Friday, November 21, 2014

Hit and Miss

Fall 2014 has seen it's share of releases that are decidedly of mixed quality.  In some cases the titles nail what they trying to achieve, but in other ways they fumble badly.  Let's take a look at a select list of five such games, shall we?

Hit: The nemesis system works extremely well as a form of emergent storytelling.  Excellent traversal and combat mechanics make interactivity with the system an enjoyable moment-to-moment experience.  Player character death as a narrative device, rather than a failure state, also adds a lot to the overall experience.

Miss: The main plot and back story come across as severely tone deaf with regards to the source material.  Shamus Young over on The Escapist does a good job of summarizing the problem, but suffices to say this game really shouldn't have been set in Middle-earth during the Third Age.

Hit: The look of the environments are a perfect homage to the 1979 classic.  Even new material like the Seegson androids make excellent additions to the setting.  The cat-and-mouse relationship between the player and alien also captures the feeling of the original film really well.

Miss: The directorial focus is off a lot of the time.  It's difficult to summarize in a few sentences, so I'll just offer up a link to the Errant Signal analysis of the game.  It's a good video that articulates the thematic issues that plague what would otherwise be a masterfully crafted experience.

Hit: True to Firaxis tradition, this next entry in the Civ franchise has the just-one-more-turn addiction driven gameplay that makes it such great strategy game series.  Customizable factions are a great feature added to the game, as is the change in local.  The tech web is also fantastic and should be implemented in more 4X games moving forward.

Miss: In some ways the strengths of this total conversion of Civ V are also its weaknesses.  Gone are the distinct real world cultures that gave the game personality, making diplomacy feel hollow.  It's a problem further exaserbated by a weak AI, and, at least until some expansions come out, an overall less robost experience than the previous outing.

Hit: This third person action RPG takes a lot of the mechanics in the Souls series and innovates on them in clever little ways.  It's also an extremely good looking game on the PC.  The story is also less obtuse which (some may dislike, but) I think is a nice change of pace.

Miss: The art direction, while consistent, looks a bit silly given the way the game plays.  What's with all those huge pauldrons?  Is this some kind of "grim-derp" Warhammer Fantasy knockoff or what?  The overall lack of depth reinforces the notion that it's really a Souls clone rather than a distinctly different IP.

Hit: Say what you will about Shinji Mikami, the guy knows how to put together a tension filled experience.  Shortages of health restoratives, ammunition and brain fluid, mixed with constant feelings of lurking dread (even in supposed safe zones) really emphasizes the "survival" and the "horror" of the genre.  The relentlessness of the pacing is also great.

Miss: It goes without saying that survival horror games usually have lame storytelling attached to them, and this is no exception.  A far worse problem though is the lack of optimization.  Granted patches have been released, and still are coming out to address some of the issues, but it's still disappointing to see next gen gaming struggle to meet last gen standards.

If there's one takeaway from the big autumn releases this year, I think it's a good idea to hold off buying the newest titles.  All of the above games are worth playing, just not at full price.  Plus, in some cases the developers might iron out the kinks later on down the road.  Patience fellow video game enthusiasts!  You will be rewarded for you forbearance.

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