fereldanwench: (Mood - Pour Me a Drink)
So I just finished it. Mega spoilers under the cut:

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BF and I decided to take a little break from our weekend outings to catch up on some video games. He played Shadow of Mordor, which looks like fun and has some cool gameplay elements (like enemies who kill you get stronger when you face them again), but you have to play as a dude and IIRC, a substantial part of his motivation is avenging his dead wife or something. So yanno. No thanks.

Anyway, Life is Strange is another game I picked up shortly after its full release, but it sat unloved in my Steam library until yesterday. I haven't finished it--There are five chapters, and I'm just about finished with the third chapter. It follows senior high school student, Max, who is a photography student at a boarding school and learns that she has the power to rewind time. She uses the power to save, unbeknownst to her at the time, a previously estranged friend, Chloe. Adolescent drama and chaos theory ensues.

I'm actually not too keen on high school stories in general, and Max and one of her friends deals with a lot of mean girl shit in specific that I find draining to address even in a virtual world. Max is also fighting an uphill battle against a corrupt power structure within the school and a controlling economic elite family within her whole city that is also just kind of exhausting. None of these characters or structures are glamorized, but sometimes it's just too much.

Sometimes it's just really cliché, too. There's enough depth to the characters that I'm still interested in them, but a lot of the foundation seems to be built on very overdone high school tropes. Quiet, nerdy girl reunites with her now troubled childhood friend. Troubled friend's mom goes on about how she wishes daughter was more like nerdy girl. Trouble friend's troubles starting because her dad died. Asshole socialites who are mean for no apparent reason. Fat goth girl who gets picked on for... being fat and goth, I guess.

There does seem to be the potential for a romance between Chloe and Max, but there's also a boy in the picture, Warren, who seems to be vying for Max's attention. I've managed to avoid almost all the spoilers for this game, but I did catch some critical whispers about how this all plays out so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Like with the Telltale games, the game is largely driven by making hard choices; it also tallies the decisions players made for the end of each chapter so you can see how you fair against the community. The rewind power does add a really unique twist to that gameplay, however, in that you can at least see the immediate outcome of a decision and react accordingly. Emphasis on immediate--What might have the "better" initial outcome could still be detrimental in the long run.

(There was one decision in particular where I opted to go for the better initial outcome, but I knewknewknewknew I'd miss out on something paramount going forward. I was right. -_- It was kind of worth it, though.)

The rewind power is also utilized in some cool puzzles since Max stays stationary in time, so to speak. You'll have to manipulate time to gain entrance to locked areas or avoid certain characters in some locations.

Max's pursuit of photography is integrated into the game as a secret/achievement function. Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time, and sometimes a little more work has to go into getting the shot. It's probably one of my favorite details about the game, especially since the style and lighting is so pretty.

I'm glad I got it, and I'm looking forward to finishing it this week, but I think this will probably end up a one-time play for me.
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My brother introduced me to Indigo Prophecy, or Fahrenheit as it's known everywhere else, in the summer of 2007. I think he picked it up on a whim in some bargain bin for PS2 games, but it ended up being the game of our summer. It was remaster in 2015, and I finally sat down for another replay last night.

When I first played Indigo Prophecy, it was a completely different game than I had ever played before. I tended towards puzzle games and action-adventure platformers, with a little Sims action when I wanted to waste a weekend--Playing a game for a story was a video game experience that, until recently, had little appeal to me. But the setting, the characters, and the opening sequences did a lot to pull me in, and Indigo Prophecy became one of those games that stayed with me over the years.

The developers, Qunatic Dream, also did Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, but Indigo Prophecy was their first "interactive film," as they called it. It's a pretty apt description--Much of the gameplay is like an extended interactive cutscene, with a little bit of a point-and-click (or point-and-rotate-the-analog-stick, as the case tends to be) and minor exploring with a semi-fixed camera.

You play as three different characters: suspected murderer Lucas Kane is essentially the main protagonist, but detectives Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles are active players in the story. There's also a meter that tracks their mental state--Certain tasks have to be performed to give them emotional boosts, and if the meter gets too low, it can have disastrous effects, including death.

I'm not going to delve too much into the story details since synopses are readily available. Also because the story can change pretty dramatically depending on your choices and game performance--Failing a sequence, for instance, doesn't necessarily mean "death," nor are you necessarily able to reload to "fix" any mistakes. When I was reminiscing with my brother, he mentioned that there were at least six different endings that he knew of. If you want a game where your choices matter, this is a good one.

