Indigo Prophecy, A Few Years Late

I make no excuses for the fact that I don’t finish many games I start. I have video game attention deficit, in no part helped by the masses of excellent games that are released one after another. I’ve already fallen way behind the curve from Q4 2009. I have yet to even purchase Modern Warfare 2 or Assassin’s Creed 2, not to mention all the games I already bought but never finished. But all of that was put on hold when I heard about this upcoming game, “Heavy Rain”.

From what I’ve heard about Heavy Rain, the game is basically an interactive movie. You control minute actions of your characters, from opening a door to conversing with people. And every action affects how the story plays out. Sounds cool, right? Then, I come to discover that this isn’t actually the first game like this. The same company, Quantum Dream, came out with a game for the Xbox years back called “Indigo Prophecy”. I debated for a while between buying the Steam version (For about $5) or the Xbox version (For $10). Seeing as the game came out originally for the Xbox, I figured I wanted to be a “purist” and play the game the way it was originally designed to be played.

I spent about all last week playing through the entire game. Didn’t play anything else in between, didn’t switch games at all. Well, okay, actually I played some WoW too, but that’s only because I finally hit 80 and am experiencing what others call “The actual game” for the first time. More on that later. Anyways, I played Indigo Prophecy straight through. Why? Because the story was actually good! The game was creepy as hell, but the plot kept moving along and I wanted to continue to experience it fully. No, the game doesn’t look so good nowadays, but the voice acting was excellent, and it really felt like I was interacting with a movie. That’s something I want more of.

There are plenty who will say “All that game was was an 8-hour long quick-time event game.” And you’re correct, yes. But there’s something about pulling off a QTE combination that then leads to my character backflipping off a wall and ninja chopping a cop into unconsciousness that I probably wouldn’t have gotten from many other games. Okay, maybe the new Prince of Persia stuff. But in theory, I’m still correct.

Point is: Indigo Prophecy was an awesome experience. Heavy Rain will probably be even better, since it’ll look great on the PS3.

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MS hurting second-hand sales?! SAY IT AIN’T SO!

I couldn’t help laughing a little when I read this article just now. Not because of the people getting banned, though. Rather, because of the silly analyst who commented on the banning applying to consoles rather than users:

Microsoft, he said, “needs to find a way to address this, or else it risks annoying the modders who make up 1 percent of their audience and the second-hand purchasers.”

Would someone care to explain to me why in the world Microsoft would care about this? Modders are violating the terms of service, without question. And second-hand purchasers are the core reason why developers lose money these days. This is so ridiculous I can’t even begin to explain. Allow me to try.

GameStop is evil. There, I said it. I wholly admit that I say this as someone from within the industry. Their business of buying and selling used games is pure 100% profit for them, and developers see NOTHING out of that. It hurts developers when the day after a game is released, you can buy the same game for $5 less used, because we see none of the money from that sale. Now, on a personal level, I’m not willing to buy a used game just to save $5. I like ripping open the packaging for the first time. But on a bigger level, this strategy is hurting development of games.

So when Microsoft is “hurting second-hand sales” of Xbox consoles, why shouldn’t they be? Do they see a cent of money from the selling/buying of used consoles? Of course not! This is probably intentional, and it should be!

Whew. I’m spent. Those comments in the article really got my goat.

Achievement Unlocked!

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not a typical gamer. A lot of the most popular games ever created just don’t interest me very much. I bought Oblivion and returned it the next day, because I got too bored too quickly with it. Fallout 3 fared a little better, but it’s still sitting on my shelf and I’ve barely played a few hours of it. Still haven’t beaten Half Life 2 (though I’m working my way through it, I swear!) And don’t get me started on WoW. I try that game again every few months, and at some point I get bored and logout. But recently, I’ve learned what it is I play games for: achievements.

I love and hate achievements. They’re evil little tools to squeeze extra replay value out of a game, but that arbitrary number that is my Gamerscore has become this ridiculous thing in my head. I NEED 20 more points! I need that one last achievement! When Beatles: Rock Band came out (best music game ever, for the record), I started playing, and refused to stop until I finished it because of the damn “beat the game in 24 hours” achievement. I would’ve gotten at least 2-3 more hours of sleep that night if that stupid achievement wasn’t there. But noooooo. I needed to prove to the world that I was enough of a loser to stay up all night and defeat a game in 24 hours.

