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DigitalExile Blog

What do we do with the drunken sailor?

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Dishonored is an interesting, if short, game. Clocking in at about 15 hours, I played on the "Hard" difficulty, and didn't feel like I rushed it - though I didn't spend a lot of time trying to collect everything either. The way the missions are set up I kind of felt like I had time to get "in" to a mission, but once it was over I guess I was in a bit of a rush to get to my get away boat (though if the level permitted it I took a stroll on my way back too).

This is one of those games where the gameplay is pretty standard. By that I mean, it takes the usual cues from games like Far Cry, Crysis, Deus Ex, Hitman, etc where you can do a mission completely by stealth, action, or somewhere inbetween (or sometimes by alternative means). It presents each level with an interesting set of paths to take, however I don't think I found myself really deviating from the set path. I can't really remember any times where I went to any elegant or extravagant means to complete a mission. I basically walked in the front door (or went through a window or where ever the marker was pointing) and then made my way easily to the target. It didn't feel like Hitman where I was purposely looking for distraction cues from smoke alarms or using disguises to sneak past things. Later in the game I did use the posession skill a bit to get past gates, but it was usually only for that reason - to get past gates. The skill doesn't last long enough to try and "blend in" with others and infiltrate as one of their own. After the skill wore off I usually just suffocated them. However, later on I noticed that was becoming increasingly difficult to do (they always seemed aware of me at this point in the game), so I just stabbed them in the neck instead. Likewise, in Hitman, you have a variety of ways to take out targets. Guns, silenced guns, sniper rifles, knifes, poisons, environmental hazards, etc Dishonored lacks this array of tools, but makes up for it by giving you a maze like map, in which you use the map to alter your game style, rather than the killing tools. In the end it sort of balances out.

From a gameplay perspective this game is quite solid. Controls were originally a little overwhelming, but not by that much (just getting primary and secondary weapons mixed up means I would accidently kill someone instead of putting them to sleep). Once I got the hang of it I realised the controls were very intuitive conidering the amount of options you have when taking down a target or interacting with the environment. What this means is you could easily undertake a number of actions, and it was quite fulfilling using the crossbow to put a target to sleep and then instantly choke his buddy, then move both the bodies, and hop over a wall and blink down the street somewhere.

So as far as gameplay goes those are my complaints: while the maps offer choices, I felt that I was always sticking to the beaten path and that I didn't have a lot of cues to explore on my own; and although of course that is up to player I didn't really feel like the game was offering them to me.

My main complain comes from the story. It's terribly weak. The silent protagonist things really annoys me in this game. It's not a plot element that works, not when your character is being accused of a crime, which serves as the entire focus and motivator of the plot, and is unable to defend himself. Instead, to prove his innocence, he goes on a revengeful, murderous campaign (if the player chooses to play like that). The story lacks cohesion and direction. Well, the story isn't fragmented, as such - and it may just be my opinion - but at somepoints it feels like focus is lost. Later on in the game some other details emerge will are never expounded which only leaves the story feeling incomplete, empty, and unsatisfying. I don't want to go into them due to spoiler reasons, but in saying that they have little bearing on the story at all. One of the other major elements is something I would have liked to have seen resolved or delved into deeper, but I'm unsure if my play style resulted in poor understanding or if the details just aren't there (at least one of these is explained in an alternate ending, which [going by Wikipedia] I SHOULD have obtained but didn't for some reason). So all in all the story itself is very lackluster, feels incomplete and is ultimately unsatisfying for those reasons.

But the real beauty of this game is the art style and setting. It's simply brilliant. It's what made the game so fun to play. I was just so awed and impressed by it. My imagination and sense of wonder was on overdrive. There were some lovely huge set pieces, the vistas of the city, the small dark and dank alley ways the clothing and costumes, was just all fantastic and I so badly wanted it to be a real place just because of how wonderfully (scary and beautiful and terrible) it all seemed. From the first seconds of the game right through until the closing moments the art style shines more brightly than any other element. It kind of makes me wish it had been a completely open world just so I could wander and explore without worrying about the rest of the game which feels like such a drag in comparison.

