This week has been an interesting one in gaming for me, LusiDust. I did not play new games so much as I saw the games I have been playing recently in a new light. That and I actually did play a few new games. Is it just me or are these introductions getting significantly worse with each week? Mel, do something about that.
Shadow of Meeeehhhhhh
It is incredible how poorly a developer can understand their own game sometimes. Shadow of Mordor‘s Nemesis System is extremely exciting, but everything else in the game practically works against it. The game seems terrified to stray outside of the very stale conventions that have been status quo since the serialization of the Assassin’s Creed series. But repeating the same thing over and over again is not the way to make a satisfying game. There is enough to master in Shadow of Mordor that the world had the potential to be designed with that in mind which would, of course, produce a far more well-rounded game. Instead, while elements like branding do add a new dynamic, largely the game is just repeating what is introduced in the first few hours.
A second area as large as the first opens up halfway through the game and while it is a refreshing change of scenery, it is meaningless aside from “here is more map”. Opening up that section felt exactly the same way as it did when I arrived in Mexico while playing Red Dead Redemption, which is to say exhausted and fed up. That should not be the reaction to a game revealing more game. Sure the Uruk captains are tougher and the missions are slightly more challenging, but the missions are out of place anyway. The game works best when it feels like a dynamic political landscape, so does the “main” part of the game box that out? The new and exciting elements that Shadow of Mordor introduce would have been best captured with a more bold design philosophy that suggested that traditional cutscenes and missions were not necessary to make a compelling game. Objectives could be more organically incorporated into the world while still implementing gameplay blocks to funnel a player’s energy toward specific sets of tasks at specific times. This would enhance the best feelings in the game, the ones in which I felt like an inescapable part of the world. It would perpetuate the times when I felt powerful, but by far not the only element, therefore encouraging deliberate thought and action.
Still, while I think that review scores are responding to the positive elements and turning a blind eye to its ultimate failures, I think the positive reaction to Shadow will be good overall for AAA gaming. Assassin’s Creed and similar games will likely not be able to afford ignoring what Shadow of Mordor does do well and does do differently.
But man, does the writing ever suck dirty balls. We get it, Uruks are vile creatures and Talion is powerful and the Wraith tries to say a lot of badass one-liners and fails – quite literally – every single time. The older I get, the more I realize that most video games are written by the equivalent of a talented 15-year-old. This is Lord of the Rings we’re talking about. The answer is not to try and make things sound medieval and “badass”, the answer is to look at Tolkien’s themes and actual – not projected – writing style. Ugh, anyway.
I am still digging it. I am in the full groove of it now and it has been demoted from a full-time obsession to a game I am hacking away happily at.
I needed to see for myself if Peggle 2 for PS4 was as bad as Plants vs Zombies is for mobile devices. Surprisingly, it does not seem to be. I do not know if it is different on mobile, but the game actually appears to be something of an actual game. I mean, it still opens with the cursor on the “store” option as it flashes “new” although I just purchased the game and although it was just released on the PS4, but if one is to ignore that, that is the end of the pestering. Unlike Plants vs Zombies 2 which screws with the entire build and balance of the game to sell more over-powered special move micro-transactions, Peggle 2 has a bounty of levels and challenges which never once asks for or requires any additional content. To be thorough, I did purchase the addition two characters available from the outset, and it is certainly a rip-off to not include these Peggle Masters in the original game. Twelve dollars – what the game costs pre-DLC – should be enough to cover all available Masters, but instead the cost becomes a hidden sixteen bucks to get everybody. Again, not purchasing the Masters does not take anything away from the rest of the game, but it is certainly a terrible practice and one that PopCap never practiced before EA purchased them.
As for the game itself, the sequel actually improves upon the model in some areas. The Masters have far more personality than the first game and this is bolstered by assigning a look and musical theme to match each Master which stray from the satisfying but overused Ode to Joy theme from the original. Not to say that every choice is an improvement over that music, but the decision to switch it up was inherently strong and pays off most of the time.
The game is also fun and a challenge in the same manner that the original was. It is just a shame that EA has brought along their methods of withholding versions from certain platforms, and also their manipulative pricing methods. Removing the EA elements, Peggle 2 is a strong sequel, but unfortunately one cannot actually remove these elements. Purchase at the risk of a soiled conscious.
I played a few other things this week, LusiKin, like local multiplayer for the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. (it was more fun than I expected and now I am even more excited for the proper title) and Dust: An Elysian Tail (passable), but those experiences can be summed up with the already provided parenthetical thoughts. For now, I am just hyped for Fantasy Life in a few days. I know it is going to be RPG-lite, but sometimes I am just in the mood for that. What have the rest of you been playing? Mel, how do I improve my introductions?