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A Disappointment Three and a Half Years in the Making.

June 2010, e3: at the last Nintendo e3 conference before the launch of the 3DS(and possibly the last Nintendo e3 conference ever), the presenter showed off a wall-sized collage of the major franchises confirmed to be appearing on the new handheld.

My eye settled immediately on the unmistakeable logo of the Batman: Arkham series(which, of course, hadn't seen a sequel yet) and I was positively ecstatic. My favorite pasttime had been playing the combat challenges in Arkham Asylum and climbing the leaderboards, so to me, the idea of punching badguys on the go- even if it had to be dumbed down a smidge- had to be the most awesome thing to find on a handheld. It was a dream I held onto even after the announcement and release of the system and even after Lego Batman came out- which was worrisome until I convinced myself that the logo was for Batman: Arkham and not just any Batman release.

In the meantime, I picked up any 3ds game that offered anything approaching an Arkham-style melee combat system, and waited. Early this year(or was it late last year?), I got an issue of Game Informer which confirmed the existence of the game I'd been waiting so long for and gave some initial details on the gameplay format. I was a little dismayed to find it was going to feature a full story-driven campaign rather than just being an arena challenge compilation a la Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D. I still kept faith, though, in the combat.

I picked up the game on launch day- I had even considered foregoing the console release altogether. I'm now about 80% of the way through Arkham Origins: Blackgate and I can't fully detail all the ways I'm disappointed in the game. It isn't a game about punching dudes in the face the way every Arkham game's been since Asylum- it's an hours-long easter egg hunt. The game has you entering 3 separate mazes that are interconnected and you're left feeling around almost blindly for the next step on the road to the finish- sometimes without even a waypoint on the nearly useless map.

I call the map "nearly useless" because it's a floor plan- a bird's eye view of the compound when you cannot access the rooms from any direction but left-to-right and all the twisting and turning is handled automatically. A 3D map would have helped immensely in navigating the environment.

The combat is the merest shadow of what even Arkham Asylum had achieved- strike, counter, stun and dodge are the basic options, but there are no combo gadgets, no blade dodges, special takedowns or any advanced maneuver other than the beatdown. Even the ground pound doesn't function as part of a combat encounter, but is used strictly as a predator maneuver. Further, you cannot target individual enemies in a combat encounter, but rather you only have control over whether you attack an enemy to the left or the right of you. This is especially troublesome when there is a special enemy type in the mix- knife wielding enemies or enemies with stun rods need to be managed in specific ways that can disrupt your combo if targeted on the wrong enemy.

I've always viewed the campaigns in the Arkham games to be a nuisance to be dealt with and forgotten once I've earned all the available combat upgrades. I put so many hours into Arkham City because I was able replay and improve my scores in the combat challenges over and over again. But there appear to be no combat challenges at all in Blackgate. And what's more, enemies don't respawn when you travel from one area to another. So if you're lost on the way to the next under explained objective, there's literally nothing to do but wander around.

So on the whole, I am disappointed that Arkham Origins: Blackgate, a game I have literally been waiting for for years, decided to go in exactly the opposite direction to how it could have best shined as a handheld entry in a console franchise.

The game isn't bad- maybe a little frustrating, but not bad. It's just focussed on, in my opinion, the wrong side of the franchise. Too much exploring and scanning, not enough punchin' stuff.

Have any of you got any opinions on the game?

The Great Arkham Spoiler Discussion of 2013.

So I just finished Arkham Origins.

So I thought I'd give my thoughts on it and hear from the people who loved it, the people who hated it, and everyone who thought it was "meh," pretty awesome and everywhere in between.

First, it had it's moments. The story was much more engaging than that of Arkham City, but it still forced a sense of urgency on you- it never felt like I had the time to stop off and check up on(or search out) the other villains on display.

Less impressive to me, though, was the big Joker reveal. I felt disappointed that it wasn't Black Mask trying to waste Batman after all, but rather the Joker up to his old tricks again, but for the first time. But then I got to thinking about the nature of the story it was telling- it wasn't the origin of Batman, and it wasn't even reallyabout his transition into stone cold fact. It was really about the origin of the specific enmities between Batman and his most famous foes. Specifically the forging of the bond between Batman and the Joker.

It missed a step or two in the telling, like why Batman saved the Joker when he was perfectly fine letting Electrocutioner fall some 40-odd floors to his death(and I seem to remember seeing a number of other dead baddies through the course of the campaign). Then there's the question of why 8 assassins were sent after Batman, but you only contront 5 of them througout the campaign and one of those wasn't even a proper boss fight.

