Steve’s Gaming Escapades from 2013 (Part 3)
Don’t tell me you thought I was done talking about the games I played last year. I had many hours to myself in 2013, and a huge backlog of games to play. I currently have 104 owned yet untouched games in my collection… so don’t be surprised if we see a lengthy list next year too. This will however finally conclude the review of games I played in 2013.
So which items will we be reviewing today? We’ve got 10 final games in my list… some of which didn’t get very much time invested, and some of which had way too many:
- World of Goo (Android)
- Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
- King’s Quest 1 (PC)
- King’s Quest 2 (PC)
- King’s Quest 3 (PC)
- Thief Gold (PC)
- Guild Wars (PC)
- Guild Wars 2 (PC)
- Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Game Cube)
- Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)
World of Goo (Android)
World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle video game by 2D Boy, an independent game developer consisting of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, both former Electronic Arts employees. The game is built around the idea of creating large structures using balls of goo. It’s a reasonably simple game where you simply touch some of your tower, and drag your finger across the screen to continue building it.
Liked: Well… other people seem to like it. It was nominated for the Seumas McNally grand prize, Design Innovation Award, and Technical Excellence at the Independent Games Festival, and has gone on to win several other gaming awards since its release. I’m not really sure why.
Disliked: It just seemed too simple to me. To be fair, I didn’t play it for any length of time that I can seriously offer a critique. It just didn’t snag me. My reaction was essentially “neat” and then I put it down and had almost completely forgotten that I’d ever played it.
Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
Time Played: 1 Hour
The game takes place in a deserted, futuristic Tokyo, in which the city has transformed into a vicious wildlife wasteland with dinosaurs that had to be transported from the past to compensate for the humans that were transported to the future. Think of it as a survival simulation where you’re an animal, say… a Pomeranian for example… and you will have to hide from predators while hunting your own prey. Oh, and you’ll also need to find a mate, and have some offspring of your own.
Liked: It’s a pretty unusual concept. Stealth survival game where you’re a dog that hunts rabbit? Awesome.
Disliked: The controls felt a little awkward to me. Jumps in particular felt clumsy. I’m not really sure what else to say. The game forced me to do a tutorial, I played it, and then never played it again. Tutorials seem to do that to me.
King’s Quest (PC)
Time Played: 2 hours
King’s Quest was one of the classic adventure games developed at Sierra in it’s early days, and was developed by Sierra’s co-founder Roberta Williams. It was used a text parser and was originally released in 1983. Though Sierra had released several “Hi-Res Adventure” games already, this was where Sierra’s real legacy began; King’s Quest had the distinction as the first “3D-animated” adventure game.
The story was quite simple: The Kingdom of Daventry is suffering from recent disasters and hardship. King Edward calls his bravest knight, Sir Grahame, to his throne, and tells him he has heard of three legendary treasures hidden throughout the land that would end Daventry’s troubles. If Grahame succeeds he will become king.
Like: The mechanics were pretty simple. Use the arrow keys to move around, and type things in the text parser to complete actions. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t aged particularly well. The game is good for nostalgia… but it’s hard to recommend past that. The manual for the game was awesome. It had some great illustration, and told the story of the world as though it were from a story book. Fantastic.
Dislike: While the mechanics are simple enough, the graphics are rough, and you may find yourself having an extremely tough time getting anywhere without an online guide. This was true of the time as well and is why Leisure Suit Larry’s creator, Al Lowe, had to help write a hint book for it. The opening song (Green Sleeves) is rendered quite horribly as a chiptune.
King’s Quest II (PC)
Time Played: 2.5 hours
The sequel uses the same AGI game engine as King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown and features King Graham as the player character. The game was first released in 1985 on a self-booting disk that supported CGA, PCjr, and Tandy graphics. Really, it’s more of the same style of play from the previous game, with an improved budget and scope. The game is bigger, with more things to do.
Liked: The booklet that comes with the game is once again very well put together and lays out the story for you (though without it, you would probably be very clueless as to what the point of the game is). The world is bigger and the puzzles to solve are a little more logical and interesting. I’d recommend this over the previous game, but not by much. This is a game that will mostly be enjoyed due to nostalgia of the style of game.
Disliked: While the puzzles are largely easier to solve than the first game, there are some which are still tricky. It’s quite possible you’ll find yourself needing to restart the game once or twice with no real clue as to what you’ve done wrong. Paying close attention to everything, or using an online guide will be your most likely tools for success.
King’s Quest III (PC)
Time Played: 1 hour
In King’s Quest III, the story moves away from Daventry and King Graham to the land of Llewdor, where a boy named Gwydion is being kept as a slave by the wicked wizard, Manannan The game play is the same style of text-parsing “3D”adventure, though as you can tell from the image to the right, this time we’ve got a clock we’ve got to watch.
