Destiny and Gaming

Before kicking off for NaNoWriMo, it had been a minute since I wrote anything, and longer since I’d blogged. Couldn’t even tell you how long it’s been since I posted anything that had to do with my interests. Honestly, I have a lot of catching up to do in that sense. While I wasn’t writing, I was watching a lot of TV, caught some great movies, read better books, and played…

Well, actually I really haven’t played that much. Sure, I upgraded our PC (because the old one died, and boy is that a story all by itself), but most of what I played on PC was pretty standard stuff I’d already done before. Got back into Skyrim for a bit, started into the Mass Effect series so I could have a Commander Shephard on PC, and spent a ton during the Steam Summer Sale. I’ve enjoyed PC gaming.

But it doesn’t have Destiny, and that has been the majority of my gaming the past few months.

Can’t tell you how surprised I am by that.

I was one of the ones who played the demo way back whenever the hell the beta first kicked off. I remember thinking it was a great FPS, but it would be even better if I didn’t have to deal with all the MMO crap. The last MMO I played was Guild Wars, and that was only because I had a dedicated group of friends who played. I played SWOTOR too but didn’t make it too far in, and never played with anyone else. Great story, but again, MMO crap.

My issue with MMOs is the incessant repetitiveness and emphasis on the eternal grind. That and I don’t have a huge list of friends to play with, who own the same console, or who have the same family/writing/work commitments. Everyone’s busy.

So when I first played the Destiny demo, I figured that was a fun weekend and that would be it. Then The Taken King came out…and there was a sale…and well, it was the Penny Arcade comics they did for the new sub-classes that cinched it for me. Saw the Stormcaller and felt my curiosity hit its peak, just had to check it out.

Destiny_Warlock

I’ve now put days into Destiny, like all together. My Warlock is at 291, and a complete badass in his stag helmet, with Apple of Discord in one hand, lightning coming out of the other. He looks way better in game, but I don’t know how to screen capture from the PS3.

What really surprised me, besides the fact that the actual gameplay has held my attention so well, is my interest in the lore behind Destiny. Not the story per se, just Google that and you can see the issues there, but the worldbuilding and backstory. I am very, very interested in the alien species, much more than when I went through the demo. The semi-sorcerous Hive with their worm-minds and dimensional gateways, the Vex who float backward and forward in time, fueled by organic liquid, even the Fallen who seem to be a race who fell (ha!) on hard times and have grown into something terrible.

Then there are the Cabal, not near as interesting but also kind of amusing since it seems like they had been carving a straight line through the galaxy, conquering world after world until they showed up in the Milky Way in the middle of a clusterfuck between these aforementioned races and humanity, and like group of drunken frat boy who stumble into sorority party, was more than eager to stick around and play.

I really hope the story improves and we continue to get an idea of what all is going on. Just Google some of the theories. I’m partial to not trusting the Traveler myself, and absolutely love the idea of Rasputin crippling the spherical bastard to keep it from leaving. There is a lot of potential in the story, though it also seems like we’re seeing elements of a story that was scrapped.

We’ll see.

Pillars of Eternity

Didn’t realize this had a name beyond Project Eternity. This was started back before Kickstarter really shook things up or was well known. I didn’t pledge then, but I certainly have now after seeing this. For those that don’t know, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn is basically the best video game of all time.

Ever.

No, you don’t understand. There is no hyperbole here. I am ranking it against Bioshock, Pokemon, Chrono Cross, Deus Ex, Half-Life, every single game that I have ever experienced and that has helped mold me into the person I am today.

Nothing has ever topped the experiences I had with Baldur’s Gate. When I have those ridiculous fantasies all authors have of their book being turned into…everything, you know, movie, tv show, comic, video game, that’s how I picture it. Because that is perfetion.

Seriously, ever.

Anyway, I don’t know if Eternity will live up to that. Probably not, because I just vomited my affection allover this post and I don’t see anything really being able to match mythical nostalgia. Nevertheless, I am excited.

The Wolf Among Us

I knocked out the first two episodes of TellTale Games’ (Creator of the Walking Dead video game) The Wolf Among Us over the weekend.

For the uninitiated, Wolf is based on the comic book series Fables. Published by Dark Horse comics, it tells the story of a community in New York City made up of all the storybook characters you love and know after they escaped from their Homeland dimensions following a devastating war with a being known only as the Adversary (unless you’ve read far enough, and I’m not about to spoil who the Adversary really is). Fables is the only comic book series I’ve ever followed long term. It will get its own post, mainly because playing the game made me dive back into the series, but know this, it’s fascinating.

The game follows one Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown, formerly known as The Big Bad Wolf. The game does a fantastic job of summing up a complicated world very quickly. You may not understand the significance of the Farm or the Adversary, or perhaps why Bluebeard is like he is, but you have everything you need to enjoy the story. If you already are into Fables, it’s filled with little easter eggs and surprises. Meeting Grendal, in particular, was a lot of fun.

The storytelling, like the Walking Dead games, is top notch. I cared and hated for all the characters involved, everyone comes off very interesting, and the plot is an intriguing whodunnit, all mixed with the rich lore of the Fable world.

I have only one problem. At first, I thought maybe I was just remembering things differently. This is what actually made me dive into Fables again, to see if I had been mistaken in my perception.

What was it?

Snow White.

In the comic, Snow White is the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown. She does all the nitty gritty work that Mayor King Cole can’t be bothered with. She’s confident, strong, and intimidating.