But I do want to touch on a few points: I remember when I first played that I was a little underwhelmed with the conclusion of the story, and that is still true today even after achieving a few different endings. A paranormal murder mystery is essentially what kicks off the plot, and although it's a little overwrought with the human sacrifice imagery, it's a pretty tight and somber kickoff. The conclusion loses some of the cohesion, and frankly, it gets a little silly. I think it's one of those situations like with Lost where the mystery is far more compelling than the answer. And although I'm normally a proponent of a happy ending, I actually think the darker endings are a better match to the overall tone.

The game has a decent spread of representation, but in some cases it feels like one-step-forward, two-steps-back. A lot of the "minority" characters fell on tired and arguably offensive tropes. Tyler, for instance: black male, excels as basketball, has this funky smooth disco music that plays whenever he's strutting in a location, and his backstory was summed up as former gang runner turned cop. Carla has a white gay BFF who comes over for wine and talks about her love life (although he does mention that he's involved in a promising relationship himself, which is nice). Carla, who I think is otherwise well-written, gets reduced to being shoehorned into a ridiculous romance at the end of the game that makes no sense for her character or the story. And one of the driving points of the paranormal plot falls back on Mayan sacrifice cliches.

Although I wasn't personally bothered, there are also a few scenes with Carla where you could make a strong argument that the male gaze was workin' its magic. (For what it's worth, I think the treatment of Madison in Heavy Rain was far more egregious in that respect.) You get to play each character in their underwear at least once, with the option to dress them pretty quickly if you want, and there are multiple heterosexual love scenes with both parties fully nude. The biggest difference I noticed was with the shower scenes--With Tyler and Lucas, the camera almost completely pans away, and with Carla, we get a sexy silhouette and a pixel nip slip.

The camera angles can get a little frustrating--Think Resident Evil with a little more control and at least no need to aim and shoot at anything--and sometimes the analog rotation can feel a little unresponsive. Additionally, I find the UI immersion-breaking; Quantic Dream really improved upon that balance of aesthetic and function in Heavy Rain. Having these Simon Says-looking buttons dead-center in the screen is not very pretty. But I found the overall gameplay to be fun and well-balanced. It did a good job of complementing the story, and some of the long fight sequences that rely solely on you hitting the right button are more challenging that more traditional gameplay.

The game has a Metacritic aggregate of about 85%, which is spot-on in my opinion. It was definitely worth the replay, and I'm invested in exploring a few other outcomes. A full run took me about 9 hours, so playing it takes a little less time than watching a season of a modern TV show. It does save in chapters, too, so if you want to branch off into different outcomes, it can be done without replaying the whole thing. I'd recommend it if you're looking for an engaging and non-traditional gaming experience that can be wrapped up in ten hours or less.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
For the past four or five years, Dragon Age and Tomb Raider have alternated between being THE fandom for me. Currently the pendulum is swinging back towards Lara and her bad ass self.

I have a lot of (mostly overwhelmingly good) things to say about Rise of the Tomb Raider; I've been working an indulgent and excessive review over the weekend that I had wanted to post over the weekend, but I got sidetracked after I started playing the 2013 game for comparative purposes. I'll still be sharing my waytoolong thoughts later this week, but in the meantime, I need to spew a little about how Tomb Raider 2013 (just called Tomb Raider from here on out) and Rise feel like such different games.

Specific spoilers for the 2013 game below. Mostly spoiler free for Rise, just some talk about gameplay mechanics and very generalized mentions of the story.

Read more... )

If you don't read anything else, just know that there's been a like a 97% reduction of QTEs in Rise SO PRAISE JESUS FOR THAT.
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There's nothing to do at work today so I'm just going to keep blathering on about The Witcher 3.

I didn't read too many in-depth reviews prior, but I figured I'd dig a little and see how my opinions are matching up with some of the big name opinions. I did not anticipate seeing much about the sexism in the game, but this Polygon review actually delved into some detail about the treatment of the main female characters and the misogyny rooted into the world.

Read the comments at your own risk. They're fairly civil given the topic, but oh so tiring. Historical accuracy, social agendas, political correctness, too sensitive, etc etc. Same old lazy denial that these are important things to discuss in all types of media.

One person said they'd no longer read Polygon articles because of their "pandering." I just really wonder how one can accuse someone of being oversensitive because they point out targeted violence to a particular group of people that occurs in real life without recognizing the complete hypocrisy in being so offended by that theme being addressed. Like, where are your priorities.

I like that the writer specifically acknowledged that they are aware of what CDPR is trying to do, too. I get that I am not the intended audience of this game. I get that. It's just frustrating because there's quite a bit that I do like about it--I'd love to be the target audience, or at the very least, not feel quite so "othered." I don't feel like I'm the target audience for Mass Effect either, but at least I can find a mostly comfortable niche.

