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NeonNinja Blog

How your choices can make Dishonored's DLC one of the greatest ever EDIT TRAILER

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Dishonored is one of the best action-adventure games I have ever played. It is a game that fully embraces choice. Not choice through a dialogue system, but choice in how you play. From the fantastic level design to the wide variety of powers that you can utlize. The actions you make ultimately shape the world. But I never thought they would shape a DLC.

I'll be honest, there are only two games where I have actively paid for DLC: Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. The Mass Effect 2 DLC were generally better, you just can't mess with Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, after all, but now having completed BioShock Infinite I want the whole damn series of DLC.

But let's ignore Mass Effect and BioShock for a second here. They both offer what is traditional DLC in games that have very definitive endings. But Dishonored is taking an approach to its DLC that could make it the most interesting piece of downloadable content I could have ever asked for.

The Knife of Dunwall is the story of the master assassin Daud. The man who killed the Empress. As Corvo Attano, you fight against Daud. But you have a choice, kill him for his actions or let him live with the weight of his guilt. This brings up something pretty powerful, because you can play this add-on however you like. You can play it Low Chaos or High Chaos as usual, but it can mean something now. As far as emergent story-telling goes, The Knife of Dunwall could be the greatest add-on we've seen from a DLC perspective.

I allowed Daud to live. A part of me wanted to kill him when he asked for mercy. The narrative in Dishonored is generally weak, but as you play the game, a story unfolds for you based on your actions and that means just as much as a traditionally written tale. I started out killing everyone, and once I saw the effects of my actions on the world I amended. I didn't need to make the world darker. And so as I stood over Daud I let him live based on a lesson I took away from earlier actions of my own, and he carried his guilt with him for the rest of his life.

But we never knew how Daud got to that point. I now have that opportunity. I could play Daud as a non-lethal character who is broken by what he did and hopes to amend. And maybe that was enough to come short of truly dueling Corvo and for him to beg for his life. Or I could play him as a ruthless killer. And maybe he did go all out against Corvo, but as he lost and begged, and as mercy was shown he came to realize his guilt.

And maybe someone else killed Daud. And depending on how they play him, maybe they chose to play him as a character seeking redemption for his murder, only to fall to the hands of Corvo for committing an unforgivable crime. Is there any redemption for throwing a nation into chaos? Or maybe you play him as a ruthless murderer who simply meets his match at a far more ruthless assassin in Corvo.

There is potential here like never before to genuinely enrich the base experience of Dishonored. We all know the fate of Daud as we chose it. Now it's time to learn his story through how we play, and I honestly have never been excited for DLC quite like this before. It will be interesting to see if The Knife of Dunwall will succeed, and it will be interesting to see just how people shape their character. As a tragic figure who must endure the pressing weight of his guilt, or a doomed figure who wrote his own death sentence. The Knife of Dunwall releases in four days, and I intend to find out.


I can't tell which company is more amusing, EA or Square-Enix

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You have to admit, reading the news stories of these two shows just how ridiculously out of touch they are with their fanbases.

EA was voted the worst company in America. Again. And again, it's an over-exaggeration based on internet users' annoyance with them, so it's unwarranted. But apparently, Peter Moore realized that an apology was due in order. So he gets on his soapbox and says they can improve, but that the hate aimed towards EA is based on homophobia, the choice of athlete on the latest Madden cover and the ABSOLUTE MISUNDERSTANDING that the DRM for SimCity is somehow DRM. It's not. Peter said so. It's always online for a very different and valid reason. No one really knows what that reason is, but I like to take the things Peter Moore has to say at face value. So folks, the DRM in SimCity, ISN'T DRM. Although to be fair, I could use a new cover for the next Madden.

