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Favorite Games of the Decade (2010s)

It’s a new decade, blah, blah, blah.

Like my post about favorite books of the decade, the games list also suffers from the fact that I rarely play games as released. I’m incredibly behind on all the games I have to play, let alone want to play. Wait. Are those different?

My favorite games of the 2010s, be year published!

2010
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

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What a game. I didn’t grow up in the arcades in the 80s or 90s, but I do love a few arcade classics. Pac-Man, obviously, has always been a lot of fun. However, it wasn’t until I watched a friend stream Pac-Man Championship Edition DX that I realized how fun the game could be.

It’s reminds me of Burnout 3: Takedown in it’s unrelenting speed. It’s like a rave inside a Lite-Brite. It’s pure adrenaline when being chased and taking those turns and it’s all euphoria when the tide turns and start devouring trains of ghosts. It’s one of the few games I’ve ever score chased. It helps that the maze has patterns and systems that are understandable but also quite vicious if you make a mistake. It’s too good not to stand out in the decade.

Runner ups
Alan Wake is the game I would have picked without Pac-Man. It really clicked (ha) with me and I thought the structure, setting and flashlight-based combat were brilliant.
VVVVVV is a little joy of a game that’s all teeth. Starcraft 2 is great, but I haven’t finished it yet. Same goes for Red Dead Redemption. Mass Effect 2 was a lot of fun, but I’m not as in love with that series as others.

2011
Limbo

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I played through Limbo in one sitting, in the dim light of my living room, while my wife napped. It was melancholy, it was dark, it was depressing. But, the need to move forward was there the whole time. The simple, shadowy graphics had personality to spare and they worked to pull out little, eight-legged surprises at the most inopportune time. The puzzles might not have been the hardest, but they left me feeling smarter than I am.

Luckily for my wife, she work up for the last hour of the game and now I have someone to share the burden of the ending with. The last moments left me with questions, but not ones I necessarily need answered.

Runner ups
Indie games with impactful endings were the name of the game in 2011, huh? To The Moon is one of the very few games to ever make me cry. Bastion looked and sounded gorgeous and had very cool, somber ending. The Binding of Isaac should gross me out, but it’s a lot of fun with a cool, Danny Baranowsky soundtrack. Portal 2 was no Portal, but it had some very high moments. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a seizure of a fighting game at times, but there’s not enough X-Men. And Jurassic Park: The Game would be a biased pick and wasn’t really a game anyway…

2012
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

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A lot of games fighting for this year but no other game became such an obsession to me in this decade like XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I mean, how many times did I lose and then just restart? What games prompted me to choose Iron Man mode so quickly? It was addictive, yes, but unlike League of Legends or Hearthstone, it was fun the whole way through, even when merrily destroying all my hopes of victory.

The gameplay is what kept me coming back, but the world building and atmosphere were wonderful. It’s a universe I could keep exploring and I love that modern take on 50s science fiction throughout. And, goodness, did I let a lot of soldiers with my loved one’s names die. Maybe the sequel has taken most of the replay time from the first, but it’s not an either/or situation. I could go back to this first one, just like Roller Coaster Tycoon, Starcraft or Balder’s Gate, in a heartbeat.

Runner ups
Telltale’s first season of the The Walking Dead is another of the rare games to make me cry at the end. Maybe I’m becoming softer as I get older. Plague Inc. is one I’ve played through on the app and on PC just to relax, which makes me think I need counseling. FTL: Faster Than Light is near-perfect and is probably still my favorite rogue-like. It’s design is wonderful and I own the soundtrack. I wanted to start a new game of Mark of the Ninja as soon as I was done, which is a bit rare for me. It’s also one of the only stealth games I enjoy. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP was cool and weird, Dishonored was stylish and Spec-Ops: The Line was as interesting as it’s reputation claimed.

2013
Thomas Was Alone

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Thomas Was Alone
is another single-sitting game that grabbed me by the heart and didn’t let go. The puzzles were never too difficult and the story dragged a bit at the end, but it was like an indie science fiction movie in game form. Bouncing around as a square was weirdly satisfying.

And it has to be said how effective Thomas Was Alone is at giving these basic blocks and shapes personalities. It’s almost Pixar-level. The fact that I cared so much for Thomas and his friends, and how upset I was near the end and how excited I was during the credits, says a lot about Mike Bithell’s creation.

