Gaming: The Unblogables

Over the years, I’ve mostly been consistent about blogging on every game I’ve played, but there are exceptions. Usually games that I didn’t play for very long. I don’t have enough to say about each one to fill a whole post, but I thought it might be interesting to collect them together into one quick list. Today, the unblogables will come to light (all right).

The Inn of the Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings OnlineThis isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list of games I’ve played but not blogged about, but these are the more noteworthy ones.

WildStar

I played WildStar during its open beta, and I actually wrote up a fairly extensive impressions piece for a paying client. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside my control, the article never saw the light of day.

The fact that I never returned to WildStar after the beta should give you some idea of what I thought of it. I did like the housing, at least. Every MMO on the market should be rushing to steal WildStar’s housing system wholesale.

The combat was also pretty fun solo, though it turned into an incomprehensible rainbow spew in a group setting. And the environment art grew on me — like playing a Dr. Seuss MMO — but I never did learn to like the character models.

Overall, though, I found the glacial pacing, grindy gameplay, and obnoxious forced humour were enough to turn me off the game pretty fast.

I regret that my article never saw the light of day, because I feel like I was one of the few who predicted WildStar’s collapse early on (if anything I underestimated how badly it would crash and burn). But now I can’t prove that, so my opportunity to gloat has been denied.

A space mission in WildStarI could just see that this was a game that didn’t know who its audience was. It has a deep backstory, but Twitter-style word count limits on quest text. Its constant humour and silliness screams casual game, but the actual gameplay is a brutally grindy homage to the days when MMOs were more like second jobs.

Skyrim

I can definitely see how Skyrim could be an amazing experience for a certain kind of gamer.

I’m not that kind of gamer.

Really my gripe is that it’s mislabeled. It gets classified as an action RPG, but it’s not. It strikes me as more of an exploration sandbox/kleptomania simulator. And again, that’s fine, and they do it well enough, but it’s just not what I’m looking for in a game. The phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” does come to mind.

EVE Online

I thought it’d be the infamously cruel and ruthless community that drove me away from EVE — I did love how the very first thing the tutorial tells you is “don’t trust the other players” — but actually it was the clunky UI and stiff gameplay that I couldn’t get over. After a couple hours, it was just making my brain hurt, and not in a fun TSW kind of way.

Lord of the Rings Online

A screenshot from Lord of the Rings OnlineAs a big fan of both Lord of the Rings and MMOs, LotRO seems like a game I should love. But when I finally got around to trying it, I barely lasted an hour.

It’s the same old story: It’s a WoW clone, through and through. When I want to play WoW, I’ll just play WoW.

And more importantly, if there’s one setting that doesn’t belong in that mould, it’s Lord of the Rings. In a Lord of the Rings game, I do not want to be doing meaningless kill ten rats quests for faceless NPCs. I do not want to be an overpowered god who can one-shot any foe with a dirty look. I want to feel the texture of the world’s history and challenge myself against epic foes.

Give me The Secret World: Middle-Earth Edition, and we’ll talk. I’d also settle for Elder Scrolls Online: Middle-Earth Edition.

I also found it a profoundly unappealing game from a visual perspective. I know Lord of the Rings Online is considered one of the most beautiful MMOs out there, but for the life of me, I’ll never understand why. It’s not just that it hasn’t aged well (although it definitely hasn’t aged well), but the fundamental art style is just unpleasant. Everything is muddy and dull and bland and just… ugh.

Ironically, the character models — the one aspect of the graphics that does usually garner complaints — was one aspect of the graphics I didn’t mind. They’re not great, but they’ll do.

MY Elven hunter in Lord of the Rings OnlineI will grant that getting to visit the Inn of the Prancing Pony was really neat, and I am often tempted to give it another try. Maybe I’d like it better with a different class (I was a hunter), but the only other one that strongly appeals to me on paper is warden, and you have to pay for that.

Pay-gating classes is a really good way to make sure I won’t play your game.

I suppose if any LotRO players out there want to suggest a (free) class they think I might like, I’ll take it under advisement. Despite how my above ranting may come across, it’s a game I want to like.

Viking: Battle for Asgard

This was some no-name title I picked up dirt cheap on a Steam sale just because Vikings.

I actually made it pretty far in the game before I called it quits. It’s very mindless and has no real plot, but the combat was delightfully brutal, and it was enjoyable in a simplistic sort of way. I was also impressed by some of the huge battles you can participate in; it’s surprisingly rare to find games where you can participate in large scale battles as one of the boots on the ground.

The main problem was for some reason the developers decided to stick a bunch of mandatory stealth missions throughout the game. They felt totally out of place compared to the rest of the game, they were very frustrating, and after a while I just couldn’t be bothered anymore.

A screenshot from Viking: Battle for AsgardThe Witcher

I didn’t like the combat.