As to the gameplay, it's a mixed bag, but the balance is shifted firmly away from awesome and toward boring-slash-infuriating. They claimed it starred a younger, less refined Batman, and while some of that comes through in the reworked combat animations, I think that claim may have at least partly been based on their realizing that something about their execution of the combat was just a little off. Batman prioritizes badguys less accurately- when I try to takedown an armored thug, he make use the move on a shield thug in between us and such.

On the whole, I still think it should rest comfortably at a 7.

What about the rest of you?

A GTA Online photojournal.

So I was kinda bored when my GTAO lobby emptied out. No big loss there, no one was on the mic, and more importantly, no one was doing anything profitable. So I grabbed a chopper and decided to try for the award for a 5-minute-long parachute ride.

I realized I probably couldn't get high enough to sail for five minutes from a helicopter, and I didn't feel like trying my luck at the military base, so just before I jumped, I decided I'd do a bit of a photojournal of my favorite free roam activity. It's a 3-stage jump from an aircraft to the maze bank tower, the tower to the construction site and the construction site to the street.
So without further ado, let's begin.
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-4_zpsbcb45a60.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-5_zpsb30eb24e.jpg[/IMG]
There really wasn't much to see yet- in the first photo, I'd just jumped from the chopper. In the second, I'd cleared the cloud layer and spotted the Vinewood sign spotlit in the far distance. It will become a hallmark of my little experiment.
Next was spotting my landing zone at the helipad on top of the Maze bank tower, and touching down.
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-6_zps51aaea06.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-7_zpsc7a08461.jpg"[/IMG]
Up to this point, everything was pretty ho hum. Maybe even slower than usual, since I spent all that time drifting trying to get the award when I knew there was no chance.
Then things got interesting. I hopped carefully off of the helipad in order to begin phase 2- the tower to the construction site.
I circled the roof searching for the parachute that spawns there, and when I found it, the only obstacle left in my way was the stairs down off the helipad. I ran around the stairs like I usually do- I still don't know why I don't just circle in the other direction- but this time my character tripped. He began to slide as I yowled "no, no, NOOOO!" and then slipped right off the edge of the building. But instead of falling to my doom, I fell flat onto the words "Maze Bank" built onto the roof. Figuring my would-be photo essay project DoA, I decided to snap a photo or two before flapping my arms futilely to my concrete-y doom.
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-8_zps01d47078.jpg[/IMG] The FIB and IAA towers, [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-9_zpsf3408590.jpg[/IMG] the tops of the FIB and IAA towers and the Vinewood sign, and [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-10_zps76f8718b.jpg[/IMG]the best image I could assemble to try to explain where I was standing.
Thus prepared, I decided it was time to meet my maker. But before I flung myself off the edifice, I decided that since I'll likely die anyway, I'd just as surely die looking for a solution as I would by throwing myself out into thin-fuckin'-air, so why not give it a go?
I inched my way ever so carefully from the 'N' where I landed across the 'K' and to the bank logo, held my breath and hit the jump button. To my shock, I actually reached up and grabbed the logo, turned toward the face of the building and jumped again, pulling myself back onto the roof beneath the helipad. after catching my breath, I snapped a couple more:
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-11_zps8c83530f.jpg[/IMG]
The spot on bank's sign where I stood wetting myself and [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-12_zps1da06de6.jpg[/IMG] another, higher angle of the Vinewood sign and two federal cop buildings.
That done, it was time to move on, strap in and make my way to phase 2. [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-14_zps334768ac.jpg[/IMG]
A little push later...
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-19_zps7606ca6b.jpg[/IMG]
And a quick look back before phase 3. [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-20_zps6ab9a33c.jpg[/IMG]
(hey, look! you can see the consonant I was stuck standing on for 15 minutes!)
Strapped into a fresh 'chute, I decided to snap a quick pic of my proposed landing zone for the final stretch. [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-21_zps0c0ffc9f.jpg[/IMG]
A fair beginning as I hop out onto the air again. [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-24_zpsc90231fe.jpg[/IMG]
And then things start to go south in a hurry. Now keep in mind that I'm doing a number of things at once- I'm piloting the most fragile aircraft in San Andreas where the slightest miscalculation means a sudden yet lingering death, I'm playing with my telephone, taking photos, deciding to save or delete each one as they are taken- and then I added one more task that appears to have been my undoing; altering my flight plan.
[IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-22_zps106d26d5.jpg[/IMG]
Instead of cruising directly to my preplanned landing zone, I decided to glide around the Union Depository. During the last photo, when the shutter effect activated, I wasn't totally aware of my surroundings and I turned too sharply. Instead of swinging around the side of the UD building, I ended up smacking right into it face first. I tried to save the photo, but falling to your death appears to quell the need to worry about the mundane applications of technology.
When I recovered from my unfortunate experience, I ran to the Union Depository to look of blood, bone and/or cracked pavement to mark my landing zone. I couldn't find it, but made a pretty good estimation based on some unique design elements I narrowly escaped cracking my skull open on on my way down. For the lot of good it did me.
Me at the landing zone, [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-16_zpseedbd921.jpg[/IMG]
the curious architecture that I just missed, [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-30_zps9c089f9a.jpg[/IMG] and the view as far up the building as I could manage. [IMG]http://i1180.photobucket.com/albums/x420/El_Zo1212o/Pic%20Unrelated/0_0-26_zps7aa689ca.jpg[/IMG]
So the end of this little adventure came much more abruptly than I would have hoped, but it still made a great story(or so I think).