Runner ups
Metro: Last Light, and it’s previous title, are games I would have eaten up as a teenager. As it stands now, they’re still well made games with an interesting world to explore. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons didn’t make me cry but it did effect me quite a bit and it’s single player coop structure was interesting more often than frustrating. I liked Batman: Arkham Origins more than Arkham City. And the 2013 Tomb Raider was mostly fun except for when it was tearing Lara up to shreds.

2014
Shovel Knight

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I’ve played a few NES-inspired games, Alwa’s Awakening, The Messenger, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, Necrosphere, ect. ect. But Shovel Knight does it best. Fully aware that technology and gameplay styles have moved on, Shovel Knight plays like how we remember the original Nintendo. More fun than difficult, more forgiving than relentless. More rewarding than fleeting.

The graphics do things the NES could never have dreamed of but it always looks right perfectly in line with the tone. The level design is great, harking back to the best of 8-bit platformers without ever feeling derivative. And it’s story is charming too, helped along by a pitch-perfect soundtrack.

Runner ups
I think I enjoyed the actual combat and gameplay options of Transistor more than Bastion. Shadows of Mordor was what I had thought the original Assassin’s Creed was supposed to be. Ultra Street Fighter IV is awesome. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fascinating game, but hits a bit too close to home these days.

2015
Rocket League

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There’s some cynicism to be had with Rocket League and it’s microtransactions. And the fact that I’m not great at it. But, it’s such a pure, arcade concept that, at it’s core, it’s almost the truest concept of video games. It’s soccer with race cars, what else do you need?

It feels like that very concept would have been right at home on the NES, with the Super Dodge Balls and the Punch-Outs. It helps that the matches go by quick, that my skill really seems hindered by my time with it and the more I play it, the better I get and the more fun it becomes. It’s never a slog, it’s always colorful and it’s just a hilariously high-octane game.

Runner ups
Ori and Blind Forest would be the more traditional winner this year. And it was gorgeous and exciting. Crypt of the Necrodancer is a lot of fun but I suck at it. I was addicted to the campaign of  Prison Architect but haven’t returned to it much after. And SOMA has an ending that will stick with me until the day I die.

2016
DOOM

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Oh, DOOM. What a beast. I don’t love gore and overly brutal violence…I used to be able to say. No matter how many times I was horrified by DOOM‘s glory kills, I still laughed like a maniac after every one and went on to the next as quickly as I could. I’ve spent so many years ducking behind corners and crouched behind various forms of cover, I had forgotten the pure joy of running circles around an enemy, unloading clip after clip, until he was dead in a glorious mess of guts and health drops. And that beautiful double jump made me feel like Mario with a chainsaw.

I never once was bored with DOOM and I wanted to start it all over again as soon the credits rolled. This game is so shark-like in it’s focus to keep moving, to keep feeding, it can’t help but become the new apex predator of first person shooters.

Runner ups
Firewatch was as good as it was probably because it was as short as it was. For pure Dungeons and Dragons brutality, Darkest Dungeon is a game I feel surprisingly competent at…until a complete party wipe. Stardew Valley sort of wrecked me as a person. Overcoocked is another little game that knows what it wants and how to get it. Part of me also wanted to give the award to XCOM 2, but, as good as it is, it didn’t have the same effect the first game had on me. And, if this was an award for most time spent with, Civilization VI would take home the gold.

2017
Nioh

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I haven’t played Dark Souls or any game by From Software, but I doubt I’ll enjoy them as much as Nioh. It’s not just that the game is brutal and mean, it’s that it’s big and dumb as well. It’s all the messy samurai films we love, with a dash of Onimusha and a whole lost of dodging.

It might be more style over substance in some places, but I do so love the style. It wasn’t a short game, it took me quite a while to play through the main campaign. But, I always looked forward to starting up a new session. The heartbreaks of losing all your orbs can be too much to bear, but that’s why we fall. So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again and kill a whole bunch of demons until we have all their orbs.

Runner ups
Another Souls-like game, Hollow Knight which has one heck of an oppressive atmosphere that became a bit to claustrophobic as I went on. Other runner ups to the runner ups are Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for being the first Mario Kart since Double Dash that I’ve enjoyed and Alwa’s Awakening for that last dungeon.

2018
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

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I sort of hate giving Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon the win because I already gave it to Shovel Knight and the do a similar thing. They both recreate the 8-bit NES games of my youth, but how I remember them as opposed to the brutal reality of it all.