That’s pretty much all there is to say. I gave up after about an hour because the core gameplay was just too unpleasant for me.

I know everyone’s over the moon about Wild Hunt these days, but having seen Moiren stream some of it, I’m not getting what the fuss is about. Seems like a very standard open world fantasy game to me. It certainly doesn’t look bad or anything, but I also feel confident that I’m not missing much.

Transistor

I think the surest sign video games are now being taken seriously as an art form is that, as in all art forms, there are now emperor’s new clothes situations where incomprehensible titles are praised simply for being incomprehensible. Enter Transistor.

They just sort of dump you into the game with little to no explanation of the controls, the game mechanics, the story, the characters, the setting, or much of anything else. You’re just left to fumble blindly and hope for the best. I feel like it might have been an interesting story if I’d had the faintest clue what was going on, but I didn’t.

Art from TransistorAs frustrating as that was, it was losing abilities upon death that soured me on the game permanently. That’s a strong contender for the worst design decision I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s the traditional RPG formula in reverse: Every time you fail, it gets progressively harder. It makes for the most unbelievably miserable experience.

I did like the artwork. I’ll give it that.

Reviews: Dark Matter, “Being Better Is so Much Harder” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This”

Dark Matter is back!

A promotional image for Dark Matter season threeTo my eminent joy, the best sci-fi action-adventure on TV today has returned with a two-part premiere, and as always, Dark Matter is hitting the ground running.

“Being Better Is so Much Harder” (season premiere):

Season three picks up immediately after the end of season two with the crew of the Raza scattered following their shocking betrayal by Ryo — for he is Four no longer. Six and Two cling to life in a crippled Marauder as their life support systems fail. Three crashes on a barren world alongside the Galactic Authority officer who apprehended him. Five makes it back to the Raza only to come under attack by the forces of Ferrous Corp.

And all across the galaxy, the first shots of corporate war are fired.

It wouldn’t be Dark Matter without plenty of action, and I do love that Five and the android are continuing to kick all of the ass. I’m already getting the impression Five’s huge leap into the spotlight in season two wasn’t a fluke.

But by far what impressed me the most about this episode is the much quieter scenes focusing on Two and Six.

Two has always been this larger than life, superhuman character. But finally now she’s reached her breaking point. She blames herself for Nyx’s death, and she’s hit the end of her rope. And damn, it’s powerful.

Five being badass. Again.Six really shines, too. I kinda don’t want to get into too much detail for risk of spoiling more than I already have, but while this isn’t necessarily the best episode of Dark Matter to date, it could be the one with the most depth and meaning.

I am a little mixed on Nyx’s death. I was just starting to like her, and it feels a bit like a waste of potential.

On the other hand, it does wonders for ratcheting up the intensity of the conflict with Ryo. This is a “crossing the Rubicon” moment. Ryo may not have been the one holding the blade, but he is responsible for her death all the same. I don’t think that’s something the crew can forgive, nor should they.

I’m calling it now: This arc will end with Ryo having a change of heart, but too late. He’ll end up making some sacrifice for his former friends, regaining his honour at the cost of his life. I can’t seem him being welcomed back into the fold after what he’s done, but I don’t think they’ll entirely ignore the influence his time as Four had on him.

This being sci-fi, it is possible that we haven’t seen the last of Nyx, of course. Especially given that rather cryptic final scene…

My one real complaint about “Being Better Is so Much Harder” is that Three’s plot didn’t add much. They needed to give him something to do, but his story is not particularly compelling or illuminating. It’s just there.

Two and Three in Dark Matter season threeStill, a solid start to season three.

Also, glad we’re still seeing Torri Higginson’s character. I like her.

Overall rating: 8/10

“It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This”:

Perhaps not surprisingly, Dark Matter is wasting no time in escalating the conflict between Ryo and his former comrades.

Using her stolen memories, Five learns where Ryo is holding the blink drive, and the Raza goes to reclaim it as the first part of their plan to defeat him. While Two, Three, and Six storm the proverbial castle, contending with Ryo’s defenses and the errant laws of physics alike, Five suffers side-effects from looking into the past one too many times.

This is a very standard episode of Dark Matter. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, it has good character moments, it has some interesting revelations, and it advances the plot a bit.

This show is nothing if not consistent.

“It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This” isn’t as special as the premiere, but it also offers very little cause for complaint.

The cast of Dark MatterI am glad to see yet more evidence that Five is going to continue playing a major role. I guess I should stop being surprised, but it’s just so rare for a character like her to get so much attention and so many opportunities to play the hero, and it’s so damn refreshing.

Now, her latest revelation is a bit soap opera for my taste, but if anyone can make a plot like this work, it’s Jodelle Ferland.

Overall rating: 7.4/10