On top of that the art is supported by a very interesting setting; the world is based on London in the late 1800's where the main source of fuel is whaling. Guns seems to have been new inventions, but punch card notes feature as storage devices, and there appears to be forms of electricity. Amidst this, and serving as a major part of the backdrop, is a rat carried plague which is crippling the city. This creates a wonderful contrast of slums and aristocratic manors. On top of all of this is the fact that the city is in lock down, so there is a heavy security force, which shows off some of the more advanced technology in the world. It's simply wonderful.

I finished Dishonored about 30 minutes ago and the story was just an absolute let down. Gameplay is really fun, but the art style is the selling point. It's not quite steampunk, but it's certainly something that makes playing entirely enamoring.

(Due to a game bug [only one I encountered] I lost my screenshots and can't include them. Sorry!)

Black Mesa was awesome!

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It took me about 12 hours but I completed Black Mesa and man was it awesome. If you have Steam I highly suggest you get the (free) SDK and play Black Mesa (also for free).

It was a fantastic trip down memory lane with a beautiful combination of classic Half Life 1 environments and experiences, but with the modern graphics and physics of Half Life 2. It's not just a re-skin, but it's also not a re-imagining. It's a seriously tremendous remake.

Internet is out again -.-

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Once again my internet has gone down and, as always, it will take several days to fix. Phone company says the lines are fine and to contact our ISP, ISP says our connection is fine and to contact the phone company. -.- Thankfully our ISP has also flagged the problem so that the phone company will take a look at the line (who knows when that will be), but at the same time this problem has occured once again and I don't understand why it's only my house in this street that it affects. It's not cables or modems because I bought new cables and modems yesterday and test both sets on my PC, my mum's PC and 3 seperate laptops and none of them get a connection but the modems are actually working because we get wireless and network signals. Every time the phone company comes out they insist the cables outside are fine and that the cables in my house are fine, and for a while that has to be true so something or someone is ****ing around with the cables and I am annoyed. >=(

The future of STALKER, and thoughts on Crysis 3

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STALKER 2 Officially Cancelled

My gaming news today has been all about the official cancellation of STALKER 2 and the shut down of developers GSC Game World.

It seems that a settlement couldn't be made with the "rights holders" and that the studio has now shut down after 2 months of employees continuing work without pay. The odd thing though is that the employees have already started a new company and announced a new game - that might seem like good news to some, but it has been announced to be a free-to-play MMO shooter. So, unless something magical happens, it's pretty much apparant that the STALKER brand and any spiritual sequels are dead and buried.

And lastly, rumours are popping up that BETHESDA have now acquired the rights to STALKER. Again, this might seem like good news to some, but Bethesda are not favourites of mine at all. I find their games to have a lot of copy-and-paste content with little substance. I don't think Bethesda could ever pull off a STALKER game.

What all this means for STALKER 2, and how Suvivarium will turn out, is up in the air at the moment, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Crysis 3 Announcement

Some people might call me cynical, and state that I don't like - quote: "anything" - but that's not true at all. I liked Crysis 1. I liked it quite a bit. It was one of those games whose technical achievements over shadowed its gameplay and design achievements; so much so that if it did do anything right no one would know because they were too busy oogling (or complaining - I'm looking at you console fanboys) about how pretty everything was (concluding that it was "all graphics, no gameplay").

Anyway, my point is that I quite liked the gameplay of Crysis and I liked how well the graphics complemented the art style of certain points of the game (omg that zero-g space ship was amazing). So it came as a complete shock that Crysis 2 looked nothing like Crysis 1. Okay they ditched the tropical island - fair enough, I'd be glad to get away from there too, but what really irked me was they basically ditched the story, the setting, most of the characters, the guns, the design of the aliens, the humans, the vehicles, the nature of the aliens, the nature of the levels/missions etc

The end of Crysis 1 saw 2 characters who basically had carbon copies in Crysis 2 - Nomad and Dr Helena who were replaced with Alcatraz and Dr Rosenthal. I can't figure out why they would just dispose of 2 characters whose stories hadn't been resolved. Where are they? What happened to them? Why is it they followed Prophet out, and he's still there, but we know nothing of them?