And, yet, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a different game with different goals. The character switching is fun and adds a new dynamic to each level. The bosses are annoying and I am filled with a justified rage when I destroy them. The music is sweeping and romantic in it’s chiptune purity. It’s more of an adrenaline rush than Shovel Knight and I was so addicted to those endorphins that I started the higher difficulty immediately after finishing the first playthrough.

Runner ups
I didn’t think you could update the real time strategy genre until Northgard brought in 4X-elements and slowed things down a bit. Leaving early access and officially coming out in 2018 was Dead Cells, which is great and one I’m going to be playing for a while. And, like Civilization VI, Jurassic World: Evolution gets and award for time played. But, again, I’m biased.

2019
So, this is what I mean by behind the times. I didn’t play a single game that was released in 2019. And, even knowing myself, I’m a little shocked. No indie games, no quick little arcade titles. I didn’t play anything!

And there’s so much I want to play! Outer Worlds, Outer Wilds, Disco Elysium, Control, Star Wars: Fallen Order, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Void Bastards, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, there’s so many…

OH WAIT! Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark officially came out in 2019! I played that! Hey! It wins by default!

2019
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

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Also, I replayed The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past this year. Any year that game is played it’s the best of the year.

 

Let’s Play – Dead Space

dead-space-gen-packartDead Space, both the first game and the series as a whole, is one I figured I would ignore forever. I don’t love horror, especially horror based on gore and gross monster designs. I prefer creepiness without the gore. But, for five dollars, and a better understanding that the games might be pretty good, I decided to try out the first entry.

I still wasn’t thrilled with the body horror, especially…the babies. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Most things are enshrouded in shadow and I was so busy shooting anything that jumped out at me, I didn’t have too much time to get grossed out. It still happened, mind you, but I made it out alive.

One thing I learned is that people have strong feelings about these games. I met fans of the series, of the lore and backstory. It almost seems like a modern Doom to some people, though the gameplay is nothing like that series in terms of speed and action. I doubt my own experience will ever go past the games, but it’s interesting to hear from the other side.

The weapons are interesting and definitely unique. Of course, I found two that I tend to stick with throughout the game. There’s little in the way of ammo, though, which I’m not a fan of. I get the suspense that supposed to come with that, but I’d prefer to have the ability to defend myself. My skills at these games are a handicap enough!

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Unlearning the head-shot is tricky. I know it should do the most damage, but in Dead Space, you’re supposed to remove the limbs of the monsters. Suddenly, I’m aiming for arms to stop attacks, legs to slow them down, the head is the least of my worries. One thing I did appreciate is how scary the boss fights were. Either they were massive or just plain vicious. Plus, there was often a creative way to take them out, such as freezing them where they stand.

So, despite my misgivings, I will be playing the second game at some point. I hear it’s more action over frights, and that might be better for my tastes. Give me ammo and targets, I’ll do the rest!

Poorly.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Let’s Play – 2008’s Prince of Persia

163880-prince-of-persia-windows-front-cover2008’s Prince of Persia is no Sands of Time, but, despite that grievous flaw, it’s still a fun game.

I know it has simple controls compared to previous games and that it doesn’t require the amount of “skill” some might desire, but, that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. Wall running, leaping, sliding and climbing are all solid and the character animations make everything seem smooth. It’s more of a ride than a full-blown game, but it’s quite the ride. Elika is a nice contribution to this game. I like her character and her powers make for some interesting free-running and a good excuse for the no “lives” system.

The graphics, by the way, are so, so pretty. The cel-shaded style allows for crisp colors and well drawn environments. One of the first things I did when I started playing was just stop and take in how beautiful the world looks inside this game. I just wanted to drink it all in. Then, to my surprise, the whole world falls to darkness and is corrupted with goo that looks like Venom in symbiote form.

970804-princeofpersia2008_12_ydccIt’s satisfying to go to new lands, battle the corruption and clean it out. Watching everything return to color and sunlight makes the game have a sense of progress, something I haven’t seen since Metroid Prime. It was calming to run around a cleansed level and collect orbs. Really, the game is fun to play because it’s so nice to look at.

And then, as the game goes on, you stop needing orbs. Once you don’t need orbs, you don’t need to spend time in cleansed areas and you go straight to another corrupted area and soon you realize the game has become less of a graphical joy and, somehow, less fun to play.