Seriously though, homophobia? Yeah, that's a great way to talk to your fanbase after you were voted into the damn contest. Tell them that they're homophobic. And the Madden cover? Does anyone even know who the hell cover athlete is? Who cares? And then that there's a misunderstanding for WHY SimCity is always online, because it's not meant to be a restrictive DRM in any way. Yeah, because on the internet we all eat grass. Peter Moore's "apology" is all you need to see just how out of touch this company is. They're dead set on competing with Call of Duty. They like to talk about the "shooter crown" whatever the f*ck that is, I'm guessing it's massive sales. And the thing is, no one cares about that. Would it kill you to give gamers some new and exciting games that aren't always online, without calling them homophobes? What happened to the EA of 2008? The EA that released visionary titles like Mirror's Edge and a spirtual successor to System Shock 2? The EA that purchased BioWare and had a vision for the future of the role-playing genre. Where are they? Because the current vision at EA is to release sequels to a trilogy that came to a very definitive end.

Whereever that 2008 version of EA is, it's long gone. We're stuck staring at Battlefield 4. Hooray! Not.

And Square-Enix. Holy crapballs, Square-Enix. A restructuring of the company because they're going to be facing a colossal loss? Is that, is that what I'm hearing? OK, it makes sense I guess right?

Actually, not at all. Square-Enix are disappointed by the sales of Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs. Let's take a look at what they have here for a second. A reboot to a classic franchise that genuinely lost its way a long time ago. A sequel to a stealth series that was never really all that popular. And of course a rebranded game that was meant to be the sequel to True Crime, a game no one on this planet cared about. Not the highest pedigree, right?

Yet, miraculously, each game received quite a bit of praise. And they sold a ton. Tomb Raider sold about 3.5 million, Hitman sold about 3.5 million, Sleeping Dogs sold just under 2 million. Those are a lot of games sold. And let's be real, those are massive sales. Let's view Uncharted 2 as an example here. It's one of the highest scoring games of this gen at a 96 on Metacritic, it's considered a killer app for Sony and their premier first-party title right now. Uncharted 2, in two years, sold 5 million copies. UNCHARTED 2.

I know, I know, it's exclusive. So let's take a look at Portal 2, which released in 2011. It took a year for Portal 2 to hit 4 million in sales. It has a 95 on Metacritic.

So Square-Enix, with their raggedy ass bunch of unlikely games that managed to be hits in their own ways are disappointed by those sales numbers. Tomb Raider is considered the fastest-selling Tomb Raider ever released. You're telling me roughly 3.5 million on that game isn't enough in a month, but 4 million for Portal 2 in a year is fine.

What's absolutely hilarious is that Square-Enix NEVER, NOT ONCE, mentions their Japanese devs. Oh, you guys lost money? Nah, it's cool, just pretend like Final Fantasy XIV never happened. You know, it's not like you released an expensive dud and then decided to go back and overhaul it to re-release it. That's cool.

Let's pretend like the travesty with Final Fantasy XIII never happened. I like Final Fantasy XIII, but so many people hate that game that the decision to release a DIRECT SEQUEL to it had to be one of the worst ideas tossed around. And it sold less than Final Fantasy XIII. But aside from FFXIII's ending not leaving ANYTHING open for a freaking time-travel story, you decide to not end the damn game and now Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is going to release. Are you for real? A sequel to a sequel that no one liked to a game that no one liked is going to be released, and that's not to blame for your issues as a company? Sales of Tomb Raider for whatever reason are to be blamed.

And don't get me started on Final Fantasy Versus XIII. That game's a total loss. And Kingdom Hearts, what happened to that? In 2006 Square-Enix was on top of the world. They had Kingdom Hearts II and Final Fantasy XII release to a ton of praise and fanfare. We never got Kingdom Hearts III. It's been seven years. Should that game be announced I fully expect half the world to roll their eyes and move on. And while I understand that every FF game is different, it's very obvious that FFXIII was not a hit with critics or consumers, so move on to the next game. I don't understand why there were two sequels to it. I don't understand why FFXIV was released as such a busted game to begin with and then was overhauled to, I guess still suck.

None of that is to blame for Square-Enix's losses. It's instead the sales in North America of Tomb Raider, Hitman and Sleeping Dogs. That is some serious denial on their part. Sleeping Dogs is a great game. I'm sure Tomb Raider and Hitman have their own merits, but expecting higher sales for three games that have had tarnished legacies in the past is silly. If anything all three of these games should be considered absolute successes. Instead we're stuck with these guys blaming North American sales of these games rather than looking at their overblown JRPGs that have brought little to no merit to the genre this gen.

