dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I was thinking of posting this a few days ago, but I'm glad I waited because something else came up.

The Saturday before last was the 20th anniversary of Fallout, as I was reminded of by this RPS article. I heard of it the way I heard of most new computer games, through PC Gamer and its demo discs. After playing the demo, set in a town called Scrapheap and dealing with conflict between warring gangs, I was hooked. I got the game not long after it came out and played it three or four times before the sequel came out, which I played another half-dozen times. Both of these would foreshadow the thousand hours I spent in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

I remember poring over the character creation screen, picking the Gifted perk because of the bonus to stats, and tagging Speech, Science, and Energy Weapons, thus setting the template of being playing a cerebral sniper/wizard in basically every RPG I ever played. The early part of the game was brutal, but I persevered, found a laser gun, talked my way into people's good graces, and eventually made my way into the cathedral where I engaged the final boss in a duel of wits, demonstrated to him the impossibility of his plan, and in his despair, he set off the self-destruct sequence. I beat a boss without firing a shot.

That stuck with me, though mostly nowadays in how rarely games allow it.

I have a half-finished Fallout game on my PC now, where I tried to go through with an unarmed build but gave up because I couldn't find any unarmed weapons. Maybe I should go back to it and try to finish it off. I still remember everything.

Last week Monday was the American release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which I was reminded about by this Retronauts article. When it came out I had no idea it existed--the most recent Castlevania game I had played in 1997 was Dracula's Curse--but [ profile] uriany bought it and we played it together. He already knew how to access the inverted castle, and where everything was, so he guided me through the game.

Symphony of the Night is my favorite platformer ever because of the sheer degree of options and the chaos they unleash. It's not hard, but who cares? There are boots that "discretely increases height" that make Alucard's sprite one pixel taller. There's "Alucart" knock-off gear that increases his luck. There's armor that turns Alucard into an Axelord. There's an accessory that shoots lightning. And we killed Dracula with all of them. Balance is worthwhile, but it's not always the most important part of a game and it's possible to have fun without it. The fun in Symphony of the Night is in the variety of possibilities and the sense of discovery.

There's a dodo that drops a sword that spells out VERBOTEN when Alucard swings it. What more do you want? Emoji La

And yesterday was the original release of The Orange Box (RPS link), quite possibly the most dollar value I've ever gotten from a gaming product since Master of Magic. 2007 was when I was heavily into World of Warcraft and my gaming was mostly $15 a month plus the occasional other game--from summer 2007 to summer 2008 is the year I played Xenogears and Ōkami for the first time too--and then the Orange Box came out with Half-Life 2 plus Episodes 1+2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

It's funny to think that Half-Life 2 is probably the least consequential of those games, because at the time it felt monumental. That's before Valve stopped making games and before we understood how amazing Portal was. Team Fortress 2 may have since descended into a military-themed haberdashery, but as someone who played a ton of original HL Team Fortress at university, I got hundreds of hours out of it. It was especially fun playing while I was living in Japan. There were two servers I would habitually join. One downloaded roughly 200 sound clips when I first joined and the game was a aural assault of anime quotes spammed by people typing in text commands. The other was silent, organized, and everyone typed "otu" (otu -> お疲れ -> "thanks for your hard work") at the end of every match. It's Japan in microcosm, right in those two servers.

Portal memes were annoying, but the game deserved every bit of mind-share it got in popular culture. It was a complete experience in three hours, funny and charming and a little poignant all at once. I still have the companion cube plushy that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd snagged during one of its rare periods of availability. I remember friends being envious of it.

Portal II was too long, but Portal is nearly a perfect game.

("Gaming Made Me" comes from a similar feature that RPS does. Links here)
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
After my review of Mass Effect II, you might wonder why I'm even playing Mass Effect III. And let me tell you, there were some times that I wondered the same thing. Usually whenever the main plot was occurring, or during a lot of the dialogue that had been stripped down to a But Thou Must of "[PARAGON] Yes" or "[RENEGADE] Yes." This...was not a good game. But it is a flaw in my character that I have a very difficult time putting a piece of media down and walking away. Yes, I realize that there are enough good video games that I could stop playing the instant I stop liking something and I would still never be able to play all the games worth playing, but I have a hard time remembering that. Once I picked up Mass Effect III, I was going to finish it.

