Archive for January, 2016

So how’s January treating everyone? I know some of you got snowed in or maybe like me work has been insane and you’re trying to catch up. It’s definitively not helping my blogging but I’m allowing myself a short break to type this and unclog the brain some.

I’ve been alternating my playtime between The Secret World and Darkest dungeon lately. Slower progress in TSW but I’ve been making slow but steady progress in Darkest Dungeon which is awesome.  But it’s TSW I want to talk about so let’s get to it. Warning, minor Egypt spoilers coming.

When I got to Egypt in TSW I was rapidly involved in a plot revolving around cultists trying to bring forth their dark god Aten and resurrect their Black pharaoh, Akhenaten.  I thought until yesterday that this was simply another variation on various tales of ancient Egypt. I figured that the Dark Pharaoh of TSW was a nod to Nephren-Ka, the Dark Pharaoh of Lovecrat’s Chtulhu mythos.  I wasn’t entirely wrong but I learned that Funcom is way more clever than I gave them credit for.

Yesterday I stumbled upon The Terrible Picture, an investigation quest sending you investigate tales of the origins of Akhenaten. Since I try really hard to do these without cheating, a good part of my evening was spent deciphering cyphers and trying to figure out cryptic meanings behind hieroglyphs. Through trial and error, I ended up on the Wikipedia page of Akhenaten which I learned is an actual historical figure. Wait what???

Turns out the story I thought was purely fictional is rooted in very real facts. Akhenaten and the cult of the Aten actually happened in ancient Egypt. The Aten was an attempt by the pharaoh Akhenaten to change traditional polytheist Egyptian religion with something approaching monotheism with Aten, a solar deity, as its sole true god.  The symbol the cultists use in the game for Aten is even historically correct. After Akhenaten death, the following pharaohs restored the old religion and Akhenaten was branded a traitor, a heretic and a follower of evil.

So the whole story of the conflict in TSW is based on the idea that Akhenaten was in fact evil and that Aten was not a benevolent force. It’s simple yet brilliant to be able to tie in an historical figure like this. Conspiracies are always best when they mix facts and fiction and TSW Egypt does it so well. I’m now curious to see if the storylines from Solomon Island concerning the native tribes as the same sort of historical roots.

The moral of the story? Don’t cheat on investigation missions, you’ll miss some of the best lore the game has to offer.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I stumbled on an article on Talk Amongst Yourselves arguing that all games should have a difficulty setting to allows all kinds of players, read here casual with little time, could complete all the games and not be locked out of experiencing a game because they can’t get through it. The author argues that by doing so, game companies will gain by having more customers for their games and everyone wins.  If this sounds familiars it’s because it’s the same old casual vs hardcore debate we’ve been having with MMOs for years.

Once upon a time I might have agreed with him but now I think that’s a load of crap. Games don’t and shouldn’t have to cater to every audience out there. Not only is it very hard and time consuming to adjust a game for multiple difficulty settings but you run the very real risk of killing the experience that you’re trying to deliver with your game. The TAY article author uses Bloodborne and completion numbers as indicators that a large number of players don’t get to complete the game and in a way, wasted their time and money on a game that was too hard for them which, according to the author, probably left them frustrated.

And then he drops the killer argument, if they add an easy mode it doesn’t deprive the others of anything, they just don’t have to use it, so everyone wins! Game sells more, player finish the game, happiness all around!

It’s not about finishing the game

So let’s talk about Bloodborne which is the main focus of the article and ask ourselves what makes it and by extension the Soul’s series such beloved games. It’s not the story, which you can entirely miss, not the combat which is better handled in many other games, the graphics are nice but not the best so what is it? Could it be the difficulty? Are all Bloodborne players masochists who enjoy being killed over and over? Maybe a few but not all of us.

What makes a game like Bloodborne, or any game for that matter, great is the experience it gives the player. With Bloodborne, the experience it aims to deliver is to make you feel like you’re fighting against desperate, even unfair odds. That victory will only achieved through sweat, tears and outsmarting the opposition. It makes uncovering the story feels special because you have to go out of your way to find the clues and use your head to put the pieces together. It’s about learning to enjoy failing, and then trying again.

That is what Bloodborne is about and its difficulty is the core mechanic it uses to deliver that experience. If you lower it, you are essentially killing the experience and you’re just playing a mostly bland action rpg.

So when the reviewer complains about the game being too difficult and not being able to experience the game he’s in fact getting the perfect Bloodborne experience. He might not like it and that’s his choice but not all game have to be for everyone and that’s fine. Just like I didn’t like Undertale experience, I have to admit it was a well done game. Likewise, you can not enjoy Bloodborne but that doesn’t mean the game should change to suit your tastes.

Read Full Post »

I was offered a gift

Last time we talked, I was playing The Secret World and making my way through the Blue mountain area. Well… I think I’ve finally been hooked to TSW and I spent most of the weekend playing and ended up tearing through the zone and finishing up the first act of the story. So now, years after buying the game, I’ve finally saved Solomon’s Island and probably the world along with it. This meant of course that my Illuminati bosses knocked me out and submitted me to a one way interrogation but such is life in secret societies.

Overall I really loved how they ended the story of the first act, especially the “Gift” part. In most games, the obvious “join the dark side” part is trying to be all subtle with your character realizing the truth and nobly refusing. Here, the big evil makes it plain as day. Join it and get tons of power but you’re working for something that is likely even more evil than the devil itself or you can refuse and get yourself a really powerful enemy.  Again it would seem an obvious choice but in the universe of TSW, it’s not so clear cut. You are after all working for a secret society than often has a very loose definition of morals.