When they develop a new IP, they develop crap like The Last Remnant, which is just a poor excuse of an RPG. And then they spend their time creating an expensive target video for what their games should look like on some new engine without a game to show off. Yeah, great target video guys. We're all impressed over here and can't wait for Final Fantasy XIII-3 and Kingdom Hearts: Eternal Dreaming Mouseketeers 2.

I really can't tell which company is more out of touch. But it's amusing to see these former giants lumbering around. Meanwhile in Japan, Atlus are kicking JRPG ass all over the place and then we have Square-Enix who haven't released a proper JRPG since 2006. In other parts of the world we have 2K Games who can look at the sales of Spec Ops: The Line and say, "We don't care if it didn't sell amazingly well, we need more games like this." Who can go and release a BioShock Infinite without any multiplayer and a focus on narrative regarding choice (don't argue with me). And then, we have EA who are incapable of understanding what the people who are willing to pay for their games actually want.

Both are out of touch and both are making me laugh more than I should since according to one their JRPGs are not to blame and according to the other I'm a homophobe who's pissed at the Madden cover and has no understanding of what always-on DRM actually is.

Yeah, I followed up BioShock Infinite with Evoland. Sue me.

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Well, that happened. I bought, downloaded, installed, played and completed Evoland today. The way I say that, you'd think all I did was play videogames all day. NOT THE CASE! Evoland just happens to be three hours long and 78MB. It's fun enough, but nothing memorable. You can read the review here if it interests you.

It's hard to follow up a game like BioShock Infinite. The general consensus is that it's a good game. Some people say it's too narrative focused and not enough on gameplay, others say it's the best shooter released in half a decade, others say it's anti-Christian. One of those three is a lie, the other two are acceptable opinions and anything that falls in between them is also acceptable.

I'm going to go off into the adventure genre, I guess.

The Longest Journey is supposed to be a classic, and I did pitch in for the Kickstarter to the third game in the series. I also have Sam and Max, which I hear is funny, though nowhere near as good. Not sure which I'll start with, but I'm installing both right now.

BioShock Infinite captures a sense of wonder missing from the FPS (SPOILER FREE)

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BioShock Infinite is not the game that I thought it would be, nor is it the game that I wanted. Before diving into this shooter a few things need to be made clear: BioShock Infinite has very little of importance to say on the matters of racism and racial purity, overzealous nationalism and religious extremism and the various social issues that are present in the game. They are merely window dressing in order to tell a character-based fantasy story. They have their moments in the narrative, but are far from the main focus. For those who may have held onto the hope that BioShock Infinite would make a significant social statement, temper your expectations.

But as soon as that disappointment wore off, the game had me. Those that are looking for the best first-person shooter released to market in years are going to be in for a treat, and should also avoid reading everything there is on this game until they complete it. Cast as Booker DeWitt, you begin the game with a goal, "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt," and an unimaginably beautiful place, Columbia, the city in the sky. Both that opening line and the city are two of the driving forces behind the game. BioShock Infinite is a game of absolute cohesion, and it never breaks from what it sets out to do.

When you first land on Columbia a sense of sheer wonder begins to flood over you as you explore the city and take in the sights. Exploration is ultimately so enjoyable that I found myself wishing that BioShock Infinite was a non-combat game, and instead a puzzle-based adventure where I could explore the sights, rescue the girl, use vigors to help get us out of the city with wits, and deal with the racist population and their extreme religious views. I wanted ammunition to be limited so that if I had to kill someone it would take a toll on Booker and Elizabeth. That fantasy of the game I wanted quickly came to an end of course, as I was typically forced to view the world of Columbia down the barrel of a gun. You get what you pay for however, its hard to condemn a first-person shooter simply for being a first-person shooter, and BioShock Infinite is one of the best in years.

