Editorial Miscellany: Shovel War

METAPHORICAL TREASURE
Oh there is treasure in there.

Well hello there, LusiDroughts! I apologize for my absense last week, but I live in Canada and it was Canada Day and we have a very strict “no article posting” policy on our national holiday. The punishment is so harsh that I barely even want to mention it, but I will anyway because I love my readers. They would have taken away my maple syrup privileges. I know, it is almost too awful to imagine. In fact, let us move on to get the bad metaphorical taste of the theoretical absense of a delicious taste out of our mouths.

Shovel Knight

This is old news now, but this game is dope. I had played it months ago at a Nintendo event and my girlfriend and I have been eagerly anticipating it ever since in the midst of all its delays. The delays paid off not only for the quality of the game, but also – apparently – for my concept of how to buy a copy of a game because I downloaded it onto my 3DS and my Wii U and then Caileigh downloaded it onto her 3DS. Three copies for one home. And it was worth it. Like more NES and SNES-era games, she has more cred in Shovel Knight than I do, making it to the final boss over the first weekend. I, on the other hand, am only on the third Knight of the Order of No Quarter. For why this game is awesome, look anywhere on the internet.

It is almost like we have reached pass number two at that era of gaming. Perhaps we will see another cycle through the generations but with better overall quality games because of a far better understanding of the medium. The “triple A” stuff will still go on in the background, but for the most part, games like Shovel Knight is where it is at.

Why can't Ubisoft hire some decent writers?
It could have been so good. Could have been…

On The Other Hand…

I was given a code for Valiant Hearts: The Great War and it serves as proof that the UbiArt engine does not automatically qualify a game to be great. This game is a pretty big disappointment to me because there was a lot of promise in its other elements. The art is nice and the soundtrack is really quite good, and that is not to mention the good choice to set a game during World War I but then to make it personal. But it is within this choice when it all starts to fall apart. To humanize history is the best way to make people realize that these events actually took place with real humans and that they have immeasurably valuable lessons to teach us about ourselves. Frustratingly, however, Valiant Hearts treats its characters like Wikipedia parrots who merely describe what would happen to a typical war-torn family instead of acting like people who would be living it. Yes, in an attempt to breathe life into a fascinating period in history, the game will merely reaffirm clichés that history is boring to those who need their eyes opened the most.

But I suppose the puzzle adventure side of it is just fine, but it was too depressing for me to play too much of it. If the game develops the characters more than it telegraphs in the first few hours, let me know in the comments, but I expect my instincts to be right about this one, unfortunately.

And then the characters start talking.
Art like in the opening town is one of the game’s strongest elements.

Bravely Skipping Story

I was not a fan of Bravely Default‘s story and characters during my first playthrough, but as I considered starting another playthrough, I realized just how much it brings the game down. Not that Bravely Default is a masterpiece to begin with, but its gameplay is a promising vision of what the future of JRPGs could hold. This is easier to realize when I skip every single story sequence. It is a better game. Which is sad, yes, and just makes me think about how badly a RPG needs a good story to be truly good, but it does also remind me of the steps Bravely Default took in the right direction. Although, while the options are wonderful, it does seem to break the game to play at double the encounter rate. I have barely started this playthrough and already I am massively overpowered with this strategy. While I originally thought that such power over options could only be a good thing, I might have to ponder it a little longer now.

Final Thoughts

Yes, if you readers have been following, you might recognize that I am back in the bad habit of starting a thousand games at the same time and time-consuming RPGs at that. I am not entirely sure what to do about it because I would like to continue the better habit of finishing games more often. Or whatever, I have had that decision a thousand times so maybe I should just roll with the gaming punches. Also, I just got word that I might be able to try out the new Smash Bros this month, so be sure to stay tuned for that. Talk to me in the comments below!

7 comments

  1. Bummer about Valiant Hearts, I thought that looked pretty good.

  2. I understand the Valiant Hearts does improve later on. Unfortunately, I don’t know that it ever reaches truly spectacular heights. I think the best that can be said for it is that it does a serviceable job of opening up to gaming a long-ignored section of recent human history. The Great War is the defining moment of the 20th century–the pot in which was cooked all of the bitter brew that the 20th century was forced to drink. We’re still living with its aftermath today–simply look at the middle east.

    I’d like to see more games set during the Great War, and I don’t mean grey-brown shooters (as appropriate as that colour schema would be, in fact).

  3. I want to see a game based on the Falklands War. Make it happen!

  4. @Lusipurr – Agree entirely, and it’s why I was disappointed in Valiant Hearts, because it felt like it was just reinforcing people’s perceptions of history despite its earnesty and accuracy, but I do also hope that it encourages more games of its nature on the topic. Also, while the fact that its story and character are par for the course in gaming is in one sense unfortunate, in another it means that many might look past it as they are used to doing and see the Great War in a new light because of the game.

  5. I still need to play Bravely Default, but I think the fact that I can make myself overpowered is holding me back – I’ve quit games for similar reasons in the past.

  6. ~~Ahh~~, Shovel Knight. So much love put into that game and translated successfully when playing it. When that massive list of cheat codes hit the net I went right back to the game and blasted through it in God Mode just for shits.

    THAT hasn’t happened for me in a loooooong time. Blasting through a game as a reward for beating it used to be almost half the fun for me!

  7. @Imitanis/Mel – Although you’re talking about different games, it’s strange because with BD, I was not tempted to overpower myself at all during my first playthrough, only turning up the encounter rate for a short time to compensate for the few times I would turn it off altogether. But now that I’m playing it a second time, I’m enjoying blasting through the game in the way that Mel talks about playing Shovel Knight his second time.

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