The final boss is exciting, the ending is frustrating and I never had a chance to play the DLC epilogue because it was never released for PC. I enjoyed my time with the game, think it’s worth checking out, but probably won’t come back to it, especially with Sands of Time out there.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Let’s Play – Dragon Age: Origins

dnuk-ryvqae_y_fIt’s been a while since the last Let’s Play post. You know why? Because Dragon Age: Origins is a freaking long game, without any DLC or Awakening expansions. I can’t remember the man I was before I started playing this game.

This game is up there with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky as one of the longest games I’ve streamed. And I didn’t even love it! I liked it, for sure. I wouldn’t have kept coming back to it if I didn’t like it. Well, maybe I would have. That’s what streaming games does to me! I have to finish games, even if I don’t love them. I can’t let people think I’m a quitter!

Actually, unrelated to the game, but I’m not sure how much gaming I’d do these days if I wasn’t streaming them on Twitch. I played plenty of games offline but it was less consistent and I would be off and on with it. Now, I stream because it helps me sleep better at night afterwards and because I get to be “on” and scratch some creative itches.

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It definitely helps with a game like Dragon Age: Origins. Games this long can get monotonous if not for the regular AND random visitors who stop by and liven up the room. When I was making my through the Deep Roads in Orzammar, their length and repetitiveness were starting to melt my brain but then someone would start talking to me just at the right time. They saved my life!

And, as Murphy’s Law would have it, I received my first raid! While turning in quests! And leveling up! Nothing like reading over skills and checking my journal as the viewers come pouring in from another streamer!

Back to game.

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I wasn’t absorbed into the world of Dragon Age: Origins like I had been in other Bioware games. This wasn’t like Baldur’s Gate, which I was obsessed with  while at and away from the computer. I found the art design to be rather ugly and not in a purposeful way. Sure, it’s a beat up world, but I was never interested in the aesthetics. It was nice to get to the forest with the elves and werewolves, because it added some much needed color to the experience, but even the designs in that area left me wanting.

The story didn’t do it for me either, not like Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect. I liked the characters and they ended up being my favorite part of the game. I liked just spending time in camp and talking to them, trying to get Sten to like me or woo the witchy Morrigan. I don’t know if that makes for exciting streaming, but it was when I was having a more pleasant time. I didn’t find myself attached to my character the way I have before in these types of games. I chose to play as a Noble Dwarf Warrior and my origin was entertaining for a while. But, outside in the wild, I never connected with him. I don’t know if it was the choices presented, or how much of the story was focused on the NPCS, but it never felt like my story.

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I need to do a separate Bioware post sometime, because their older games really have affect me as a gamer. That might be why I was disappointed with Dragon Age: Origins. I had originally thought it looked like a bland version of Baldur’s Gate and, after playing I felt justified in that fear. A lack of loot, a world that felt small and art style I found unappealing kept me mostly liking the game but never falling in love with it.

I doubt I’ll check out the Awakening expansion or the sequels. Once again, Bioware had strong world building on display, but I didn’t care much for the world itself. The history and ways of the Grey Wardens were intriguing, but, of course, the main character ends up being the last of them, so that doesn’t go very far. I enjoyed streaming this game, but I don’t know how much fun I had playing the game.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Let’s Play – Tomb Raider: Anniversary

tomb-raider-anniversary1After SOMA, I needed something easy going for my next game. What happens, you see, is that after I play a big, modern game with an emotional wrenching story with limited game play options I tend to need something that’s more traditional. I need a jump button. The power of a jump button should not be dismissed.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary has a jump button. But also a grappling hook. And nerve-wracking swimming. And unlimited bullets. It’s a reskin/reimaging of the first Tomb Raider game, which is a game I never played. I did, however, play Tomb Raider: Legend, which was a beauty of platforming when it was released. Anniversary uses that engine, though it’s never as pretty or impressive as that reboot.

Anyway, Anniversary! Is it fun? Sometimes! Other times, boy, is it frustrating. It can be buggy, which means that my live stream was sometimes me looking at my phone for tech help. That bit where the game wouldn’t register Laura grabbing the ledge high above a death fall until I switched the V-synch? Yeesh. But, other times, it’s darn impressive with it’s platforming. It made me want to play more games like that, not the collect-o-thons that Mario 64 wrought upon us.

