Video Games I've been playing over the last year...

2018 has been a busy year for me and I’ve not had much time to play, let alone write about games.. Generally, it has been a mixture of interesting old games that I’d been meaning to revisit and newer games that I’d picked up for a bit of light entertainment to kill some time.

Although this is not quite a “2018 year in Review”, it should give a flavour of some of the games that have been on my radar…

Final Fantasy XII - The Zodiac Age

I picked this up as I’d played and loved the original FF12 but never actually managed to complete it, getting stuck at a particularly bothersome boss fight when it was first released and then, I think, moving to London without my PS2. This version of the game is excellent however and , while I’ve not completed it yet, have thoroughly enjoyed playing through it. The story is as strong as ever and the adjustments made (such as to the jobs board) are welcome additions. In fact, I’d say this is the most enjoyable polishing of a game that I can recall playing as it retains all of the originals charm and structure but enhances key points for a modern audience. Basically, if you like FF games and want to invest 30hrs (for the main quest) or more hours in a huge, deep game, then you’ll not go wrong with this. It is very much a JRPG, but that is no bad thing.

Titanfall 2

I picked this up on the cheap on the basis that it was meant to be a super fun shooter with a great core concept. Sadly, after playing it for 40 mins or so, I got bad motion sickness and had to stop playing. All I really got to experience was the (very slow) introduction and some light combat. It did’nt feel a game that was well suited to me, but I was willing to progress with it, until the motion sickness kicked in. I’ve probably given up on this for now.

Far Cry 3

As with TitanFall 2, I picked this up for cheap when I was at a loose end one weekend. Within an hour I knew this was not my sort of game - its all a bit too silly and the combat too cartoonish, feeling like you’re shooting dummies. Again, I am aware that I barely played the game but this feels very much like a mistaken purchase as I prefer my combat games tight, tense and tactical, in the mould of MGS or Resident Evil. This felt too bombastic and, well silly, for me to really invest time in. It’s been put to one side for now…

Elite Dangerous

Elite is, undeniably, a great game. It sets out to simulate solo space travel across our galaxy and asks questions about how you would handle inventory management, space pirates, building a reputation and exploration. The game has an amazing choice of ships, a huge variety of stations and planets to visit and jobs for you to complete for credits and reputation. It feels like an endless game. I invested what I thought was quite a lot of time into this game (easily 25 - 30 hrs), and realised that I was getting basically nowhere fast. A bit of research led me to conclude that this was the intention - the game was all about the grind and slow burn building of a reputation and connecting with other pilots. I kept playing and eventually gave up as I found myself asking the question “am i having fun?”. The answer was “yes, but not enough”. I genuinely loved the game concept but could not quite get the same level of love for it’s execution.

Maybe I’ve missed something, but as wonderful a game as it is, I was left feeling like i was POURING time into it with very little to show for it. Still, it did feel amazing to see the improvement in my ability to dock a ship! What started out as an impossibility became second nature eventually…

Pillars of Eternity

Often referred to as Loading times of eternity, this crowd funded baldurs gate esque game was a lot of fun, purely for nostalgic purposes. It also has an intentionally high difficulty level. Great story, great characters, great tactical battles and beautiful locations. Well worth playing, if you can stick the loading times which are LONG.

Shadow Tactics

Now, this is an excellent game, of which I’ve completed all but the last mission. If you remember the Commando’s game for the PC, then think of that, but in Japan. This game has a great story, beautiful graphics and reasonably deep gameplay. You command up to 5 characters in large maps, giving them commands to manipulate enemies and your environment towards certain objectives. Generally, you’re given a range of options as to how you may want to solve the problem and, it is up to you to decide how to execute (quite literally). The mission settings are varied and quite innovative. Each of the characters you control with unique skills and weaknesses. If yo want actual Tactical Espionage Action, this is a great game.

My only criticism is that he game is not really as deep as it first seems. By Mission 10, I had a fully matured approach to the levels and, generally speaking, i could follow this approach and be successful in completing the levels, which by the end began to feel samey. Also, the game generally rewards ultra conservative game play over risk taking and something could have been done to limit saving or create bigger consequences for your actions. Still, a great game that is worth picking up.