Achievements are important for our ADD generation, I’ve decided. I can’t play a game and see that I’m 30% through and push forward. What I want is a small reward for playing another 2% of the game. Most single player games are good at that these days. Bioshock, Modern Warfare, Fallout 3, are a few obvious examples. Get a reward for beating the next level, for beating the next boss, etc. I bet I’d have a level 80 character in WoW right now if there were more achievements to earn while leveling. All I have are the every-10-level achievements to look forward to, and that’s definitely not close enough to keep me going. Doing all the instances as I level is good, because I get achievements for them, but there’s really no sense of major accomplishment until you actually choose an achievement and work towards it. I don’t want that. I want to play the game the way I want to play it, and get rewarded every 5 minutes for it.

I know I’m being demanding, and I know I’m being childish and stupid. But it’s just the kind of gamer I am, for some reason. Achievements have ruined my ability to enjoy a game for its story. I’ve been having trouble recently picking up Wii games again, because I feel like I won’t be able to show off my accomplishments to anyone. I love Okami so much, and I still need to finish it, but my stupid brain won’t allow me to boot it up because there are no points to be gained. How ridiculous is that?!

Champions has perks in it. Awesome. I wouldn’t even be able to play my own damn game if it didn’t have those small perks to keep me going. I hate what this world has done to me.

Oh, and yeah. I’m back. I like talking out loud, what can I say?

Final Review of Fable II

Summary: Fable II was designed for gamers like me, who want a game that seems to be hardcore, while on the inside, it’s simply a fun game that you will complete no matter what.

I finished Fable a few nights ago. It took me a little while to gather my thoughts on it, because I was so overwhelmed with how quickly it went by. The ending just hits you like a brick wall. Anyways, I liked Fable a lot. I’m excited to start it over again from scratch soon, in order to pick a different ending. I definitely can see myself trying it over and over again, with different strategies each time (I’m going to be Evil next time). But here are some thoughts on different categories.

STORY: The story is fine. Reviews said it was very lame, but I enjoyed it. The voice acting is fantastic, and that really helps pull you in. It’s interesting to see the connections between this game and the last, like learning that your guide in this game happens to be a blind seer named Theresa. The story’s very straightforward, but there were definitely a few times I found myself a little shocked. There is a continual theme of loss throughout the game, and it all comes together at the end, when you’re forced to make your final decision. Again, like all the reviews said, the ending is terrible. (Minor spoiler: there is no final boss battle) It ends, you make a final decision (each of the choices gives you a different achievement). That’s a shame. Luckily, the story doesn’t completely end after the game does. There’s new quests that open up, and purchasing certain properties unlock new stories to investigate. As does getting married and having children. Just last night, I was earning some money, and my wife told me that my child had run away and gotten lost in a cave. Those bastard Hobbes had locked him in a cage and were planning on eating him. So that was kind of cool.

SOCIALIZING: I’m talking two different aspects of socializing. The first, the NPC, is cute. Very simple, though. Each person has likes/dislikes. You perform the expressions for them that they like, using a little timed button press, and they like you more. Eventually, everyone in town falls in love with you. Just like that. It’s simple, but it’s kinda fun to squawk like a chicken and make hand puppets for them. Gathering a crowd of 20 people and then dancing is actually really fun to watch.

The other part of socializing is the Xbox Live aspect. Throughout the world, other players appear as orbs. When you’re near them, you can hear them talking. On the one hand, there are a lot of people playing, so it gets kinda noisy. In fact, you can’t really hear the important quest-givers in-game unless you plug a headset in just to shut out the extraneous noise. That’s annoying. But on the other hand, it really gives the game an awesome MMO feel to it. I run into people all the time, asking “Hey, where can I find this store?”, and I happily help them out. It’s really nice to feel like there’s a community of players all helping each other out. I must have run into 50 people so far all offering to give away gold to anyone who needs it. That’s just awesome.

COMBAT: People complained that combat was too simple. And, well, it is, but it’s perfect for me. X is melee, Y is ranged, and B is magic. Each button can do different things depending on the skills you’ve learned, and how long you hold it, etc. I really like being able to switch up the weapons whenever I get bored with one. I’ll swing the sword around for a while, then switch it up to my pistol, then jump over to some fireballs. It’s quick and easy.

The change in the magic system from Fable I was an interesting choice. The lack of a mana bar is great, because you never have to worry about it. As you earn higher levels of spells, you can charge up the higher ones simply by holding the B button down for longer. Because spells don’t get interrupted when you get hit, you basically have a tradeoff between charging up a high level spell, and taking a few hits while you do it. It’s kinda cool.