Even though I didn’t play the early Laura Croft games, it made me nostalgic for games of old. It reminded me that I miss the days of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time or Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Luckily, I still have Tomb Raider: Underworld, which I’m looking forward to after the slightly archaic nature of Anniversary. Glad I played it, met some viewers who had good feelings about the series and it delivered on the “game” sensibilities I needed after SOMA.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Let’s Play – SOMA

soma___official_cover_art_by_sethnemo-d93l45jFrictional’s SOMA depressed me and I found it hard to play for long stretches because of that. The tension of the horror elements, the grime of  the world and the hopelessness of the story left me having little initiative to keep going. Add in the fact that I’m worried I’m developing some sort of motion-sickness, first noticed while playing Dishonored, and it wasn’t a pleasant time.

Limbo was a depressing game but it had platforming elements to keep my brain occupied on something besides it’s oppressiveness. SOMA, like other so-called “walking simulators” has little in the way of actual “game. It’s immersive but that comes at a price. Like the main character, trapped at the bottom of the ocean, I felt like there was no escape. A tough sell for someone looking for escapism.

previewscreen_08-0Luckily, the story is well told and the voice acting is strong. But, the tension is raised by the monsters roaming around with you in this ruined science faculty. It’s not that I found the designs of these creatures to be incredibly upsetting, but the jump-scares that were set upon me made me feel anxious, which isn’t a state of being I love to be in. Sweaty hands from intense wall climbing and combat is one thing, but a queasy stomach because something is going to scream and chase me is another, less desirable thing.

I suppose that’s what makes for a fun stream. I don’t know how many other games have elicited a reaction so broad from me before. I’ve yelled and screamed before, but not in pure terror like I did in SOMA. I don’t know how much fun the monsters make a stream in the long run, since, after the initial scares, I had to spend most of my time just hiding and not looking at them.

maintenance-0The other problem, and this might be a technical issue on my end, is that the game is very dark, graphically speaking. Most of the tension, I would assume, would come from dark hallways and intense lighting. But, to get the game to be even visible on my Twitch, I had to raise the brightness all the way up, eliminating much of the atmosphere. Again, maybe I could have done something else to fix the problem, mess around with OBS a little more, but my days of being a technical problem-solver are coming to a close.

Either way, I’m glad I played SOMA and experienced it’s rich, sci-fi story first-hand. This is definitely the kind of tale I would have enjoyed in a movie or book. In game form, I still appreciated it, but it left me with a pit in my stomach. I doubt I’m going to go back and play-through Frictional’s Amnesia games, because I don’t think I could handle the tension. But, I’ll definitely be paying attention to what they do next.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

 

Let’s Play – Alan Wake

61yl1rjcxsl-_sy679_Alan Wake was an interesting game, and one that felt like it was meant for the Playstation 2. Back on that console, a lot of games had one concept, sometimes two, and that was their main selling point. Prince of Persia had great combat and climbing mechanics, but it was sold on the concept of time manipulation. Final Fantasy X was a Final Fantasy game but it made a big deal about its voice acting. And Alan Wake is a third person action game with flashlight-based combat.

The core mechanics and concept would have fit right at home on the PS2 and I think the game might be looked upon more fondly if that was the case. But, the lighting and environmental effects needed the graphics of the Playstation 3 (or, in my case, a PC) to do it right. So, Alan Wake comes across as being part of two different generations. The PS2 qualities feel dated on newer machines, but it needs newer machines to work it’s mechanics.

alan_wake_f_01Playing the game today, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I found the simple flashlight-based combat to be a fun variation on shooting a bad guy til he’s dead. I liked throwing flares around like grenades and blasting shadow monsters with shotguns. It wasn’t complicated but it was exciting.

I didn’t come across the public’s negative feelings about Alan Wake until after I played the game, so I was surprised to see how many complaints people had. While it sounds like the majority found the story to be a disappointing failure, I thought it was a silly roller coaster ride, just throwing twists and turns around for the fun of it. None of it made a tons of sense, but, in the moment, it was intriguing. The game never took me out of the story.

alan_wake_2Maybe that’s because it’s told in an episodic format. I’ve read how that bothered people back when it was first released, as a full game with recaps and end-of-episode breaks. Today, the concept of episodic gaming, and owning full seasons of Telltale’s series, is commonplace and didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it helped with streaming the game, because it gave me a great stopping place and, then, a fantastic recap to get me jazzed for another session.

