Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In which Chiller and mainstream games had a short, but mostly unpleasant, encounter

I took a break from LOTRO these days to try out some the new big releases, since we've had quite a few of those. Here's the outcome (hooray, a list! Didn't have one of these in a while):

1. Far Cry 2. The game apparently boasts over 30 hours of gameplay. From my experience, it may well be so, but 15 will be spent driving through the jungle and 10 fighting the same respawned enemies at the same locations over and over and over AND OVER again. Oh, and all the missions are basically the same. I'm not sure if I even lasted for 4 hours. Then I searched for a way to teleport around the map. There doesn't seem to be one at the moment. Gave up.

2. STALKER: Clear Sky. Optimistically started the game on 'Stalker' difficulty (figured I could do it easily in Shadow of Chernobyl, so I should be fine). About halfway through the first zone, I took it down to 'Novice', since there wasn't any lower setting. This way, I managed to make it through to the third area eventually. There, I was hailed by some bandits. I approached to talk, and they demanded all my money. This is where I found out that your character apparently has no balls, because there is NO option to refuse them! Sigh, reload. Shoot on sight. Get wasted. Reload. Shoot. Die. RELOAD. DIE. Oh God, THE GRENADES! I was beginning to get a nagging suspicion that the total reload time will eventually exceed my gameplay time (honestly, this game REALLY needs to have the quickload be, y'know, QUICK). A new approach seemed to be necessary. Search for cheat codes! There aren't any (ORLY ?), but the game is easily moddable. Modded myself a god mode, faster running speed and more inventory capacity. The game becomes bearable. Unfortunately, the story is lackluster and the basic gameplay is rather boring. Made it to the Red Forest, eventually. Maybe I'll continue.

3. Red Alert 3. This one was actually the most entertaining of the bunch, although I was never at home with the way the RA games play (I'm much more comfortable with Starcraft). As such, for much of the campaign I felt like I was just going through the motions. For some reason I especially disliked the Allies (could never figure out how to play them except bombing the shit out of the enemy, fortunately my AI co-commander was nice enough to do most of the work), but the Japanese were rather enjoyable, on the sea maps at least. I really liked the raw power of their navy. The game has really nice music, and the videos can be a good reason to play it by themselves. Oh, and all the chicks are gorgeous ;) Overall, gameplay-wise it's not my thing and I'm not going back to skirmish now that I've finished the campaigns, but if you're a fan of Red Alert you'll probably like it a lot.

And now the conclusion.

Mainstream gaming is going to hell :(

Yeah, we all knew it was happening, but to see it first-hand it's a bit disconcerting. I visited Gamespot today and couldn't help but notice that all the feature articles were about sequels. Incidentally, most well-known gaming sites seem to have become irrelevant, since almost every major title of the last 2 years got over 9/10 (but you can still find some user reviews that are accurate). Well, under most scoring systems, they might deserve those numbers, but it really doesn't show anything except that the industry is getting better at making what are basically the same games, just, y'know, this year's. In my opinion, at the moment there's exactly one company that's 100% mainstream and still manages to make games with that 'oomph' factor - Blizzard. Let's just hope that I won't be proven wrong by the 'Starcraft 2' games.

So what's the answer? Well, it might be indie games (SHOCK!). We have (finally!) reached the point where the tools are available for an independent developer to really make their dreams come true by not having to worry about all those pesky programming issues (well, they will still need to get their art, sound and music from somewhere, which is a problem for people like, say, myself). I'm talking about things like AGS and Multimedia Fusion. Yes, you won't get the latest shiniest bump-mapped engine that supports DX11, Pixel Shader 15.4 and anti-aliasing 13x, but if that's what you want, just go back to Crysis ;) What you will get is good design and just a touch of originality, and sometimes even more.

I found some really good, awesome, and/or amazing stuff in the indie world. If you're interested, a good place to start is The AGS website also keeps a comprehensive list of games made with, well, AGS, so if you're into adventure games that should be your next stop. And for my own personal choice, just try Knytt Stories and/or the other stuff from Nifflas.

Oh, and a gaming site that's actually GOOD -excellent reviews, no obtrusive adds, covers indie games too- is RockPaperShotgun. I really can't recommend it enough.

See you when I see you (this is meant as a half-hearted apology for not posting enough ;)