And I did. Sort of. You'll see what I mean later in this review.

Ah yes, the famed salarian foresight and strategic acumen.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I first played Doom's shareware version pretty soon after it came out. I'm pretty sure I got it from a PC Gamer disc--though it's possible my father downloaded it for me through Gopher--loaded it up and started the game, and from the moment that first guitar riff that gamers nowadays know so well started playing, I was hooked:

This is pretty much the standard story for a PC gamer alive in the 90s. What makes me different is that I asked my father for the full game and he said no, and that was pretty much the end for my foray into major first person shooters until someone living down the hall gave me a copy of Half-Life my first year of university. I played Master of Magic and the Quest for Glory and King's Quest series and Diablo and Castle of the Winds and other games, and Doom mostly faded from my consciousness. I played earlier FPS games like Catacomb Abyss and Ken's Labyrinth, but nothing later and nothing of Doom after the Bruiser Brothers. What happened to poor Doomguy after that? I had no idea.

Until now.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
tl;dr: It should have been a point-and-click adventure game starring Elizabeth. Also, I now know why everyone was going on about ludonarrative dissonance last year.

So, I wasn't the biggest fan of Bioshock. It was...okay, but the whole time I was basically thinking, "This is like System Shock II but not as good." And that's basically the impression I carry to this day. The only reason I bought Bioshock Infinite was because it was $9.99, and having beaten it now I think I was robbed.

One word: mediocre.

It wasn't actively bad or anything, it just wasn't very inspiring. None of the weapons were interesting and there wasn't much reason to switch between them other than to use AoE weapons for lots of enemies and single-target weapons for single enemies. My strategy was basically to use a weapon until I got the achievement for using it and then throw it away and try out a new one. Then when I was done with that, I grabbed the rifle and the volley gun and just stuck with them for the rest of the game. It worked out fine.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Half-Life is 15 Years Old Today

I missed out on the Half-Life bandwagon when it first came out. At that point, I think I was mostly playing Master of Magic or Diablo I or Civilization II as well as various Sierra adventure games, and I'm not even sure I knew about it until later. I had definitely heard about it before I went to university, but I had been trained by games like Doom, Blake Stone, Ken's Labyrinth, Rise of the Triad, Thor's Hammer, etc., etc., that FPSes were basically free and that I could get plenty of fun out of them without paying, so why would I buy one?

That attitude lasted me until I got a shiny new computer and moved away to university, into a dorm room in Hill House, and went through freshman orientation week with the other people on my floor. I don't remember his name, but one of the people who lived really close to my room eventually offered me a burned CD with the words "Half-Life" on it and told me to try it, and that I'd probably like it. So it took it back to my room, installed it later, and gave it a try.

I still remember the sense of anticipation I had on the train ride. How I felt walking about and watching the NPCs after the solitary experiences the other FPSes I had played were. I played a bit of Strife, which actually did have characters who weren't trying to shoot you the whole time in its hub area, but it wasn't like this. And then came unforeseen consequences:

I still get goosebumps when Gordon is stuck in the darkness between dimensions and the only sounds are his breathing and the beating of his heart.

From that moment on, I was hooked. Say what you like about Half-Life introducing the era of narrative-heavy shooters, but it certainly never went as far as the worst excesses of the modern era. One of the points of pride was that even during nominal cut-scenes, like the monorail ride at during the intro sequence, you still retain full control over Gordon. You can bounce around that monorail car like Tigger on speed if you want, and indeed I've done that several times, but that first time, I just took it all in. I even came to Xen without any preconceptions and actually liked it a lot, so I was really surprised when I heard about how much it was maligned. Maybe it was just that I managed to make an incredibly lucky jump where I missed a platform, flew around the island in some kind of crazy orbit and landed in a cave on the lower area, skipping the rest of the jumps and about half the level. :p

I remember the Blast Pit, and hearing that damn tentacle banging around while I slowly crept along trying to stay out of its notice. I remember the first time I saw a headcrab zombie and the sounds they made while I tried to dodge their hideous claws. I remember the soldiers killing scientists, and the black ops ninjas killing the soldiers, and the aliens killing everyone. I remember launching the satellite to stabilze the portal connection to Xen, and the desperate run through the portal to take the fight to the invading aliens and stop the foothold scenario from overwhelming the world.

And I still think the G-Man's real name starts with N and ends with yarlathotep.