The aliens were changed - in Crysis they seemed to thrive in the cold, turning the tropical island into a frozen one. in Crysis 2 they instead spread disease, not ice. Between Crysis 1 and 2 we went from fighting flying squid to bipedal mechs. There's just no reason to make these sort of AESTHETIC changes to the Crysis "series" except to wholly and completely separate yourself from the first game. I don't even thing from a technical perspective that these things would have been impossible; it just seems like Crytek didn't like, or didn't want to like, Crysis 1 and changed everything.

Anyway, my overall point is that I liked Crysis 1 a lot, but Crysis 2, and thus Crysis 3, are not part opf the same series as Crysis 1 and I refuse to support it for that reason. Crysis 2 wasn't even a good game, but it was a bad game that ditched everything that made the first game good.

Plus they added a bow to Crysis 3. Who the **** fights alien invaders with a bow? Use a god damn machine gun since you have a ****ing powered exo-skeleton.

Minecraft - 'Sonic Ethers Unbelievable shaders'

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If you play Minecraft and would like to see dynamic shadows, wavy grass and leaves and have full Depth of Field (and might I add much better than anything I've seen from ENB Series in other games) you should definitely try out this shader mod (as named in the title).

If people are interested I'll update with images at some later point, but the thread has a few to blow your mind. :)

Without Internet Day #4

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So last Thursday night my phone lines (out of nowhere) went dead. Telstra, the company which pretty much owns all the phone and internet infrastructure in Australia (who I might add made over a billion dollars profit), says it will not be able to send someone out until the following Thursday, which means a week of no phone and no internet at home. This has happened before (at least twice before) where we've been without phone and internet for several weeks. I'm quite annoyed as each time people come out saying they've either fixed it, or nothing is wrong, despite there clearly being no connections - and each time the guys only stick around for 20 minutes.

I'm quite annoyed, extremely bored, and my sanity is dwindling. -.-

@Author_Jerry: I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of a conversation with you at the time and it just cut out. =(

6 months later...

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I haven't done a proper blog post for ages. My last 2 were sort of just ... me venting. Anyway, I haven't been up to a whole lot since then anyway, perhaps another reason I haven't blogged, but I've had a few passing thoughts and some games I've played.

After Portal 2 came out (which I mentioned was really cool), I was waiting ever so patiently (okay, I was very excited) for BRINK. Um... yeah. If it had been a good experience I would have made a long blog post on it, so the fact that I said nothing about it pretty much, sadly, sums up my thoughts on it. A lot of you probably know what a dismal failure it was. I played it for 2 days (the day of its release, and the day after). I clocked in about 23 hours, which isn't too bad for a shooter, except this was a multiplayer only shooter. I unlocked everything, and basically stuck to the same few guns that I had right at the start (more or less), and gradually changed my characters, but not by a whole lot. I was very disappointed with it because I could sense, underneath all the crap, a damn good game... but it just lacked the refinement and execution of something liek TF2, which is just much more fluid. The "SMART" system was not the innovation that FPSs needed. Yes, it was more advanced than jumping up onto a barrel, and then a crate, and then trying to jump up onto a roof or something, but ... I don't know. It was just all wrong. For everything good or amazing thing, there was about 20 wrong things and it was just bad.

More recently I played Red Orchestra 2 and the Battlefield 3 beta. Anyone paying attention will know that Tripwire Interactive (developers of RO2) have received A LOT of negative feedback over RO2, and already it's a pretty much dead game - which is a shame because I felt players had much more intentional decisions than in BF3. I'm going to kind of talk about both these games at once because while they are sort of similar, and some will argue completely different, I can't help but be baffled over the circumstances of both games. Battlefield 3 is a majorly hyped game, and yet after playing it quite a bit I found it to just be a less arcadey version of Bad Company 2 (which I personally thought played a lot like CoD in big open maps with vehicles).