The quality of exploration is spectacular, all due of course to the magical feel of Columbia. But the same issue arose in the first BioShock, where exploring Rapture was a joy, but combat was rather dull. Thankfully that is not the case this time around. BioShock Infinite is a spectacular combat experience that has you utilizing your weapons, vigors, gear that you have found and the verticality of the battlegrounds to defeat your opponents.

As with any first-person shooter, the main method of combat will likely come by firing your weapons. Most of the guns have two weapon types with the exception of the RPG and Sniper Rifle. I did however have certain preferences, so it was nice to have the ability to run with a machine gun that I actually enjoyed using. The shooting is nowhere near as floaty as in the first BioShock, this time around it feels weightier and more substantial. Weapons have the ability to be upgraded just like in the first game, although this time around the design of the guns does not change into the elaborate models of the first game.

Vigors, essentially Plasmids from the first BioShock, are an important part of combat as well. You can play the game without really using them, but it would be unwise to do so. There are eight vigors in total that allow you to possess enemies, use the elements, and for reasons unknown, launch crows from the palm of your hand. Each of the vigors can work in tandem with one another, for instance, shocking mechanical enemies with electricity to stop them, while possessing a rocket turret that will blast them from behind is as cool as it sounds.

Gear is a little off in BioShock Infinite, however. For reasons that never make any sense, you can wear pants, hats and other articles of clothing that will aid you in combat. Sometimes by letting you reload faster, other times by causing a fiery explosion every time you land from a skyline. It is an immersion breaker; however, you will quickly find your favorites and stick to them. There are many variations to be found, for instance, those more focused on aiming down ironsights will prefer a hat that gives them added damage when they aim, but gives reduced damage when they fire from the hip. None of the gear is upgradeable so it is simply a matter of finding the pieces that work with your playstyle.

The most impressive part of combat however is the level design. Skylines connect various parts of the game world together and let you get a jump on your enemies or escape from difficult situations to catch a breather. Enemies can be above or below you, not just in front of you, and dealing with that verticality is the key to survival. However, you are not the only one who can use the skylines, so be prepared for a few rollercoaster like chases in larger encounters.

Enemy AI is a bit improved from the first BioShock, but much of that is due in large part to the more open level design. Thankfully, enemies do not become more powerful as you progress through the game. This was an issue in the first BioShock where you would shoot an enemy with your shotgun and they simply would not die, despite upgrading the weapon. That sort of level scaling is not present here. Enemies remain the same, so when you upgrade the damage of your weapon, your opponents wont be negating the effects you paid for.

BioShock Infinite also understands when to utilize enemies. The first BioShock had you facing down Splicers and Big Daddies. The Big Daddies were meant to be enemies that would produce a sense of fear, but it ultimately failed because you fought them so frequently. They just felt like beefier opponents, albeit ones with a very sad backstory. BioShock Infinite avoids that hurdle, often forcing merely human opponents and mechanical presidents to do battle against you. But it also saved the imposing enemies for a select few encounters. The use of the Handyman in BioShock Infinite is spectacular. There are only a handful of encounters with this opponent and each of them feels like true mini-boss battles that get you on edge. The design is not nearly as iconic as the Big Daddy, and in terms of narrative they dont necessarily work as well as the Big Daddy, but in terms of gameplay, each encounter with the Handyman is a thrilling battle.

Columbia is a rich and beautiful game world with quite a bit of darkness to it. The beauty of this game lies in how dreamlike the city feels. You almost expect a whimsical journey to take place. The way the clouds float across the city, to the architecture and design of Columbia itself. If anything can be criticized about the game's graphics it is the repeated character models for NPCs. There aren't enough unique bodies and it is a little silly to sometimes see an entire group of characters having a discussion, all with the same character model. Another thing is how every NPC magically disappears during combat, rather than having to deal with the horror of seeing murders take place in front of them. But that is more than made up for with the beauty of the environments you will explore, as well as the beautifully animated Elizabeth, who simply comes to life on-screen.