Liked: Immediately the game starts with a sense of purpose. You must carry out the instructions of the wizard, and you can get punished quite easily. The controls are familiar, and there’s a sense of accomplishment every time you find something new to do.
Disliked: You can die really damned easily. I haven’t managed to get anywhere in the game because I refused to look at any online hints. This one is not a simple game.
Thief Gold (PC)
Time Played: ~2 hours
After playing Mark of The Ninja, and learning from others about the Thief series, I had high expectations for it. Thief is a series of stealth video games in which the player takes the role of Garrett, a master thief in a fantasy/steam punk world resembling a cross between the Late Middle Ages and the Victorian era, with more advanced technologies interspersed. Release in 1998, the main tactic of Thief is to avoid fights and instead sneak around the enemies. Thief is sometimes described as either a “first-person sneaker”, “sneak-em-up” or a “first-person looter” to emphasize this difference.
Liked: The mechanics work reasonably well. Stay out of view, and use 1st person shooter style controls to stealthily get in, steal some loot, and get out. I can see how this came to be a well liked franchise. While the look of the game is quite terrible, you can always try using a mod to improve the graphics.
Disliked: The game hasn’t aged well. The pathing of the AI is quite terrible, and all it takes to confuse an enemy is to stand on the opposite side of an ale keg. Sound also doesn’t seem to be a reliable cue, and you’ll find yourself on one side of a door never sure if it’s safe to walk through it as the guard’s footsteps will sound identical whether they are walking toward or away from you.
Guild Wars (PC)
Time Played: ~70 Hours (in 2013)
As much as I loved JRPG’s, I never got into MMORPG’s. I’ve never been able to get over the mental hurdle of paying a monthly fee to play a game that I’ve already purchased. Guild Wars first came out when I was in college. I was stoked for it since it looked like it was more of a traditional adventure game (where there was a low level cap, and grinding for gear wasn’t really a thing) and most importantly allowed for multiplayer online gaming and no subscription. I had enough other stuff on the go in college, that I didn’t pick it up when it was new. I did end up picking it up shortly after graduating though, and put many hours into playing it. I played it in Toronto, and I played it a little when I was in Australia. I decided to revisit it again last year. I had purchased all of the campaigns, but had only played through Eye of the North and Factions. I still needed to try Prophecies and Night Fall.
Liked: Where to start… I like the concept of Guild Wars. The one-time-purchase model is my favourite type. It’s a game with fun mechanics. I’ve played as Assassin, Monk, Paragon, and Necromancer. They each have different play styles and roles. I think the artwork and music for Guild Wars is fantastic. Jeremy Soule’s music is absolutely brilliant, and I’ve purchased the various art books on amazon because I like the concept art so much. The world is huge, and the environments beautiful. Having played through each campaign, I like the original the least. Nightfall, Factions, and Eye of the North were all great stories.
I liked that Guild Wars developed a “hero” system. You can recruit characters which you can take into battle with you. You manage their equipment and their skills. While you can rely on their A.I. you can also micro manage them in combat. It helps keep the battles high energy having to monitor up to 8 characters at once. It also helps since GW was originally designed as a multiplayer game and you can now ensure that you’ve got a great team with you at all times. The way that maps were instanced means that exploring the combat areas doesn’t feel unusual even by yourself, and it feels like a world that makes sense given that when you kill an enemy on the map, it remains dead. Strange that that could even be something worth mentioning.
I realize that GW is showing it’s age a little these days, but honestly the game still holds up quite well. If you go into it thinking of it as a single player game, it’s still worth picking up and exploring. Especially since, like most single player games, it’s a one time purchase.
Disliked: Unfortunately, Guild Wars was designed as a multiplayer game. Now that Guild Wars 2 has been released, much of it’s user base has migrated. The towns now feel a little empty. The thrill that you would have had with getting a team of all human players together several years ago is mostly gone. It can happen, but it’s tough. Odds are now, that if you play with other humans, they’ll want to dictate how you play your character. The Player vs Player arenas aren’t as thrilling as they once were either.
In the original campaign, it could be time consuming figuring out the objectives of missions. This was improved in the newer campaigns by placing objectives on the map.
Guild Wars 2 (PC)
Time Played: ~500 Hours
Guild Wars 2 was released in 2012 to much anticipation. The Guild Wars crowd was psyched, and the MMO crowd was psyched. See, Guild Wars wasn’t really a MMO so much as it was MMO-like. GW2 on the other hand would have non-instanced maps (for the most part) where their goal was to eliminate the grind for top tier gear, and where you would be happy if other players spontaneously emerged when you were in need of help. They eliminated the same need for specific roles that Guild Wars and other MMOs have had by allowing each profession to self-heal rather than relying on the ability to find a Monk. They also introduced a “living story” which would help keep the world constantly evolving and wanted the main campaign to be more of a “personal” story.
