Category Archives: video games

Life’s an itch

I got back into World of Warcraft.

With the impending release of World of Warcraft Classic, I felt that familiar itch for some sweet MMORPG action. Since Classic isn’t even in beta yet, I settled for the current iteration.

My last run at WoW was just after the release of Legion, the previous expansion. It was my first playing since 2010, and I had a blast leveling my druid up to the new level cap and goofing around with a new guild. Eventually, I hit my peak (or at least the best I could do without scheduled and consistent raiding) and my interest waned. My subscription eventually lapsed, my itch fully scratched.

But that need for chasing an experience bar and finding new equipment slowly crept back into my brain.

So I settled for starting up a new character and exploring the gameplay changes with a new class and race since trial accounts are free until level 20. My Worgen warrior, under the name of my old druid character, was supposed to be my outlet for my desperate need for MMO-brand satisfaction.

I made it to level 18 before I completely forgot about it. I didn’t feel the need to log back in. The itch hadn’t been scratched or anything—I just didn’t want to keep going. Maybe it was the knowledge that Classic is on the way. Or maybe the WoW subreddit is right and the game’s mechanics are just straight-up unsatisfying now.

(Full disclosure: I logged back in just now to check what level I made it to and ended up making the final push to 20 and got my first mount. Wasn’t exactly a sigh of relief, but it was almost enjoyable.)

Either way, it made me realize how impossible it is truly satisfy that need for what originally got me hooked on the king of MMORPGs. There’s a very unique brand of nostalgia for exploring a vibrant world with other people, for learning new spells and forms, for persevering against tough bosses for the first time.

But there’s also that classic desire for a simpler time where I could focus on the game and learning it with other newbies—learning not just WoW specifically, but the genre itself. That’s not the game anymore, and it never will be. I can’t really put myself back in level 60 gear and figure out how to best DPS as a feral druid on my first big boy raid.

It’s not exactly a satisfying lesson, or even a particularly helpful one—I still have the desire for that warm nostalgia. But at least I can understand how to approach that desire and what state of mind I need to be in when I approach other games.

Unfortunately for my Worgen warrior, I don’t think he’s going to make it to level 120. He’s earned his mount, so I think he’s earned some rest, too.

And I’m still going to keep my eyes glued to that Classic release countdown.

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Game off

I’ve been pretty confident in my desire to involve myself with the world of games writing. Maybe not professionally, but it’s something that I’d consider a natural extension  of my favorite hobby.

But here’s the thing—and it’s not a new thing, I know—that keeps my ego in check.

New games come out. A lot.

That’s pretty dope. There aren’t any long periods of mediocre games or stretches of boredom with the current trends. There’s always a 10/10 game hidden behind an unfamiliar platform.

The problem, as minor of a problem as it is, is that this means that the Must Talk About Game of the Week changes, well, every week. The gaming audience’s attention, like the attention of every fanbase, is easily shifted and quick to jump ship to the next big thing. Like I said, this isn’t the worst thing in the world and really only affects a fairly small subdivision of the gaming population.

But let’s say I want to catch the wave for a quick pitch or something I can call “trending-able.” Right now, it’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. A few days ago, it was The Division 2. In a few more days (and weeks), it’ll be Mortal Kombat 11 or Rage 2. And surprise, they all seem dope. And they’re all also going to major contenders for the spotlight. And they all cost money.

Every new release is another question about whether or not it’s worth dropping another $60 to be up to date on the most popular/easily promotable game. It’s absolutely worth it worth it, sure, $60 is an amazing value for these well-crafted experiences, but it doesn’t make the financial struggle feel any better. And there’s not really any solid answer here, other than making more money, I guess.

I’d be lying if I said this post isn’t mostly about Sekiro. I absolutely adore FromSoftware, and even after Platinum-ing Bloodborne a few weeks ago, I’m still desperately itching for that fast-paced fighting and atmospheric amazement.

It’ll still be an incredible game when I eventually pick it up, yeah, but let’s hope I can keep any spoilers alive in the shadows until then.

 

Five Games That Have Me Tamed

[I was lucky enough to correspond with the folks at Official Xbox Magazine about a year ago. I applied for a staff writer position, but I didn’t make the cut seeing as how I didn’t have a UK work visa. Womp womp (hey, I got to write a piece for the print magazine, which was a life goal). They did ask for a summary of what I’d been playing, and I really liked the end result. So here it is.]