BioShock Infinite also has some of the finest sound mixing and editing that I have heard. Most games in the genre tend to go for explosions, but BioShock Infinite utilizes audio throughout the game perfectly. In one scene you are trying to talk to a teller to get tickets to an airship. But as the conversation progresses, the music and dialogue die down and the ticking of the clock picks up. The audio mixing creates a sense of place, and most importantly, paying attention to the audio will begin to give you clues to the narrative as well. BioShock Infinite is a game that is at its best when it is listened to, and this rarely applies to the majority of videogame releases. Combine this with one of the most beautiful soundtracks composed for a shooter and BioShock Infinite is an absolute joy to listen to.

BioShock Infinite is a game best played at your own pace. While combat is fast-paced, the explorative gamer will see and hear things that the objective-focused gamer will miss out on. The audio logs are spectacular, the kinetoscopes are fantastic pieces of propaganda and seeing and hearing each of them is vital to enriching an already fantastic experience. Average playtimes of BioShock Infinite seem to take about twelve hours, however, my playthrough took almost twenty hours, and I still missed out on some of the kinetoscopes and audio logs. If you have not played the game, than by all means, avoid reading any of the discussions on the game, avoid listening to overly excited friends who want to boast about what they have experienced, and just go dark. It is the best way to experience BioShock Infinite. While it is a shame that the narrative is not the meaningful experience I had hoped it would be, it still provides an excellent fantasy story that will have you hooked to see more of it, and almost without a doubt, ready for a second run through it all again.


Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut Complete

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Beat Citadel and saw the Extended Cut endings for the first time.

Citadel is hilarious. The plot is almost non-existent. It literally serves as a way of getting the ENTIRE team involved and to crack jokes at the inept enemy they're dealing with. It's the most light-hearted DLC to the Mass Effect series, and while not the greatest DLC the series has seen, that honor goes to Lair of the Shadow Broker, it is a funny and entertaining piece, that while clashing with the overall tone of Mass Effect 3, still provides a good bit of fun due to the fanservice. It exists to make you laugh and see your crew in full force. The lighter side of Shepard is hilarious as well, and the crew always feels in control of the situation, despite what the enemy may think. It's total cheese. But it's the best kind of cheese.

As far as Mass Effect 3 goes, when I first the beat the game I avoided the Extended Cut because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. At the end of the day I thought the ending was fine. Nothing that should have caused the uproar that it did. In fact, the ending does everything the series set out as your goal: stop the Reapers. You do that.

Some people call it a deus ex machina, but I disagree with that. Now, after having seen Mass Effect 3's Extended Cut endings again, they add to what was already there. Some narration and all that helps a bit to understand your choice. But ultimately, Mass Effect 3's endings are actually compelling in that it feels alien, and would you have it any other way in that series? It explains things, as best as it can for you, in a way that makes sense but still feels foreign.

Some say there is no choice, but Mass Effect 3's ending choices are based just as much on selecting one as it is based on your personal beliefs. There's that inner-American in me that always compels me to select one ending over the other three. It's the one that feels right to me. And the differences are expressed very clearly. Sure, you make a predetermined choice, but the effects are big changes between the three and it just feels like people are bitter because they wanted different cutscenes or something.

Mass Effect 3's ending leaves much to interpretation and I can't help but think that so many people just wanted an ending where their FemShep and Liara got together and had blue babies for the rest of eternity. What I got trumps that. It's a hell of a trilogy and later on I will be starting a third playthrough from the first game. I might just start as a female Shepard this time, or maybe another male. All I know is I want to play a Tech character for the third time around. I played twice as a Vanguard, Sole Survivor (of course), but this time I'll be going for something else. Maybe Sentinel, Earthborn, Renegade. Might be an interesting combo.

I did have the benefit of playing Mass Effect 3 without any data carried over from Mass Effect 1 and 2. This provided a dramatically different game. And while people will deny this saying that "oh, the quest goes on without that guy, so it's the same damn game" the answer is no. Everything feels different just by the presence of a single character. It provides dynamism to the experience, and this second playthrough was the first time that I really saw all of my decisions carry through.

