Monthly Archives: June 2012

Change of Plans

I had a pretty simple weekend set out, as far as my game time goes. I would play a bit of Skyrim for my ongoing Dawnguard Diaries series, and maybe chip away a little at Lollipop Chainsaw and Spec-Ops: The Line (from GameFly) as I have time. But as my twitter alluded to, I got an invite to a beta of Dust 514. I’m curious enough about it to sink some time into it. Plus, Penny Arcade 3 came out on the Indie channel, so I’d like to start toying with it.

I also have a few demos on my 3DS that I should try out, and there are Pokeymans to catch and gravities to rush. Also, did you realize “gravities” is a real word? I suppose you might need such a thing to describe… more than one gravity.

My game time just got a lot more crowded.

  • Speaking of my Skyrim series, my second Dawnguard Diary went up today. In which I explore the implications of multiple realities via two save files. I’m going for a light-hearted feel with these, and trying to pack in little nuggets of information about the game in that framework.
  • I seriously thought the Move wheel was a joke until E3, or at least a patent so silly they’d never follow through. How wrong I was.
  • Ten bucks for Shadow of the Colossus, you say? Hm.

Night Notes: Much to do, little to say

The problem when reviewing a game, or writing diaries like I am for Dawnguard, is that everything you play is already something that you know you’ll write about. So I don’t blog about it here, as a first impressions or otherwise, because it would be pointless to repeat my thoughts. Hence, another night notes entry.

I will say, though, that everyone should read the piece “The R Word” on the Escapist. I mentioned it the other day on Twitter but it bears repeating. It’s a difficult read, and might be a rape trigger if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, but it says a lot that needs to be said about some endemic and stubborn problems in our culture. Just do yourself a favor and don’t click on the Comments section. You will come away from it hating people, and for a community as generally polite and erudite as you find on the Escapist, that’s really saying something.

  • 1UP Feature: Music Games That Aren’t.
  • As far as new game items go, the Pyro Goggles probably have to be the most ambitious Team Fortress 2 has gotten in a while. [Pic from the comments]
  • Hard Corps Uprising was about as great a Contra reboot as I can imagine, but if the Castlevania guy wants to give it a go, I say let him.
  • If you haven’t played Clash of Heroes yet, it’s pretty fantastic. I couldn’t justify getting the XBLA/PSN version since I already owned the DS one, but I might just bite on iPhone for the right price.
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Spider-Men (slows to a) crawl

Spider-Men was probably my most anticipated book this week, and maybe that puts some unfair expectations on it. It wasn’t a terrible installment by any means, but the mechanisms of slowing down to explain this stuff really made for some wonky pacing. Peter Parker really shouldn’t be this confused about alternate dimensions, and Miles (or Nick Fury, who had a cameo) should be more comfortable with just laying it out simple-like. It seemed like everyone was just avoiding talking about the subject to keep the confusion going, which got a bit tiring. It was more of a stage-setting book, I suppose, but hopefully the plot picks up a bit next issue.

My only other book this week was Justice League, which was equally lackluster. We learned a little more about the new villain Graves, and it resolved the issue of Trevor betraying the team, but other than that I was mostly just confused. The league had the life sucked out of them by using their grief? Or something? I honestly don’t know. The dialogue didn’t quite crackle like it has in past issues either.

Neither of these were outright bad, mind you. Just kind of serviceable placeholders as we wait for the real plot to begin.

  • I published the first of several planned Dawnguard Diaries today, chronicling my trip through the Skyrim DLC. From here it will split into both choices.
  • Right on the heels of yesterday’s concerns about BioWare nixing single-player DLC plans in favor of the Extended Cut, it turns out maybe those new stories were merely delayed instead of canceled outright. Carry on, then.
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Mass Effect 3’s Contentious Ending (Redux)

I would have been just as happy to watch the new Mass Effect 3 endings on YouTube or something. But, I do have a pretty cool piece cooking on the “Extended Cut,” and wanted to be able to speak with some level of authority in my writing. Plus, I was outspoken in the past about the ending, so I figure I owed it to myself. I sped through it today as soon as I could.