Other Games - A range I've completed over the years

February 16th 2013

Howdy,

I've actually just completed Jakes campaign in RE6 but given how infuriated I was by the end of it, I am going to hold back on commenting on it and instead, write about something that I have fond memories of. Instead, I've decided to post a list (hey, I love data...) of the games that I know I've completed over the years. I've grouped by consoles and its certainly not exhaustive, but it should give a feel for the games that I know I've finished across at least 3 consoles.  First up are my ps1 games...

PS1
Final Fantasy 7 - 
probably the greatest role playing game of all time. Not for its gameplay, but certainly for its plot, characters and iconic status as one of the genre and console defining games of its era. I've completed it at least 4 times, start to finish and only have fond memories of it. Finest Moment - the moment where you realise, 20 hrs in, that you've only realised that you've scratched the surface of the depth of the game - there really is so much more than meets the eye to the game and only investing a significant amount of time over multiple playthroughs allows you to discover it. (9.5/10)

Final Fantasy 9 - Skipping FF8's rather irritating main character and instead presenting both a plot and cast that even the most hardened JRPG hater could enjoy, here you have a game where the emphasis is on a return to the series roots blended with a real sense of fun and genuine humour. While both FF9 and FF7 have similar plots, FF9 deals the cards, literally on occasions, with a sense of fun and genuine humour that only endears you to its cast. Of course, FF7 holds classic status, but in its own way, FF9 is also a true classic with a great combat system, grand scope and sense of adventure that can be missing from its rather more revered predecessor. Finest Moment - 5 minutes in, when you first see Zidane as a playful rogue and realise that the game aims to maintain the moral complexity and retain the drama associated with previous FF games, without a melancholy leading man. (9/10)

Gran Turismo - the first game i truly grinded through to complete. It took me 8 years, but i got my B, A and A international licence and won every tournament you could. A truly legendary racing game that was more than just a racing game - it was the real driving simulator and ahead of its time. Finest Moment - I defy anyone to watch a GT reply on the PS1 for the first time and not feel astonished. It was the first atempt at not just recreating lifelike racing, but also lifelife spectating on the racing. Bold, ambitious and beautiful, (9/10)

Metal Gear Solid - Not really just a game, probably the first attempt at blending a game and a movie. Sure, the polygon count is a bit too low to make it believable, but the ambition of the game means you forgive so much - including the short time to complete - because it was so enjoyable while it lasted. The game paid homage to its predecessors but did what they couldnt in creating a spy thriller packed with great story and fantastic game play. Finest Moment - There are to many to name, but for me one memory stands out, and its not really one moment. Its the perfect realisation of the character delivered through David Hayters voice acting. (9.5/10)

Resident Evil - Of course, its not the first survival horror game, but having played it recently, I can say that it definitely stands the test of time. The sense of horror, drama and, dare I say it, realism, defined a genre. Its not that the game is realistic per se, but RE tried to create a sense of horror and tension through starving characters of ammo and resources, just as could easily happen. Finest Moment - the hilarious voice acting aside, the game is best remembered for the Mansion Itself - even by todays standards a truly haunting location with superb art and design(9/10)

Resident Evil 2 - Technically a better game than RE1, but it was probably the game that first instigated the series moving in a different direction. What I loved about RE2 was the retention of the horror setting but it upped the ante in terms of action and scale. Finest Moment - the introduction of Leon - what a great character and all around badass. He was more fully developed than the RE1 characters and went on to become a series stalwart. (9/10)

Resident Evil 3 - To be really honest I dont recall much of this game save for the mixing of gunpowder to make some pretty cool ammunition and the Nemesis monster, but it was the last RE game on the PS1 and I have nothing but fond memories of those games. While it was undoubtedly inferior to RE1 and RE2, it at least broadened the sense of terror by moving you into the city and out of the mansion, making it more of a sideways step, rather than a step forward. Finest Moment - Again, I dont remember this particulary well, but defeating the Nemesis sure felt satisfying... at least i recall the sense of satisfaction, if not the battle. (8/10)

Silent Hill - Probably the greatest survival horror game of all time. The convoluted plot, the town to explore and ongoing sense of terror and dread make this as close to a complete horror game on the PS1 as you can get. It had equal measure of puzzle solving, terror and action and Konami delivered a game that was both ahead of its time and trend setting. SH2 and 3 merely built on the fantastic platform SH1 developed. Finest Moment - the fog; an ingenious use of the consoles limitations to improve the experience, rather than limit it. (9/10)