Watch_Dogs

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

The poster child for internet outrage, Watch_Dogs served as a warning about big promises for little packages. I picked it up from Games With Gold with expectations lowered after three years of reading threads featuring the internet’s anger. Several hours and one spider tank later, Watch_Dogs is arguably my second favorite freebie in the program’s four year history, passing up hits like #IDARB and Sunset Overdrive (and falling behind Dark Souls).

Rightfully criticized for its misguided promises and bland plot, the game’s problems are easy to spot. The charm of the game, though, is in its stereotypically gritty protagonist. Sure, he’s your classic too tough tough guy, but his interactions with his sister offer a bit more than flaccid badassery. Her criticisms aren’t about his vigilantism or certain set of skills or whatever—instead, she begs him to snap out of his delusions and actually change for the better. Aiden Pearce isn’t a hero. He’s a man too stubborn to change, despite proof that his misguided coping mechanism (beating petty criminals with a baton) is only harming his remaining family and himself. Pearce is relatable in the most painful ways, making him one of the most human protagonists I’ve gotten to play.

A Dark Room

Developer: Doublespeak Games

A text-based idle game, A Dark Room pits the player and their growing band of apocalypse survivors against the ever hostile wilderness. The player, along with a mysterious stranger that offers prophecies and settlement expansions, must find a way to survive by exploring the wild remains of the world. The mystique is quickly outweighed by the tedium though. Resource management is more waiting than balancing, meaning the mysteries of the ruined world are locked behind hours of leaving the game actively running.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the survivors, there’s no shortage of grues.

Mortal Kombat XL

Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Whereas Mortal Kombat (2009) was a breath of fresh air in the long-running series, Mortal Kombat X is a whole lungful. Of course, that lung is quickly ripped out in one of the many fantastic fatalities and brutal, er, brutalities. The new characters are all solid, making even well-explored playstyles, like Ferra/Torr’s slow but strong bashing or Erron Black’s gunkata, just as fun as series’ staples like Johnny Cage and Scorpion. Unfortunately, NetherRealm’s post-launch content continues to be sketchy. Just like Injustice 2, it feels like the complete version is only available about a year after initial launch.

Doom

Developer: id Software

When you’re in the mood for Doom, it’s hard to argue with the fwoom of a grenade firing out of a shotgun tube. Doom’s always embraced its absurdities, but Doom 3 was more slow tension than speedy slaughter. This version shoots beyond breakneck to crown the player champion of carnage; Mick Gordon’s brutal metal soundtrack is the perfect fuel on the hellfire. With the effective death of rhythm genre, Doom’s the closest thing to a music game we’ll see this generation. Every riff is an invitation to massacre demon and monster alike on Mars, come Hell or…well, Hell.

Madden NFL 15

Developer: EA Tiburon

Madden is a lot of things now. All of them are pretty much the same game, but that’s beside the point(s). Everything else I’m playing offers fresh experiences, new worlds that make me want to talk about them the second I turn off the console. Madden, on the other hand, is the gaming equivalent of my worn out, threadbare pajamas. It’s the easy comfort I can turn to when I need a no thought distraction. The mechanics are shoddy, the graphics and animations are more terrifying than not, and it’ll never be patched. But damn is it comfy.

PCP: Before the Storm Episode 2

Fun Fridayz #25 – Freedom to Forget Feelings

I don’t really have any puns to bust out for this one. Honestly, as much as I love Life is Strange and Before the Storm, they might be the most damaging thing to my gaming I’ve ever experienced. School and work were never this distracting.

These games just create this melancholy in me because I know nothing will ever compete with the way I feel while playing them. The journey is so powerful that it makes everything else feel almost fake. There’s this beautiful atmosphere that envelops you like a cold fall wind.

At least Before the Storm is doing its part in keeping my mood in tune with the weather. Episode one was great and a true surprise for its consistency and quality. Episode two just ramps it up, developing the characters and drama in preparation for whatever gut punches the finale will offer.

It really says something about the emotional investment a game produces when I’m genuinely fretting over the fact that I picked a beach towel instead of a pirate flag to cover a seat. Of course, the inability to quickly go back and redo a key decision is what makes choice-driven stories so powerful– or, in the case of the original Life is Strange, the subversion of the one choice mechanic makes every decision that much more impactful.

So yeah. The soundtrack continues to astonish, with Daughter once again knocking it out of the park. The story is fascinating and the mysteries confounding, the characters human and mostly decently acted. God. I just can’t wait for this game to ruin me.

PCP: Shadow of War

Fun Fridayz #24 – Fire and Freedom

Mordor’s War Opens Doors, Expands the Floor, and Leaves Us Wanting More

The short of it: It’s more of what made the original great, with just a few stagnant stumbles to slow it down. 

There’s basically three major points of discussion for this game:

  1.  The game itself
  2. The lootbox debacle
  3. The role and appearance of women

Well technically…

It runs pretty great. It looks just a little bit better than its predecessor, but it feels a lot smoother. The facial animations are fantastic, the character animations and motion performances are just delightful to watch.

The most pressing problem I run into is character pop in after fast travelling. With a lot of emphasis on the bow as a tool, it makes it feel a bit useless when you have to wait out the orc load time to skip manually climbing up a cliff face. Other than that, though, nothing really performs poorly.

Once again, the story’s been pretty mediocre. It’s doing an okay job of building up the tension between Talion and Celebrimbor, but it’s more obvious than an orc ambush. There’s certainly more allies and actually interesting NPCs, which surprisingly works in the face of being a death-defying god. These regular people and orcs with their regular Middle-earth problems offer a different side of Talion– I think my personal favorite moment so far has been Talion sitting back and listening to a guy talk about his personal problems and worries. Just a casual type of buddy interaction. It doesn’t drastically impact the story or up the stakes. It’s just Talion getting the chance to be human again.

Boxtroversy

Yeah, there are lootboxes. Yeah, you can blow cash on them for premium items that would otherwise be difficult or time-consuming to do. And yeah, lootboxes need to be discussed as a form of gambling and appealing to children and those with addictions.

But man, it’s barely a thing here. The best you can get is something you can just stumble upon in the massive field of orc captains. It’s a waste of game to roll on these boxes. I’m drowning in currency without ever equipping any currency generating items. The premium currency is pretty consistently accidentally acquired through daily challenges, and I’ve yet to spend any of it.

I think the worst part of this whole thing is just how many bad buzzwords are sunk in these systems. Gems, gold coins, silver coins, legendary, epic, heroic, followers, daily challenge: all of these are garbage.

Forming a Feel for the Female Form

Alright, that’s not a great subhead.

But here’s the thing: I need to finish this game to truly see how this game handles its women. There was some argument about Shelob’s female form, and it made sense at the time. Why make the giant spider into a sexy lady? Well, it actually serves a pretty good knock against Talion’s hero complex. Like a spider, she lures him into this web by preying on his weakness for women. Of course, Talion’s complex is deeper than a hero stereotype due to the fact that he watched his wife die as he watched, powerless. And again, this is such a deeper debate than initially expected because it shifts the power dynamic that’s typically so one-sided.

And then there’s the sexy tree lady. And the woman soldier who apparently earns her title of “Warrior” by superseding her femininity (“She’s no longer a woman, she’s a warrior!”).

So I’ll be back for this one. I’ve got to get my corkboard and yarn ready.

PCP: The Witcher 2

Fun Fridayz #23 – Forget Fighting

Something Witcher This Way Comes

 

I’m playing it without having played The Witcher. So I watched the recaps and read the wikis and felt pretty good about starting up halfway into this world. Squirrels were the rogue non-humans, the classic guerrillas that dance the line between freedom fighter and terrorist. Witchers were roided out monster slayers, equipped with enough magic and mutations to make them nearly as monstrous as the creatures they hunted. Kingdoms were fighting for lands. Pretty classic fantasy stuff.

So I got along with the world perfectly. The things that tripped me up were the relationships. I knew The Witcher used amnesia to allow the player to create their own relationships with characters. These relationships, as fresh as they were, still carried over into The Witcher 2— including Triss, Geralt’s (pretty much for everyone’s first playthough at least) romantic partner.

I can kind of deal with Geralt’s best friends, since the stereotypical bard and dwarf characters are pretty easy to enjoy. With Triss, though, I feel like I’m walking down a bridge when I never took the first step on the initial plank.