The fault of it all is obviously because I played the series on Xbox, but once mine broke I picked up Mass Effect 3 on PC. But with a proper playthrough done, I have to say, this is a spectacular series that I will look back upon very fondly. Stupid, self-entitled fans be damned, Mass Effect 3 kicks more ass than any other sci-fi game on the market.

And now, the time has come. FOR BIOSHOCK INFINITE.

I'm about to dive (well, fly) into it. This is a game that I'm hoping is as great as it looks. I hope I'm not left disappointed by it. But even so, it's ambition is enough to catch my attention. There's a lot of ridiculous praise being tossed around by some guys (like lightwarrior) and while I have refrained from actually reading anything about it or watching anything, it has helped a bit to keep my expectations as my own. I'm well aware of the high metascores, but BioShock stands at a 96 and I would never put that game so high. So the numbers are meaningless. But I do expect a cool game. So hopefully it lives up to my expectations. And if not, well, there's a replay of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 with my name on it to make up for any bitter aftertaste that might remain.

Of course, I'll be starting on Hard. Cuz I'm on Neon-frakking-Ninja and that's how I play shooters.

BioShock Infinite and why children's games will likely top my Steam numbers

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Got a gift card to Amazon. Bought Infinite. BAM! nbd

Still need to finish Mass Effect 3 before I go through Infinite though. I only have one more DLC and the endgame to go through, so it would be stupid to leave that behind and start a new game.

I also realized that when the family children visit they tend to play the same game: Sonic Generations. Now that I have Rayman Origins, and they're totall playing that too... well, it looks like children's games are going to top my Steam list of most-played games. XD

Kind of a bummer, but whatever.

Hope everyone had a great Easter.

Only on Omega

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I just beat Mass Effect 3's Omega DLC. It's a fun add-on. A little too action-focused. As fun as Mass Effect's combat is, three straight hours of it with little to no character exploration kind of goes against what the series is about. Still have no clue who Nyreen is outside of the basics that she told me. And I still have no idea who General Oleg Petrovsky is other than, he took over Omega and I beat him.

There is one thing that bothered me: fear. Or the lack of it.

A new enemy was introduced, based on Reaper tech. They are the Adjutants. Apparently, they're supposed to be badass motherf*ckers. And yet, I'd fight four or five of them at a time and take them down. Apparently, they could kill people and then change them into more adjutants. But the DLC doesn't do this heightened sense of fear any justice. Some of the characters are scared, but there's a disconnect when one character tells another that they fight differently in combat against those adjutants, as if they're terrified of them and can't move. That'd be fine if that same character wasn't standing knee deep in adjutant guts with me.

It is to my understanding that the Omega DLC was done by another studio, not the main team at BioWare. For a first effort I guess it's fine, but ultimately Mass Effect 3 proper introduces fear on the battlefield much more believably, namely with the Banshees. They screech before they arrive on the battlefield and they're a pain in the ass to fight (in a good way). Granted, Mass Effect as a series never really went for that sense of fear, so much as awe. But the point is that in this DLC these monsters are hyped as something fearsome, but they're only cannon fodder.

Some games have nailed a sense of heightened nervousness or fear really well. Resident Evil 4 nailed it in every situation. From the start, to the boss fights. There was one fight I remember that you had to run away (unless you froze the guy, but that was on my second playthrough) and you just had to book it or you were dead as hell. Or whenever the damn chainsaw guy showed up, or if there was two... oh man, you were on edge, ready to fight. Or the first experience with the Berserker in Gears of War, or the first experience with the Big Daddy in BioShock. Or when you first met the Flood in Halo. There's a sense of panic and excitement when you face those enemies because it works in the game design. But when characters discuss how frightened they are of these things and yet they swarm you a dozen at a time and go down with two shotgun blasts, there's a major disconnect between the player and the game.

Anyway, it was an interesting return trip to Omega, though the highlights of finding Mordin or the Archangel (MAH ROAD DOGS!) in Mass Effect 2 are a far cry from what was on offer in 3's DLC. If you're as big a fan of Mass Effect 3 as I am, you likely purchased the DLC just to see what's up, but really, it adds nothing of significance to the journey. Just a 3 hour long shootout that doesn't explore the characters present.