It was good. Very good, in fact. It filled in some details, mostly with things I had assumed happened anyway, and added a pretty extended epilogue. It added a lot of little things, and one very large thing. I chose Synthesis again, and actually got a little choked up during EDI’s monologue. I’ll have to check out the other three endings, since I’d rather not go through the whole shebang again just to watch them.

(For some reason, it didn’t let me convince Illusive Man to shoot himself this time. Maybe in my haste I missed a few more paragon opportunities, I don’t know. Oh well, live and let shoot crazy guy in the face.)

For people who complained that the ending left some things unexplained, too vague, or too impersonal, the ending will probably be a balm. For people who just hated the entire concept outright, I don’t think it will change any minds. For people like me, who thought the original ending was fine — not great, just fine — it’s a nice little bonus. Thanks, I suppose.

I guess my central problem with the ending is how it seems to have impacted BioWare’s DLC development plans. Given some comments before the game launched, it seemed clear that BioWare’s original plan was to develop new stories that expand on the “legend” of Shepard. The post-script may have been hokey as hell, but it was a nice creative way to set up that concept. I looked forward to seeing more of Shepard’s adventures,┬ánot necessarily connected to the Reaper problem, in the detailed universe that BioWare constructed.

Then, complaints about the ending reached such a fever pitch that BioWare abruptly went silent about single-player DLC, and started talking about this extended cut. I don’t have any certain knowledge, but it seems likely that whatever the developer had planned was scrapped in favor of fixing this PR problem. And personally, I would’ve much rather played interesting new stories, than have BioWare spend those months tweaking an existing part of the story. Maybe it will win some hearts and minds back, but it seems like that ship has largely sailed. So instead of pleasing someone who enjoyed the game and wanted more original content, we had that time devoted to fixing a problem that can never be fully mended. They’ve lost some people, for good, and this ending isn’t going to get them back.

That’s a fairly minor quibble though, especially since it’s all speculation on my part anyhow. The old ending was fine. The new ending is better. And maybe now we can all move on.

At least, after you read the cool feature I’m working on.

  • Seems like most of the Shackers are satisfied with the new ending, or at least more satisfied than they were.
  • I love Resistance more than a reasonable degree, but even I think it’s time to let it go for a while. Insomniac went out on the best game, and the Vita version was kind of a mess.
  • You know those times you go from “I didn’t know about this game” to “oh, that sounds kind of awesome”? That’s how I feel about Rainbow Moon.
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Joining the Dawnguard

As it turns out, I am playing Dawnguard after all. On top of a few freelance pieces due this week, and at least one interview to conduct, I’m going to be writing up some bits about the Skyrim DLC. It’s making a busy week busier, but then again, it is playing a bit of content I wanted to play anyway. I can’t really complain.

I’ve actually played a bit more Simpsons: Tapped Out over the weekend. I might try checking into that more now. I think I was turned off for a bit since some Origin login issues lost my save file, but I can just task everyone with longer-form missions and then put it away for several hours. Rather handy, that.

  • Lulz.
  • I used to follow Team Fortress 2 updates like a religion, back when I was playing it on Xbox 360 to an unhealthy degree. Nowadays I’ve kicked the habit, and man, everything looks super-foreign to me. Particularly Poopy Joe.
  • Shut up and take my money!

Night Notes: Squeezing in Dawnguard

Next week suddenly became pretty busy with a few different interviews and features, but it’s also the week of Dawnguard. I’m going to have to find some time to play that, somehow. I feel like I’ve been away from Skyrim long enough that Lizard Wizard needs to take care of some vampires.

Korra finale this weekend! I can’t recommend watching it if you haven’t kept up with the series, but I should also note that if you haven’t kept up with the series what is the matter with you?

