My Recent Gaming Endeavors

After almost two years of being on a limited budget my finances finally became stable late last year. With Christmas over with, I was able to pick up a lot of the games I had been wanting to play over that time. So I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on them.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
I have very mixed feelings about this one. Finishing Assassin's Creed II, I was done with Ezio, and really didn't want to see anything else with him. This outlook didn't change much playing through the game. In general the events of the game interesting in the grand scheme of the Assassin's Creed storyline, but on its own I found it rather dull. The gameplay made up for this though with dozens of distractions around the city to do and some very fun new ways to kill people. While stabbing dudes in the face is one of my favorite passtimes, summoning assassin's who appear out of nowhere to stab dudes in the face for me turned out to be even more satisfying. Its like you have a private army, following you around, hidden from even your view, ready to kill at a moments notice. Overall it was a fun game and a required playthrough if you are invested in the series.

Dragon Age: Origins
I have mentioned this many times before, but probably not here; I love Bioware's games but find them nearly unplayable. Every time I've played a Bioware game, I am mesmerized by their characters and story. What holds me back from enjoying them is gameplay that seems to require a level of research, planning, and micromanaging that I am not willing to give. Mass Effect has been the exception up to this point since it is essentially a 3rd person shooter. Dragon Age also had these issues for me but I was able to overcome them with a mod to respec my characters at essentially anytime and another that improved the game's AI scripting for your party. With the gameplay to a point that I could enjoy it, playing through Dragon Age was a wonderful experience. In all I ended up putting 75 hours into the game and I still have the expansion to go through. Mass Effect always gave you a good assortment of dialogue options so that you could either play your character as a the good samaritan or the heartless badass, but Dragon Age gives you more morally grey areas and different ways to approach them. With few exceptions, I was always given an option that felt exactly how I would respond to the situation and because of this I got a very personal experience out of interacting with the game's characters and shaping the story.

This game is crazy in all the ways I want a crazy Japanese game to be. I won't try to describe how insane the game gets because there's no way I'll do it justice. But one thing I can say is that game ends 5 times! It ends, then you play an epilogue, and it ends again, the credits roll, then you play some more, credits roll again! ... and then there's more! Great character action game, with a wonderful "easy" option that lets you mash on one button and the game will automatically choose a combo or move that is appropriate for the situation. I ended up using this for the later half of the game since I was more interested in seeing what insane thing would happen next than any challenges from gameplay. I will be going back to this one after I'm caught up with my backlog to finish it on normal and tackle the huge amount of unlocks this game has.

Red Dead Redemption
Finished this one last night. Its really interesting to see how Rockstar's game progress from one game to the next. In many ways this game is Grand Theft Auto IV with cowboys. Gameplay-wise, I think that is very true with the aiming and cover system feeling very much the same. The main missions seemed to tie together a lot better though and always seemed to be moving towards the main story in one way or another. While the story was good, the game's main character, John Marston was by far my favorite aspect of the game. He falls into the same situation as many of Rockstar's other protagonists of someone trying to escape their past. Unlike all the previous incarnations, he seems to fight it every step of the way and never accepts. Despite the things he's done in his past, he comes across as an honest and morally sound. I think the best example of this is when you run into a prostitute (a staple of Rockstar games) instead of being present with an option to hire them, the character simply says "Thank you ma'am, but I have a wife." Sadly, I found the last few hours of the game quite disappointing, but won't go into details.

Alan Wake
Started this last night and got done with the first episode (chapter). My initial impressions are quite bad. While I'm mainly playing it for story and atmosphere and those have been good so far, other parts of the game have not been enjoyable. I find the controls unintuitive, specifically with the rather vital button for run and dodge being the left bumper. Second, I don't think the game looks good at all. Motion blur is in full effect and enemies are covered in a dark haze, so its usually possible to just overlook. The game is also full of pre-rendered video which is noticeably compressed and seem to be there only because the textures on the game engine are high enough to show off the Verizon logo on Alan Wake's phone.

And that's it for notable games I've played the last few months. After Alan Wake I still have Infamous and Dragon Age: Awakening to take care of so maybe I'll check in with feedback on those. One thing I did notice when I was playing through these is I wasn't really interested in the challenge the games were trying to give and was more interested in the experience they gave from start to finish. Not sure if this has anything to do with me being older or my taste in games changing. I have put about a dozen hours into Super Meat Boy, so...

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