In the game, she’s the assistant to Ichabod Crane, who is himself the Deputy Mayor. That’s canon, and what they’ve done with that is great and accurate. No complaints there. The problem comes from the timid, nervous, fretting Snow White who doesn’t stand up to anyone, hugs her arms, and whose eyes dart around in whatever scene she’s in. She’s steadily getting stronger, and I think they’re going for a buildup to the character we see in the comics, but I don’t buy it as a fan. She’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. Portraying this as a young Snow White, when really this is a small fraction of her life, doesn’t correspond to what I know about her. Even before she fled the Homelands, Snow was a stone cold bitch who didn’t take shit from anyone. Charming, Rose, and the Dwarves taught her those lessons. This was the woman who held a sword against the Big Bad Wolf, not a girl who was cowed by Ichabod Crane.

I hope to see that change a bit as the story goes along, otherwise everything works perfectly.

If you like TellTale’s games, Fables, or adventure games, give this a try. If you’re not familiar to Fables, this will introduce you to a world like nothing you’ve ever seen.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (All That Remains)

I bought a few games over the weekend, all because they were cheap or on sale. It’s been a while since I dove into a game, so this was a lot of fun.

The first of these was the first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead video game. The second season continues the tradition of rich storytelling and strong, powerful character driven moments. It differs in that, now instead of playing Lee, you play Clementine herself.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the first episode. It begins, quite innocently, with Clem now that she’s met up with Omid and Christa, who is now big pregnant. Because the Walking Dead is the Walking Dead, it doesn’t take long for one of these characters to no longer be in the picture.

I won’t dive into the story too much, but I can’t let it go without commenting on one particular scene that I did not see coming at all. It was truly one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever seen and it happened on so many levels. Play it, you’ll know exactly what I mean the moment you drop the beans.

God.

Anyway, I strongly encourage it. Clementine steadily evolved into one of my favorite characters in the first season, becoming a unique person caught in between her innocence and trying to survive. Now you get to see that bear fruit. Whereas she was pretty much entirely protected before, in the first episode alone she is put through a stressful amount of danger and pain. What they’ve done really well is building her dialogue choices so that you see her development into a young woman, now acclimated to a world where she must survive.

I also got the first two episodes of A Wolf Among Us and Max Payne 3, all of which will get their own posts. In the meantime, look forward to the next episode of the Walking Dead.

Metroid

metroid

Metroid is the reason I love gaming.

I am not exaggerating, I am not being sarcastic, the very first video game I ever owned, the first one that I ever played in my own home, with my own system, with my own time, was the original Metroid on Gameboy. I’d played games at the arcade, my grandad took me there when we went to the mall, and I’d played game at friend’s houses, but that was the first one that was mine.

Unreality Magazine led me to a post on UpRoxx about the frustrating nature of Nintendo, how while they refuse to make any new titles that might bring them out of this tailspin, they also ignore core franchises that made them what they are. Metroid is their prime example.

I’m not going to recap the article, go read it if you want to know why Metroid would be a smarter decision than the rest of the shit Nintendo keeps shoveling out. I’m going to focus on what’s great about the series, and why it needs another entry in the franchise.

What makes Metroid great? Core to the franchise is the feeling of exploration. Whether you are playing on a black and white Gameboy or the flashy Gamecube version, you feel like you’re in a big world. It is filled with canyons and mines, mountains and jungles, always leading to a new place. One of its legacies, something that will be felt for years to come in gaming, is the way it deals with sealing off areas, forcing you to have a new attachment, gun, accessory, to get into that new region. It has always handled backtracking with finesse, giving you more to do with new enemies and environmental challenges as you go.

When they introduced Prime, they really made that wide world feel alive. It was filled with enemies, some the villains you’ve been facing, others just the natural fauna of whatever world you’re on. It introduced ruins and lore, lost puzzles and mysteries, and set out to make you record the life, history, and lore of…well, damn near everything.

To me, Prime was the epitome of Metroid and that’s what I loved so much about it. Before I could be wowed by the action, the puzzle solving, the collecting of the weapons, arms, add-ons, I was entranced by the lore. I loved finding something new to scan, whether it was the history of the Chozo, a new critter, or some other piece of lore. I could have spent the game doing just that.

The great thing about Metroid Prime, you don’t have to. The action was top notch, giving you a variety of weapons and style to fight everything. Enemies varied their tactics and abilities, responded differently, and were challenging. Even the Gameboy versions were a challenge that required different tactics.

Prime’s presentation was fabulous. Every moment, whether it’s discovering something new, solving a puzzle, or an encroaching danger, is punctuated by fabulous music. It was beautifully made, with great effects, and better art. The enemies are well designed, the bosses unique, the environments memorable.

And let’s just be clear on this, there is no more beautiful woman in gaming than Samus. You want the strong female character…well, ignore Metroid M and you’ve got it. She’s not the best example of a character in general, that’s never really been the point of Metroid, but she’s a good example of minimalism of design. She always comes off capable, a badass, someone who is control of the situation. Enough is conveyed to make her endearing (and gorgeous) without having to do really anything at all.

I’ve been preaching against Nintendo for years, maybe not here, but I have. Ever since the Gamecube, they have shown a refusal to expand their portfolio. They have embraced far too willingly. They over utilize some properties (looking at you Mario) while ignoring others. Their hardware has lagged behind since the N64 and they fail to innovate. No, the Wii was not in innovation. It was a fad. One day, a day that is approaching sooner and sooner, they will go the way of Sega.

I just hope a serious player buys the rights to Metroid.

Because I want to explore again.