I chose Alan Wake because I wanted to stream a spooky game for October and, while it wasn’t scary, it brought that Halloween vibe. It’s not survival horror, not really, but the setting and style help create an atmosphere that’s creepy without being scary, that’s off without being Silent Hill 2. I jumped but I didn’t hide under my bed. It’s got shadow monsters, Stephen King references and crows that want Alan’s eyeballs for dinner. I wouldn’t play it again, but I would happily buy a sequel.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

 

 

Let’s Play – Dishonored

dishonored-coverDishonored wasn’t even on my radar until the sequel was released. That game got so much press and high review scores, it was hard to ignore. Considering, I’ve yet to find something to scratch that Bioshock itch, I made sure to pick up the first Dishonored when it went on sale.

Now, I chose Dishonored as the game to follow up The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky because, holy cow, that game was a long one. Being a JRPG without any voice acting, there was lots of reading aloud, diving into combat systems and stretches of story where I sat and watched with the controller on the pillow next to me. I needed a game that would provide a little bit more of an adrenaline rush. I wanted ACTION, I wanted ADVENTURE!

Okay, technically, I wanted to play a Tomb Raider game but I didn’t own the next title in my run. So, Dishonored it was! Did the game provide the kick that I was looking for? The ADVENTURE?

boyle_2First, I’ll admit, I didn’t realize how much of a stealth game it was going to be and that set off some warning signs. I’m no good at stealth games. I lose patience with Hitman, fail at Splinter Cell and often fell off the sides of walls during Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. But, Dishonored handled stealth in a way that matched my type of play style. Heck, the game  even referred to it as the High Chaos it was. Yes, you can play the game as a ghost and never be seen, and never use your blade in combat. Or, you can play like me and kill anyone blocking your path, turning them into dust and feeding them to rats.

Now, doing such a chaotic run made for some disappointed looks and judgemental remarks from NPCS. But, the way I saw it, I was role playing the character Corvo was, not who people wanted him to be. I was an assassin who was framed for the murder of his queen and lover, who’s goal was rescuing and protecting the heir to the throne (not to mention, my daughter, probably). I wasn’t looking to play nice. Nice went out the window when I went to prison for a crime I didn’t commit. So, when people shook their heads in shame because I eliminated a threat with my knives and not my words, I just smiled and pitied them for not understanding how the world really works.

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I liked that Dishonored is a stealth game that knows that some people don’t like or are no good at stealth. I could choose to go through each level however I pleased, and it was entertaining in way that the Hitman games have never been for me. And, like Bioshock, I could dig into the world as much I wanted, choosing to read the lore through books or just picking up tidbits as I went about my merry way.

It didn’t necessarily satisfy the craving for action I had, but it was a rather brisk romp through a cool looking world as a teleporting back stabber. In reality, I probably only played it so I could get to the much hyped sequel. But, Dishonored 2 still costs pretty penny so it might be a while. I wouldn’t say it was the most absorbing game in the world, and Corvo had to make some pretty dumb decisions for the plot twists to work, but it was a fun game and got me through the rest of September. Now, it’s time for something spooky.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

 

 

Let’s Play – The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

288560-the-legend-of-heroes-trails-in-the-sky-windows-front-coverHow long has it been since I played a JRPG? If I can stretch the genre definition, it might have been Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and that would be 2007. If not that, I guess it would be the first Kingdom Hearts game? I’ve played the first ten Final Fantasy games, Xenosaga, Dark Cloud 2 and few others, but I haven’t picked up the genre in a long time. It used to be one of my favorites, one that was a defining feature of my gaming and that I found very cozy.

The point is that I haven’t played a legitimate JRPG in over ten years. Obviously, I had to get back into the genre with one of the most critically acclaimed titles. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is a full-blown Japanese Role Playing Game. Long play time, tons of world building and novel-length levels of text. It was a deep dive back into the genre.

I prefer these recaps to be more experience related than technical reviews, which is why I’m going to start with a negative comment, because it effects my full enjoyment of the game. When it comes to JRPGs, I prefer the “epic” quality that comes with a Final Fantasy game. I like fighting against the end of the world, against empires and gods. I like intense back stories that make the X-Men jealous.

the-legend-of-heroes-trails-in-the-sky-pc-screenshot-1-www-ovagames-comTrails of the Sky is much more…pleasant. The gist of the story is that the two main characters are traveling to see the world and get promoted to full time protectors of the nation. The world isn’t ending, many problems are local and deal with mayors and sewer adventures. Near the last few hours of the game, Trails in the Sky becomes something more akin to what I like in the genre. The stakes feel bigger, the dungeon is grander and there’s an epic atmosphere about the whole thing.

