Archive for January, 2014

The Walking Review

Friday, January 10th, 2014

It’s really kind of sad, how often I find myself dropping games as soon as I start playing them. It’s a bad habit to be stuck in, for sure, but it’s not one easily shaken. The road less travelled is the one easier to get lost on, and I was sending up flares for help in the mire of decent games. Decent, but not great enough to capture me until the end.

The flares were answered by Telltale Games, dropping me a five-rung ladder called The Walking Dead. 

One extended simile later, and we’re into the meat of the review. The Walking Dead, as you probably know, is a point and click adventure game, with elements of horror and that bloody dead horse of the zombie apocalypse scenario.

However, you could argue that the zombies, while filling the role of the “big bad” of the game, aren’t the main focus of it. The entire thing is held together by the overarching glue of characters and their interactions with each other, especially those between your player character, Lee, and the first grader Clementine. 

Survival of your own self turns into trying to get everyone else to survive along with you – though that’s hardly ever the case, from what I’ve seen – and finding a way to survive in a world that’s all turned against you. It sounds cliche as all hell, I’ll admit, but the way the game is set out doesn’t make it feel that way. The story is engaging and the characters, for the most part, have a little more depth than the archetypes normally employed in these kinds of games.

There’s also a mechanic of a choice system (yes, the same one as I discussed last time, and yes, this was the inspiration for that) that does visibly affect what happens later on in the game, even in less meaningful ways like leading your charge to swear two episodes in. This set-up does make you feel like what you say as Lee changes the fates of people. You feel like their lives are in your hands.

Plus, it’s Mac native so I can play it on my old hunk of “technology” without it lagging out too much. That’s an automatic plus in my books.

It does sound like I’m full of positives for this game. I mean, I am. It’s a great game with a good story that you should probably look into if you haven’t already. However, there are some things I’ll beef about.

In some sections of the game, it feels like the story and characters are pushing you along a more linear path instead of the open choice of the calmer times. I do understand that that’s probably a requirement so the player doesn’t faff about too much, but it’s a detriment to the feel of the open, interactive setting. 

There are some characters that apparently have no flaws (hello, Mary Sue) and you can tell from the minute you clap eyes on them that they’re a pigeonholed love interest or slated for immediate death. Not every character’s perfect in anything, of course, but they do need to be people as opposed to generators of inspirational lines and/or tragic plot twists.

All in all, I’ll give this game a good rep. It’s worth your time and your effort, and the decisions you have to make. 

(Although I still haven’t quite finished it. Whoops.)

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Emotional Loot

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

For today, I was told to make the post I was thinking about writing when I started up this shindig. It’s only a half-baked idea in my head at current, but we’ll see how it fares from here on out.

Imagine this scenario. By a stroke of horrifically bad luck, you and a group of relative strangers gotten yourself stranded on an island. The Pacific stretches out all around you, with no civilisation in sight, either on or around your little piece of paradise.

As for fellow strandees, there are a couple of kids, their parents and those taking charge. There are elderly, there is a hostess and there is the flaming wreckage of the plane, smoke cutting a swathe through the deceptively blue sky. You, and these ten other varieties of yourself, are the only survivors.

From the husk of the plane, you’re able to retrieve a small amount of food not either spoiled or burned to cinders. You can ration these out, but as weeks pass and the food dwindles, you only have enough to feed some people rather than everyone. When you get out the food, people look to you with hungry eyes.

You can only feed four of your surviving eleven, including yourself.

Who would you choose?

Now, since more likely than not you’re reading this in front of a computer and not as you desperately Google how to deal with this hypothetical situation, you have the option of not answering or just dismissing the difficult. However, imagine you’re doing it in a game, and there’s no chance for you to pause. It’s either quit to desktop or make that choice. All or nothing.

It’s hard, right? But you know when you make the right choice that the payoff’s worth that nervous drop in your stomach. In that way, playing the game is exactly the same as the creation of these scenarios.

Options like these seem to be cropping up left and right as moral choice systems seem to be becoming part of the norm. Whether to kill that guy, make that leap, join with this side or that, et cetera, et cetera. Players are being given more freedom as games become more complex, and as technology begins to keep up with our growing ideas of immersive gaming experiences.

However, these systems only work worth a golly good damn when decisions aren’t just black and white, good and evil matters.

You only start to get true freedom in your playthrough when your decisions, as the player, genuinely affect your status in the game, where what you choose to do now changes what you can do later and other characters’ ultimate fates are just as malleable as your own.

There needs to be less of the definite line between what’s right and what’s not. I don’t want a true or false dichotomy; give me a multiple choice question without the obvious two wrong answers. Make me have to phone in to the audience and take all the time I’m given. I want to give a damn about the choice I’m making for a better reason than the loot I’ll get from it later.

I want some emotional coins from hitting that choice box.

Again with the theme, again with the blogging.

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I had one of these accounts, quite a long time ago.

It was an age of innocence, where I plugged the everliving crap out of it on my roleplaying account on Facebook (yes, I was at that age) and wrote about whatever struck my fancy. Spiders crawling out of the walls, tea parties that I had with strangers all years older than me, including one called Justice. (I still hold to the fact that that was a good name to have, despite me constantly wanting to shout “objection” in his pale, pierced face. Justice, indeed.) I even had the beginnings of an advice column before I conked out after a few months of relatively hard work. I was thirteen, I was unprepared and sleep-deprived and just a little bit depressed.

Actually, on second thought, I had two blogs. The other one was a co-operative effort between a friend and I that got banned for nebulous reasons she and I are not even sure of to this day. It might have been because we were creating a blog at school, but who knows? We never got the chance to post anything. I’m sure whatever would have gone up would have been perfect blackmailing fuel for later in life.

There were other attempts at starting that never went anywhere on sites that were downright broken back in the hallowed halls of 2011 internet. There was a school writing blog that I never posted on, a podcast that never got off the ground, a FanFiction account that was left to rust and, all in all, a damned huge amount of words that never had the chance to be written. Run-on sentences included.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of journalism for some time without even realizing it. Opinionated arguments, debating and sassing, giving a damn about what goes on in the world. Sometimes not a well-educated or researched damn, but a damn to consider nonetheless. Maybe, with this, it’ll change.