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.