Monthly Archives: March 2011

Darkspore Open Beta Review

One of the benefits of being a fringe site is that you don’t have to worry about people giving a fuck about your reviews. Major sites can’t really cover the Darkspore open beta on Steam, because EA would throw a fit and demand they review the finished product, not the beta of a game that’s 99% complete. Not so here, folks! As an independent nobody, I can do whatever I want.

I’ll admit, I decided to play the Darkspore beta out of morbid curiosity. I mean, this game is the electronic equivalent of a platypus: a Diablo clone shoehorned for absolutely no reason under the banner of the most disappointing franchise ever launched. And one thing is true: this is obvious, absolute shoehorning; besides using the same character models as Spore did, there is nothing, repeat, NOTHING in common between the two. It is a massive bait and switch.

The irony is that the bait is rancid, but the switch is pretty solid.
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Will the 3DS be relevant?

I wrote, quite negatively, about the Nintendo 3DS a couple months ago, when its lack of launch titles and low battery life were announced. Now that it’s out, we’re hearing that demand isn’t quite as strong as Nintendo would hope. This would be a shame if I didn’t despise the idea of 3D technology. Can’t say I’m not a little gleeful.

We got a chance to play the thing, and…is the 3D important? Will it be relevent? That’s why you go under the cut!
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Are Old Games Good?

It’s a question EA bossman Frank Gibeau asked to CVG, and when important people ask questions, then less important people ask the same questions! The salient quote:

“The key thing for us is, if we do bring [any of those] back, the game has got to be good. I don’t know about you but when I look back at GoldenEye, I think of it as this amazing game and the you go and play it and are like, ‘Oh. Really?’. From our perspective we have to manage that element which makes things look nicer in the rear view mirror compared to what you have to do now in the modern day. ”

Of course, Frankie picked the game most likely to get people to say they agree with him, to a ludicrous degree. He ignored the games that “aged well” and that, therefore, we should be remembering.

As usual, he’s half right. Everyone in the fucking universe is half right half the time. He’s half right: old games can suck, but not all of them.
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Review: Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2 is the oddest bird I have played in ages. It’s what you get when people who really don’t want to be making role playing games make one anyway. It tries to follow the Mass Effect blueprint, by tearing out all the negatives reviewers pointed out in the previous game, distilling the game down to an unadulturated positive experience.

Of course, there is a major difference. Mass Effect was a game with simple, obvious flaws: the combat was a little off, there was too much generic exploration, and the story, while good, featured a lot of characters who were not especially memorable. We can pretty much all agree why Mass Effect wasn’t perfect. On the other hand, if you put ten fans of Dragon Age: Origins in the same room, you would have ten completely different sets of complaints. Some people felt the combat was boring, some felt it was confusing, and others felt it was the best in an RPG in ages. Some people loved the story, the “generic” quest to defeat a horrible evil race, and some people loved the silent protagonist and the complicated dialog system. Others didn’t like those things. Some people liked the scope of the game, others felt the characters were bland and unlikeable.

A lot of the problems with Dragon Age 2 can be traced to the fact that it is a game built to mechanically correct the flaws of its predecessor. As it is, however, I want to go at it in as pure a way as possible, and not compare it to Origins in the slightest. Well, that’s not true. I plan to spend a second or two on it at the end. But it’s very much it’s own beast, and deserves to be tackled as such.

Unfortunately, as such, Dragon Age 2 is a mediocre game that is soulless and forgettable fun.
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The Forgotten: Kirby’s Dream Course

Let’s take a moment to not think about Dragon Age, and talk about a game no one’s ever heard of.

Despite it’s major market branding, you’d be hard pressed to find too many people who’ve played Kirby’s Dream Course. I’d imagine most people wrote it off as Kirby’s awful golf game, and threw it squarely into traffic, where it ran around in a circle and then got hit by a bus.

But I’m going to blow your mind, friends. Kirby’s Dream Course is not only fantastic, not only is it a monumentally excellent game, but it’s also one of the best multiplayer games designed to make your friends completely hate you.
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A Sense of Place

Do graphics matter? Bethesda answered this question a couple days ago, saying if you claimed they didn’t, you’re a liar, and your pants are probably on fire.

Well, I’m not saying that’s wrong, but I’m not going to say it that way. Graphics don’t matter, but visuals do matter. More important than any technical achievement is a narrative achievement, giving the game a sense of place and the player a sense of belonging. More than any horsepowered pyrotechnics, this is the most important step, and why, to go to Bethesda’s back yard, I think The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind is a prettier game than its bloom heavy sequel, Oblivion.
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Dragon Age 2 Impressions

Yes, friends, another impressions post. Obviously, I have not completed Dragon Age 2. Nowhere near it, actually. While I do plan to, in this case, wait until completion and write an actual, honest to god, “serious merits of this title” review, I also wanted to give you, our faithful reader, something of an idea of how the game stacks up.

We’ve picked an auspicious day to do this, though, what with the shit hitting the fan over the EA Accounts devils banning you from playing games and some secret DRM shenanigans. All this adds up to a lot of awkwardness on Dragon Age 2’s part, and we haven’t even gotten to the game yet.

But we will. Oh we will. In bullet points! With a real review to follow.
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Bastion looking swell

One more brief trailer into the breach my friends! Bastion was recently picked up by publisher Warner Bros. Interactive, most likely for one of those fancy “Summer of Live” releases, and had a new trailer released at roughly the same time from GDC. We missed it, in a spurt of Dragon Age 2 and Pokemon related reverie, but now we’re here, and we’ve got the scoop. The days old, completely stale scoop!