Bodycount: Demo Impressions.

I've just loaded up the Xbox Live demo for Bodycount. After watching the mission brief I get in game and look at the controls screen. The controls intrigue me. Controls for weapons marked: Knife, fire weapon, explosive bullets, grenades, cook grenade, impact grenade, deploy mines, something called a Target Pulse Wave. It has a control marked WMD Airstrike. I am buying this game. I'll actually play the demo tomorrow.

an odd sort of journey- Captain America: Super Soldier

I have learned first hand that the only way to unlock the classic 'Wings & Scales' Costume in Captain America: Super Soldier is to earn 25,000 intel points(exp). Something I accomplished 2 hours after finishing my initial playthrough. There's no way to begin a new game with the Classic Cap outfit. So on my second playthrough, I've stopped at the beginning of the third chapter of the campaign and have begun grinding out 25,000 intel points on combat challenges. I started yesterday, and so far I'm at approximately 6,000.

How long will it take...?

I've just counted five levels on my copy of Samurai Warriors Chronicles for my 3DS that were not there when I brought it home from Toys 'R' Us on launch day. In the sixteen weeks since then ten separate content packs have been released providing new levels and weapons- all downloads are handled automatically by subscription and I didn't pay a dime for any of it. Nintendo finally got something internet-related right, and I hope they build on that. But I can't help but wonder how long it will take for them to start selling this content on the eShop instead of passing it down the Spotpass wire.

Thinkin'... Warriors: Lord of the Rings

Make it an original game unrelated to the movies, but following the battles from the Hobbit and LotR. I'd buy it in an instant- but Koei would need to partner with a western studio in order to get it right. Either that or have someone make LotR: Conquest 2. I'll have to think on this some more.

The Ongoing Quest to Save the G** D*** World- a Journey Journal.

