We all have our favorites when it comes to video games. Be it for the artwork, the soundtrack, the mechanics, plot, character development, or style–we have our reasons. To be sure, there is the occasional nerdgasm over a franchise as well. These are the games that stick with us, and usually with good reason. They have components that are done so well that it is something we then go looking for in other games.
When talking to my gamer friends, I am learning that quite a few of my favorites are lost gems; games that don’t have nearly the popularity or following, but are beautifully executed in their own rights.
Kartia: The World of Fate came out in 1998 for the PlayStation in North America, published by Atlas. It was originally released as “Rebus” in Japan. One could go so far as to consider it a “retro” game, by modern standards. Kartia is an isometric tactical roleplaying game, with a very high level of customization within battle. It is a beautiful game, with stunning character art by Yoshitaka Amano and haunting soundtrack by Kenichi Tsuchia and Masaki Kurokawa.
Okay, time to come clean with you guys. I’ve never gotten into Pokemon before. I don’t exactly know why, either. Maybe it was because when it first came out, I was slightly older than the target audience they were intending it to be for. I’m not really sure. I even gave it a try once, when, at the insistence of a friend in college, I gave Pokemon Diamond a shot. And sure, it seemed like the kind of game that should have grabbed me immediately, because I really do enjoy games that have monster collection mechanics. Perhaps it was that during college, I didn’t have the time that those sorts of games would require of me, or maybe it was just because that game in particular just didn’t click with me.
Now, years later, that same friend insisted to me that it was because Pokemon Diamond was really one of the worse entries in the series, and that I should give it another shot with Pokemon Y. After hearing that quite a few things were getting updated in this entry, I grudgingly agreed that maybe it would be a good point in the series for me to jump in, and I gave it a shot.
Fire Emblem is one of those series that is spoken of with quiet reverence, in the dark corners of the collective gamer consciousness. Mostly, this is due to the first several games of the series not getting an American release and, as everyone knew at the time, games which weren’t released over here were infinitely more awesome. The series has always been one that has captured my interest, because it combines a whole bunch of things that generally draw me to games: plot, strategy, stat tweaking, and soul-crushing difficulty. For some reason that I cannot quite put my finger on, though, the most recent couple of games in the series, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn failed to hold my attention the way previous games had. I was hoping that the series wasn’t in full decline, what with some of Nintendo’s other questionable offerings as of late. However, other people told me that Awakening really was worth playing. And so, keeping with my trend lately of playing games at least six months after they’re cool, I ventured forth to see if the game could renew my interest in the series.
Shadowrun Returns is one of Kickstarter’s earliest major success stories. Its funding happened during the time immediately after Double Fine seemingly opened the floodgates of people willing to throw down money for the kind of games that they wanted to play, and as a result, ‘cutting out the middleman’ became the cool thing to do. Shortly after that, though, was when people realized that the intersection of people who want to self-publish and the people with good project management skills is very, very small. Luckily, the folks behind Shadowrun actually know how to deliver a finished product (after a few twists and turns along the way).
[SPOILER WARNING: This article will be talking about the game mechanics of permanent plot-related character death in video games. As such, you should assume that any game that I mention will be a game in which people die or vanish from the party for long periods of time. I’ll try not to use games any more recent than a year or two old, but still, read this article at your own risk.]
Death. Final, absolute, cold hard death. It’s sort of an oddball thing to handle in video games. Why? Because video games have a very unique point of view when it comes to death. In video games, death is rarely ever final. Death, in regards to the main character, represents the loss condition. It is the point where you say, “I did not complete the level, so I’m going to start over and try again.” Usually, this is sufficient, because the player character is the one who you generally have to worry about dying. Obviously, this is because the entire game is constructed around more and more difficult-to-avoid ways of making the main character die.
I have a confession to make. Before about two weeks ago, I had never played Suikoden. Mostly, this is due to when it was released: that awkward time right after the Playstation was released when I didn’t actually own one. By the time I did, Final Fantasy 7 (and Final Fantasy 8 and 9, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Xenogears, for that matter) had come out, and that was where my RPG attentions were firmly focused. And yet, people kept telling me that Suikoden was a Thing I Needed To Play. And I kept firmly putting it off, firstly because I kept having other games to play, and then because Suikoden became fucking expensive.
Okay, I have a confession to make. I never played Guild Wars all that much. Sure, it was a decent enough game and had a huge following, and what I did play I really enjoyed, it’s just that both times I tried it were at points in my life where I couldn’t really allow myself to get heavily into an online game. That, and it’s the sort of game that needs to be played with others to be truly enjoyed (hence the title), and I didn’t know anyone else who played.
Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, comes along at a time where two things should really be going in its favor: life is stable, and I know people who are playing it. It also has one thing going /against/ it: I’m already playing The Secret World. However, I am not entirely daunted by this. Guild Wars 2, like its predecessor, has no monthly fee associated with it after you purchase the game. This means I can play it when I want to instead of feeling like I have to play it because I’m paying for it. This also means that I can play both Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World concurrently. Both games claim to be ‘different’, and this gives me a chance to compare how different they are from each other and how well they execute on their selling points.
Well, I’m finally diving back into another MMO, after taking a break from them for a little bit (unless you count Diablo III, which might as well be an MMO). However, the one I’m tackling has been promoted as fairly unconventional. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also state that I’ve been in the beta for this one, so I’ve been able to see how things have evolved and what issues have been addressed or not addressed. What I’m reviewing here, though, is the ‘finished’ product, in the sense that no MMO can ever truly be called a finished product, since they all are regularly patched and altered. Anyway, so, here we go with my initial experience with the release version of The Secret World! Continue reading “Opening Turn: The Secret World”