Archive for May, 2013

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Before XBOX 360/PS3 came out and pretty much put a preliminary end to this “cold war arms race” (because from then on everything was just developed for their fixed hardware), it was typical that the newest games wouldn’t run on PCs older than 2 years, or only with significantly lowered quality settings, at least. By and large, it’s my opinion that this circumstance helped to spawn a (not necessarily the) “golden age” of gaming. Without just running to get the latest graphical wonders out of the newest hardware, games had to grow in other areas. I was very happy about that. Before, game series like Mass Effect or BioShock, which basically used the same engine for all their installments, would have been unthinkable. It helped games like these, to be a continuation in more than just story. Trilogies/series before that stage used to be like Gabriel Knight, which were forced to use an entirely different technology for every sequel. I’m pretty sure GK3 never would have sucked the way it did if they could have made it a classic adventure like the first one – but that wouldn’t have been following the trend back then.

Crysis 3 now, seems to be more a member of this era, in which devs first and foremost tried to deliver current graphics and then called it a day. Gameplay and story (I just realized there was no need to use the spoiler tag, because…) are only added to the degree that’s necessary, to just make it seem more than a mere tech demo. It succeeds at that. The game also performs very well on my very (at best) mediocre hardware and I enjoyed that a lot, I certainly didn’t expect that – it should be commended for that. It’s just nothing that I will remember for more than giving such an example. The mere technical level of the graphics (in Crysis 3) seems superior to BioShock Infinite, but the actual game is infinitely inferior to everything else in BioShock Infinite. The art/look/feel in BSI is crafted to a level where sole rooms in it stay memorable, C3 has pretty much no such spot in the entire game. Its beauty is shallow.

Now, I have this super-special talent to make these things sound so much more dire than I actually think about them, because Crysis 3 is still a competent FPS and it can still be worthwhile for someone who’s honestly into this genre, but it sadly fails when compared to other FPS games like The Darkness II, whose campaigns are truly memorable and fun. It’s supposed to be a GAME, this is not an entry to a contest where mere game engine technology is presented. Under those conditions it probably would do much better…

PS: Why does “every” game now have to have a bow? Maybe I played games like Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3 and Crysis 3 at too short time intervals?

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It’s good, because this (basically) is Batman: Arkham Asylum/City with LC instead of B-Man. :) Really is. The gameplay is not just very similar. The handling/controls is/are really slick and it’s about traversing a fixed-sized world that can be explored for optional secrets, the world is filled with enemies and the next scripted story mission always awaits in a certain area – everything stays accessible once the story is over. This formula works out for this game as well.

What doesn’t work, is this premise of a young, still somehow vulnerable Lara Croft in huge danger who’s slowly learning how to handle it. There is an extreme discrepancy between the cutscenes and the actual game. During all player controlled parts, LC is clearly the most powerful entity on this island. LC is heavily armed and every attacker is simply outgunned and outclassed endlessly. LC can easily kill anyone silently with a bow, killing every hostile in the area without even raising an alarm or mow all of them down with heavily modified, fully automatic weaponry.

Now all of that doesn’t make the game bad – certainly not (the worst parts were the, especially early, QTEs who almost made me break my keyboard), but what I’m saying is, that it’s (almost solely) fun because of the gameplay (yes, the more important part in a GAME), which has proven itself countless times by now in other titles too and not because of the story, characters – simply the whole enactment (the most intense moments are cool ideas like hanging upside down from a trap and fighting off bad guys, before they reach and kill Lara). It would have been great if all of this could have been fused together better, making it an experience even more enticing than “just” good gameplay. The messages/logs that were lying around were a good start (little else fleshed out the characters a bit), but ultimately I stayed detached from all the characters and hardly ever cared when someone got killed. The game is more a “her first adventure” kind of thing, than the promised “how she became LC”. On the other hand/to be fair, the old TR games often had so bad/forgetful plots, that this could still count as improvement.

Another highlight, that should be mentioned, is the patch-support this game has received. All too often even the biggest “AAA” titles are released and forgotten (maybe 1-2 patches, if gamers are lucky), no matter the (number of) problems remaining in the product. And if the developer still releases anything, it’s fee-based DLC, possibly bringing even more bugs along (which will never see a patch). So it’s fantastic to see a developer continue to polish and optimize even after release and thus not following the trend.