I ended up by refusing the Gift because after seeing what the Filth did to people I didn’t want to spend a few eternities as a tentacle monster.

Kudos to TSW team for having such a good story. I now have questions that I want the answer to and the only way to do that is for me to keep playing. Well played Funcom.

Read Full Post »

The one where I accidently healed

Lots of MMO happened since last time I wrote about my adventures. I think this is due in part to Divinity: Original Sin having trouble grabbing my attention but I’m not complaining since I’ve been really digging into The Secret World as a result. I still did a bit of Lotro on the side but that game is moving along much slowly.

In Secret World however I managed to get myself caught up with previous characters and with the exception of the Franklin mansion, I’m now firmly in new content territory for me!. I’ve been mostly working on the Wabanaki quests and clearing side missions the past two days which leads me to the main topic of today’s post.

Into Darkness

Darkness Wars is the dungeon of the Blue Mountain zone and is a retelling of an old Wabanaki tale involving Mayan invading Native American soil only to be thwarted by the Vikings themselves. It doesn’t make much sense but it’s pretty awesome.

I went in yesterday with a group mostly made up of new players or returning ones with the exception of the healer and we happily herped and derped through the dungeon. The fourth boss gave us a bit of trouble but we killed it and there was much rejoicing. Except for the healer who threw a tantrum and quit the group, fed up with our derping. I was pretty disappointed since I could already see the group disband but I really wanted to finish the dungeon… what to do?

Well, I didn’t know it when I created my character but it seems that my weapons of choice, Pistol and Fists can make a good healing build and recently I had been picking up a few healing talents here and there to help with questing. With us short a healer I figured I could try my hand at healing, it would beat disbanding the group for sure.

Lo and behold, despite not knowing the dungeon and not being geared for it, I managed to heal the last two bosses and we saved the world for the evil mayans. I credit my healing not abjectly failing to FFXIV healing but it TSW dungeons intimidated me so much I was sure you needed top gear and builds to heal or tank them. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Which leads me to question whether or not I should pursue a healer build and start gathering healing gear for future dungeon runs. It’s also throwing me off a bit as far as how I see myself in MMOs. For the longest time I’ve been a melee dps or tank and FFXIV healing was an experiment that became my main role in that game. Now, I started TSW with dps in mind and without even planning for it I stumbled into healing.

It could be that I am now corrupted by the heals, doomed to roam the earth and heal butts until the end of times.

Read Full Post »


Warning, this review has some serious spoilers about the game mechanics.

I picked up Undertale during the holidays after seeing it appear more and more often on best of year lists. Up to that point I had missed pretty much everything regarding this game other than some background noise about it being a great game and I figured I needed to play it for myself. So it is with absolute zero knowledge of what the game is about that I dived in.

So did I like it? Not at all, I liked part of it but I don’t agree with a lot of the story elements and some of tricks the game uses to tell the story. Is it a bad game? It’s a great game that’s well-crafted and manages to deliver a powerful experience to the player. Something a lot of games aspire to but few manage to.

This leads me to say that Undertale being an experience is probably the best way to describes it. It’s a game about choices and the moral consequences they carry. It’s a game that tries to show you that the characters you’re fighting are more than roadblocks on your path but are actual people with stories and personalities. In essence it’s a game that tries very hard to make you feel that killing and fighting these people is a bad thing that you shouldn’t be doing.

It’s an extremely judgmental game that uses a lot of tricks, misinformation and manipulation of the player to achieve its goals.

Instead of going over the details of how it does so like I usually do, I’ll relate my experience playing the game. Close to the beginning of the game you get to fight goat mom who wants you to stay with her. I couldn’t use the mercy commands right away like I could in the dungeon before so I figured something needed to happen first. My thought was that I needed to weaken her enough and then she’d allow me to use mercy. So I started witling at her health without knowing that there’s a hidden mechanic where if you hit a monster enough time you will eventually one shot whatever remains of their health. So at around 50%, I did a mega crit that killed goat mom and that was it, my game was screwed with no way of going back.

I tried reloading but found out that the game auto-saved at that point. I checked guides to see if I was screwed and found out that yes I was and that even restarting the game wouldn’t save me entirely. So I decided to keep playing and aim for a “middle” ending, resolved to not kill any of the other characters.

Which would have been fine if the game didn’t keep reminding me that I was a bad person all the time because someone died. Even when I ultimately finished the game and restarted a new game, the game kept on reminding me that in a previous life (game) I had done bad stuff.

Another trick the game uses, is to make the characters you encounter caricatures of lonely and sad people with the hope you’ll relate to them. There’s Alphys, the awkward anime fangirl and Papyrus who is way too hype about everything to cover its insecurities just to give two examples. Pretty much every character in the game has its own sad story just to make you feel for them. They didn’t feel real or likable to me, they felt like caricatures, easy storytellers tricks to make me feel for them. Instead of writing smart characters and leave it up to me to decide if I like them or not, the game tells me that I have to like them all.

There’s an argument to be made that whether or not you like Undertale is a matter of taste. It’s a game about showing you that choices have consequences that cannot be undone with a simple reset. It’s a lesson that has merit in itself, I won’t deny that.

But for a game that is about choices, I didn’t feel like I was in control of them. Instead I was railroaded and tricked into making bad ones just so the game could tell me that I’m a bad person and that I should have known better. I hate being manipulated especially when it’s by someone who has an agenda, especially a moral one, and that is exactly what Undertale did.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »