Friday, February 21, 2014

Shall We Play A Game?

It's one of those really blah days out there, the kind where it's raining all the time and generally bleak and you really can't get up the energy to do much of anything.  Not that I haven't done a few things. My daily exercises, my daily drawing practice (one page of Bridgeman every day - why did that bastard put the stuff about hands at the FRONT?), unloaded the dishwasher/cleaned out the sink, started supper (BBQ ribs, thanks for asking) and did my daily meditation.  But I can't seem to focus enough to really get writing.

Besides which, I haven't been able to think of a topic for today, so let's go with what video games I'm playing right now.

I'm one of those people who have a bunch of games they play at the same time, and randomly switch back and forth depending on the day.  I'm like that with books too.  I remember times when I'd have four or five books on the go at the same time.  Got 'em all read, too!   And in case you're wondering I have two on the go right now, not counting some recent forays into writing-related websites.  But more on that stuff later, here's what I'm into.


I was a little late to the party on this one, it was almost a year after this sprawling epic made it into my hands.  Not that its popularity seems to have diminished much by that point, and even by now what with the DLC and Steam Workshop stuff that goes with it.  I get the impression that Bethesda's gonna be riding the wave of this one for a couple more years before they even have to start thinking about the next Elder Scrolls game.

Skyrim is an ADD paradise though.  There's just so damn much to do!  Plus, it's a pretty big land to explore, with all sorts of weird little hidden things all over.  That's sort of my trouble with it, really.  I keep being presented with quest lines, and I keep being distracted by all the nifty shit I can do on the way.  How can I focus on stopping whatever the hell the dragons are up to when I've got about 500 things sitting in my log waiting to be taken care of?

But I love it all the same.  I love the fact that you start by spending an hour customizing your face when you'll never see it again.  I love how the world's doom is happy to wait until I take care of checking out this mine full of bandits.  I love how there are horses and carriages all over the place, but somehow I never bother taking one.  I love how it's a five minute walk from town to the local bandit's den or cavern full of zombies.  I love how Lydia will blithely wander into a trap, without really noticing that she's on fire or something.  It's pure, goofy fantasy fun and I just eat that stuff up.

Kentucky Route Zero

What can I say about this game.  No really, what words can I use that'll actually describe it and make sense at the same time?  I mean, I can get all effusive with the adjectives, talking about how brilliant and wonderful and engaging and mysterious it is, but that really doesn't say much in the end.

In terms of simple description, it's an old-fashioned point and click adventure game that concerns a delivery guy who used to be a carpenter trying to get some antiques to the other side of the county despite the highway being closed.  His alternate route, accompanied by an old dog and a woman who fixes televisions, takes him a fair distance away from reality as we know it.  And that's just the beginning.  To describe the wonderful strangeness that the little group encounters, and largely take in stride so far, is to ruin some of the best parts of the game, so all I can do is encourage people pick it up on Steam or Humble or someplace.  It's all over.

So far only 2 of the 5 chapters have been released, and the first is merely the lead-in to the brilliance that's ahead.  So this is really the best time to get into it since chapter 2 is so amazing that it'll have you anticipating what's to come, but you still have enough content to sate your need for more story for a bit.  Plus, it's pretty cheap so that's a thing.

Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten

An fun combination of RPG and tower defense, Defender's Quest is a nice and casual diversion for the strategy-minded.  The basic setup is you play a librarian who is dying from plague and dumped into the penal colony, the Valley in question, to die.  However what happens is instead of turning into an untouchable revenant like most of the others, she gains the ability to phase into another realm where the monsters are vulnerable.  Problem is, she's immobile when she does so, and must defend herself against waves of the undead by summoning other survivors to help her.  This is all pretty standard although quite fun, but the real grab of the game is the dialogue in between, and the story which the developers brag was written by an actual English major!  The entirely too gung-ho barbarian, the cynical archer, the zealot ice mage and the honour-bound knight who doesn't know what to make of any of these idiots are major highlights.

Divine Divinity/Divinity II

I picked the second of these games up through a Humble Bundle and while most of the other games were a bit forgettable, the chance to play a character that could transform into a dragon was too good to pass up.  And to be honest, it's pretty fun overall.  The graphics are nice, the gameplay is smooth and the aforementioned dragon transform and accompanying perks (private blacksmith, alchemist, necromancer, etc.)  are fun to play around with.  Trouble is, the enemies don't necessarily scale evenly, with some areas being pretty tough and some being just the opposite.

In any case, I decided to look at the original game it was based on given it's got really good reviews on MetaCritic and other sites.  It's kind of like a fantasy version of the original Fallout, in terms of gameplay.  Isometric design, real-time combat and such.  Not really much to talk about there, although the combat can be pretty tough at times.  It's easy to suddenly be overwhelmed and end up dead, so it's one of those games where it pays to save frequently.  

Dust: An Elysian Tail

Furries with swords, what's not to like?  I've always been into anthro stuff to one degree or another, and I was kinda craving something that was a straight-up action game so when this came up in a Humble Bundle I figured why not.  Turns out after a couple of days playing that was a good choice.  This game is seriously fun.  Fairly simple combat mechanics allow for ridiculous combos even for a gamer like me who generally doesn't play a lot of beat 'em ups, and the action is fast-paced enough so you don't have to go far to find stuff to whack.  Story's good so far although I'm barely into it and the voice acting and writing are both pretty good.  I'm especially surprised that Fidget, the obligatory smart-mouthed sidekick character, actually turned out to be appealing.  Usually I hate characters like that with a passion, and it's super easy to get them wrong.  Even the name is a bit cliche for characters like that.  But...that's not the case here.  Weirdly enough I got past my initial resistance by the end of the first dialogue with her, and I've been fine with it ever since.

One other aspect worth noting is the background art is really worth looking at.  I imagine that the player, being focused on battles, doesn't really get the fully effect.  But anyone watching will certainly get a show.  Maybe a little bonus for the folks watching via LP?

Suikoden V

I never could afford much in games when the PS2 was a going concern, so I missed out on pretty much all of the Suikoden series.  Fortunately, it's easy to find that stuff now, doubly so since there are finally good PS2 emulators out there.  It's pretty much what you'd expect from a Suikoden game: fun characters, huge tragedy, fate of the world in the balance, the need to collect 108 companions.  But as with all the other games in the series it's the execution that counts and so far I'm enjoying it.  Don't plan on doing this without a guide though, I ain't crazy.  Or willing to play through about 20 times to figure it out on my own, same difference.

That's all the main stuff I'm juggling right now, although I still have a bunch of games I've started and still need to finish like several Assassin's Creed games, Guacamelee and Bioshock 2.  Maybe eventually.

2 time segments

1524 words

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