At this point, I'm probably a broken record on this topic. It really is just a little extra frustrating because Witcher is almost there for me. There are a lot of elements of the game that could make it a favorite for me, but it falls short in a lot of important ways.

Anyway, moving on.

I learned from IGN's review that apparently Ciri was introduced in the books. They also mention that it's really not paramount to play the first two games. Kotaku's review, on the other hand, says that it can be kind of difficult to pick up on some of the political significance of characters, events, etc. Kotaku's review also mentions that there can be different endings based on your choices. I might have to pay more attention to things when I get back into the plot.

I'm conflicted on games built on supplemental reading to truly understand or appreciate plots, characters, etc. For a series that I love, like Dragon Age or Tomb Raider, there's a good chance I'll read them or at least know they exist so I can wiki a summary. And for a series I love, I generally like getting all the extra info I can. But when I'm not that invested in a franchise, only a little curious, I find it a little presumptuous to assume that their players will have read/watched the extras. Especially given that a good game does not always translate into a good book, comic, etc.

Most of the reviews seem to agree that W3 improved on the past games' combat systems; what little I do remember of W1 was the fighting feeling very clunky. A few also feel that W3's main plot suffers from being spread across a world that's too big and filled with too many fetch'em quests. Some cited Skyrim as a reference point, but it actually made me think of Inquisition first. I never saw Skyrim marketed has having an engaging story, but Dragon Age and apparently The Witcher have a history of strong story-telling.

It got me wondering if maybe we'll start to see any shifts from the industry. I've heard frustration, especially from adults who were serious gamers when they were young but are now in the midst of family and career responsibilities, with games that are just too big and long. The indie market has picked up on this a little bit--Games like Journey can give you unique and satisfying gaming experience that's finished in about an hour or two. But I'm curious if the big names are hearing this, if it's a voice they think is worth listening to.

I'm a pretty selective gamer (SURPRISE), and I don't watch a lot of TV or movies; since I have a shallow pool of games to select from and video games are my primary source of entertainment, I'm generally fine with really big, long games.

Okay, so. Anyway. I guess that's about it for now. It seems like a lot of the things I've been enjoying in the game are the things that have garnered the game such high reviews.
fereldanwench: (Default)
So here's the thing: I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started playing W3. I had read about the unapologetic misogyny in the first two games, and I watched the BF play some of this one--I think if I had gone into the game expecting the treatment of female characters to be on par with, say, DAI, I would have rage-quit after being introduced to Tomira's butt before her face. But I didn't, because I knew what I signed up for.

But even with that mental preparedness, sometimes the way the sexism is so deeply rooted into the world-building still throws me off guard. Wanting to explore the world is one of the big perks that has kept me interested in the game--I really cannot say enough how gorgeous and inviting it is. Most of the time, when I'm just fighting bandits or ghouls or wandering through lively villages, it's easy to get lost in just enjoying the basic gameplay mechanics.

Until you're walking through a group of NPCs and a guy asks you how often he should beat his wench.

So between that and having a rape joke in a card game, I have recalibrated my tolerance and expectations and decided that no place is safe in W3.

(Side note: I'm almost worried about playing as Ciri now. I'm anticipating a lot of male NPCs hitting on her or otherwise making crude remarks, which is going to drive me up the fucking wall. In some ways, it might be better to play as a man in this world.)

There is a lot in W3 that's fun, though. BF has been working late this week, so I've had a few hours in the afternoon to myself, and I've genuinely looked forward to picking up the controller when I get home. I'm looking forward to it when I get off work today.

I've been doing a few of the treasure hunting quests--I like these a lot. Geralt has a Witcher sense function which basically acts like any other enhanced sense function in game: it highlights items that can be interacted with, and in some quests, highlights items/environment details that he needs to find to solve some kind of mystery. It reminded me a little bit of searching for clues in the Batman games.

I'd actually recommend looking for these early on, too, so you can get some decent equipment. One non-sexism related criticism I have is that it takes forever to level up (playing on normal--not sure if this is coded differently for other difficulties). I remember BF complaining about dying all the time. I told him to just go grind for a little while to level up, and he said that he did but it didn't do much. I'm finding that to be true, too. Even doing side quests doesn't grant much XP, but I'm still below the recommended level to pick up on the main quests again.

There are also "places of power" that you can find. Before you reach them or any other place of interest, they only appear as question marks on your map; you probably wouldn't be able to locate them quickly without luck or a guide. But I'd recommend searching those out, too. They'll grant a Signs (his magic) enhancement for about 30 minutes, and a couple of them gave me ability points. I found increasing Geralt's vitality was a huge help when it came to staying alive during the fights.