Liked: I really like the art and music of Guild Wars. The design to everything is fantastic, and it’s great exploring all the different regions of the world. There is so much to do that it’s very easy to get caught up in completionism and doing all of the missions in each map. There is a ton of content in this game, so given that like its predecessor it’s a one-time-purchase… it’s an incredible dollar to entertainment value.
I hadn’t involved myself with any guilds in Guild Wars… but I decided to give it a shot in GW2. There was one group in particular that was very easy to see on the server I’d chosen: AARM. I was exploring a map one day, and about 50 people from AARM ran right by me. I followed, and they invited me into a party and let me do a guild puzzle with them. A few weeks later I requested to join. Being in a guild is great, especially when you’re in a city (in real life) where you don’t know people, have no job, and don’t really have much contact with people. I joined voice chat, hung out with people. Instant friends. So… I can definitely see the appeal to being part of an MMO. Aside from the guilds, it really is a fun experience to have so many people running around. You can often get help, and conversation. It’s a pretty good community playing the game.
One thing in particular that I’ve enjoyed about the game is the jump puzzles. It takes me back to Super Meat Boy / Fez type game play where you try to get to the end of an area by solving the layout of the environment.
The seasons of World vs. World are fun. It pits servers against each other in a three-way capture the flag. Having groups of over a hundred people in battle can be pretty exciting.
There are also world events that take place periodically. One in particular is a battle against a giant dragon called Tequatl The Sunless. It’s a tough battle that requires a full map of people to combat. It can be tough to win, but it feels pretty damned rewarding when you do.
Disliked: There’s as much to love about this game as there is to loathe. While the maps feel more alive due to the number of players running around, it also feels much more gimmicky and 4th wall breaking than the original Guild Wars was. Enemies spawn after x amount of time of being dead. This means that you can have enemies randomly appear directly in front of you. You kill them, wait, and they spawn all over again. This means that you will find yourself killing things to farm experience points and loot. It also means that there are groups of 30 people or so that will spend hours at a time running circles around the map killing all the high-profile champions for the best loot. Kill one, move to the next, kill it, move to the next. When the last one’s dead, rinse and repeat. Meanwhile arguments will break out in the map chat if people jump ahead and kill a champion on their own, or in the wrong order and ruin the order of operations for the “zerg” or “train”.
The story of Guild Wars 2 is terrible. The world is rich, and has a great mythos about it, but the story is terrible. The “personal” story stops becoming personal at one point and will be the same regardless which of the many races or professions you’ve chosen. The leader of this story, Trahearne is… so… dry and stale that he makes the process tedious. Aside from him, there’s another crew called Destiny’s Edge which you would know nothing about at all unless you read the novel that is sold separately. The world itself is very difficult to understand unless you read the novels or have played the first game, or the online wiki’s. Without reading the book I would have had no clue why I’m supposed to give two shits about Destiny’s Edge. Even having read the book they were annoying to deal with.
Spoiler alert: The whole point of the game is that these super powerful Dragons have been let loose and are destroying the world. That’s in the marketing and shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that said, when you finally get to take down the game’s final boss, Zhaitan… it’s one of the most disappointing, anti-climactic experiences you’ll get in a game. Beating this boss is way too simple, and you play way too minor of a role. The battle against Tequatl that I mentioned above is way bigger than the encounter with Zhaitan.
Aside from the main story, the Living Story is really weak too. Well.. at least what I’ve experienced of it. It’s really hard to know as I hadn’t started playing until over a year into the game’s release. The game seems to take place in some weird concept of time where Zhaitan and his minions are still everywhere, even if you’ve killed him, yet every other week a new part of the story is released, and you will have absolutely no way of knowing that happened in the story previously unless you were there for it. I have no idea who Scarlet is, or why I should care about her at all.
I miss the function of having party members that serve a role. Warriors, Assassins, Monks, Mesmers…. they had a reason to exist in GW. Here… sure it offers you a little bit of play style difference… but there really isn’t a need to team up with people. I did the personal story alone except for the dungeons which it forces you to have party members for. But because you can self-heal, and there is no Monk the strategy is pretty lacking. Especially since the game seems to be build in a way where the only way that difficulty is increased is by making enemies do more damage and have more health than it is possible for the players to have themselves. You’re the heroes of Tyria… yet a simple servant in a manor will be destroying you. Unless you and your party members all stand on top of each other. “Stacking” is the most useful strategy. You stand still, let it automatically attack, and talk with your other party members while you wait to see whether you need to heal. It actually makes it a little more rewarding to adventure solo when you can as at least you know that your skill has something to do with winning. It would be great if GW2 had a hero system similar to GW1. It would make doing dungeons a little more interesting I think.