Before we get started here, I want to let you folks know that this is a work in progress, and was originally written with a... shall we say 'colorful verbal pallette'? Needless to say the colors I was using are a bit ultraviolet (that is to say, outside the accepted range) to Gamespot, so portions of the narrative may look a bit... odd. So just carry on reading and let me know what you think in the comments. ----- 042811-Lessons Learned From Videogames, '90s Edition: It is perfectly normal to barge into peoples' homes uninvited, rifle through their cabinets, drawers and bookshelves and take anything useful with you when you leave. +050911- No matter how monumental the importance of your ultimate aim, someone will always have something very nearly pointless, and yet excessively time consuming, for you to do before they give you the information/object you require. 042911-Hmm. Just excised a demon from a little girl while at the same time rescuing a small kingdom from imminent bankruptcy. Now where's that desert I was looking for...? 050311- Well, let's see... I found the desert I was looking for, slew an evil ghost(what a pain that turned out to be), saved the water supply of a whole town and now I can't find the damned elf village. How is it that no one told me ahead of time that Saving the G** D*** World would be so labor intensive?! 050411- Okay. Saving the G** D*** World has been put on hold indefinately- I've discovered the city of master chefs. 050511- Okay, back on track here- After a four and a half hour trek through a cave that really shouldn't have taken that long to traverse, I find out that the Professor I'm looking for is in a place called the Tower of Grief. This promises to be a happy adventure... 050911- Great. So I finally tracked down the Prof I've been chasing for the last four days and what do I get for my troubles? A leaky submarine(read: useless) and an order to track down the Prof's assistant who's HALFWAY AROUND THE $%*#$+@ WORLD! Y'know, when the four horsemen of the apocalypse are prepping the world for total annihilation, you'd imagine people would learn to prioritize. Jeez. On the bright side, however, this does mean I get to make another trip to the city of master chefs. 052511- After an unfortunate hiatus, the quest to Save the G** D*** World is scheduled to resume today. Now where the hell am I? Why's it so dark in here? WHAT THE F!!!?! 053111- Lessons learned while questing in the name of Saving the G** D*** World: Caves suck. I don't mean kinda sucks like, "Oh, man! I got all the way down to the video store and they're closed today! That sucks." No, I mean sucks like, "OH MY GOD, A GIANT NINJA WEREFROG IS EATING MY HEAD AND DROWNING MY GIRLFRIEND!" 060211- Crap. So after I find the Professor and bring back his assistant, he sends me off to find some metals he needs in order to repair the aforementioned leaky submarine required to further my ultimate aim of Saving the G** D*** World. Where do I find these metals, I hear you ask? In caves. Three separate mother*cough!*ing CAVES! And after raiding said caves(an endeavor of several hours per cave) I still don't have enough! In conclusion, I need a sidekick I can send out to do the necessary b****work called for in the course of Saving the G** D*** World. 060311-Son. Of. A. *WHIPCRACK!*. (Yes, I'm aware that none of the above are complete sentences. Shut up.) So yesterday I gathered six out of the seven necessary pieces of metal to finish the sub I need to Save the G** D*** World. The last piece I needed was in the possesion of a king. How do I convince the king to hand it over? Do I explain how I'm trying to SAVE THE G ! ! D ! ! ! WORLD?! Noooo... I have to dive into another (*space truck*)ing cave to find a purple newt to make the king something to EAT! (who the hell would want to eat a purple newt anyway?!) The Fate of the G-- D--- World is in my hands, AND I'M MAKING DINNER FOR THIS ###HOLE!!! ... So anyway, the king makes with the metal after dinner (I raided the (*Smucker's*) treasury while I was at it) and I hurry back to the Prof's lab to finish the submarine. As I step through the door, I'm immediately accosted by one of the Prof's lackeys, who informed me that, not only is the Prof NOT here, the abominable TWERP left for the pirate island. Just to make sure we understand one another here- this islet is about 40 meters square. The only thing on the islet is a tower owned and operated by pirates(hence it's name- THE PIRATE ISLAND!). WHAT THE F(bomb) WAS HE THINKING!? So now, instead of continuing on in my quest to Save the G** D*** World, I'm off the rescue the professor. Again. F(bob omb). 06/04 - 06/13: on hiatus- The Haps(or, a short synopsis on events during the off time): Killed the pirates, saved the Prof, was too busy worrying about Saving the G** D*** World to give a damn why he (the Prof) was there (on the pirate island)in the first place, went back to the shop, fixed up the sub, raided underwater caves(much cursing and gnashing of teeth ensues), spent some time with three of the four horsemen, horsemen make worrisome claims about my girlfriend's parentage, and finally returned to the Prof's workshop to receive another pointless fetch-quest that accomplishes nothing but to delay my Saving the G** D*** world. Now that we're back up to speed: 061411- Huh. I had a feeling this wouldn't be quite as simple as I hoped- while traversing the latest in a seemingly unending series of caves, I started getting a sinking feeling when all of the items I pulled out of the chests scattered about were "dragon" somethings or other- dragon tooth, dragon egg, dragon claw, etcetc. Am I surprised to find a living, (fire)breathing dragon at the bottom of the cave? Bummed out, maybe- and resigned- but no, not surprised. 0615-062311- Slew the aforementioned dragon, got the item the Prof wanted, ran back to his lab to fork it over. Turns out I was so busy not giving a crap about what the Prof had to say that I was surprised when he announced that with the use of the item I procured from the dragon, my submarine was now a flying machine- which is unexpectedly useful, considering the big bad guys are presently chilling out on a floating island fortress. Of course, as I attempt to board their floating island fortress, my airship is batted around like a cat toy by some kinda magical air shield, rendering my shiny new airship useless. Thanks for yet another pointless delay, Prof. So how am I expected to get aboard the floating island fortress(if I keep referring to it that way, I'm going to need to start capitalizing it)? By climbing the tower conveniently placed underneath the floating island fortress. How do I get to the tower conveniently placed underneath the Floating Island Fortress? You guessed it! Through a series of underground caverns(also known as CAVES! MOTHER! (Love)ING! CAVES!). 062411- Lessons learned while questing in the name of Saving the G** D*** World Volume 2: Teleporters-contrary to their very nature- are not timesavers. More often than not, a teleporter's sole function(within any self respecting dungeon/tower/cave) is to confuse you, get you lost, and/or waste your time. After climbing the Tower of Teleportation Tiles and dispatching the Horsemens' underling, there's a big flash and I wake up to find both my girlfriend and my Legendary Ancestral Sword have gone missing. Crap. The Floating Island Fortress departs the tower I just spent 2 hours scaling, and now I need to find out where it went. 45 minutes later... Y'know, you'd imagine a giant levitating island would be kinda hard to miss. You'd also be wrong. 25 more minutes later... Oh, this is rich! So during the whole of my Quest to Save the G** D*** World, I've been teleporting in and out of these mysterious shrines inhabited by a Mysterious Old Man(who will henceforth be referred to as MOM) who always has something creepy to say after reminding me of whatever pissant task I'm performing for the Prof or other random blockhead. I haven't mentioned MOM before now because he doesn't piss me off, and has been rather helpful from time to time. Now I come to find out that the whole time I've been popping in and out of the shrine where he's at(always teleporting inside, where the exit doors are locked), he's been on the Floating Island Fortress! So basically, I've been to my final destination about 20 times already, BUT THE OLD FOOL NEVER FELT THE NEED TO TELL ME SO!! Jeez. Well, this is (allegedly) the home stretch, so I'm off to stop the 3 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And my girlfriend. Talk about awkward reunions... [Several hours of dungeon crawling later:] Oh, ho ho- so you bastards brainwashed my childhood sweetheart into being Horseperson of the Apocalypse #4 and smashed a priceless family heirloom/world saving sword to bits, and now you're talking smack? You jokers are destroyed. Way destroyed. [Reforges world saving sword with magical Chutzpah] [Epic clash ensues; fate of the world hangs in the balance] Final score: Saviors of the G** D*** World- 3, Horsemen of the Apocalypse- zip. And my girl has rejoined the winning team- this day ain't turning out too bad after all. O wait, final form battle- the 3 horsemen mash themselves together real good and now I have to fight an Apocalytic Smoothie. Great. [Epic clash, blah blah- fate of the world, blah blah blah] Sweet, sweet victory! Oh yeah! Waaaaaait a minute- so it turns out my girlfriend was, in fact, one of the world ending evildoers in a previous life, and with the death of the Apocalyptic Smoothie, she's doomed, too. This sucks! Jeez... I'm gonna take a walk. (One year later) [Walking into a random town] Christ, my feet are killing me... hey, look- it's deus ex mach- I mean, it's MOM from a few paragraphs up! Who's that he's got with him? It's my girl! And she looks suprisingly well for a girl who's been dead for a year! She doesn't remember me(or anything else), but the BGM is cheery, and we're fading to black! Woohoo...! THE END