The combat did take me a while to get a hang of, probably because I haven't played anything other than third/first person shooters or Dragon Age in years. I find the telekinetic burst is really useful if you get surrounded, and backing up to draw enemies out of their groups to fight them one-on-one/one-on-two helps a lot. Fighting in open areas isn't too bad, but I still struggle a little in close quarters. It was tempting for me to go into the fights like a hack-and-slash, but you're much better off taking a slower pace.

The game really encourages buffs, too, whether they're from alchemical potions or finding magic stones, armorers, etc. It also really encourages you to read through the bestiary--Some enemies are damn near impossible if you don't read their codex and find out what they're vulnerable to. Once you have that information and proper equipment, though, the fight becomes a lot more balanced. I think in these regards it's a pretty smart game, and it adds to the satisfaction of taking down harder enemies.

And one last thing, going back to the villages and their inhabitants: although I could do without questions about the best methods for domestic violence and the gross hacking noise some of them make, the villagers really do add a lot of life to their homes. There are a lot of animals, like ducks and cows, that wander around, and the kids are surprisingly well-done: boys and girls swinging play swords or shooting arrowless bows, singing bad songs, etc. One kid actually pushed Geralt when he told him to go away and I decided I didn't want to.

(One actual last thing: I found out BF got a trainer and has been cheating after he got annoyed early in on the game. Our gaming skills are fairly on par, but I tend to be better at RPGs, so I was wondering why I was struggling more than he was at first. I wasn't, really. He's just a cheater.)


Nov. 17th, 2015 11:44 am
fereldanwench: (Default)
Putting this under a cut for potential spoilers. I don't think I'm too far into the main story, but if Nick Valentine, Brotherhood of Steel, and the Institute don't sound familiar, you might want to avoid this:

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fereldanwench: (Default)
I definitely could have finished ME1 yesterday.

I could have. Instead I got all completionist-obsessive (and Steam doesn't even track achievements /sobs I wish I could transfer my PS3 trophies over) and decided I needed to travel to every system and cluster and planet and abandoned ship in the galaxy. OH! And I finally got all 21 keepers. The first time I played I gave up at 20 and went to kick Saren's ass, but I did it. Such accomplishment.

The game has gotten a little glitchy on me. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the mods--They've been running smoothly for the first 25 or so hours. Game just crashed out of nowhere twice, and I've had Shepard get stuck in a few places. Making her draw her weapon got her out of one spot; the other was a deal-breaker and meant I needed to reload. Fortunately, I save like every 15 minutes. Every 5 now.

It really made me wish I could switch to other party members à la DA--That saved me a few times in all 3 games.

There's been a fair amount that I forgot since the first time I played. Like Feros and the Thorian--Once I got there again, it all came back to me, but prior to that I was staring at my journal log with no recollection of what happened there. And then when I got there, it was "Ooh, this is the place with that fucking sky bridge."

I remember really enjoying ME1 when I played it the first time, and I still am now or I'd call it quits, but replay value seems to be low. Doing a lot of the missions a second time just feels like an obligation rather than something I really want to do. I think what's really driving me is:

1. Playing more renegade than paragon
2. Wanting to talk to my crew
3. Wanting to play ME2/play all 3 games with a single Shepard (this is really the big one--I like this Shepard a lot, too)
4. Being obsessive about checking off tasks on lists (it's what drives me, man)

I'd like to have it done by Thursday--This is one of my short weeks, and some ME2 + alone time (starting to get very PMSy--sorry, everyone) on Friday sounds really good.
fereldanwench: (Default)
So I definitely hit a little Dragon Age burnout after finishing Trespasser. Seriously--I've clocked about 600 hours in Inquisition since it's release, and probably another 40 between DAO and DA2 since the beginning of this year (not counting the 800 or so in each prior to this year). I love DA to death, but as far as gameplay and mechanics go, I needed something new.

I did break out Tomb Raider 2013. I forgot how fun that game is. And beautiful, especially maxed out on PC. I'm about to hit a part I don't like, though, and I keep just getting really pissed off about ROTTR, so I decided to set that aside for now, too.

I have a few new games to finish or at least start. I still haven't finished Transistor, TWD or the recent Lara Croft title (Temple of Osiris, IIRC), and I finally downloaded Life is Strange but I'm not really in the mood for anything new. I'm also starting to hit a point where I'm just not interested if I can't play a female character, but I'm significantly less interested if I can't create my own female character.

So I gave into the latent urge I had been having to give ME another shot.

First things first, mods:
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General blah-blahing. JIC--I do mention major endgame spoilers for ME3:
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