As I finish up my Mass Effect 3 playthrough, I'll also be going through the Citadel DLC, which I've heard much better things about. Apparently, same team as Omega, so it will be interesting to see how that piece turns out.

Dear Square Enix, what the hell is THAT!?

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Is that.... Final Fantasy FIVE there on the App Store. Today?

Talk about your stealth launch, man.

Now I just need to get into a JRPG mood before getting it. Still need to finish The World Ends With You, after all. But it's hard to care about mobile RPGs when I'm still thinking of BioShock Infinite every damn day. It doesn't help that some of you disgusting peasants are playing it and all I see on my damn Steam activity is "psn is playing BioShock: Infinite, DarkLink is playing BioShock Infinite" you know what? Screw you guys. Screw you!

In other news, Tomb Raider is already on sale. $37.49 at the moment on Green Man Gaming. Just saying. This is why I haven't bought Infinite yet. As much as I want it, and as much as I'm dying to play it, $60 or $50 is too much when the damn game prices drop after the first month.

And Square-Enix's Hitman: Absolution is $10 for the weekend. That's been out for like 3 months or something. I'm just saying, me and $60 don't get along with the way game prices work.

But dat Final Fantasy V. I like. I'll get it later in the year. I'm in "new game" mode right now. Plus I don't want to stare at a tiny screen right now, so there's that too. BUT FINAL FANTASY V STEALTH LAUNCH, SO SOON!

I can't contain my anticipation for BioShock

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I'm not paying $60 for it. I have other things I can spend that sort of money on. I've spent about $30 on videogames in 2013 thus far, purchasing:

Total War: Shogun 2 Collection for $12
Rayman Origins for $6
Dragon Age II for $6
Hard Reset for $5
Noitu Love 2: Devolution for $2

And I was gifted a copy of Frozen Synapse by lightwarrior.

But I really, REALLY want BioShock Infinite. The shooter genre has grown stale since the glory days of 2007 when Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Crysis, BioShock, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and many more games each provided unique gameplay experiences. Compare that to now. The vast majority of shooters have adopted the style of the most popular game out of that batch from 2007 and we've all been dealing with a genre that has not been impressing very much.

Yeah, Vanquish is an adrenaline rush, Spec Ops: The Line is an important game and apparently FarCry 3 is the first true successor to FarCry and Crysis (the irony should not be lost on anyone). But few exceptions aside, like the named games, ARMA and a few others, we have mostly been stuck in a rut.

While I had a few problems with BioShock after playing it, I did admire the risks taken to try something new. And it's not hard to continue to admire what Irrational are attempting with Infinite. But it looks better, with large-scale battlefields and a living city, rather than the empty halls of Rapture.

I've dealt with my fair share of disappointments in the shooter genre. Rage, while fun to play, was not the game-changer it very clearly could have been had Id focused on fleshing out its various pieces. And that's just one case of a great shooter that really could not challenge the norm set by Call of Duty. But for some reason I really doubt that I will feel disappointed in BioShock Infinite. The more I see of it, the more I want it. I'm likely going to avoid reading everything there is about it because I don't want a story-focused game ruined for me. But I'm also not going to rush out to the store tomorrow to buy it (also because I work tomorrow, but that's besides the point, I could buy it digitally and preload it).

I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'll either give the first BioShock a spin to see how I feel about it. Lord knows I've been giving games second chances after hating them and coming away with a far greater appreciation for what they offer (Mass Effect 2 anyone?). I've also given some games second chances and realized I was dead on about how unremarkable they were (Quake 4 anyone?). But I'm curious to know if six years after playing it, I'll come out of BioShock with a greater appreciation for what it offered rather than the 17/18 year old that played it and just wanted sharper gunplay out of it. Time does change how we view certain games (again, Mass Effect 2, anyone?).

