Maybe this is a curse of third Batman things: Arkham Origins is to the Arkham series what The Dark Knight Rises is to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy: the biggest, but probably the weakest, of a series of very good things. Arkham Origins is objectively a pretty good game, but that mostly comes from what it preserves from its predecessors, because it makes very few attempts at expanding that formula.
The Stanley Parable is a game about branching narrative structures in games. Well, except I talked to Davey Wreden for a bit at Indiecade last year, and he said it’s not really about that. But the game is pretty sarcastic, unless it’s very sincerely telling you something about how it feels about branching choices in games, so maybe I misinterpreted that conversation, or maybe Wreden was just pulling my leg.
The Stanley Parable is a game about pulling my leg.
After playing a bit of Heavy Rain, I would often get on my phone and call a friend who was playing it at the same time. After verifying how far in we were (speaking in vague terms, so as not to spoil anything), we ravenously compared notes on the latest choices we’d made, why, and what happened as a result. (“How did you cut off your finger?”) I was nearly as excited to find out what my friends had done differently as I was to progress further in the game. It’s an urge I get most any time I’ve gotten through a game that confronts me with a meaningful decision.
Beyond: Two Souls never once provoked this feeling in me.
Have you ever had a dream, Neo, you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How could you distinguish between the dream world and the real world?
Most children have a monster or two – under the bed, in the closet. One of mine lurked in the huge attic fan that cooled our home during the Time Before Air Conditioning. I never walked underneath when the slats were open. The creature was up there, perched above the rumbling mechanism. Go under and it might drop down and bury its claws in you. It could pass right through the spinning blades. I knew this. But I never saw it. Because there are no fan-monsters.
As I’ve mentioned a few times my PS3 is a relatively recent acquisition, and so I missed on some otherwise must-have exclusives during their launch windows. In honor of the release of Beyond: Two Souls this week, I decided to skip it for now and instead fire up its spiritual predecessor, Heavy Rain.
I thought I might not have much to say about Heavy Rain, but it had me at “Press Start,” and not actually in a good way.
Closure isn’t a half bad time if you want to experience a uniquely difficult yet easily playable puzzle platformer. But if you have Dark Souls, don’t bother reading further; just go play that. ‘How are they related’ you ask? Hah, well for that you will have to read on to find out!*
I was so excited when the message about the final chapter of Cognition: an Erica Reed Thriller, dropped into my inbox, that I let out a little squeal of joy. In public. People looked at me.
That should be your warning that I’ve become remarkably invested in this adventure game series.
I’m not very good at real-time strategy games. I attribute this to my inability to multitask well, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing them. The biggest problem I have with them is that most revolve around micromanagement, and since AI War, with its robust automation and smart unit management, I’ve become more of a macromanagement kind of guy. Why? Because it means I can focus on the strategy part. You know, the important part. Not the frantic juggling and tedious busy work part. Homeworld and Company of Heroes, allegedly two of the finest real-time strategy games evar, turned me off because I had to nanny certain units. I’m sorry but, engineers, you need to fix those tanks right in front of you. And repair frigates, those nearby damaged ships need looking at. Do your fucking jobs. The more granular my level of involvement the more distracted I am from the strategy, and for me, that’s a problem.
Exhausted from a trip, you drop your bags at the threshold of a dark, strange, lonely house. The night is late and stormy. No one comes to greet you; no one is home. You did tell them not to make a big deal, not even to pick you up at the airport. “Like, really, seriously, you don’t have to pick me up.” Exact words, in a tone that said “Nothing would make me happier than to reach the gate and see you smiling there.”
A tone that said “please pick me up, I’m so tired. Pick me up, I haven’t seen you in a year and I can’t wait. Pick me up, I’ve missed you and I love you and I want to hear everything that’s happened. I wish you’d stayed suspended, waiting for me, but I know you haven’t, and I’m not sure where the new house is, I’ve never been there. So please pick me up. It’s been so long. Please pick me up.”
But no one did. So, all on her own on a dark and stormy night, 22-year old Kaitlin Greenbriar, has gone home.
Dragon’s Crown is one part loot-dropping dungeon crawler, one part 2D brawler. It has a satisfying, tight core loop with high appeal: kill things, take their stuff, get that stuff identified and sold, equip better stuff, use better stuff to kill bigger things, take their stuff, repeat and repeat. … Dragon’s Crown is exactly the game we needed right now.
As a fan of the setting in general, Shadowrun Returns gave me very much what I wanted, and I can mostly only fault it for leaving me wanting more.
“It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend Face Noir to a hardcore fan of the genre. There’s just a lot better that’s floating around out there right now in adventure game land, and despite a layer of modern polish and some pretty good art and sound design it doesn’t add a lot for the English-speaking audience.”
This is Telltale throwing us a bone – a nice meaty bone with some good stuff on it – and hey, I can think of worse things to do with five bucks.
It’s powerful, it’s brutal, it’s stark and funny and tragic. It’s long enough to satisfy even though you don’t want it to end by the time it does. No one else is doing quite what Naughty Dog has done here.