Tenchu - a genuine attempt to deliver 3D stealth based action in a historic setting. Where MGS was all about the plot and characters, Tenchu gave you much more in some respects - large and sprawling environments, a historical setting and varied range of misions and enemies. I loved this game, as much for its realisation of medieval japan as the downright great gameplay itself. Finest Moment - the ending has a genuine heart wrenching moment, but the fact that the game is both difficult and rewarding means that the games setting itself is the finest moment, rather than any standout set piece in particular. Taking a limited console such as the PS1 and bringing medieval Japan to life makes this an all around classic. (9/10)


So there you have it - some of my classic PS1 experiences, I am sure that i have completed more, but the console itself really did punch above its weight, mainly because it had a long lifespan and many creative developers. One of the finest points that proves this is of course that SIlent Hill actually used the limitations to its advantage, but other games werent limited by the console, rather they made the console much more than what it was. It could have been just a games console, instead games like FF7, Gran Turisimo and even RE1 and 2 showed the public that cinematic experiences could become interactive, and not just observational.

DD

Final Fantasy XIII

February 16th 2012

So I bought and played FFXIII after X-mas. I got about 7 hours into it and really, really, wanted to like it, but i couldnt. You see the big problem with the game is obvious - obvious to just about anyone who plays for more than an hour - but incredibly distracting. I often talk about how important fun is, but fun is undefinable and incredibly subjective. When I think of "fun", something I'm thinking about is really just trying to enjoy that game for what it tries to do, what it is and what it genuinely succeeds that. This is why I still play retro games. And, you see, in FFXIII - it tries to be an epic game, steeped in tradition and backstory you can relate to. It hits the mark 9/10 times, but the one big point it misses is that as a game it doesnt want to let you feel in control at any point.

You see, on paper it's great - the characters are funny, the graphics superb and animations delightful. But the genuine interactivity is limited. In fact, it is more than limited, it is deliberately restrictive. Ingames that take time to teach you how to play it, I respect the patience. Some, like Command and Conquer, you need to be taught the mechanics to enjoy the complexity. I get this - and appreciate it. However, Final Fantasy takes this patience to an extreme.

What ends up happening is the game effectively allowing you to push forward for the start of the game. The dialogue is merely observed (and confusing) and the interaction you have with the game focused on making your Avatar move forward unassailed to the next area. Then the game spells out how to have fights. Then various components to combat are taught to you. Then you get to run forward. Repeat over and over.
While I love grinding in FF games, the problem here is that the game has an adult plot, an adult level of complexity to play (eventually) and an adult level of complexity - and yet it treats you like a child. In fact, the nearest analogy I can make to playing it is that it is akin to playing game you have already played before, but the person you are play with insists on explaining all the controls and nuances in great detail. Imagine that - it is incredibly frustrating, feels patrionisng and detracts from your ability to enjoy the actual gameplay. This is the way that FFXIII teaches you to play the game - it layers and labours the point.

What about the 9/10ths i loved? Well, I'm not going to go into much detail but the leading leady is superb. An utterly believable (and flawed) character that carries the bloated early dialogue. Secondly, the scenery is unbelievable. On my 360, which is apparently the graphically inferior way to play the game, the frozen lake in particular was inspired and beautiful.

Finally, one thing that I respected was the fact that the game set out to tell a very specific story (in the way many FF games do so) and was not afraid, even early on, to try and tell it in an interesting way. You get character focused flashbacks, a 13 day countdown and numerous other slightly vague references to time and all this creates an intriguing setting,  great plot, and interesting visualisation ofameloncholy story. I really respected and, on occasions loved it.

Ultimately, beneath the pomp and incredibly inhibiting gameplay, there is a great game. Truly there are glimpses of it, but all too fleeting. To end the post, the funny thing about the game is that I would actually recommend anyone give it a go. It is a very specific kind of game and I can see why people love it, so it is always worth giving it a go. Equally however, I understand and gree with those who criticise the game for its most obvious flaws.

In summary a great game, burried under an inhibited style.

D