Finally, my biggest gripe with the game is that it’s geared toward making you spend your dollars in the store. Every time there’s new updates, there’s new clothing, miniatures, tools, and trinkets that are available. You can use your gold earned in-game to exchange them for gems to in turn exchange gems for items… or you can buy gems with real world currency. The exchange rate is a little more favourable toward real world currency, of course. Many of these items can only be acquired via gems, and for limited time only. Getting the gold necessary may not be an option. Of course, this stuff isn’t necessary to enjoy the game. It’s rather just a spark for the obsessive people who want to have everything. There are however Ascended items which are the strongest weapons and armour in the game. These can either be obtained through hours upon hours upon hours of trying to farm the necessary materials to craft them, or by buying them from other players who have done this, in the online trading store. That might be fine if it weren’t that Arenanet’s mandate when making the game was that they wouldn’t have a focus on grinding to get gear. It’s also unfortunate that getting the necessary components to craft the legendary weapons is controlled by a random number generator. The RNG to obtain high end gear is stacked against you. You could be the lucky person who gets what you want the first try, but more than likely you will spend hundreds if not thousands of hours trying to obtain it, and never will.
The game relies on a lottery machine type of mentality to get people to keep playing. There are lots of ways to get points, there are lots of flashing colours and numbers, and you are constantly led to believe that the pay-off is just around the corner. The main reason to play, is of course because the game feeds on addictive tendencies. Don’t get me wrong, there is fun to be had… but if you find yourself running a champion train, doing runs of CoF1, waiting in a server an hour ahead of time in order to have a chance of successfully beating Tequatl, or standing guard in WvW by yourself for hours at a time… you should consider whether there are more fun things out there you could be doing. Consider whether you’re having fun, or are just compulsively making numbers change.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (GameCube)
Time Played: ~1.5 hours
Originally released for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1992, the game was a critical and commercial success, with critics praising the game for building upon the original’s formula and fast gameplay. I own it both on GameCube and on PS3 but you can now get it on Steam, Wii, XBox 360, and both iOS and Android (complete with an extra level that had previously never been finished). If you’ve never played a Sonic game… what are you waiting for? This shit was what made Sega, Sega. It was the best alternative to Super Mario Bros. The release of Sonic 2 was one of the main reasons that Sega caught up to Nintendo in the “console wars”. It brought their market share up to 50% within six months of its release.
Liked: The animation is really fun in this game. The cycles are well done, the characters are appealing, the colours are all attention grabbing. The music was some of the catchiest tunes for the Sega, and the mechanics are all straight forward and quick to pick-up. The speed of Sonic really gets the blood pumping. In particular this was a fun ride as the second character, Tails is there to help you out. He can either be a CPU-controlled tag-along, or a second player can pick up the second controller and be in charge of him. He’s a side-kick, so it’s easy for him to get left behind since the camera doesn’t follow him… but give it a few seconds and he’ll automatically find his way back into the action. It’s really helpful to have a second person playing with you during boss encounters.
Disliked: Like other games from that time period, it’s a little unforgiving when you lose all your lives. But other than that, this is a classic game that I would suggest is perfect the way it is.
Grand Theft Auto V/Five (PS3)
Time Played: ~20 Hours
Of all the games I’ve listed, this is likely the one that you would be most familiar with. It was released on 17 September 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. It is the fifteenth title in the Grand Theft Auto series, and the first main entry since Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008. As one of the last titles to be released for the seventh generation of video game consoles, Grand Theft Auto V was highly anticipated preceding its release. It went on to break several records. Grand Theft Auto V is played from a third-person perspective in an open world environment, allowing the player to interact with the game world at their leisure. Really, as much as I was expecting it to be a trash game (we’re all capable of prejudice!) it surprised me, and is fun.
Liked: I’d actually never played at GTA game before. This whole Open World experience was introduced to me via Elder Scrolls. But it works well here. It feels like a pretty alive world. People on the street will act in different ways toward you. Someone else may start a fight with you just as often as you’ll start a fight with a random pedestrian. You’ll randomly encounter people who have had their wallets, or bikes stolen from them… and of course you can carjack, murder, and loot until your heart’s content. The sky’s the limit.
I like the characters in the story. They all feel pretty believable as people to me. Satires of humans, but believable. The voice acting is well done, and the writing works (for the most part). I like the ability to switch between the three main characters.
Disliked: There’s no consequence. It’s weird that I can steal cars (I get that the game is called Grand Theft Auto) whenever I want. It’s all easy. There’s no consequence to it. Should I for some reason have a cop come after me, I pull into an alley and there’s a good chance I’m scott free. What is super weird is that when cops are on your tail that old saying “you can run, but you can’t hide” is exactly wrong. You have to hide. If you run, you’ll find cops spawning directly in front of you. It makes no sense at all.