PS: I really dislike the current trend of everyone just naming their games/movies as if it was the first entry in the series. They deliberately create several products with the same name, it’s really annoying when looking for information about concrete titles. Star Trek. Does this refer to the franchise? The series? To the 1978 movie? To the 2013 game? The 2009 movie? Is this intentional?

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We all know that most DLCs SUCK. Usually they are just crap, in that they are so very short and/or only re-hash known assets while they – of course – cost as much as the original game at 5% of its content.

Anyways – The Knife of Dunwall isn’t like that (the last mission takes place in a previously visited area though – I thought it wasn’t a problem), the levels/areas are as big and interactive as the ones in Dishonored. They kept everything that was good and made more of that. The protagonist this time is Daud, which makes it both a curse and a blessing, that they didn’t change a lot (concerning abilites, equipment and gameplay). Since he is an assassin I was wondering if they would keep the non-lethal option (thankfully they did).

So playing as Daud doesn’t really differ from being Corvo; only his equipment (hands/knife) looks not identical. At least I soon forgot all about not playing as Corvo, which was especially easy, since the PC in Dishonored is always silent (I only missed the heart because of its comments).

Personally I would have preferred a different ending for Dishonored (it felt similarly unsatisfying to me as the “good” ending of BioShock 1) and thus a continuation with Corvo (I wasn’t looking forward to another silent character) – but that doesn’t make these great missions one bit worse.

As far as I know, one more story-driven DLC is expected for this game, if it can still offer some more insight into the fascinating mythologies of Dunwall (we still know little about the Outsider, about Delilah…), I’ll definitely be interested.

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Wow, what a ride. After 1 and 2 there’s already a 3. Blink of an eye. EA firmly stayed the course of trying to make the original formula worse with every iteration. This is where it becomes obvious how good DS is – despite EA’s best efforts to break it, it’s still fun!

Dead Space (1) was, compared to the typical shooter, a breath of fresh air (although, all things considered, 2 totally was the best/most fun part of the 3 :P). The sequels, while still good, didn’t just NOT improve on these cool ideas, they also scaled them down. I didn’t exactly verify this, but I read somewhere (forgot) that it was Dead Space 1 that sold the most copies. If that’s true, I can’t help but to think something along the lines of: serves you right. But apparently that’s all wrong. Figures.

Like EA put micro-transactions in ME3, they shoved them into DS3 as well. To my surprise it didn’t disturb me to the extent I expected, because it can easily be ignored entirely. Nothing what those “offer” is relevant. I’m “at best” worried that it might pave the way for even uglier stuff if too many people actually PAY extra (for nothing). And yes, I can blame EA for trying. :P

For some time now there’s a DLC, “Awakened” and the thing is – this DLC takes place immediately after the main game ends. It feels essential and it’s pretty much the actual ending of the game… I don’t know. It’s almost (or exactly) as if they cut off the ending and sold it separately. It’s more than just a scene that could have taken place after the ending credits rolled. It could maybe be declared as an epilogue, but so far I’ve never seen a game that excluded something of this magnitude from the main product and sold it separately. It makes you forget all about micro-payments in an instant.

Another letdown are the co-op areas. These zones aren’t even accessible to solo players. So the game is shorter for everyone who plays alone AND some story pieces stay unknown. I don’t even know what to say, given that this always was a singleplayer, story-driven game. I bought DS2 when it came out and to this day I haven’t even started the MP part ONCE.

DS3 newly features, every now and then, optional side missions, sounds like a good idea, but they remind me of Dragon Age II (another EA game – coincidence? :P), because they reuse the same maps/environments pretty much every time. Once you know the layout of the first one, it’s running straight to the target and at the end there’s always the same chest in the same room with the same attack from the same enemies (thus negating any surprise/shock effects, because you always know who will attack when beforehand). Rushed? Lame? Before simply duplicating levels, they should have cut those altogether. Not worth it.

Lots of ugly corporate decisions in this one… More than any EA title had before.