But that’s okay, because Bastion is one of those games more and more people deserve to hear about. Made by guys who worked on Command and Conquer games for EA in the past, Bastion is nothing, at all, like that, but instead a stylized top down dungeon crawler a la Diablo 2. Its main selling point, however, is its wonderful aesthetic sense. Like, the game is absolutely charming, and the trailer above will sell it a thousand times better than I can.

And yes, I hate doing promotional type posts, but I make an exception for indies, or when I am absorbed in two 40+ hour long games. Oh, actually three, since Radiant Historia still exists and is a thing.

About Game Reviewing

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Escapist Magazine. That link on our blogroll? My fault. I visit it practically every day to watch their videos (and by the Love of Kefka, those videos can load FAST!). Some of them even excite my mind to the point of warranting a reply in here.

The exception is Lisa Foiles’ Top 5 videos. Until now.

While I enjoy her videos, Lisa hardly ever bring something insightful to the table. Usually, her videos are pure escapism (I SWEAR I looked up at Thesaurus for a synonym, but couldn’t find anything that conveys quite the same meaning!). Lisa is pleasant to look at (although I preferred when she was a brunette), her antics are (very) cute and I am always ready to hear other people’s top 5s just so that I can compare them with my own. But today, I watched Lisa Foiles’s Top 5 Best Celebrity Voiceovers and it irked me in a way akin to the response I have when Extra Credits say something I strongly disagree with.

Obviously, as in any Top Insert-number-here list, Lisa ranks the voice-overs according to her likes. But the thing is that the criterion was not the quality of the voice-over itself, but who the celebrity was. What Lisa did was a “Top 5 Celebrities I Like the Most Who Happens to do Voice-overs for Games”, where she goes on and on about that time she met Andy Serkins rather than explaining what made his voice-over in the game so great.

This got me thinking about one of the biggest issues I have with game critique today and the reason why sometimes I can go out of my way to quote other reviews in my own reviews, so I can explain why something that reviewer said is either right or wrong.

Now, I know I may get a very negative response out of this, but here it is: there is a difference between liking something and that something being great by some artistic merit. That difference can sometimes be hard to spot, but it is there. It is ALWAYS there. Any critic, including game critics, of any worth should know this – and yet so few of them actually do! I can count on my fingers the ones I think they do: Yahtzee, Tim Rogers (if you can ignore his frequent logorrhea, where he tries to pass banalities as if they were thoughtful comments), Thierry Nguyen, Michael Abbott, Jeremy Parish, Samuel Kite are the first ones that pop up in my mind.

“Liking” a game is the emotional connection you have with the artwork. That emotional connection may not involve said artwork’s artistic value – which is something that can be explained, argued and defended. Critiquing something is nothing more than the analysis in order to determinate such value. This is something IGN and Gamespot have never understood, and that Kotaku now has fully eliminated in their new aseptic “reviews” that could very well be written by machines. IGN has a deep problem with being influenced by hype and how big they expect a game is going to be versus how big the game actually is, but much more worrying is how they rate games based only on what they’ve liked. Some of their complaints (and they are complaints, not critiques) are so uniquely theirs, that they have already become perfect excuses for drinking games: one shot whenever IGN complained that Game X lacks voice acting (Does it even need voice acting? Who cares!); two shots when IGN complains Game Y is “wordy” (What does IGN has against reading anyways?). The result is that IGN likes practically everything and then, at the end of the year, it launches a “Disappointments of the Year” list filled with games they have already said they liked – meanwhile the rest of the internet does a collective facepalm. Gamespot, however, is worse. Gamespot doesn’t review games, it just describes them!

People like stuff they know are not great all the time, but they usually think this only happens when they like something that is really, really bad. Superman 64 kind of bad (and in this case they tend to fall into a ‘so bad it’s good’ fallacy, like Jim Sterling did when he reviewed Deadly Premonition (but I forgave him as soon as I’ve read his awesome Final Fantasy XIII mock-review)). However, this is a much more common occurrence than people realize. Take, for instance, Assassin’s Creed II. This is a game I like. In fact, most people do too. However, artistically, Assassin’s Creed II is broken. It’s filled with nonsense idiosyncrasies, a broken plot with missing parts, an ineptitude to understand the theme it tries to carry (brought over by the original game), many superficial and superfluous characters, etc – even though its technical package is sound! The other side of the coin is Metal Gear Solid 2: a game I really dislike – and most people do too! – but is, nevertheless, filled with artistic merit as, in it, Hideo Kojima wove the most cynical commentary on the nature of sequels I have ever seen in any kind of medium.

This, however, is beyond outlets like IGN and whoever believes that “critiquing a game” is just explaining what they like or dislike about it. They will be limiting themselves, saying that Assassin’s Creed II is a greater game than the original (it’s not) because it has a new monetary system or because the player can now swim.

There is more than that, of course. Being able to write a compelling prose will add a lot to your piece. But because  I can’t I have to be content in ending this post like this.

PS.: Hey, Lisa, is it normal to feel creepy when visiting your website? Because, you know… I kinda did.  (Not even your trusted “Import a Russian Wife” website of choice has that many pictures of a woman posing)
PPS.: Also, how tall are you? Just asking…
PPPS.: Nevermind. My wife say I should not ask that. My wife, she very good wife, bakes good goulash for Fernando to eat.

Pokemon Black and White Impressions

Well, I guess I called it, months ago. Welcome to the world of Pokemon, indeed.

I’ve not beaten Black and White; that would be ridiculous. Rather, I’ve sunk a good half dozen hours into the title, and this has given me time to form impressions of the game. Read on, to find out!
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