Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dark Souls (PS3)

Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to Demon Souls.

(I love that sentence.)

And it is a brutal, brutal game. I spent an hour getting my tail handed to me because I attacked a guy I was not ready to face, and kept respawning and could not undue the bad decision I had made, and I hadn't mastered the early-in-the-game battle mechanics needed to hold my own. And I didn't get my shield (which I was told to pick up). And almost nothing is explained.

This is not bad game design -- this is designed consequence.

I love how hard Demon Souls is. I love how much harder Dark Souls is. It's hard to explain, because it's not exactly masochism (not exactly). For me, it's wanting to improve in a game that feels so immersive because it does not hold my hand, and failure to pay attention and keep my wits about me is hours-upon-hours costly.

I have to play so many games that I don't want to play. I should be upset at how long this game it going to take me, but I'm not upset that I'm forced to spend time with such a caliber, sleeper offering.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

X-Men: Destiny (Xbox 360)

I mentioned a while ago I was looking forward to what Silicon Knights was going to to with the X-Men franchise, and picked I picked up X-Men: Destiny yesterday to check it out.

I'm a Marvel fanboy, and a Scott Porter fan. Scott's a good actor, a nice guy in person, and he voices Adrian Luca, one of 3 characters you can choose to play through the single-player only game.

I'm only a a few hours in to the game so far, and to be honest, I'm pretty torn about how I feel about the game. Mainly because even though I'm a multi-fold fan, I'm finding I have to make myself play the game.

First, let me clear that I know nothing about the development of the game (time, budget, external publisher or IP impacts, etc.).

That said, I'm trying to figure out if the game is a great example of a super budget treatment of a high-shelf IP, or it's a cautionary tale of game design that hasn't evolved from 7 years ago.

The game is rough; I mean, really rough. Not just with "maybe-they-ran-out-of-time-and-that's-why-there's-invisible-collision-everywhere", but with "seriously-those-are-really-your-pre-rendered-character-assets-in-the-main-menu?-because-they're-in-your-face-and look-very-very-off".

There's even way too much legacy game design, opportunities to miss triggers and get stuck at a checkpoint, spawning enemies that stand idle-but-visible in the wings, and level layout that maybe is meant to be throwback-simple (driving the Player in a set direction), but is implemented badly. If you do somehow find a way to get off the path (by, y'know, walking around), you'll have to spend a ton of time running to get back to that point. No gameplay - just getting your avatar back to where it's supposed to have been before you fell off the path.

As far as playing the game, after picking my character (Adrian, so I can hear Scott's VO), I've decided to arbitrarily choose each of my upgrade paths. I figure, "If I was a mutant, I wouldn't have control over what powers manifested, so I'll play that way."

That's added a surprising amount of interest for me to the title, because it disorients me a bit, and makes the gameplay feel a bit more "real". I kind of wish Silicon Knights and other comic book devs would roll the dice like this intentionally -- it would possibly give Players more unique play experiences from each other.

That additional interest is needed, because while I'm glad there's a simple skill tree mechanic in the game, it's not as simply implemented as say, what's in Borderlands. And the "mutate" mechanic (think power mix-ins) is interesting, if a bit overwhelming in actuality (it doesn't seem to change gameplay significantly). Honestly, my main beef with the mutate mix-ins mechanic was it didn't work for the fiction -- but get far enough into the game, and it's explained enough to make sense for the game story. Ish.

Overall, if you're an X-Men fan, you might be able to look over the title's rough edges, and get more out of the game. If you're an X-Men fan and either a heavy gamer or a game developer, you might have a rougher time enjoying the title.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

I'm about a quarter of the way through the single player side of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and a few nights into the multiplayer mode.

Color me wicked impressed.

The single player -- the third installment in the series -- maintains its high production values, a coherent story and themes across titles, and refines the gameplay mechanics that worked well in the first two console titles.

And the multiplayer? A first for the franchise, think of that "assassin" game you maybe got to play in college, married to action stealth, having a tryst with a refined perks / streaks / customization mechanics system (a la Modern Warfare).

There are some core game modes for being killed by your friends, and all are points based. "Wanted" is an individual slayer mode, but more cat-n-mouse(ish) -- up to eight players are trying to kill their own assigned mark, and avoid getting killed. Killing the wrong mark (an NPC lookalike) loses the "contract", delays you getting a new one, and puts you at risk of getting killed yourself. You can't kill (but you can stun) your would-be assassin.

"Alliance" pits three separate two-person teams against each other (think an Assassin's Creed version of the Gears of War "Wingman" multiplayer mode).

Both "Wanted" and "Alliance" have "Advanced" versions of the gametypes, removing or nerfing regular gaming staples like height indicators, text cues, and the like (think Left 4 Dead's "Realism" mode", but not taken as far).

The final game mode (so far), is "Manhunt", with two opposing teams (assassin's and victims). Hunters score with assassinations, and the huntees get the same for staying anonymous ("incognito"), escaping or stunning their attackers. I don't think there's an Advanced mode for this.

That's what I have so far. These are just the first (positive) impressions so far -- not a review -- and I'll hopefully circle back when I've finished the single player game, and spent more time with the multiplayer.