Speaking of second chances, that's why I bought Dragon Age II. I initially wrote it off as a stupid and unnecessary sequel. Than I read lightwarrior's criticism of how it basically was that... go figure. But something struck me about the game. The fact that it attempted something new with its narrative. That the game focused more on character and less on "we have this rich backstory, but hey, go kill the big dragon monster and save the world!" And that's interesting. It could still suck ass, but it's still interesting and something I'd like to see first-hand.

I also want to play Noitu Love 2: Devolution and Rayman Origins as well. I played a bit of Rayman on the Wii and was floored with how well made it was. I bought the PC version as soon as it went on sale. And Noitu Love 2's bullet-hell inspiration for a 2D platformer did not go unnoticed by me. I love great platformers and so I'll likely give these two a spin sometime soon, along with BioShock. I'll just have to focus on which platformer I want first, I guess.

After BioShock I'm not sure what I'll do. Maybe Frozen Synapse and see if I can start diving further and further into the strategy genre. And yes, this is a thing that changed with time in a way. I used to avoid the genre all together. Now I've spent money on a Total War game, my first Total War game since the first Shogun was released.

As close to perfect as any game can come

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When was the last time that a game based entirely on stealth was released? Certainly not Metal Gear Solid, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or even Dishonored. In these games stealth tends to be an option, but not a requirement to survive. And so it is that Klei Entertainment have released one of the few, true stealth games of this generation with Mark of the Ninja. The game's design in every aspect from audio to visual to level design is so well-done that by the end of the experience you will be hard-pressed to have a legitimate complaint about the game.

Mark of the Ninja is one of the most intelligent games released in a long time. The game is set on a 2D plane with linear levels and yet there are various paths that you can take to your destination and even more ways to figure out how to solve your problems with the gear you carry. Mark of the Ninja never patronizes the player, it is a game with a set of rules and you play by those rules throughout. Each section plays like a challenge room, or a puzzle of sorts. There are guards, switches, lights, lasers and booby traps. How do you want to solve the problem to continue? And the decision is yours. The game is about you exploiting your environments to your advantage with the equipment you have and the abilities you choose to invest in. Avoid detection and go for the highest score you can, unlocking more and more rewards as you play through the game.

Mark of the Ninja does not punish players for choosing to play lethally or non-lethally. Those who choose to avoid detection will be given less points in-game, but there is a large no-kill bonus that evens out the score, while those that play lethally will be able to score points for each kill and for hiding the bodies (if it warrants being hidden).

Across the dozen or so levels the game offers, the design never falters. There is nothing that feels unfair, nothing that feels poorly paced and nothing that feels out of place. Even the boss battles, few as they are, which felt jarringly out of place in a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, are treated like environmental puzzles in Mark of the Ninja. How can you dispatch certain foes to use the environment to kill an opponent, whether a boss or an elite enemy? Do you choose to hide? Distract guards with your gear? Sneak behind enemies and silently kill them? The options for each encounter in this game are numerous.

The game's characters and story serve only as the glue to connect each level, but never elevate beyond anything more than that until the final scene. But waiting that long takes away any true narrative impact that could have been felt. But this is a game steeped in player input, not story-telling and so Mark of the Ninja does not suffer for what it never presents to you.

Mark of the Ninja is the true definition of an interactive audio-visual piece of entertainment. Control is always in the players hands, but it uses its visuals so expertly to let you know at any given point in time when an enemy can see you, when you will be hidden and when you will be exposed. There is never any confusion about that and it is thanks to the expert art design. The art itself is also rather nice to see in motion, with sharp animation reminiscent of cartoons like Samurai Jack. The art style is wonderful, but it is elevated to higher levels in how well it is used to convey information to you at any given point in time.

The visuals combine with the audio as well so you always know when you are too loud, when an enemy can hear you, when a device will be able to sense you, etc. The music works perfectly, never getting in the way of what you need to hear, but always at just the right pace to get you going for different situations.

Mark of the Ninja stands not just as one of the greatest stealth games ever released, but it is an achievement in game design executed so well that it might as well be called perfect, and if not perfect than at least as close to perfect as any recent game has come in years.