And lastly, there’s no dying. Which is awesome. Some people complain that it makes the game pointless. I disagree. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing a game like Splinter Cell and continually reloading at the same checkpoint over and over again. I mean, sure, some people like that, because you have a huge sense of accomplishment when you finally beat it. But that’s not what Fable is about. Fable isn’t about bragging that you beat it. It’s about pointing out all the cool things you’ve done in it. I’m now a 5-star blacksmith, and I’m working my way to a 5-star bartender. I have a wife and a kid, I own about 8 shops and 3 houses, and I’m saving up to buy the huge castle in the middle of town. THAT’S what’s cool about Fable.

So, to sum it up, I had a lot of fun playing. I’m excited for a friend to get Fable, so I can try out co-op. I’d love some company on a second playthrough.

My Fable II First Impressions

SUMMARY: This was an excellent purchase.

Fable II to me feels like what we all expected the original Fable to be like. Everything you do in the game has an effect on the world, and both you and the world around you morphs to reflect that. The scope of the game is huge, you are able to move through the world much more openly this time around, and there are SO many things to do that I’m not sure I’ll ever finish it.

First, the story. Most reviews have said the story is the “same old, same old” of RPG’s. While I haven’t gotten far enough to know whether that’s true or not, I happen to be enjoying it. The end of the intro is a pretty good setup for the rest of the game, and each quest I’m sent on seems to flow nicely from one to the other. I do think it’s stupid that the old guide lady (won’t say her name for spoilerific reasons) can talk to me telepathically, yet requires me to visit her to get a new quest every time. That seems a bit pointless. But there’s enough distractions on the way to keep me happy.

One review I read pointed out that having a glowing trail leading you to your next objective actually encourages exploration, and I agree. I’m not afraid that I’ll never find my way back, so I’m constantly leaving the path in order to see if my dog sniffs anything out or I find some secrets. The trail does get annoying in that it’s constantly bouncing around in different directions, it seems to get really confused when I leave the path. It also occasionally can’t load ahead of time fast enough, so I find myself reaching the end of it and waiting for more of it to load. Because of this, also, the game disc is ALWAYS whirring. I think I may experiment with installing the game to my hard drive when the NXE is released, to see if it makes it any better (it’ll at least be quieter).

So far, I’ve gotten married, had a kid (more specifically, it was an “oops” baby), almost perfected my craft of blacksmithing, bought a shop and two houses, and gotten a chicken suit. There’s so much to do, yet there’s always the nagging feeling in my mind that I should be continuing the quest, which is cool. My dog is cute. While I don’t feel the love that Peter Molyneux wanted us to feel, I definitely gasped when a bandit came up and kicked my dog early in the game. He shouldn’t have done that.

Turning on everyone’s orbs in the game is cool, it makes the game feel much more MMO-like. Last night I was doing a quest in a cave, and there happened to be two other people there doing it too. While I couldn’t see them actually doing it, they were clearly following the same paths as I was, and were doing the same parts of the quest at the same time, so it was fun to play and chat with them while I went. I haven’t tried out co-op yet, but as soon as certain friends of mine purchase a copy, I’ll definitely check it out.

Also, the achievements are great. They’re very varied between storyline ones and miscellaneous ones, and I spent last night grabbing as many as I could. It’s also cool that you can earn lots just by watching a friend do it. That saves me the trouble of doing evil stuff.

Lastly, the main reason I love this game is because there was an Anchorman reference in it. “60% of the time, it works every time.” Two thumbs up.

PC vs Console

There’s this constant argument amongst the industry as to whether PC gaming is dying out because of consoles. And to me, the question never really made sense, though in the past few days it suddenly occurred to me why I enjoy playing console games more. Console games just work. That’s it. Barring any extreme exceptions, the games get put in the machine, and they work. No system requirements, no upgrades needed. They work. PC games, on the other hand, have requirements. And those requirements are not the end-all to whether a game will work. There are SO many factors involved.

I may have a PC that can whoop any game’s requirements, but because I also keep a million programs running the background, the game might barely launch. What’s the first suggestion you get when you’re having trouble playing a PC game? Close down any extra applications you have running. Because there’s this big X factor involved, I can see why console gaming is becoming more attractive to people. Is PC gaming dying? Probably not. Anyone can upgrade their computer to be able to play newer games. Consoles are stuck in their generation, until a new machine comes out. So PC’s always have something consoles won’t. But on the other hand, I can play Bioshock on my 360, but when I try and run it on my PC, I have to drop the settings down so low it’s not even worth it. And that’s when I meet the recommended requirements, too.

In other news, I discovered that a lot more people read this blog than I thought. Which, on the one hand is awesome, but on the other hand, adds a bit of pressure to perform. I’ll try and post more stuff more often. I just kinda post when I have something to say, though. So, don’t hold your breath.