So when I played Red Orchestra 2 I thought it was ****ing fantastic. Movement was a tad clunky, which often seems to be the key indicator that a game is "realistic" (I'm not sure why realistic = clunky, just seems to be the way to go). Guns were awesome, etc etc; what really impressed me was that I found my movements to be very... precise. They were very intentional. I was being very deliberate with all my actions. This was partly due to player speed movement, but generally just because of the tone of the game. At some points, in fact, I found myself confusing RO2 with Company of Heroes (a WW2 RTS) - so that might give you some indication of just how tactical I found (good) team work to be in RO2.

Then I played the BF3 beta... and after fighting with Origin and Battlelog, I finally got into a game. I absolutely LOVED the game play mechanics that involve player movements: jumping over walls, running, going prone - it's all so fluid and smooth, and yet at the same time not completely unrealistic or arcadey at all. However, the gameplay I found WAS arcadey. You might blame the players, but I found that the game, the maps, etc, could and did accommodates arena style game play (you know, people running around with no clear sense of direction, complete disregard for lives, etc). As a quick note I ****ing absolutely LOVED, loved vldoflovllovelovlolovedv LOVED the bi-pods, I played support with the M249 and had a BLAST... for quite a while... until... Until people started unlocking SMG's and running around like ninjas. I was having fun running up to a wall, setting up the bi-pod and setting up my own little area of denial... only then I would get killed by people who (somehow) dodge my machine gun fire and kill me from great ranges with their SMG's.

Crashes aside (I'll put it down to it being a beta) BF3 was pretty good fun, so long as I didn't spot any of that "arena" style nonsense (the same nonsense that made up all of Bad Company 2, and CoD), but it just didn't have that sense that player actions were deliberate. People were all over the place just doing whatever they pleased and it really ruined it for me. Again, you may say that's the player's faults but I see it as being accommodated by the game itself, and RO2 has a better experience overall, but it just wasn't the high budget game that BF3 is. And now that RO2 is dead (from what I can tell), and I have lost interest in BF3, I kind of feel like I lucked out in both games. I might still get BF3, if I can get over Origin and Battlelog, but my excitement for it has died down tremendously, especially knowing that RO2 has some great features that I feel could have benefited BF3 greatly.

I also played From Dust, which I thought was a pretty cool little game. I think people focused way too much on the Ubisoft DRM or just flat out didn't even play it. I know a lot of people seemed to hate it and demanded refunds, but it had nothing to do with the game itself, which I found to just be a pretty relaxing and interesting game. The basic premise is that you play a sort of God-like entity and can modify the terrain by sucking up sand and what not. In each map you must guide these villagers, either by neutralising threats such as rising sea levels, or blocked paths, such rivers, flowing lava or create land across water to join two island areas. In short, it was a good fun experience well worth the $15 I spent on it.

I also played EYE Divine Cybermancy, or whatever, but I didn't play it for long because, quite frankly, I didn't udnerstand a damn thing going on.

Lastly, I played a fair bit of Minecraft too. I was going to document my progress with a friend, but kind of forgot about it and since I finally reinstalled Windows 7 I haven't actually gone back and played it so maybe at a future date (when 1.9 is released) we will get back into it and I will post some pictures.

So that's basically it! Not a while lot going on, just letting everyone know I'm not dead. :)

Dreamland pt 2

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A while ago I blogged with just a song. It's called Dreamland, by NU NRG. I've been listening to it a fair bit lately and for some reason during this time is the only time I feel even remotely good; so in effect this song is basically keeping me sane. So I thought I'd start off with it this time.

In other news Portal 2 was released. I finshed it the same day, and it was bloody awesome, though much like the first suffers from some replayability issues. Still, like most of you have probably discovered first hand it's still maazing. :)

Only two more weeks until Brink! For those of you who see me post you'll know I have a Brink themed sig on the forums and it's my most looked forward to game this year. Here's hoping I haven't hyped it up too much!

See y'all later.