An Open Letter to the Big Three.

Hi fellas, I just wanted to tell you guys little story. I was just playing my unnamed current generation home gaming console when it overheated. I had foolishly placed my beloved current generation gaming console in a confined space with little ventilation. I attempted to shut the console down when the screen on my TV dissolved into colored squiggles- it was ugly. But that was my own fault. The reason I related that story is this: you guys all have on screen notifications on your current systems, right? For things like when friends get online, or when you receive a message? (Nintendo: I'm sorry, I'm not sure if you're following this part- I never bought a Wii... but I'm loving my 3DS.) Well, in the next generation of consoles, could you add an on screen notification if the system's temperature stays too high for too long? I'm sure adding such a thing would be pretty easy to you fellows, and even if it's only helpful to meatheads like me, I'm sure we'd really appreciate your consideration here. Thanks for coming by, guys. -El Zorro (P.S. Sega, I haven't forgotten about you, either; I loved my Saturn to death.)

The difference between mobile 'gaming' and handheld/portable gaming.

In this day and age, people often treat the words "mobile" and "handheld"(or portable) as interchangable in regards to gaming platforms. I'm writing this piece to say unequivocally that there IS a difference. A big difference. From the time the gameboy launched 1989, any game system released that ran on batteries(AAs and later built-in rechargable batteries) was called a handheld. With the advent of the PSP, the term 'portable' gained wide usage as well. And then came along the iPhone and Android telephones. Mobile gaming is called such because it began with cellular (or mobile) phones. They employed games like solitaire, or small physics puzzlers; ragdolls in cannons and birds in slingshots. On computers they were called(for the most part) flash games. On computer (as in their current form on cell phones) they're 5 minute timewasters, often with lousy controls due to the limitations of the interface. Now a handheld system, on the other hand, is built to play the games- controls laid out in a logical fashion and games that craft huge worlds and intricate stories. Current handhelds are powerhouses(when compared to their mobile counterparts) with graphics that resemble the end of the previous generation/the beginning of the current generation's. I suppose at the end of the day, it comes down to this: Mobile gaming is to handheld gaming as a Tiger game is to a Gamegear. And if the references made in the above analogy are unintelligible to you, then you are too young to weigh in on such an important topic. Thanks for reading, El Z.
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