After I beat the game, I went out on the web to learn more about it and discovered the fantastic mod scene for it. I downloaded Counter-Strike and played it during its early days, when there was a variety of popular map and game types and before everything was All Shooting, No AWP, de_dust all the time. I remember hiding under a bridge with the VIP we were escorting, trying to figure out where the terrorists were and where we should go, and not wanting to head up the ramp flanked by crates because it was open territory. I also remember coming back later and finding one server that seemed to end up the way I remember Counter-Strike ever after--the two sides would spawn, they would all charge into one corridor in the center of the map, guns and grenades blazing, and 90% of the players would die in the first 30 seconds. The remaining 10 minutes were the last few people hunting each other down. I was almost always one of those people, and occasionally the last one remaining, because really, who wants to sit around and do nothing for nine minutes? A lot of people, apparently.

I moved on to Team Fortress, where I loved playing the engineer because of the sentry gun and the EMP grenades, and I'm still a little annoyed that grenades aren't in Team Fortress 2. That was almost entirely 2Fort, but there I didn't mind it. After all, playing an engineer is all about camping, so a map designed for ridiculous stalemates played to my desire to hide and have my gun murder all those damn [OTHER_COLOR] guys perfectly.

I played a lot of generic Half-Life deathmatch against my friends, too, though the main memories I have are of a map that was an old gothic house, searching for each other amid the rooms and staircases, dropping snarks from balconies, mutually agreeing to ban the gluon gun because it was basically a death sentence for anyone it was turned on...

What I really loved playing, though, was Natural Selection. This was the first game I really played that had asymmetric sides, since Warcraft III didn't come out until 2002 (though I was in the beta--sort of): one side are the humans, who wear armor and use guns like you'd expect humans to, and the other side are aliens are half-based on the Zerg and half-based on the Xenomorphs. Aliens start out as Skulks and can evolve into different forms, whereas humans can get new equipment. Humans also have a commander that gives build and movement orders, whereas aliens are all autonomous and have a hive mind that lets any of them tell where humans are if any one of them can see the humans. What this meant was that most of the time, aliens were more likely to win because they were designed to work even when the players didn't talk to each other, but humans did really well with an effective commander.

The main moment I remember from my hours of Natural Selection was when I spawned into a game in progress where the humans were holed up in their starting room, which was heavily fortified. Wave after wave of aliens came pouring into the room, but the multiple turrets and humans with heavy machine guns always managed to hold them off until, finally the assault stopped. We stood around, looking nervously throughout the room, waiting for something. Then we heard a banging sound out in the hallway.

"Please don't let it be an Onos," someone said over voice chat.

A moment later, a three-meter tall, two-ton armored monster burst into the room, pulping one of the humans who was standing near a turret. As screams and yells of "ONOOS!!" filled the voice chat, we all started firing at the monster that was demolishing our turrets. Unfortunately, we were so intent on the Onos that we didn't think to pay attention to the rest of the aliens, and as more turrets fell, they flooded into the room and started attacking the humans. I didn't even have time to respawn before the teleporters were taken out and the match was over.

Next to Unreal Tournament 1999 (which I should also do a retrospective on at some point), Half-Life is the FPS that I spent the most time with, and one of the ones I have the fondest memories of. Even when the memory is getting pulped by a giant tentacle, or frantically running as [ profile] uriany drops a ton of snarks down the tunnel I'm hiding in, or lying sideways on the floor watching an alien monster destroy the entire base. Next to Morrowind, it's one of my favorite games. There aren't many other games I've played that I've gotten as many hours of pure fun out of as Half-Life, and to this day a headcrab sits above my desk, perched on my metal skull, watching me.

There's a part of me that's still there in that test chamber, waiting for Freeman to show up for the experiment. A small part, after all these years, but I'm not sure it'll ever leave.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Well, as the title suggests, it's not a game as such, but a mod for a game. Deus Ex, to be specific. My thoughts below:

Click to augment your vision )
dorchadas: (Perfection)
Just beat Doom 3 around an hour ago so I figured, why not give my thoughts?

Contains spoilers for Doom 3 and System Shock 2. Somewhat lengthy )

Whew, that was long. Maybe I should go back and do something similar for Arcanum in full. Anyone interested?

Soundtrack for this entry provided by The Dark Side of Phobos.


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