 17th century. So why here and somewhere in Europe or the Americas? Well it is partially just a personal dream. I have a degree in history and my area of focus was East Asain history so I have spent a lot of time with this period and I find it absolutely fascinating.
Beyond my own personal desire to see the period brought to life in the wonderful way Assassin’s Creed does with histotical locales, I think the period would fit perfectly within the IP’s overarching Templar vs. Assassin conflict. It was a period of nearly two centuries of constant warfare between rival warlords and families that covered all of Japan. What would be even more exciting would be if the game took place at the end of the period we were involved in the dealings of the warlords Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. These were very influential in Japanese history and I feel they would fit in perfectly Assassin’s Creed’s style of adding alternate history to famous historical indviduals.
What it boils down too, I want to see the Assassin’s Creed take on being ninja. After all, they just did it for pirates. And with the amount of research and real history they put into their games, I am sure Ubisoft would do justice to the time period while still adding their own dramatic fictional story.
But if not Japan, then I want to go even further back in history, more than 2,000 years from today. In Assassin’s Creed 2 we learn that there was a faction of Assassin’s who operated in ancient China. Indeed we end up exploring the tomb of one of them, the famed Wei-Yu who reportedly killed Qin Shi Huang, the very first Chinese emperor.
This story I think actually has a great oppurtunity to be told. It is building on something that has already been established in the Assassin’s Creed universe and would allow the game to go to an entirely new setting with new characters and conflicts. This too, is another time period I studied and is another era that I find just facsinating. It would be incredible to opperate as an assassin during the beginning of the Han Dynasty, the very start of China as a unified nation.
Either of these time periods and locations would fit exactly what I’ve wanted from the Assassin’s Creed franchise for a long time now, a game set in an Eastern culture as opposed to a Western one. While I have certainly enjoyed every game to date and loved seeing each historical setting, I think its time for things to change.
So come on Ubisoft, you’ve now done pirates, so where else is there to go next but ninjas?
As gaming evolves and begins to weave more and more complicated narratives with amazing characters and wonderous locations it becomes more and more difficult to figure out a way to finish up the story in a proper manner. Many games still follow the traditional path of the hero conquering the big bad and essentially “winning” the game. But with games that are now telling tales as intricate as any novel or film, I wonder if things always do have to end up so nice and tidy.
First off, I want to make clear that a traditional “happy ending” is by no means a bad thing. I believe one reason it is used so much in any medium is because it is so satisfying. The feeling over coming the game’s challenges and fighting to the end and coming out ahead is a great feeling. Just as with any competition and or conflict, it feels good to win and games are no different. But there are times when I have to wonder whether or not games have to end so well all the time.But there are times when I have to wonder whether or not games have to end so well all the time.
Take Bioshock: Infinite for instance (warning spoilers); I remember reading about some cases of controversy over its ending specifically regarding Booker’s death. Now the ending was definitely strange and took a moment comprehend, but once I understood it, the ending not only made sense but fit the tone of the game.
For Comstock to be permantely stopped, Booker had to die. He had to go back to the very moment when Comstock was born, at his own Baptism, and stop Comstock in the only way possible by making sure Booker himself died then and there. All along Booker had been seeking to “wipe away the debt” and to find some kind of redemption. It unfortunately required his death, but the game ended in a way that fit the narrative.
While it wasn’t exactly happy, the game ended on a positive note with both Booker and Elizabeth free of Comstock’s long shadow and has a somewhat bittersweet feeling.
Going even farther in the direction of just plain bitter, there are games like Spec Ops: The Line. The game can actually end in several different ways but none of them are happy. You are only deciding just how broken Captain Walker’s mind is. Even the “best” ending, where he actually leaves Dubai, has Walker look so utterly haunted and broken. But again, these all fit the tone and narrative of Spec Ops.
You spend the entire game witnessing and even participating in more and more horrific acts that are enough to seriously damage anyone’s mental state. The game’s overall story is incredibly dark and depressing and the endings reflect that perfectly.
Both Spec Ops and Bioshock: Infinite told great narratives that were far from typical, light-hearted fare solely about winning. Each one had darker elements that really made me stop and think and truly feel the story the game wanted to tell. Their endings reflected this tone and fit appropriately for their narratve. And everyone who has each game that I have talked too have praised their story telling and tone.
Just like with movies, books, TV shows and anything else, games can tell any number of different stories ranging from joyful celebrations to dark and brooding narratives. And while the old school of thought that a game has to give you the chance to win is still certainly valid, it does not have to be the only way to think about story telling in games. Tragedy and drama can be just as engaging in games as heroics. As long as its done well and fits with the story, a game does not need a happy ending.
In the past few years the “free-to-play”, or more simply “f2p” model in gaming has become increasingly popular. I think the model became widespread with the rise of social and mobile games starting with games like Farmville and it continues to dominate that market with newer games such as Candy Crush. Increasingly however, this new model has started to find its way into the PC market as well and is even starting to appear on consoles.
On the surface, f2p looks awesome. I mean what’s not to love about getting to play a full game for free? But these are games made by buisnesses so there has to be some way for them to make a profit. Every f2p title has some type of real money cash shop where you can buy items and other goods that help you out in the game. There is a very delicate balance that needs to be maintained here to avoid the dreaded “pay-to-win” scenario that f2p games can fall victim too.
There is a very delicate balance that needs to be maintained here to avoid the dreaded “pay-to-win” scenario that f2p games can fall victim too.
Depending on what the cash shop sells and what limits are placed on the game itself, some f2p games end up being hopelessly slow or nigh-impossible to beat without using the cash store. While this will bring people in to pay money, I feel this is a poor way for f2p titles to make their money.
One game in particular that I find does a poor job of its paid and f2p services in Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR is a great game and like any Bioware game, it has great story lines for all the classes along with great voice acting and cut scenes. My issue comes with SWTOR is how divides up its content based on what have or have not paid for. A person who pays the optional subscription gets the full game as it was when it was purely subscription based. However a person who is choosing to play it for free is hit with severe limits. Gear, money, skills, trading and even types of side missions are restricted. While this does not hamper the very basic play of the main class story lines, it gets frustrating very quickly to see all these little things blacked out or restricted. I understand SWTOR needs to make money and I don’t begrudge that, but I feel there are much better ways, even for a game that was originally subscription based.
Another MMO that was originally subscription based and has also gone f2p is TERA: Rising. This game does f2p right in my opinion. I actually per-ordered TERA when it was released a few years ago and while I enjoyed my time with it, I lost interested and canceled my subscription after a few months. But earlier in the summer I picked it up again as a f2p title and the game was identical to what it had been. Indeed the only true restriction or limit I could see was the number characters allowed per server. Rather than having its cash shop re-open parts of the game, it provided numerous bonus and convenience items like experience and gold boosts, additional character slots and even appearance and race change vouchers. However the largest collection of items are purely cosmetic costumes and weapon skins, which certainly look cool but really don’t do anything for game play.
The largest difference between TERA and SWTOR‘s f2p model is TERA has bonuses for you to buy while SWTOR wants you to buy back pieces of the game. Obviously both models work as both MMOs are going strong and are making way more as f2p than as subscription based but the model of SWTOR still leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Its much easier for me to drop some cash on what I see as a bonus to make my experience better, than to drop money on a piece of a game that was already there.