  • Finally wrapping up our E3 thoughts for reals, we covered some E3 Disappointments today.
  • I should get back to Fez sometime. But not today.
  • It’s becoming expected that Assassin’s Creed games (and generally, Ubisoft games) release on the PC later than the console versions. If you were expecting that trend to change, don’t.
  • Looks like I know what I’m doing on Tuesday night. Though I am a bit bummed at the point you have to start your save file from. I mean, good Lord, that was a solid 3-4 hours for me.
  • I’m not going to lie. I already own Flower and Journey, but I might pick up this Collector’s Edition. I’m curious to see what those extras are like, and at this point I just really want to support thatgamecompany. Plus I never actually paid money for Journey, since I reviewed it. I should do that.
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Lollipop Chainsaw

With Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor out of the way (and not a moment too soon), I’ve finally gotten the chance to crack a bit into a game rental, Lollipop Chainsaw. The marketing turned pretty abysmal, but conceptually I was curious. And besides, games that I want to try out risk-free is basically what I use GameFly for.

Suda51 has the tendency to make cool concepts with pretty terrible execution as a general rule, so I approached it with some trepidation. Surprisingly, it’s actually not bad. The mechanics aren’t quite as smooth as an A-tier title, but it has enough style and mechanical differentiation to keep the play smooth.

Now, the more interesting angle is the representation of the character. She’s hyper-sexualized and fits into a very clean arch-type, but I think this was all intentional for the sake of satire. I’ve only made it to the first boss, which I think was the best illustration of the brains behind this game. They chose a different arch high school type, whose main weapon is shouting mean words at her. Juliet carries herself like a “ditz,” but she’s actually the character with the most intelligence and agency in the game. As far as the game presents her so far, she’s a bright girl who happens to like fitting that type. And already, we’ve seen other characters making assumptions about what that means, without really knowing her. Its marketing may not have expressed this, but so far I’m getting a very subversive feminist read on the whole thing.

  • In case you missed my tweet on the subject, you can listen to my talk with University of Oklahoma students, with Jeff Green lending his expertise as well. It’s a pretty lengthy chat and we run the gamut.
  • Depending on the extras, I might actually get a Journey compilation. Yes, despite the fact that I already own both Flower and Journey. You may remember that I really, really loved Journey.
  • I have this theory that most of the people excited to replay Final Fantasy 7 don’t actually remember it that well. I’ve tried it not too long ago, and it’s pretty clunky. It’s just very strikingly clear that this was an early experiment with 3D. Interesting in context of its time, but it doesn’t hold up to replay the way a game like FF6 or Chrono Trigger does, when Square had plenty of time to master the medium.
  • Well. Dammit.
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AvX shocks world, doesn’t suck

Despite knowing it’s terrible, and the warnings from friends, I’ve kept buying AvX. My reasoning was simple: yes, it’s bad, and fumbling, and awkward, and forced, and dumb, and shoddily written, and terribly plotted, and the artwork isn’t great. But hear me out! It’s also my first event book, and as a new comic fan, I wanted to see it through to the end. I figured a few bucks per month isn’t going to break me, and finishing my first big comic event start to finish would be something to remember no matter how rough the ride.

This came to a head in the last issue, when Iron Man split the Phoenix Force up into five pieces, making it go into five random X-Men newly dubbed the Phoenix Five. You might notice this sounds extremely stupid. Regardless, I sighed and picked up my copy today. Imagine my surprise when it occurred to me, as I flipped through the pages, that this was actually good. I say that without a hint of sarcasm or irony. This issue was more interesting than the other five issues combined.

The Phoenix Five (ugh) are making serious strides in the world, but are showing internal hints of getting carried away. The Avengers, meanwhile, mistrust them despite that they’ve done nothing wrong. So the X-Men are split on how much they can use force to impose their will in the spirit of improvement, while the Avengers are split on whether they should even be considering killing this group that’s ostensibly doing wonderful things for humanity. In other words, neither party is objectively right and both have understandable differences of opinion. Imagine that!

(The art also seems moderately improved, but still not blowing me away. It’s a bit inconsistent still, with some great looking panels and others that just look rushed.)

This is apparently the start of the second act, and I’m back on-board. I’m not sure if this is the product of Jonathan Hickman taking over as the writer, or if this is just the spot they were aiming to get to and all that hackneyed crap was them taking shortcuts. But either way, I hope this standard of quality continues through the rest of the event series. You’ve finally won me over, Marvel. Now don’t screw it up.