Now, a pleasant game isn’t bad at all. Pokemon Sun and Stardew Valley are pleasant games. But there’s so much reading involved with Trails in the Sky that it felt exhausting to move forward, especially since the story wasn’t really tugging at my interest. Since I was streaming the game, I was reading all the dialogue out loud and that got tiring as well. There’s a lot of repetitive dialogue, a lot of stating the obvious that becomes clear when your actually saying it. There were times where I was craving action, even the ability to just move around. Compared to Final Fantasy VIII or Xenosaga, where I was compelled to follow the story, Trails in the Sky could feel like a chore.

159009-legend_of_heroes_-_trails_in_the_sky_the_usa-5I also learned that if you’re going to give a gravely voice to a character, make sure they’re not going to be in the game for thirty hours. I think my voice is finally recovered from that mistake.

For the most part, the game was fun. I liked the battle system, the retro graphics and plenty of the characters. The music was hit or miss but when it hit, it packed a punch. I hated the monster designs but loved the avatar expressions. It also stuck the ending. Even with the issues I had while playing, I still want to get to the sequel someday, if only on the strength of the first game’s climax. However, I won’t be starting it anytime soon. I need more action at the moment, whether that’s a platformer or shooter. October is on it’s way, so I’ll have some Halloween games planned as well. The next JRPG I play will probably be Valkyria Chronicles, and Final Fantasy XV is on it’s way to the PC…

I think what Trails in the Sky did for me was get me back into and interested in JRPGs. It’s a classical take on the genre and reminded me of what I like about those type of games. If it’s the launching pad for my renewed interest, then that’s a pretty great legacy.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

 

Let’s Play – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

5_brothers_a_tale_of_two_sonsI wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons during the opening. I looked dated and the opening cinematic didn’t do anything for me emotionally.

Once I was in control of the brothers, moving each along with their individual joysticks, things started to look up. It took me forever to wrap my head around the younger brother being the right sticks. I guess my brain thought the older brother is the main brother and the main brother should be on the right. It was an interesting process to remind myself that the younger brother is the main character and that I associate important characters with my right side. Co-op single player is a strange concept. It’s almost as if the concept of switching between characters in Donkey Kong Country was the precursor to something like Brothers.

brothers-a-tale-of-two-sons-freeThe game finally clicked with me just as I was getting to the end of the starting village. It had an autumn vibe about its atmosphere and the town was alive and unconcerned with me. The game started to feel crisp, moody and dangerous. If this town, that these two boys have grown up in, seem indifferent to me, then how is the rest of the world going to treat me?

The graphics really are fantastic. I know the game is old and that the style is much older, but it set a beautiful tone. It had character and mood and, yes, it looked like a game from the first X-Box but it was polished. Honestly, it reminded me, visually, of the first Fable game. I never played much of that series but I’ve always found the borderline cartoon aesthetic to be attractive. Brothers has that going for it and works for every part of the game.

screenshot-brothers-a-tale-of-two-sons-bridgeIt makes the game feel like an actual fable, like an older story that’s been told before. The things the brothers fight against and stumble upon are dark and seem like they’re trying to teach us something. Like, don’t save people because they might try to eat you and leave the corpses of giants alone.

The game reminded me of Limbo in all the right ways, though, of course, with color. The puzzles weren’t as crunchy as that game, but they were more satisfying than something like Braid. Braid‘s puzzles were the difficult that made me feel dumb but Limbo and Brothers have puzzles that make me feel smart. And a giant spider indifferent to my youth.

I like playing games like Brothers because it reminds me of the core of gaming. The sense of exploration but danger as well as the idea that you could make a full game based on a single concept. It could be that your whole game is boss fights like in Shadow of the Colossus or that you’re a car that plays soccer in Rocket League. I like playing games that don’t have to have the most complicated system in the world or tell their stories with endless cut-scenes. Brothers was immersive and its challenges were fun and interesting and, in the end, it was satisfying. I didn’t need more after the three hours of game provided. It told the story and showed the game-play it had prepared. It’s a game I plan to buy for all my friends this Christmas and maybe replay someday. It was great, to say the least.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!