Thursday, January 2, 2014

Controversial Opinions

Well, it's 2014 and I thought it would be good to start things off with a bang.  So, what better way to do that with some manufactured controversy.  Rather than settling for something current (like everyone else) lets turn back the clock to previous generations of hardware.  So, here we go...three opinions about games; each increasingly older than the last.

First up, "Xen is the best part of Half-Life."  I think most people were hoping for an orgy of shoot and explosions like what we eventually got in the sequel, but instead had to do a lot of difficult platforming mixed in with a few tough combat encounters.  Yes, it could be frustrating to get through, but that's kind of the point.  The player is supposed to feel helplessly out of their element, trapped in a bizarre alien world filled with incomprehensible flora, fauna and topography.  It's also great because we get to see what's behind the curtain.  The "Boarderworlds" resourcing operation, war machine and command structure are all revealed.  More interesting still the alien commander, "Nihilanth," say a number of interesting things which have yet to be fully explored in the setting.

Going back to the days when a triple speed CD-ROM was considered cutting edge there was a western a western CRPG by the name of Betrayal at Krondor.  It was an innovative game in a lot of respects; 3D open world with a day/night cycle, story driven dialogue trees, and best of all no random encounters. Characters improve via actions taken in-game which is tied to a percentage based skill systems rather than some abstracted leveling up sphere grid.  Locked riddle puzzle chests containing valuable loot are a common reward for exploration.  Combat has some interesting features too in the form of a two tier hit point system.  Characters have a layer of stamina which can be lost without penalty although it cannot be fully restored barring magic or a rest in an inn.  In close combat players have the option of making a weak accurate attack or a powerful inaccurate one.  Ranged combat is also possible thanks to a tactical grid

So, what's wrong with this game?  Simply put...the graphics are terrible, and not in a Dwarf Fortress use-your-imagination kind of way.  The character sprites are poorly animated, badly pixelated scans of pictures taken of really life people wearing what appear to be cheap Halloween costumes.  Cutscenes are mostly text sprinkled occasionally with static character portraits or jerky three or four frames of action (which only serves to underline the wasted potential).  Even the CD-ROM version only improved the quality of the music score without doing anything for the visual presentation.  Conclusion: "Betrayal of Krondor is a great game ruined by awful graphics."

Lastly, is the arcade classic Dig Dug.  This cartoony little action game seems harmless enough, but conceptually "Dig Dug the most horrifying title ever published by Atari."  Think about it...the player's onscreen avatar is a miner exploring the dark, cold and claustrophobic underground by way of a handheld drill.  He can tunnel vertically or horizontally, but has to be careful because certain chunks of hard stone will collapse if undermined.  Resulting in our hero becoming crushed or trapped by cave in.  Worse still there are underground chambers inhabited by monsters which will kill poor dug with a touch or in some cases fire.

So how does he confront these horrors?  With a bicycle pump!  Yes, you read that right.  When Dug comes face to face with some nightmare from the depths he harpoons it with a pump nozzle and proceeds to inflate the creature until it explodes.  In this way Dug can defend himself, but it's very easy for him to get overwhelmed by multiple foes.  Did I mention that if Dug spends too much time underground the monsters will leave their lairs by passing through the earth via some form of osmosis only to reconstitute themselves inside Dug's tunnels.  You might think the danger and dread is worth it if there are enough gold and gems to be found, but that turns out not to be the case.  The only treasure Dug can hope to find is fruit.  Why?  I have no idea.  It would at least make a little bit of sense if it were potatoes or some kind of eatable tuber...I can only conclude that the stress Dug is under has caused him to go insane.

So, there's the three statements I wanted to make.  You might think the last is talking things a bit too far, but I'm not the only one who came to a similar concussion (link to a video containing some harsh language).  Besides, They're just my opinions, controversial as they may be.

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