What I don’t share at all, however, is the notion that people who liked the first 2 games won’t enjoy this one anymore. It might not have evolved in the direction lots of people hoped it would, but DS3 is nonetheless one hell of a ride. Truly is.
One of the changes is, that the weapons now can be modified (it takes some getting used to) by adding a second weapon into the same frame. Which obviously can only result in everyone combining a plasma cutter with a plasma cutter. :D

So despite silly (and naturally false) rumors of this being the last DS installation, DS4 is coming. What unnecessary crap they’ll tack unto 4 will probably be more shocking than the story. :P If they’ll even continue/finish the known arc without rebooting or something. :|

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“Historically speaking” I always loathed escort missions. I don’t remember exactly what game put me on this road. Probably an RTS, where some transport always got killed, no matter how hard I tried to keep it alive. Usually these game-“AIs” are so bad, that they run towards their doom without hesitation and only a very frustrated player is left behind. Even co-op games aren’t often that much better, although the so much smarter human players could do wonders. Usually one of them tries to do his own thing and doesn’t care for the game’s objectives or something. BioShock Infinite is NOTHING like any of that. I never felt like I was escorting Elizabeth through this game, but even so it took me quite a while before it hit me: actually it’s Elizabeth who is escorting the player. It was like this moment in Lost season 1, where Locke lies on the beach after the crash and suddenly moves his foot in this scene you’ve seen before, but this time you’ll understand what it actually means, that he couldn’t walk before. I don’t think any game has ever done that. It becomes unmissable – after first teaming up with Elizabeth and then being separated at some point, it’s quite the difference to be alone again and I was only pressing on to get towards Elizabeth again. This is THE thing about this game and as far as I’m concerned they succeeded.

What players got here is still so worthwhile, that I can easily forgive all the wasted potential. I mean they had to release the game at some point. And it certainly was expensive enough as it is.

Directly after I finished the game, I bought the season pass, which was the first season pass I bought in my life. I don’t hold those in very high regard (ouch, understatement), I think they are much worse than any Kickstarter project (both collect money before delivery), because those at least describe very carefully what they intend to do. Future DLCs promised by such passes are usually entirely unknown and could be the worst crap ever. Right now I’m just a little sad that it’s not even known when the first DLC can be expected. In the meantime I’m planning to play the game again, but I’m still delaying until more patches come out, because finishing right before major improvements become available will only make me mad. :)

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Whoever is capable of acting like the horrible ending disaster (sadly some seemingly out of touch folks are still acting like they don’t get it) never happened and doesn’t exist (and this is key here) will find enormous amounts of fun here, nothing else is seriously weighing this DLC down. It takes off as a light-hearted, humorous mission followed by the party I already missed at the end of ME2 and offers a new area on the Citadel that can deliver several hours of amusement, if everything is explored.

The whole thing bursts with cool references and is very rewarding for the fans who know everything about this series inside out (this is definitely the audience which will be able to get the most out of this). I had to wonder the whole time why they didn’t create content like this right away, since they obviously can do it…

Realizing this DLC is a successful fanservice through and through, there are only few things missing. Kelly Chambers is now officially the most neglected (of the bigger) characters in ME3, given that she is never added to the memorial wall if she dies (although unknown crew members who never had a line are – weird) and even in this elaborate DLC she won’t be invited to the party. Legion (or some sort of legacy of his) is also completely absent, I felt like a backup/message (he had prepared just in case) wouldn’t have been any more unrealistic than the messages from Mordin or Anderson – I expected something like the files the Shadow Broker had on him. Given the massive amounts of great content in this huge DLC, it’s still surprisingly easy to forgive. Oh, and I was a little bit disappointed that the historical scenes shown in the council archives were all rather boring, none offered new revelations – disappointing because it’s hard to believe that there weren’t more interesting events that could have been utilized here when there really had to be tons of those.

Citadel left me quite happy, finally fans got something they really wanted even without BioWare giving us the finger like they did in the refusal ending that was added with the extended cut. It’s pretty damn close to the goodbye, long-running series (like this one) deserve. If I ever play ME3 again, it will be because I’ll be looking forward to this part of the game the most.

Also:

Mass Effect Trilogy Art

Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC: At Last, The Perfect Goodbye

Mass Effect 3 Citadel Review: Almost Enough. Almost.