Speaking of Marvel, Avenging Spider-Man was a bit off its game this week. It had a clever moment or two, but in a book that I primarily enjoy for the witty writing, it just didn’t deliver much on that front. But in a procedural buddy-comedy, some are going to duds. It’s too bad, though. Fellow comic enthusiast Bryan loves Dr. Strange, so I was curious to see that character with the accessible window of Spider-Man. In the end he was fine, but nothing special, and I got the feeling he can be better written. Wonder Woman finally resolved the Hades saga. While I’m disappointed that it didn’t prove my theory that she’s in love with her pregnant pal, they wrapped it up about as well as could be expected — even if they used a cheat to defang the major threat from the last issue.

I also picked up a reprint of the first issue of Saga, because I love Brian K. Vaughan. Honestly, I have no idea how I felt about it. It was very creative, but maybe a little too disconnected from reality for my tastes. It felt like he was trying very hard to be otherworldly, maybe a bit too much. We didn’t really get a clean entry point into this world. Do any of my comic reading friends know if later issues help ease us into the plot?

  • As promised, here is my Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor review. You’ve probably heard from various sources that it is one of the worst Kinect games yet. You have not heard wrong. Though, to pat myself on the back, I actually finished the game. I wrestled that twitchy little bastard into submission. You certainly can’t accuse me of not doing my due diligence.
  • We’ve been opening up editorials lately at Shacknews, and I had something on my mind. Namely, that the Vita needs its own experiences. You’ll only get so many people willing to buy two copies of the same game just to play it on the go.
  • I’m fairly certain my brother and sister-in-law still play Dragon Age Legends. So, good news for family!
  • As someone who values education, this story about Steam for Schools was really quite cool to report on. Valve was in a perfect position to do it, so they went ahead and did it. Kudos.
  • Another Japanese fighting game developer says paid character DLC is a no-no. I’m wondering if this is the start of a sea change, or just rebelling against the inevitable tide.
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Pokemon Conquest

I picked up my pre-order of the latest Pokemon and got in only a few minutes with it. I have to say, they wisely keep text to a minimum at the start. It jumps into the tutorial, but it isn’t exhaustingly slow like some Pokemon games tend to be. They’ve introduced most of the basic concepts after only a few minutes, I think.

It probably helps that those basic concepts are pretty obvious. The game is almost identical to other strategy-RPGs like FFT and Tactics Ogre. It’s so similar, in fact, that I keep catching myself trying to pick a direction to face at the end of a turn. That’s one mechanic they took out here, probably for the sake of simplicity.

It’s pretty easy so far, but I don’t mind. I tend to play Pokemon games for fairly brainless entertainment while I watch TV or something. If anything, Pokemon games that get super-difficult and require lots of grinding annoy me, because that’s not really what I want from the series.

  • I’d like to think that Blizzard could make some kind of StarCraft experience work on the Wii U, but the company is probably right that it would need to be custom-fitted for that purpose.
  • I understand that the Battlefield 3 console exclusivity and the Premium stuff weren’t planned in concert with each other, but it makes sorting dates for stories kind of a pain.
  • Considering how stingy Microsoft is with its rewards already, I’m pretty skeptical that rewards for Achievements will be all that significant.
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Night Notes on a Monday?

Yes, I usually reserve this column type for Fridays, the idea being that I want to get started on my weekend (or I already have!) and I’m tired. But tonight I finished up a review for tomorrow, so my mind is still mostly on a subject that I’m not allowed to talk about yet anyway. Look forward to my Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor review sometime soon.

  • Do we really need every game show to have a “zany celebrities” spin to it now? Do people no longer like watching regular people do things? I mean, I watch Survivor and Amazing Race. I know this audience exists.
  • I sometimes idly click on my Google+ icon in my bookmark bar, mostly by accident. When I do, it’s pretty much a ghost town. So, you know, I’m not terribly surprised that game developers aren’t seeing much success.
  • Zelnick’s comments about franchise burn-out are spot-on, even a little bizarre in that many executives don’t seem to say it. But I’m personally more interested in his general ambivalence toward the Wii U, which seems to be a disturbing trend among third-parties. I’m not going to call the system dead before its time, and I know it’s a mistake to count Nintendo out, but it needs to rework its marketing rough spots before the system launches.
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